According to a recent article in the Washington Post, laminate countertops are making a comeback, especially among Millennials. Homeowners who are 30 to 50 years of age still have a distaste for laminate because their memories are from the 1960s and 1970s, when it was blandly colored or designed with only stripes or squiggly lines. They see it, like wallpaper, as outdated.
Since 2005, laminate has been making a comeback. As new materials, such as hardwoods, stone and concrete began being used for countertops in earnest, laminate has been updated to include designs that mimic the look and feel of stone and wood.
Laminate was first made by Westinghouse, but an employee, Daniel J. O’Conor, left the company and co-founded Formica. This high-pressure decorative laminate was used for tabletops in the 1920s and for bars the 1930s. However, the housing boom gave the industry its big break.
Laminate was thought of as a luxury in the 1950s, and although its popularity has diminished, it is still the most common material used for countertops. According to the author, Caylin Harris, laminate countertops then fell in popularity in the 1970s with a resurgence in the 1980s.
After another steep decline, new Millennial homeowners entered the market, and they did not have the stigma of the over-styled designs of the 1980s. Wilsonart actually targeted Millennials for a research study which showed that young homeowners wanted something that looked like other natural surfaces but more affordable.
To meet the growing demand, Wilsonart and Formica are employing new technologies to fabricate the look and texture of the material. Some designs also use state-of-the-art printing technology.
The current laminate being produced by these two powerhouses of the industry look just like the real, natural materials, but some say that may not be enough.
However, laminate is also more durable than before. Finishes are now scratch resistant, but a large gouge could ruin it. Heat can also damage laminate, but again, the laminate of today withstand temperatures up to 400 F. Another downside is that the seams are more noticeable than they are with natural stone, engineered stone and solid surface.
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