If you have spent any time searching for countertops for a building or design project, you have most certainly come across the term ‘solid surface’ and seen tons of furniture options featuring this material. But what is solid surface, and is it a good choice for your specific needs?
Solid surface is a super popular material that has only been available for a few decades. Revered for its easy to maintain hygienic surface, sleek appearance, and durability, solid surface can now be found in office spaces, manufacturing facilities, educational and testing labs, hospitals and medical centers, and much more.
In this guide, we’ll share everything you need to know to make an informed decision when choosing solid surface for your design project.
The History of Solid Surface: Corian by DuPont
If you have never heard of solid surface, you may have heard of ‘Corian®’, the name of the original solid surface formula created by a DuPont researcher named Don Slocum. Slocum developed Corian® intending to create a more hygienic alternative to the natural materials that were most popular at the time – granite, laminate, etc.
Though beautiful and durable, natural materials like granite are porous, harboring tiny cracks, crevices, and pits where dirt, grime, and bacteria can avoid the wipe of a sponge or sanitizing spray.
Corian® was solid from top to bottom with no porosity, and could be cut, shaped, molded, and colored to fit virtually any application. Slocum developed the first batch of Corian® in 1964, and DuPont subsequently patented the product in 1968.
A decade later, in the late 70s and with the expiration of the patent, competing manufacturers developed their own products, calling them solid surface, and making the material widely available.
How Solid Surface Materials Are Created
Solid surface is made from a mixture of synthetic materials or ‘ingredients’ which can vary slightly depending on the desired look and feel of the final product. The basic ingredients used to create solid surface are a binder, a filler, and pigment, which once mixed and cured become solid and easy to work with.
Solid surface can be cut or carved like a hardwood, making it ideal for use on vertical and horizontal surfaces, but can also be made pliable with heat to create curved surfaces like sinks or no-seam corners.
Here’s what goes into this versatile material:
A binding resin is used to hold all the materials together and makes up much of the ‘body’ of the solid surface. Syrupy and sticky, most binder resins are made from acrylic, epoxide, or polyester, which are heated to become liquid before mixing.
Resin is what gives solid surface its unique carvable texture, and can become extremely hard and durable once chemically cured and cooled. Resins also help to create a smooth, easily fixable surface that won’t hold on to dirt or germs.
Filler is added to the mixture to add interesting textures and patterns within the solid surface. Filler particulate can be large and chunky, small and nearly invisible, glittery, matte, and anything in between to create an infinite number of designs and finishes.
Often, filler is used to mimic the look of natural stone like granite and marble. In some cases, designers may choose to forgo filler for a simpler, monochromatic look. This decision is typically made to avoid accidentally missing spills, crumbs, or dropped items in medical and testing facilities.
Color & Pigment
Resin is typically clear, amber, or a milky translucent color that isn’t particularly attractive or great for hiding flaws on its own. To create different colors, solid surface manufacturers add pigment, which come in a huge range of colors and hues that can easily be mixed and customized.
Pigment used in solid surface manufacturing may be bright and vibrant or may be added to mimic the look of natural materials. Dark, light, matte, shiny, the options are endless when it comes to solid surface colors.
Characteristics of Solid Surface
Solid surface has become a super popular choice amongst builders and designers everywhere, especially because of its versatility and ability to withstand harsh environments. Solid surface has plenty of other qualities and characteristics that make it a highly desirable product, but what is it specifically that makes solid surface better than say, wood? Or granite?
Here’s what you need to know:
Strength & Durability
First and foremost, solid surface is extremely durable. Most solid surface can be guaranteed to last for up to or more than a decade, though there are many examples of solid surface furniture lasting far longer than that. During the process of manufacturing solid surface, the mixture goes through a chemical curing process that bonds the ingredients together, making them stable and tightly packed together.
Solid all the way through, little can penetrate solid surface, and the material has extreme tensile strength allowing it to hold heavy objects and making it excellent for storage and manufacturing purposes.
In addition to being extremely strong, solid surface is also able to withstand exposure to extreme temperatures (both hot and cold), is resistant to scratches and gouging, won’t absorb or become warped by water, and is resistant to staining and chemical damage. Solid surface’s extreme durability is due to its tightly packed structure and non-porous surface which prevents substances from soaking in, staining, or warping the material.
Cleanliness & Ease of Sanitation
A surface being non-porous is a key component of easy cleaning, since a non-porous surface won’t hold on to dirt, grime, bacteria, and germs as easily as natural and porous materials. Solid surface is non-porous and can be constructed without seams, edges, or gaps between cracks or corners.
A seamless design helps to make clean up super easy and eliminates any hiding spots that harmful dirt and bacteria could be using.
Because solid surface won’t absorb moisture or stain, solid surface can be cleaned with almost any normal cleaning solution, making it extremely versatile and perfect for a wide range of industries with a variety of cleanliness and sanitation standards. Because solid surface is solid all the way through and isn’t coated with a laminate, cracking, splitting, and chipping is never a concern, and you won’t find your counters failing at the edges in the way other synthetic materials might.
