DIY Solid Surface?

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OK, Rob, and all you other smart folks...
I've seen a bunch of well reasoned, experienced posts & replies regarding solid surface counter tops, and how there are these great arts & mysteries regarding the successful installation of said beauties, and how other countertop materials all pale in comparision to these wonders of modern chemistry...
Assuming the hubris which often inhabits these regions (the notion that 'I can do _that_')...
Assuming that one already has sufficient tooling and skills to build the cabinets in the first place...
Is there a solid surface material available for use by folks unwilling to sign up to be a countertop fabricator by trade, and go off to school for some multiweek course of instruction?
Because for the prices quoted for solid surface (installed) around here, I can install 6/4 Honduran Mahogany, and replace it every five years, if needed. Laminated hard rock maple. Several varieties of Central American hardwoods. Granite is often cheaper.
Why is it that this year's chemistry experiment, which may or may not be an improvement at all, is so premium priced, and available in such a limited channel?
OK. I'll be fine. Let me get some air.
Patriarch
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When I first decided to install solid surface countertops, I ran into the same thing. They almost had me convinced that there were some esoteric skills needed to work with the stuff, and that they were doing me a favor by protecting me from my own naivetι. I also asked about an edge treatment I had in mind involving wood laminated with the material, and was told in a patronizing tone that it wouldn't work, and that I really needed to leave the design details to the professionals.
I poked around and finally found someone willing to sell me some stock out the side door. Now over ten years later, the two countertops I did myself with my edge detail are still in great shape.
I can tell you that the material is no harder to work than a dense hardwood. The only thing that might be a little tricky is making seams disappear.
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http://www.cci-amerinite.com/solid.html or the source http://www.amerinite.com /
I have no idea what this stuff is or how it compares to any of the others mentioned here. Just happen to run across it while nosing around one day and bookmarked it.
jim

an
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On Wed, 18 May 2005 10:57:50 -0500, Patriarch
<mucho snippo>

I did a fair amount of solid surface stuff in the early and mid eighties. When the specialty shops really got into it I got out. They could produce and install the job for less than what I could buy the materials for. We were both buying from the same supplier - he in truckloads, me by the sheet.
I was trained in only two products; Avonite and Corian. These were the major providers in my area at the time.
During my last five to seven years in the cabinet business I saw most of my high end kitchens go to granite, because you could buy a number two granite installation for about the same price as a solid surface job.
I'll tell you a story that I find to be interesting.
When I went to Avonite school at our local distributor (who also handled Corian) we were taught things like; not to use a saber saw to make sink cutouts, not to butt joints that were only cut with a saw and not routed off smooth, not to leave an inside corner in a cutout that wasn't of a specific radius, not to bed a cooktop without using a specific 3M tape, etc.
We did a kitchen with an Avonite top and it failed at a joint. Both myself and the other mechanic on the job had been through the Avonite school and followed the recommendations religiously. But the seam failed.
Avonite sent out two 'specialists' from California to fix the job.
They cut the material with a hand circular saw and didn't clean the joint up with a router. They cut the sink out with a saber saw and did not use the prescribed radius. They did not wipe the joints down with alcohol prior to making the joint. They belt sanded the joint flush. And they didn't use that special 3M tape, neither.
Then they declared the project to be fixed and sought to backcharge our company.
We neglected to pay the bill.
Six months later there was a TSB explaining that joints that were made near a window that received full sun for a specified portion of the day (defining our condition entirely) were prone to failure, if the heat gain was sufficient.
I don't know about you but I'd like to use a material that isn't so fussy.
Check your granite prices.
Tom Watson - WoodDorker tjwatson1ATcomcastDOTnet (email) http://home.comcast.net/~tjwatson1/ (website)
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As the Avonite of yore was, and mostly still is, a polyester product, it is not indicative of the much better performance of acrylics and their adhesive technology. The cohesion, as opposed to adhesion, that takes place in an acrylic joint, is a magnitude stronger than a joint in polyester where cohesion is not possible. I have made warranty repairs on other fabricators' Avonite (and early Wilsonart Gibraltar, then a polyester) where the joint let go without any fault of the fabricator. It is simply a bad system.
The only time I will fabricate a polyester Avonite Studio Collection is when it involves no joints in the deck itself. Some of the patterns of Studio Collection Avonite are bloody gorgeous, but still scary stuff from a mechanical standpoint. Avonite Formstone is made by Aristech as well as and identical to Wilsonart Gibraltar as they are both acrylics. Some of the colours are identical. Wilsonart changed the formulation from polyester to acrylic and spent 70 million fixing the polyester countertops some of which catastrophically failed under normal use and for no apparent reason.
There are no restrictions on any acrylic solid surfaces in my product line-up in regards to joints/seams exposed to direct sunlight.
Some other professional points of view: http://www.woodweb.com/knowledge_base/Polyester_vs_Acrylic_Fabrication.ht ml
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wrote:
<snipped without prejudice>
What I fail to understand is the cost.
When I can buy a granite job for within ten percent of the cost of a solid surface - why would I buy the solid surface?
Tom Watson - WoodDorker tjwatson1ATcomcastDOTnet (email) http://home.comcast.net/~tjwatson1/ (website)
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LOL
Big things are happening with cost. Currently Corian is holding up the prices. The big box stores are then making their mark-ups.
If I can buy similar material for 40% less, will I pass all of those savings to a customer, or will I get 10% below the Corian price, vastly increasing my margins and still make the deal? I have had customers insisting on Corian, regardless of price. They have the rep.
Granite needs to be sealed, granite in many cases will have seams. Granite colours are limited. Granite does not have a 10 year warranty. Many people don't like the shine of granite. Granite won't give you a totally seamless transition to an undermount sink. Granite's big enemies are oils and germs. There are nooks and crannies where salmonella can hide. You can't use bleach to sterilize granite, it will stain. When granite cracks after the 90-day - 1 year warranty expires, it cannot be repaired. It cannot be refinished in-house and it can and will scratch over time.
Is a quality granite gorgeous? You bet. Do you know there are 3 different grades of some of the colours? Not all Tropical Browns are created equal. I sell granite, i don't have the diamond beam-saws to deal with it...or the back-muscles.

