Another Look at Laminate: The Style Evolution of this Budget-Friendly Countertop Option

updated Jul 23, 2020
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In the conversation about countertops, flashier options like granite, quartz, marble, and now soapstone come up a lot. Even concrete and butcher block get plenty of love, but laminate is usually absent. For many of us, laminate countertops conjure up the image of stained, peeling countertops in the dated kitchens of our youth. But just as kitchen design has evolved, so have laminate countertops — and this incredibly budget-friendly option is worth a second look.

(Image credit: Centsational Girl)
The laminate countertops in this kitchen from Centsational Girl have the look of marble, for a fraction of the price. (Image credit: Centsational Girl)

Three of the most important considerations when you’re thinking about countertops are looks, price and maintenance. It’s necessary to sacrifice, the thinking goes, on at least one of these. Marble looks great but is expensive and high-maintenance. Soapstone and engineered stone are great-looking and hardwearing, but quite pricey. And butcher block, the go-to budget option, can stain easily and is prone to water damage. With laminate (the thinking has been), you get a low-maintenance, inexpensive option, but wind up sacrificing on looks. But that doesn’t have to be the case. If you’re on a budget, or just want a countertop that doesn’t need babying, laminate is a strong choice.

This marble-look backsplash and countertop is part of an installation from Formica. (Image credit: Formica)

Perhaps the chief advantage of laminate, besides its price, is its ability to imitate the look of natural materials without the attendant maintenance. Laminates are available now that mimic the look of granite, marble, and butcher block so closely that it’s often nearly impossible to tell the difference until you’re close up. Contributing to this is the availability of rounded countertop edges, which eliminate the telltale seam that says ‘hey, this is a laminate countertop’.

The countertops in this farmhouse kitchen from Lynzy & Co. may look like engineered stone, but they’re actually laminate, with a special rolled edge. (Image credit: Lynzy & Co.)
For comparison, the countertops in this kitchen from Classy Clutter have the more typical laminate edge detail that you’re probably used to seeing. (Image credit: Classy Clutter)

It’s even possible to pair a laminate countertop with an undermount sink, although you’ll need to make sure that the sink you’re using has the right kind of edge to bond to the laminate, and have your countertops installed by a professional who has the tools to properly install the sink.

A marble-look laminate countertop paired with an undermount stainless steel sink, from Love & Bellinis. (Image credit: Love & Bellinis)

Another advantage of laminate is that it’s fairly low-maintenance. It’s not as heat-resistant as granite or stone, so you’ll need to use a pad or trivet with hot pots, and it can scratch fairly easily, so cutting boards are a must. However, unlike marble (and butcher block), laminate countertops are incredibly stain resistant (although not completely stain proof), which makes them a great choice — not just for homeowners on a budget, but also for people who want a countertop that they don’t have to worry about.

(Image credit: The North End Loft)
A wood-look laminate countertop in a kitchen from The North End Loft. (Image credit: The North End Loft)

Do you have a laminate countertop? What has your experience been?