When it comes to kitchen countertops, natural materials might be the most popular option, but they are certainly not always the most affordable. Enter solid surface countertops like Corian, which have become increasingly popular thanks to their easy-care nature and more affordable price points. Like all other countertop materials, solid surface options might not be the best choice for every homeowner and its best to do some research to determine if it works for you and your lifestyle.
What is a Solid-Surface Material?
Solid surface materials are essentially manufactured from modern plastics. Polymer resins are combined with minerals like bauxite and dyes, creating a durable countertop surface. The material is typically produced in sheets of a standard countertop thickness. These can then be turned into countertops, backsplashes and other surfaces. Solid surface materials also allow for integral sinks for a seamless finish, which not necessarily the case with all other materials. This is particularly true because you can order prefabricated versions that cost less than custom options.
The best-known brand of solid surface countertops is Corian, produced by Dupont. The company invented the material in the 1960s, but since its patent has expired, the manufacturing information is now widely available. Other companies producing solid surface countertop material include Wilsonart, Samsung’s Staron, Swanstone, Livingstone, Avonite and Hanex.
10 Advantages of Solid Surface Countertops
- Nonporous — This makes them resistant to stains and easy to keep clean, says Solid Surface Designs Inc.
- Very Sanitary — Being non-porous, this type of material does not mold, or mildew, and does not promote bacterial growth. Its easy clean surface does not harbor bacteria, which is why it is popular for not only home kitchens, but also hospitals and laboratories. It is also
- Easy Care – Solid surfaces are easy to clean and require no special products or sealing.
- It’s Solid — These countertops have the same material through and through. They have not veneer and they are not coated in any way.
- Easily repaired — Yes, solid surface countertops can scratch, but any scratches, scuffs, small dents, and light burns can be sanded out.
- A seamless look — When glued together tightly and sanded, seams virtually disappear.
- Custom options — It is a versatile material that can be carved, sanded, and shaped with heat for form integrated drain boards, curved sink openings, and other features.
- Versatile – With the wide range of colors and custom options, solid surface materials are easy to mix with other kitchen materials. It’s a perfect option for tying together the kitchen as the common thread among a variety of their materials.
- Available in varying thicknesses – While many countertop materials come in a standard thickness, many solid surface brands offer a range of thicknesses that are still strong and durable. This material offers thinner profiles than most other materials.
- No fading or wearing – Whereas many natural materials develop a “patina’ from use and wear, solid surface materials do not. They maintain their pristine surface, with no fading or other signs of wear.
Four Downsides of Solid Surface Materials
- Not Heat Resistant — There aren’t many, but the biggest downside to solid surface countertops is that you absolutely cannot put a hot pot directly on the surface. Much like it’s man-made cousin, Formica, a solid surface countertop is not heat resistant and can burn.
- Not resistant to chemicals – Plain soapy water is enough to clean your countertop and you don’t need to regularly use chemical cleaners, which can damage the surface over long periods of prolonged use.
- Scratches and dents – Even though a solid surface is a durable and easy care material, it is not impervious to damage. It can dent if you drop something heavy on it and it can scratch, so it’s best to always use a cutting board.
- Not a natural look – While technology has gotten better and many of the stone patterned solid surface materials are better than ever, you won’t be able to fool everyone.
Almost endless color and design options
Of all the countertop materials, this is the one that offers the most color choices. There are literally hundreds of choices, including solids, metallics and stone-like patterns. Corian alone offers a portfolio of 118 colors. It’s also one of the few options if you are looking for a perfectly white countertop or a really brightly colored one. Dark colors are available but nicks and scratches are more likely to be visible on dark hued options ad the will likely require more cleaning. For Corian, three types of finishes are available: matte/satin, semi-gloss and high-gloss, says DuPont. Most countertops have a matte/satin finish as do all Corian sinks.
Those who love the look of natural stone but don’t have the budget for it might want to consider a stone-patterned solid surface countertop. As the years have gone by, manufacturers have been able to make their solid surface countertops look increasingly more like the real thing. That said, if you have a large countertop surface, the seaming might be visible due to imperfect pattern matching. If that will be bothersome, it’s best to choose a solid color or a pattern that does not have a definite grain line.
More uses than just countertops
Solid surface materials are most commonly found in kitchens as countertops, but homeowners and designers are finding more uses for it. You can unify your kitchen design by opting for the same solid surface material for sinks, backsplashes, tables, shelving, and even accessories.
What does a solid surface countertop cost?
While solid surface materials cost less than many other natural materials, they are not cheap. It’s best to plan for $60 to $80 per square foot installed, depending on the color or finish you choose. Complex designs and involved configurations, along with the mount, edges and inlays can make fabrication and installation soar to $130 a square foot. Some brands, such as Corian, offer a 10-year warranty but fabrication and installation must be done by a trained person.
The thicker the solid surface material, the more durable and damage resistant. The thinnest type is most affordable. Corian makes several thicknesses including .25, .5 and .75 inches.
Caring for a solid surface countertop
Solid surface countertops are likely the lowest maintenance choice of all, similar to granite and quartz.
- No sealing required due to the non-porous an durable nature of the material.
- These countertops are easy to clean because you need is soapy water.
- Any soil buildup can be removed with non-abrasive kitchen cleaner and a non-scratch scrubbing pad.
- Damage, such as burns, chips, or scratches can be repaired by filling and sanding the spot. You can do minor repairs yourself by sanding or rubbing the surface with an abrasive scrub using a light touch. Deep scratches and dents are best repaired by a professional.
- Preventing water marks by keeping your countertop dry, and don’t leave water puddles on it for long periods of time. Standing water can cause a film to develop, giving the surface a dull look.
- If you choose a semi-gloss and high-gloss finish, you’ll need to use a countertop polish such to keep the higher luster.
Solid surface countertops are manufactured as sheets that are later formed into countertops. Typically an installer will do a rough calculation so that he or she can get a general price quote. When the homeowner accepts the estimate, the installer comes back to get the exact measurements and create an exact template. The countertop is then manufactured and then installed on a plywood base. Countertop creation typically takes four to six weeks and installation generally takes only a day.
While solid surface countertops meet all the emissions guidelines for volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and hazardous air pollutants (HAPs), they are still not natural materials. Some homeowners opt not to have solid surface countertops because they are essentially made from plastics that come from non-renewable resources, notes TheKitchn. For these reasons they have a high environmental impact, in addition to the fact that they are not recyclable and the manufacturing process is energy intensive.
Can I DIY a Solid Surface countertop?
For most people, the answer to DIY with this material is no. In most cases, solid surface countertops can only be installed by professionals licensed by the manufacturer or distributor. Due to the fact that the material is traditionally fabricated to a 1/2-inch-thick top with an underlay that makes it appear thicker materials. This requires special expertise to install properly.
That said, there are tutorials online as well as purveyors from whom you can buy your own materials to install your own solid-surface countertops. Those who have a lot of DIY experience can probably handle it, however, it is not for a novice weekend warrior.
In addition to buying your countertop material, you’ll have to have a two-part adhesive gun, adhesive, router bits and abrasives to fit an orbital sander. This is in addition to the regular woodworking tools you will need. The material can be cut and routed just like wood.
Of all the countertop materials, solid surfaces may have the fewest downsides. If the environmental footprint of the manufacturing process is not an issue for you, solid surface countertops are a great option because of their durability, versatility and easy care nature.