I find the spread much greater than that... at least here. Corian and granite are neck on neck in the Borgs, I'm way lower in price.

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wrote:

This is a damned good, well reasoned argument, Rob.
I appreciate you taking the time to put it up.
<watson - who has a kitchen with Plam countertops and pretends to no greater height>
Tom Watson - WoodDorker tjwatson1ATcomcastDOTnet (email) http://home.comcast.net/~tjwatson1/ (website)
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The reason why some of the laminate flooring (commercial grade Wilsonart for example) stands up so well, is that the first layer is made from the third-hardest stuff on the planet. VERY scratch resistant. Add to that the newer textures and superb photographic processes to duplicate/imitate granites and you have a very durable, pretty damned nice looking countertop for not a whole lot of money. Put a solid surface edge on it, with a CounterSeal undermount sink-ring in the matching solid surface and the look is very classy... for about 25% of a granite top. The Formica 'Etchings' series is bloody gorgeous. Nothing wrong with plam. Besides, it's low-cost enough that you won't cry ripping it out after 5-7 years and start fresh with new colours. Buy a solid surface top and you're decorating around IT.
Give this a study... makes for great margins *G* http://www.counter-seal.com/prod.html
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Wilsonart

the

ring

Have you a convenient url, please?

and

"plam?" queries the OP...

Patriarch
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[snipperizationalized]

