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Laminate countertops



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Mather Countertop Systems

339 Chapel Rd.

South Windsor, Ct 06074

(860) 528-5667



Mathertops made with decorative plastic laminate offer advantages not found anywhere else in the area. See the primer below for detailed information on what makes up a laminate countertop. You may also simply click the links for snapshot information.


School's in (an educational primer)

Countertops are identified in three parts: The Backsplash, The Deck, and The Nose, or front edge. The choices you make for one may, or may not, influence possible choices for the other two. This primer concerns laminate tops, primarily.

The Backsplash: 

The section of countertop where the countertop meets the wall is called the backsplash. Its purpose is to protect the wall from spills and splashing of liquids. This is why the backsplash is sometimes referred to as the "splash guard". The three basic splash styles are: Set on, where a loose splash is glued onto the deck; Attached, where a separate splash is fastened behind the deck; and Coved, where a continuous sheet of plastic laminate rolls from the flat deck to the vertical splash.

Ideally a coved splash should be your splash of choice. It is by far the easiest to clean, and it gives you much better water protection. Water penetration is deadly to a countertop. The wood substrate that the laminate is bonded to swells and starts flaking apart. This creates a larger gap where more water comes in, swelling and flaking ,etc. We feel strongly that if you’re going to buy a plastic laminate top, get a coved splash. A coved splash can be as low as 1" from the deck, or all the way up to the wall cabinets. No one ever told us they regretted this choice.

Mather fabricates a splash that can all the way up the wall to the underside of the upper cabinets. This is about as easy to maintain as a laminate top can get.

Other Materials

A countertop may have other material, such as tile or mirror in place of the backsplash. We don’t recommend this practice, but if you choose this route, make sure you silicone the area where the tile, etc. meets the deck. Where two surfaces meet, the degree to which they expand and contract, the coefficient of expansion, can cause the joint between the two to open and close; the flexibility of a silicone joint will help compensate for all of this movement, and protect the joint from moisture. Splash class dismissed.  


The Front Edge

Aside from color and pattern, the first thing one generally notices about a kitchen countertop is the edge design. The choices you have in this area are constantly expanding, but the following summary should be helpful.

The self edge profile: This is where a separate piece of laminate is applied vertically to the front edge of a countertop, and is the most common edge. We believe the term ‘self edge’ came from the days when contact cement was coming in the industry, providing the fabricator with the ability to apply the laminate itself to the front of the top. Prior to this, a strip of aluminum or stainless steel (called a snap on edge) was applied to the front.

The self edge looks unspectacular in profile, but it allows for great flexibility in countertop shapes. "S" shaped corners, full radius ends on peninsulas and islands, and other shapes are easier to make with a self edge top than on any other type of profile.

Applied edge tops are different from self edge tops in that there is a separate, pre-manufactured strip of beveled laminate, wood or solid surface edging applied to the front (hence the name). While this provides an attractive front edge, there are some considerations that you must be aware of.

It is critical that an experienced, reliable fabricator applies your edge. Technique, adhesive choice and fitting of the edge can be done quickly and haphazardly, or can be done with care. A good job should last the life of your top. A poor job may be cheaper, but it will shorten your top’s life span considerably. As mentioned earlier, moisture penetration can destroy a countertop. An edge that has been applied with low cost in mind is often applied quickly and sloppily. It can sag or droop away from the edge where the moisture can penetrate, starting a cycle that results in the death of your countertop. Use a fabricator you can trust. Use a fabricator who cares.

In the section on backsplashes above, you learned how important a coved backsplash is to a laminate countertop. Most people associate coved splashes with mitered seams (see the next section on postform edges). Mather Countertop Systems can fabricate tops with the self edge and applied edge styles with a coved backsplash and without miters . The advantages of this top make it the most technically superior top possible with laminate.

Front edge, cont.: Postform Edge                             180retur.jpg (36005 bytes)

The countertops that do need mitered seams are those with postform front edges. When a countertop front edge is ‘postformed’, it means that the laminate is continuously wrapped from the deck down around the front of the countertop. This gives you the "softest" of all the edges. A rounded edge is comfortable to lean on, as well as being less prone to nicks, water damage, and delamination. This advantage sometimes makes having the mitered seam worthwhile. The edge can vary from the most common: a quarter round, or 90 degree edge, to a more complicated edge that rolls all the way down and under. Mather Countertop Systems can postform an edge in almost all brands.

