Research

Plastic Laminate

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Interior Design
 
By: Zara Tan, Caitlyn Murray, February 2003, Vancouver, Canada

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Material Name, General Description & Composition
Plastic laminate was born in the early 1900ís. It was a replacement for heavy ceramic insulator in the electrical industry; therefore, it made no significance in the construction industry. However, in the past 30 years, new discoveries have been made. It was learned that the material can be used for commercial and residential applications.

Plastic laminate is basically a sandwich of plastic coated materials. It is processed by combining different layers of Kraft paper:
1- A decorative layer
2- A clear surface layer

The color, patterns and textures that we see are the decorative layer, and the clear surface layer is the material that protects the decorative layer from abrasion and moisture. After selection of the decorative layer, the two layers are laminated together under high pressure.

Decorative laminates vary in thickness. The more slices of Kraft paper are in the sandwich, the thicker the laminate. Therefore, consumers should always look for the thicker laminate, when they want more durability.

In general, laminates are inexpensive compared to many materials. It is available in many styles, while maintaining a low budget cost. It is a durable material, but they can be cut by knives or other sharp objects. When properly maintained, plastic laminates can be great working surfaces, therefore many working desks are found with laminate tops.

Plastic laminate has become a popular material for construction. It has proven to be stylish, durable, economical and beneficial. With its vast options, plastic laminate is one of the finest inventions.

Manufacture / Source
Plastic laminate sheets are available throughout first world countries. Major manufactures are based in North America, Europe, often Germany because Germans were the first to use this material for electrical circuit boards during World War I.

Availability
Plastic laminate sheets are available the moment you step in the store. Due to its high durability and versatility, laminates are in constant need, therefore delivery usually take 2-6 weeks for laminate flooring and 2-8 weeks for countertops. Custom made laminates can take more than 8 weeks, depending on the amount purchased and complexity of design.

Cost
Plastic laminates in general are inexpensive materials. One linear feet of Plastic laminate can range from $18.50 - $26.00. With installment included, it can range from $25.00 -$33.00. Laminate flooring can cause to as cheap as $2.99 - $38.00 per square feet. Some suppliers have sold custom made flooring ranging from $50.00 - $75.00 per square feet.

Finishes / Colors
Plastic laminate come in many colors, patterns and textures. It is easily made by printing the desire color and pattern on the Kraft paper, and then laminated together with the clear coating. Therefore, there are no restrictions, when it comes to selecting the laminate you want.
Plastic laminate can come with a low light reflection finish. This type of laminate is mostly used for kitchen and wall applications, or high traffic areas. Low light reflection finishes are used in much furniture, such as working desks and tables.
The contemporary look is now the trend. This is a softer, warmer look than the high glossy of the 80ís.
Other popular laminates, include the metallic and the wood-like finish, are used in many furniture and wall applications.

Uses
Plastic laminate can be used for almost any interior application. The material is used on countertops, cabinets, refrigerators, flooring, tabletops, elevators, walls and furniture. Laminates are often custom made in many private residences and commercial places. Restaurants may want a unique pattern or color to match the mood and theme of their place with matching tabletops. Martha Stewart had also requested a unique grid design for K-mart flooring.
Although, Plastic laminate are waterproof, stain and stuff resistant, the material have many downsides. It is dangerous to install laminate around high traffic countertops, because contact with hot objects can cause color change or burning to the laminate by melting the top layers of the material of the decorative layer.
Laminate is almost non-renewable; therefore great care must be practiced to maintain its beauty. With the use of plastic laminate, a black or brown line will appear, when it is seemed to create an edge. This is unavoidable with tabletops, because it is the phenol backing of the laminate.
Plastic laminate is usually not recommended for exterior uses or direct application to plastered walls or concrete walls.

Installation
Installing plastic laminate is not complicated. To visit the easy step-by-step instruction to install countertops, please visit: AceHardWare.com.

Maintenance
Strong acids and Alkalis, such as household cleaners (oven cleaners, rust removers, toilet bowl cleaners), can permanently discolor or corrode the laminated surface. When spilled, wipe with paper towels and rinse thoroughly with water. For daily cleaning, wash laminate with a damp cloth or sponge and mild detergent. For tough stains, use household cleaners (Lysol, Pine Sole) and a soft bristle brush. Use baking soda and water for persistent stain and avoid excessive scrubbing. Scrubbing may damage plastic laminates with high gloss finish.
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