laminate countertops - matte or shiny? light or dark?

kjmamaJuly 7, 2010

We would like to do some new countertops and laminate is most likely the budget. I have noticed there are very shiny choices and matte options. What do people think of those textured laminates vs. smoooth? Any finally any thoughts on light vs dark colors?

Thanks in advance for your thoughts!

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I think textured & matte is going to be the most practical. Shiny is trying to look like granite, and I don't think that's realistic. it can't. don't try. I suspect it will show scratches faster too.

I think light vs. dark depends on your cabinets. I think contrast with the cabs is the goal. I personally don't like different mid-tones next to each other, but you do see it a lot.

If your cabs are mid-tone, you can probably go light or dark. Dark will show less dirt, but may show scratches more over time. I used to have solid dark hunter green. I know all about scratches!! However, I think when its textured (faux stone look), it holds its own okay for awhile.

thats my $.02. I don't have hands on experience with the newer styles, so hopefully others will chime in with more recent experience.

    Bookmark   July 7, 2010 at 8:39PM
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Take a look at the Wilson Art High Definition series. They have some beautiful patterns.

    Bookmark   July 7, 2010 at 8:44PM
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I happen to really like our shiny smooth fake granite laminate. Folks can't even tell it's fake until they really "look" at it. Our cabinets are light maple and while our kitchen isn't very fancy at all, it sure is nice, practical, and didn't cost a fortune to update.

    Bookmark   July 7, 2010 at 8:55PM
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Have never seen textured laminates. Would they present a cleaning issue?

I put a dark matte laminate in my laundry room and love it.

    Bookmark   July 7, 2010 at 9:20PM
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sasafras, how long have you had yours? A friend of mine had some that was like that too --- really really looked like granite. and light maple cabinets. It was beautiful. But now, just a few years later, they are ready to rip it out because she said it hasn't held up. I haven't seen it since she said that, so I can't comment first hand.

    Bookmark   July 7, 2010 at 9:29PM
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i prefer smooth matte.

sasafras - can you post a pic of your counter top?

    Bookmark   July 7, 2010 at 9:35PM
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I usually like matte finishes, but I took one look at the Formica 180FX and I was hooked. It's not see-your-face-in-it shiny, but it's got some gloss to it. It's not granite, but it's really pretty and I'm going to be happy with it when it gets here. I put most of my kitchen budget towards my dream appliances, so I've decided to be happy with laminate. :-)


    Bookmark   July 7, 2010 at 9:44PM
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We have laminate with a pattern. I love it. It looks pretty and you can't see anything on it. It's not granite nor does it pretend to be. There is a bit of texture to it but no issues cleaning it. It was perfect for our budget and I am 100% satisfied with it. Actually I love it, and it changed the whole atmosphere of our kitchen!

Here is a pic on the day of installation:

    Bookmark   July 7, 2010 at 10:09PM
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I have white matte textured laminate that is 9 years old. It is still beautiful. I cook and bake a lot and there are no cleaning issues, no discoloration - it is as white as it ever was. It works just fine for rolling pie crust and kneading bread.

If keeping shiny laminate smudge-free is anything like keeping granite smudge-free, I'm very glad mine isn't shiny.


    Bookmark   July 8, 2010 at 12:04AM
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My kitchen came with a textured, matte laminate. It might be just this particular combination of color, texture and matte, but every single swipe of a sponge or paper towel dries so as to leave streaks, very visible streaks. You basically have to clean the counter and then dry it with paper towels in order to have it look nice. I used to do this daily, but it's just too much work, so my countertops only look nice when company's coming.

So my advice is to find the laminate you like, and then see if you can do a trial cleaning of it in the store, just to see how it does with streaks.

    Bookmark   July 8, 2010 at 7:21AM
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I have Wilsonart High Def, in a matte, slightly textured black. It doesn't show smudges and it doesn't show dirt. It is easy to clean, I just wipe it with a damp cloth. I will evenutally upgrade to granite, but I had laminate in my 1st house for 11 years, and now this house for 2.5 years. I will miss the easy care of my laminate, that is probably why I am in no hurry to replace it! LOL! pics below.


    Bookmark   July 8, 2010 at 8:20AM
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This is a photo I took of my sister's island when she remodeled her kitchen in March. She chose a granite look laminate with a bull nose edge that is so realistic that people have a hard time telling it's laminate. It varies in sheen with some shiny and some more matte areas, and is quite beautiful. That's protective cardboard on either side if the laminate as work was still being done.

