Having nice countertops makes any kitchen more enjoyable. Whether you have an eat-in kitchen or you use your dining room or living room for eating, it helps to have nice surfaces to work with. In addition to being cost-effective, laminate offers a huge variety of colors and patterns. Good laminate is slightly cut and burn resistant, though some basic caution is advisable. It is easy to clean and maintain a laminate surface, which is a nice bonus. Plus, most homeowners are capable of installing it without too much trouble. Of course, you can always hire a pro if necessary, but it’s very satisfying to do things yourself.
What is Laminate
Sometimes known as Formica, laminate is made from layers of plastic and bonded to particle board. The layers make it both durable and lightweight.
Care and Cleaning
One of the easiest ways to make sure your laminate countertops stay clean is to simply wipe up spills as they happen. It is possible to stain laminate if you spill the wrong substances on it. Using a cover, like baking paper or cutting board, when you use anything colored that might stain any other plastic surface will help to avoid this issue. Similarly, you can bleach the color out of some laminates so don’t use undiluted bleach, and make sure you soak up, neutralize and clean off any bleach spills. If you have a really tough stain a little bleach may be useful but make certain not to leave it on too long, lest it do unwanted damage.
Other acidic cleaners can damage the surface as well. Avoid using things like tub or tile cleaners on laminate surfaces. You’ll also want to avoid saturating the seams or leaving any standing water or liquids on the surface. These can seep down in between the layers and cause the boards below to swell, or even mold in some cases. For the tough to reach seams and details in some textured laminates a soft bristle toothbrush is ideal. Don’t use harder bristles or steel wool. Anything that scratches the surface makes it more porous and therefore more prone to further damage and stains. Etching the surface with cleaners and rough scrubbers does damage that cannot be repaired. The damage is also a great breeding ground for germs.
For everyday cleaning, you can use soft cloths and mild liquid soap. Anything that does not abrade (scratch) the surface is fine for wiping up typical messes. Commercial cleaners are available and work just as well for getting up your daily spills and splatters. When in doubt, or if you have allergies and chemical sensitivity, you can create your own cleaners. A 50/50 mix of vinegar and water will clean many surfaces including your laminate. If you have coffee or tea stains a mixture of dish soap and baking soda can help. For the very toughest stains, you can leave this overnight and clean it off with warm water in the morning.
How to Completely Replace Broken or Damaged Sections
If you intend to cover over existing laminate, which is not the same as fully removing a damaged piece, make sure you follow the correct steps. Clean the old surface and dry it. Sand thoroughly and place the new laminate. If you completely remove a broken or worn piece, you may need to sand off old glue. Make certain you measure the width and depth correctly and cut a larger piece than you need to be certain you can cover the space completely. You can always remove overlap, but if you under-cut, you will have wasted the piece. Keep your mistakes however, you may need a small section elsewhere in the future.
Remove any drawers or cabinet doors that are in the way. If there are sink lines, or any electricity in the area you will need to cut off water and power for safety reasons. Likewise, if you are installing around a sink you will need to remove the basin completely to place laminate underneath. Cut any sealant and remove the countertop. Using your pre-cut section of new laminate, check your fit and do any final adjustments. Sand down edges and attach per the instructions. Some laminate is self-adhesive, but others may require glue. Once the laminate has been applied, reinstall as normal.
Like most things in your home, a little TLC will keep laminate counters in great shape for a long time. Overall, laminates are a good choice for long lasting, cost-effective, easy to tailor surfaces that don’t take a whole lot of effort to maintain. Taking the time to learn the ins and outs of caring for your varied surfaces can save you a ton of money in the long run when you find you don’t need to replace or redo parts of your home as often as you otherwise might.