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Ensuring the quality of your kitchen worktops

Ensuring the quality of your kitchen worktops

The easiest and cheapest way to buy a laminate countertop is to pick one out at a kitchen showroom. The ready - made counters you�ll find there are typically postformed - this means that the backsplash, counter and rounded front apron are all formed from one piece.

Although ready-made countertops cost the least (about �15 per linear foot), your selection is usually limited to a few colors and styles. In addition, the thin laminate used for post-forming doesn�t have the impact resistance that general-purpose laminate has. Also, you�ll need to cut the finished counter to fit your kitchen; on an exposed end, this will leave an unfinished edge. You can also order a counter directly from a fabricator or through a home center, kitchen dealer or kitchen designer.

Be sure to have the fabricator come to your house to measure your kitchen. Most fabricators will also deliver the finished countertops and install them. Whether you choose this option or not, carefully inspect the countertops before the installation, checking the following points:

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� The laminate should be bonded to a substrate of particle board or medium-density fiberboard (MDF), which doesn�t have voids like some plywood.

� The laminate should be fully bonded to this substrate. lt�s easy to check the edges; in the center, tap the surface; it should sound solid, not hollow.

� There should be absolutely no flaws on any visible surface; laminate cannot be repaired. Before installation, make sure that the supporting cabinets are level. If they arerft, they must be shimmed before the countertop is installed.

After installation, inspect the finished countertop. The seams should be tight, with no obvious gaps. The corner seams should meet at a 450 angle and be both glued and mechanically fastened. Other than the corners of the !!<kitchen>!!, there should be only two seams, at the backsplash and the front edge. The laminate along the ends and edges should be securely bonded, and the backsplash should fit tightly to the countertop and the wall. Any gaps and seams should be caulked to create a watertight seal. To keep your laminate countertop looking like new, follow the manufacturers directions. Avoid scouring pads and cleansers, use a cutting board for chopping and slicing, and place hot pots and pans on trivets, never directly on the counter.