    Bookmark   July 8, 2010 at 8:21AM
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We have Formica's Basalt Slate in a 'honed' finish. It mimics soapstone (which I absolutely love). One of the nicest compliments I received was from a friend who has soapstone counters. The first time she came over, after I had re-laminated the counters, she said they looked like the real thing. Even though she knew they were laminate, she looked really closely at them and kept remarking about how beautiful they were...and she honestly meant it ;o) I can't post a pic because I'm at work and Photobucket is on our blocked list. I'll post a pic later this evening.

    Bookmark   July 8, 2010 at 9:12AM
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Here are a few pics I had that show our laminate. It's Blackstone by Formica in the Etchings finish. I love it! We've had it three years. It doesn't scratch easily (and you have to really look to see any scratches it does get), and it has a sheen, but isn't too shiny. I would highly recommend it!

    Bookmark   July 8, 2010 at 10:53AM
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We have the wilsonart high def laminate. It's textured. We looked at several finishes, and this one appeared to be pretty durable and less "plastic" looking. A friend of mine has a smooth one (can't remember the name) and it only took 6 days before there was a huge scratch right in the middle of her counter. Someone put a box on it, and slid it a couple itches and there it was.

    Bookmark   July 8, 2010 at 11:45AM
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My Mom did Formica's Iron Rust in a Riverwash finish with a Geneva Edge.

Formica description of Riverwash:

âÂÂRiverwash Finish features a registered low-luster dual gloss texturing, which mimics the aggregate stones found in concrete and rusted elements of metals.âÂÂ

My Mom is all about easy maintenance (she had to have sheet flooring with no seams or patterns with texture and her cupboard hardware couldn't have any indentations where dirt could gather - at times I thought I would lose my mind helping her) and she loves these counters (she's had them over a year now). I have to say I think the look is very nice and unexpected for laminate.

    Bookmark   July 8, 2010 at 11:58AM
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ours was done over 10 years ago, and has held up just fine. my3dogs pic is the pattern we have but ours has less brown tones I think. Matter of fact I like the one in that pic even better LOL!

    Bookmark   July 8, 2010 at 3:40PM
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Here's our Formica basalt Slate in the honed matte finish. In bright or direct light it has a slight sheen.

Sink run in early morning light...


Close up of corner after I re-laminated that section. One of my proudest home-reno moments (look, Ma, no seams!)...

    Bookmark   July 8, 2010 at 6:20PM
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WOW thanks for all the pictures and responses. This helps SO much! I was kind of leaning towards matte. It helps to hear all the experiences. Your kitchens are pretty:)

    Bookmark   July 8, 2010 at 8:00PM
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kjmama, what is the style of the rest of your kitchen/house?

If it's at all modern, then I have some thoughts...if it's traditional, never mind :)

    Bookmark   July 8, 2010 at 10:05PM
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traditional but let's hear 'em:)

    Bookmark   July 8, 2010 at 10:14PM
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Well, it does apply more to modern design than traditional, as laminate was invented relatively recently, but *as regards a modern idiom*: one of the tenets of modernism is to let materials be themselves, i.e. wood be natural, stone be stone, brick be unpainted, etc. For our mc-modern home, when I was considering laminate (went with Corian green tea because once all the details were figured in, it was only a few more hundred $$ to get the corian, which we had polished to a semi-gloss so it doesn't look like other corians--it's completely its own thing), I was thinking of either solids or patterns that made it clear that I wasn't trying to imitate a stone.
I think, and I realize I'm probably in the minority here, that any material is at its strongest when it's not trying to be anything else. FLW himself used laminate in Usonian houses, solid colors with solid color laminate backsplashes -- they still look cool (at least the one in Oregon does). I know there wasn't a lot of variety available back then, but I really believe in "letting laminate be laminate", as it were, *in modern houses*. Nothing to apologize for, plan around, etc. It is completely valid as it is.
If a simple matte color/solid texture is too severe, patterns that are clearly not possible to be a countertop, e.g. paper, oxidation, or even beluga caviar etc., are also cool and a bit humorous...that's one thing the PO of this home did right (not much else): in the wet bar, she used a blue subtle-graphic-patterned laminate that is Its Own Thing. One of the few surfaces we haven't felt it necessary to change out LOL...
And that's my manifesto about laminate :) but as I said, it applies more to modern design than traditional because laminate itself would be somewhat anachronistic in a traditional setting so you might as well go with something imitating stone. Maybe in your case you might want to steer to a less-involved, simpler imitation--that might be the way to acknowledge and address the "imitation" gap.

In addition: one functional thing to consider which you may know but I just thought I'd put it out there anyway: curved edge treatments are available only with thinner laminates. If you want a tougher laminate, you have to get edge *angles*, either 2 45s or a straight 90, as they don't take to curving. One more aspect to decide on :)

    Bookmark   July 9, 2010 at 12:01PM
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Don't know why the paragraph-separating lines didn't come through except for the bottom one...sorry for any difficulty reading.

