Hello, readers! Welcome back to the Stonehouse Countertops’ blog. We’re happy to have you here! In this blog, we discuss the maintenance and care of various custom countertop materials, as well as aspects of design and installation. Our goal is to provide you—whether homeowner or business owner—with the information you need to choose the right countertops for you. Our last article about differences between natural and manmade stone is an interesting deep dive into the geological processes which produce exquisite natural stone and the modern engineering of manufactured stone lookalikes. If you’re in the market for countertops and wondering which suits your needs better, we suggest giving our last post a look! 

Today, we’re embarking on another fascinating exploration of the major differences between laminate and stone. We’ll cover the key components of each material, then pit each material against the other in several categories, including budget-friendliness, versatility, heat resistance, porosity, durability, and maintenance. Our aim is to give you the most comprehensive overview of both materials as possible. We hope, after reading this article, you’ll feel better equipped to make the best decision for your home or commercial space! Now, let’s dive in!

The Composition of Laminate

The word laminate was created in the seventeenth century and is derived from the Latin word lamina, meaning “thin piece of metal or wood, thin slice, plate, leaf, layer.” This etymology tidbit actually gives us a solid amount of context for the modern-day definition of laminate, which is “layers fixed together to form a hard, flat, or flexible material.”  Imagine layers of plastic sandwiched between particleboard—or kraft paper—and you have a pretty good grasp of the internal structure of laminate countertops. More specifically, the kraft paper or particleboard is bonded to plastic phenolic resins. A decorative print is then layered over the top, followed by a wear layer and a melamine resin layer, for protection. Laminate countertops weren’t introduced until the 1940s and 50s, making them relatively modern additions to home kitchens. However, laminates have come a long way since then. High-pressure laminates (HPLs) are more durable than their predecessors. 

The Composition of Stone

The composition of stone varies greatly between the type of stone you choose. For example, granite is what is known as an intrusive igneous rock. This means granite formed as a result of molten rock gradually cooling within the earth’s crust. Granite is composed of a mixture of quartz, orthoclase or microcline, and mica. The color of granite is derived from the presence of various minerals when it was cooling (e.g., an excess of potassium feldspar will result in a salmon-pink granite). Another example is soapstone. Soapstone, unlike granite, is a metamorphic rock. This means soapstone formed as a result of an original rock undergoing intense heat and pressure. Soapstone is composed of chlorite, mica, amphibole, and other minerals, but its primary ingredient is talc. Yes, like talcum powder. This is what gives the stone its powdery, soapy texture. The appearance, texture, and hardness of a naturally occurring stone are derived almost entirely from its chemical composition. They can come in a variety of colors and patterns, and levels of durability. 

Budget Friendliness

Since this is everyone’s chief priority and main deciding factor when it comes to choosing countertops, we’ll begin with price. As you might expect, laminate is far more budget-friendly than stone. This is due to a number of factors. First and foremost, the composition of laminate we discussed earlier makes the final product incredibly lightweight. Therefore, laminate can be installed with the help of a professional by a savvy DIY-er. Obviously, this makes laminate more cost-effective in the short term. However, you must take into account the fact that laminate will need to be replaced at a higher frequency than stone. This means, in the long term, your savings might not stretch. That said, while granite and butcher’s block can up you upwards of two hundred dollars per square foot, laminate probably won’t exceed forty dollars per square foot. Do the math and see what works for your wallet, short and long-term. 

Versatility

Design is another major factor when it comes to choosing countertops. Once again, laminate is a great option for those who want as many options to choose from as possible. You can find laminate in almost any color or pattern, unlike natural stones such as quartzite or granite (which can only naturally be found in a set of colors or are rare in certain colors). That said, the sheen and feel of certain stone countertops cannot be replicated by laminate. This is something to keep in mind: laminate countertops are always attempting to mimic stone. Some laminate countertops come close to the visual appearance of stone, but up close, there’s an undeniable difference. 

Heat Resistance

Remember when we went over the composition of laminate and how it’s basically plastic? Remember that time you left a sandwich bag near the stovetop, and the entire house smelled foul for days? Yeah. Laminate doesn’t respond well to heat. It’s recommended you refrain from placing hot pans on the surface as laminate can burn. For avid cookers who spend lots of time in the kitchen, this can be a real bummer. Therefore, in this aspect, stone countertops win out. A majority of natural stones have been exposed to the incredible heat of the earth’s mantle, which means they can handle a pot or two. Soapstone, particularly, is a wonderfully heat-resistant stone and is often used around wood-burning stoves for its ability to evenly distribute heat. 

Porosity

In this regard, laminate and stone break even (in most cases). Laminate is entirely nonporous, meaning it is resistant to staining and will not absorb bacteria from food. This is an extraordinary feature if you have little ones roaming about or the occasional clumsy spell. You won’t have to worry about errant stains. Similarly, natural options like soapstone and engineered options such as quartz are equally nonporous. Other natural stones, such as granite, marble, and limestone, are porous and require a touch of extra care to avoid unfortunate staining. 

Durability

As far as durability, there’s no competition. Laminate countertops scratch easily, which means no using your counters as a cutting board. Laminate countertops chip easily, which means no dropping glasses. And, as we mentioned earlier, laminate countertops burn. That’s not all! Delamination plagues laminate countertops. Delamination is caused by water damage and is a fate that’s hard to avoid for most laminate countertop owners. Characterized by flaking and peeling of the upper portion of the laminate surface, this can make your countertops look old and dirty. Delamination often cannot be fixed and means you’ll need to replace your countertops. On the other hand—with the proper care and maintenance—stone countertops can last a lifetime. Maybe even longer! They can be nonporous, heat-resistant, scratch-resistant, antimicrobial, and anti-mildew! We know which one we would choose in this instance.

Maintenance

Maintenance for laminate countertops is simple. Soap plus water, and you’re good to go. Of course, the only downside is the very solution you use to clean your laminate countertops is what will eventually ruin them. There’s really no recourse for that. Avoid using abrasive cleaners or scrubbing pads, as this will damage the surface of the laminate. The maintenance for different types of stone varies. We have an entire series of maintenance for granite, limestone, marble, quartz, soapstone, and concrete. If you’re interested in learning everything you need to know about caring for these materials, definitely go check out our previous posts!

The choice is ultimately yours. After considering your budget, your design, and your lifestyle, you can make the choice best suited to your needs. We hope this article has been helpful in elucidating the differences between laminate and stone countertops. If you do decide on the latter or have any other questions, do not hesitate to reach out to our team! We here at Stonehouse Countertops are willing and able to work with you to your specifications. We look forward to assisting you in any way we can and helping you achieve the perfect look for your space! Remember to return to our blog for our upcoming posts on how to save money during the custom installation process and how to know when it’s time to replace your countertops. Until next time, thanks for reading!