Easy to Repair
Though solid surface is highly durable and difficult to damage, accidents happen, and years of regular use can result in a dulled finish or minor imperfections on the surface. Luckily, solid surface material is super easy to repair since it is the same solid material all the way through.
A simple refinishing is all it takes to make solid surface look brand new, helping to make it one of the longest-lasting and most economical materials available.
Potential for Infinite Designs
Solid surface can be cut, poured, molded, and customized to fit any design. With an almost infinite number of pigments, fillers, and shapes available to you, solid surface can fit in almost anywhere and with virtually any aesthetic choices.
Here are just some of the ways solid surface offers plenty of design potential:
- Color: Choose any color or finish you want to customize the look of solid surface. Create a naturalistic mock-stone finish, go for a simple matte black, or create a flashy, brightly colored option with tons of textured filler.
- Thermoform: Solid surface can be sliced into sheets, but did you know that it is also thermoformable, meaning it can be molded into practically any shape with a little bit of heat. Because solid surface can be thermoformed, this material is a popular choice for sinks, curved/seamless edges, and creating sleek crack-free designs.
- Customizable: No matter the vision, you can likely make it come to life with solid surface. Not limited to the colors, shapes, designs, and finishes that naturally occur, designers can customize solid surface to their hearts’ content to fulfill even the most complex and elegant designs.
Benefits of Solid Surface
Solid surface is a highly versatile material that, in truth, can be used anywhere where other building materials may be used. While solid surface can be used anywhere, there are some places and circumstances in which solid surface is most effective and useful.
Here are just a few of the benefits of using solid surface in specific applications:
High Traffic Areas
Labs, manufacturing facilities, communal workspaces, wash stations, sinks, and other high traffic areas are the perfect place to utilize solid surface since this highly durable material won’t crumble under the constant use. Regardless of how many people and items come in contact with it throughout the day, solid surface won’t scratch, discolor, warp, or dent, and can be cleaned and restored to perfect condition at the end of the day.
Because solid surface can handle so much use, it is extremely popular for use in lobby spaces, reception areas, communal and public spaces, storage spaces, and other areas where traffic is heavy.
Like high traffic areas, educational spaces like labs and classrooms experience a lot of use, which can result in serious wear and tear on furniture and equipment. Because students are learning in educational spaces, there is also the potential for accidents and experiments gone wrong, which is why all surfaces must be resistant to chemicals, stains, water, heat, etc.
Solid surface is a great option for classrooms and teaching labs since solid surface can easily hide small flaws and won’t mind the frequent cleaning and exposure to various substances.
Medical & Biological Testing Labs
Solid surface is far easier to keep clean than most traditional materials, and because of its nonporous and seamless design features, it is also far more sanitary than other materials. Because of this, many medical facilities and medical testing labs choose solid surface as their choice material when designing furniture and casework.
Without gaps, seams, cracks, or porous surfaces, bacteria stand no chance of surviving regular cleaning.
Because solid surface can be cut or molded into practically any shape, the options for where to use this awesome material are endless, but there are some more common uses that we’ll share here.
Solid surface is excellent for creating easy to clean, super durable horizontal surfaces like workbenches and workstations, desks, benchtops, sink tops, and more. Commonly used in food prep facilities, office spaces, testing facilities and laboratories, educational environments, and medical facilities, solid surface countertops and tables are perfect for designing an easy to clean/maintain environment.
Solid surface is also frequently used in the design of vertical surfaces like cabinets, storage spaces, walling, etc. Because bacteria, dirt, and grime can touch everything, not just countertops, it is important to choose an easy to clean material when designing casework and storage space. Nothing is immune from contamination, which is why you should be cleaning your cabinets along with tabletops and countertops. Solid surface cabinets are easy to clean, super durable, and can hold tons of items without cracking or weakening.
Where to Buy Solid Surface
If solid surface seems like it could work for the needs of your facility, then look no further for the best solid surface options than OnePointe Solutions. A leader in the industry, the design team at OnePointe Solutions has been utilizing solid surface for years, and know exactly how to apply this material for the best and most efficient results.
Solid surface has tons of design potential, and when you work with OnePointe Solutions, we’ll discuss it all before we begin to build. Each design created by our team is fully customized and made to suit the specific needs of each of our clients, which includes color, shape, style, finish, and more.
Once you settle on a design, the OnePointe Solutions team will turn the designs over to our manufacturing partners who craft each piece of furniture right here in the U.S.
Installed by Experts
Finally, to be sure you are completely satisfied with the final results of your design, the OnePointe Solutions team will return to your facility to help install your solid surface countertops. We know you’ll love your countertops, cabinets, and sinks, but we like to do the finishing touches just to be certain that everything is done right.
Need Solid Surface Countertops?
Call us today at (866) 222-7494 to speak to a laboratory adn industrial countertop specialist today!