    Bookmark   July 9, 2010 at 12:02PM
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"after I re-laminated that section. One of my proudest home-reno moments (look, Ma, no seams!)... "

how'd you do that?????

did you do the lamination on site?

    Bookmark   July 9, 2010 at 9:21PM
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Mrsmarv, I love your counter tops and kitchen window! What a beautiful view!

    Bookmark   July 10, 2010 at 5:47AM
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desertsteph ~ Yep, I did them on-site. This was the second time I've re-laminated them in 10 years.

Our original choice turned out to be (ahem) less-than-expected, to say the least. At the time they were delivered for installation, DH said that I should "live with them for a while" and if, in a few years, I still didn't like them I could replace them. After three looong years I decided it was time but I didn't want to rip out a perfectly good countertop/base or pay the $$$ when they were only three years old. That's when I decided to tackle the job. After much research and speaking to people in the trades is when I took the plunge. I have to say the first time it was definitely nerve wracking but the seconfd time was much less stressful.

The first time I re-did them I chose a solid laminate from Wilsonart called, aptly, "Port".
Here's a pic mid-process. Notice the fugly original counters to the right of the stove. Definitely not what I ecpected them to look like. I admit the mistake was mine because there's no way anyone can tell what a whole counter will look like when all you jhave is a tiny little sample chip. Duh.

The problem with the red counters was twofold ~ because they were a solid with no texture or pattern, they showed every scratch. Because they were red, they faded quite quickly in the bright sun.
So that's my story ;o)

My experience has been that, unless the countertop is very light, I would stay away from a solid color laminate countertop with no pattern or texture.

Tannatonk ~ Thank you for the compliments. We love our little piece of heaven.

    Bookmark   July 10, 2010 at 8:46AM
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mrsmarv, right! I remember those red counters. Really interesting (and frustrating for you) that they faded in the sun so fast. You'd think Formica would be able to make a colorfast color. Maybe it was meant to be so you'd find the soapstone-look laminate :) because your counters now are fabulous.

They make a great argument for a simple imitation-stone counter, with a minimum of distraction but just enough not to be solid and showing every water mark, in a traditional setting.

    Bookmark   July 10, 2010 at 12:39PM
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fly ~ I love the new counters. And I should have stated that it's the second time within 6+ years that I re-laminated them. We renovated the kitchen in the late summer/early fall of 2000 and it was in the spring of 2004 that I re-laminated them for the first time. Hopefully these will hold up better and from what I can tell, they will. I'm a pretty simple gal and I don't like anything that's fussy or ornate, so for me, they're perfect.

I guess I'm just a glutton for punishment.

    Bookmark   July 10, 2010 at 2:11PM
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We are remodeling the kitchen in our retirement home. Just ordered the cabinets on Friday. We're going with Maple, as we like the smooth finish, in a medium color called Nutmeg.

Granite isn't in our budget either but the cabinet company has a really neat set up. In their showroom, for the cabinets they have a granite counter top. For the island, they used the same color laminate as the granite. You could not tell the difference just by looking at it. We chose Wilson Art Black Star Granite. I think it's also High Definition and it does have the shiny finish, which we liked a lot. Someone told me just don't slide pots and pans around on the shiny surface, but I don't do that anyway, lol.

We also went with black's a grayish black, really pretty, and all of this was in our budget. It will be three weeks before the cabinets arrive, but we're really excited. Also took down a fluorescent light fixture and will be getting recessed lights and pendants over the bar. It's a fairly small kitchen, but big enough for just the two of us.

    Bookmark   July 10, 2010 at 2:21PM
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In my house in San Diego, I upgraded the kitchen (on a single gal's salary, so I was frugal). I really wanted a something like granite or stone etc, but just could not afford it. I found a really pretty corian sample and then found a laminate sample that mimicked it. aside from the feel of them, you could NOT tell them apart. the finished countertop looked awesome and held up great.

    Bookmark   July 11, 2010 at 9:47AM
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This is an old thread, but I just found it as I was searching for information about laminate countertops.

Momto4boys - I hope you will see this. I would love to know exactly which Wilsonart pattern and finish you used for your countertops. I am getting ready to have my cabinets painted white and will have a white subway tile backsplash like yours. I want a dark patterned laminate countertop, and yours looks just like what I had in mind. I have collected dozens of little samples, but being able to see an entire countertop makes all the difference....


    Bookmark   April 9, 2011 at 1:51PM
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my3dogs - I realize that this is an old post, but I just came across it and I love the look of your sister's laminate. Do you know the name?

    Bookmark   April 15, 2012 at 8:46PM
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