BY JAMES DULLEY
Replace Your Old Kitchen Countertops with Solid Surface Ones
Dear James: My old kitchen countertops are scratched and discolored. I want to replace them with new synthetic solid surface countertops. Are these very durable and should I try to install them myself? — Melanie Y.
Dear Melanie: If you like glossy, easy-to-clean countertops, then a solid surface one is just what you need. These countertops are often made of a plastic material, such as acrylic, and have a very attractive appearance and finish.
Even though it is a synthetic material, a solid surface countertop is not inexpensive to install, but it should last a lifetime with proper care. The surface is nonporous, so it resists staining from foods. It would still be wise to clean off highly acidic food spills such as fruit juices which are hard on just about any countertop material.
The glossy surface is also very hard and difficult to scratch. This does not mean your children can use it as cutting board though. Pressure from a sharp knife blade may permanently scratch the countertop surface. Keep a portable cutting board nearby.
Since the color goes completely through the solid surface material, small scratches and light cigarette burns can be repaired. Many solid surface countertop manufacturers offer repair kits which allow you to buff out the imperfections. Once shiny again, these spots are not very noticeable.
The greatest possibility of seriously damaging a solid surface countertop is from excessive heat. Hot items from the oven or range top, such as hot pots, cake pans and cookie sheets, should be placed on a pad or trivet. If it is badly damaged by heat, you might try routing out the bad spot and placing a piece of decorative tile in the recess.
Several manufacturers of the solid surface countertops are (brand names are in parenthesis): Avonite Inc. Dupont (Corian), (800) 426-7426; Formica Corp. (Surell), (800) 524-0159; Hartson-Kennedy (Cerata), (800) 388-8144; Wilson Art Int’l. (Gibraltar), (800) 433-3222; and VT Industries (Durallure), (800) 827-1615. They all offer informational pamphlets.
If you are replacing a simple one-piece rectangular countertop with a solid surface one, you should be able to do the job yourself. It is basically just a large piece of solid plastic. The material can be molded into almost any unique, attractive shape, so there is little work to do other than install it over the old kitchen cabinets.
For more complex countertop designs which will require several pieces to be seamed together, seek professional installation. These countertops are beautiful and a poorly formed joint can ruin their overall appearance. Using special chemical adhesives, a professional installer can make a seam you can hardly detect even when you know where it is.
If you have ever done projects with wood before, you will find the solid surface material works similarly. Finishing the edge of the countertop with a decorative treatment to match the kitchen cabinet gives it a professional appearance. Carefully fit the edge pieces together and attach them with adhesives to the countertop.
You mentioned synthetic materials, but you should also consider some of the natural solid surface countertops. These include slate, granite and marble. Composite materials, using plastic and quartz or marble are also very attractive. These contain as much as 93 percent of natural stone particles, but are as maintenance-free as the all-plastic countertops. Tinted poured concrete countertops are also popular today.
Send your questions to Here’s How, 6906 Royalgreen Dr., Cincinnati, OH 45244 or visit www.dulley.com. To find out more about James Dulley and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.
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