You asked..*G*
MANY combos are possible, but this one looks just bloody incredible: http://www.formica.com/colorchipdetails.jsp?chip_idf3 with a Staron Sanded Onyx edge----> downright classy. Get the GP grade of laminate. Mount on MDF 3/4" I have some samples of that set-up that I can photograph and e-mail. Contact me via my site www.topworks.ca
Lucky for the DIY-guy, many distributors will sell 1-3/4"-wide strips of solid surface to anybody. They also sell 5 3/4" wide strips so you can cut off the front strip and have a nice backsplash left over. Backsplashes made from 1/2" thick Solid Surfacing follow the walls nicely. The strips are usually sold 2 x 6' so they're UPS-able.
If you take a look at this graphic: http://www.counter-seal.com/sche.html ..and replace the part which is indicated as 'CounterSeal' with a strip of SS 1 1/2" tall, there is your edge.
Those solid surface rings, to undermount a sink, are not cheap but the result is superb. (I would sink the money into a high-grade Franke sink drop-in instead of the CounterSeal, because the ring is tricky to install. It's different for a fabricator who will get to use the experience and tooling/templates over and over again. Blanco makes a line of sinks which are drop-ins and are made from a black composite which looks a lot like solid surface. http://www.blanco-america.com/final_files_3/diamonddouble.html
If you finish that off with a dropped down small round-over bit, the dark line from the P-lam will blend in with the solid surface edge and virtually disappear. The edge is splined on with SS adhesive.
Integra Adhesives will sell just one tube with a cheapie dispenser, so your tooling outlay will be minimal. Call them and tell them what you're up to. http://integra-adhesives.com They even have an adaptor which will convert a regular caulking gun into a mixer-type for some of their cartridges.
WARNING! The results will look so good, your friends and family will all want one. You will need that Festool router after all!

P-Lam, short for High Pressure Laminate. HP-lam, plam.
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Robatoy wrote:

<snip>
According to a high school science teacher who was also my football coach, the hardest thing on the planet was my head followed by a diamond.
Just curious, what is #3?
Lew
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wrote:

NAH . . . SWMBO insists it's MY head. I'm pretty sure SWMBO outranks any football coach.
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My solid surface cost a lot less than 10% less than granite.
I don't like Granite because it requires periodic sealer and because it can't be repaired. I do like the polished look, but how the long will that polished look last?
Brian Elfert
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Robatoy wrote:

<snip>
Are you saying that the the solid surface products found in the housing industry are basically polyester?
Is Corian a polyester based product?
Polyester is NOT an adhesive, you can't glue it to itself and expect it to hold.
Bondo (car body filler) is basically polyester and talc.
Ever wonder why they punch holes in the sheet metal and then cover over with Bondo?
Mechanical interlock since Bondo won't bond to the metal.
Lew
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No, Lew, I am not. I'd hazard a guess that the bulk would be acrylic. DuPont Corian, Wilsonart Gibraltar and EarthStone, Staron by Samsung are all acrylics. Staron was the second largest seller in the US next to Corian.

No, it is acrylic. Probably the purest acrylic formulation of them all, Meganite is a close second, virtually impossible to tell apart, even by a trained chemist.

The adhesives are usually acrylic-based, even for bonding polyester. Methyl methacrylate hardened with polyisocyanate-based compounds. (Forgive my spelling) Like the original polyester material used to make the counter top, it is exothermic during hardening. Polyester is the binding agent that binds the aluminum trihydrate together.

There are fibres in there as well.

To give it some mechanical 'tooth'. Not done by better body people.

It does bond quite well to metal if the metal is properly prepared with course sandpaper and cleaned with methyl hydrate.

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Robatoy wrote:

Glad to hear that.
Polyester is a great low cost compound, but it definitely has limits.

Makes sense, especially coming from DuPont.

Nasty stuff, hope you wear gloves when working with them.
Ever use any of the adhesives form companies like 3M and/or SikaFlex?

Don't sweat the spelling. The exothermic is standard.

Not where I come from, but then it is strictly low cost automotive crap. I never use the stuff.
The only good thing you can say about polyester IMHO, is you can lay it over a much broader range of temperatures than you can epoxy.

I don't know what you been smoking but it is definitely good stuff <G>.
Trying to use polyester as an adhesive is strictly a losing proposition.
I'm strictly an epoxy man so maybe my prejudice is showing <G>.
BTW, appreciate the info.
Lew
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LockWeld is running with this ball. Orthopaedic surgeons use it to install new joints. 8215 mix-pac 10:1. Nice stuff.
I will look into 3M and SikaFlex. I always look for new solutions. Thanks for the pointers.
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Robatoy wrote:

SikaFlex tech service is in metro Detroit and has an 800#.
I have found them to be very good.
Lew
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Got to love the Gougeon Brothers then, eh? They're close enough to run a pipe-line into Port Huron from Bay City..LOL
I'm a huge fan of WEST.
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