Postform tops and a word about quality:

A custom made postform top begins with a simple premise: it is going to be your top, made to your cabinet size, unique to your kitchen’s specifications. Need some extra scribe? Not a problem. Splash too low? We can handle it. Custom tops aren’t made from a specific material size, so we’ll get a wider sheet. Miters? Although mitered inside corners are the biggest draw back of any postform countertop, our miters are either splined or cleated with leveling screws. Tighter, more level, they are not as good as a seamless top ( see ‘self edge’, above ), but they are easily the next best thing - and we make them.

Machine made tops are like the ones you’ll find in a Home Center store, or lumberyard. In comparison to more customized tops their positive aspects are that they are inexpensive, they do not cost much, and you can buy them cheap ( redundancy intended ). The material used to make them is sometimes thinner, the wood is from inexpensive stock, the miters are poorly put together ( actually, they leave the store mostly separated ). They are limited in both sizes and styles. If you are looking for a top that will serve a limited purpose, or you need a "temporary" top on your cabinets then automation is fine.

There are other things a custom postformer can do that automation can’t. It is possible to wrap outside corners without mitered joints, you can cove roll a backsplash all the way up to the upper cabinets, you can cut miters in different depth tops, step splashes to different depths, in short, you can solve problems. Custom tops are more expensive, you betcha. They will also last longer, make your kitchen look better, and your top will be .....Yours.  


The Deck:

The deck is where it all happens: It is where you mix the dough, place the plates, and spill the beans (so to speak). This is where the durable melamine coating of Plastic Laminate shows its stuff. The face of the backsplash receives less abuse, the nose gives some styling and contour, but most of the work in your kitchen is performed on the deck. Because of this, choices you will make regarding edge style, laminate finish, even pattern and color have a lot of impact on how your countertop will, and how long it will last.

Pattern, finish, and color are important for the appearance of your kitchen. You can vary how much the elements will blend together; the all-white kitchen versus the careful mix of warm/cool tones with patterns that tie them all together. There are other issues to consider, however: A scratch that is small or shallow will show up much sooner on a polished finish or a dark color than it will on a matte finish or a lighter solid. We see scratches because they interrupt the pathway that reflected light follows. This is accented in the darker, or more polished surfaces. Medium solids work well. but abstract non-linear patterns work the best. Ultimately, you pays yer money, you takes yer choice, but don’t say we didn’t warn you.

The Deck cont.: that ugly seam

Seam placement plays an important role in the use and care of your top as well. For practical purposes, laminate is limited in size to 60" x 144" dimensions. Exceed these dimensions and you need a seam. Seams are dirt collectors, and a poorly made seam, or a poorly assembled field miter is both ugly to look at and dangerous for your countertop. Front edge choice will be a factor in what type of seams you end up with, as well as whether the top can be installed in one piece or not. Whenever possible, we use a rigid setting, water resistant glue to adhere our seams. This is superior to a contact cement seam in many ways. Rigidity helps maintain strong lamination and tight seams, and water proof characteristics help protect the particle board from moisture penetration. In the case of a mitered seam, we either spline and glue or cleat our seams for extra strength.  


Bath vs. Kitchen    

As a general rule, bath tops don’t have the same abrasion risks that a kitchen top does, so some of the guidelines covering finish choices or darkness of colors do not apply as strongly. Conversely, there is a greater chance of constant water splashing or seeping to the backsplash. A coved backsplash makes even more sense here. Please also consider the cost benefit of using a solid surface pre made top in these applications. The advantage of having a seam mounted bowl as well as a coved backsplash are considerable here. (Please see solid surface)


The best Known brands of laminate are Formica, WilsonArt, Pionite and Nevamar. There are others, such as Abet - an Italian brand, Arpa, and Laminart (a favorite of architects). Most all brands follow similar manufacturing techniques, but all have internal differences, especially as applied to finish changes. The decisions made here are critical and should not be left with someone who doesn't know why one is better than another. We do.

All the images on all of our web pages, as well as our brochure pages are jobs performed by Mather Countertop Systems.

Key Benefits for laminate tops

bulletLower cost per foot
bulletHuge selection of patterns and colors
bulletStyle selection


bulletWhen laminate scratches, it scratches. There are no easy fixes.
bulletLaminate is not a homogeneous material. The surface protection (melamine plastic) can wear out through aggressive use, or very abrasive cleaners.
bulletUsually there is not as good a return on your investment in resale situations.

A partial list of the most common laminate manufacturers used to make a Mathertop. Click for site:



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Copyright © 2009 Mather Countertop Systems
Last modified: 10/19/09