DIY Solid Surface?

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On Fri, 20 May 2005 02:48:39 -0400, the inscrutable Robatoy

Who's a good, inexpensive source for their book, Lew?
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Larry Jaques wrote:

I don't have a clue.
Lew
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Robatoy wrote:

They do a great job at the retail level.
Lew
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<snip of a long explanation>
Thanks, Rob. The Reader's Digest version is then that the 'product' is a combination of the materials, distribution, fabricator, after-care service and warranty obligations, all wrapped up into one.
Personal observation and speculation:
* Good fabricators are worth their rates. Finding one, however, is as difficult as finding a good surgeon. Most folks don't need them particularly often.
* Pricing seems to be an oligopoly, with pricing leadership followed pretty closely, and no one having a great incentive (or opportunity) to make a huge volume move.
* Fears of repetitions of the $70M problems do two things:     1) Induce folks to consider 'better brands', whatever those are said to be, and     2) Allow 'new technology products' to be introduced into the market, which purportedly 'solve all of the problems of the old product'. Maybe.
So, from what you've said, there will be no DIY acrylic 'solid surface' product available to me. OK. Sounds like porcelain tile and epoxy grout are the better option for me. My Turbo Volvo is getting a few miles on it. ;-) And charity begins at home.
Now if you weren't 3000 miles away from San Francisco, we could haggle a bit, perhaps.
Thanks for the well written insight and history lesson. That's what I was looking for.
Patriarch
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Before you throw in the towel relative to DIY solid surface, perhaps you might want to check out the following website from an LA company: http://www.dreamkitchensla.com
From what I can tell they are selling Chinese-made product called Montelli. While it may sound a little foolish to deal with a Chinese company with an Italian name, the company is actually owned by Dupont USA (also the makers of Corian). Anyway, it is not clear to me if it is an acrylic or polyester based product, but I notice that it uses the same adhesive as is used with LG's HiMac SS. So presumably, it is chemically similar to LG's material. In any event, they are pricing 30" x 120" x 1/2" at $180 each which seems pretty reasonable. Moreover, if you are in CA, you might be able to pick up the product and save on shipping.
While I recognize the expertise of Robatoy as a professional installer and the importance of his reputation to his customer base. However, if you are doing this as a DIY project, you're really only accountable to yourself. Therefore, you might consider a polyester-based material even if it does not meet everyone's standards. (FYI - both Home Depot and Lowes sell LG HiMac, so polyesters can't be that inferior or these large chains will have some real customer relations problems in the future.)
When I retired from the Foreign Service, I decided to buy in a less expensive area of the U.S. (western PA). I bought a larger, older home that needed updating. Among the DIY projects were the renovation of a large kitchen and 3.5 baths. Like you, I could not afford a professional installer, but decided to learn solid surface fabrication. With no disrespect for those professionals in the business, I think that the expertise demanded by the trade is somewhat overstated. In my opinion, in terms of precision and effort, there is far more concentration and planning needed in construction of a set of dresser drawers than the average SS kitchen countertop. In fact, a lot of the larger installers have invested in computer-driven manufacturing tools that do all the intricate measuring and cutting.
Much of fabrication of larger tops is the preplanning of how one will join the various pieces to ensure that seams will not break over time. Robatoy has pointed out many of the common mistakes (such as seaming tops over unsupported spans such as dishwashers, etc.). Another consideration if one is working on, say, an L-shaped counter that the seam is not put right at the intersection of the "L". Typically, seams are best located on straight stretches of counter, so that one can ensure that the top and edges can be machined and polished to remove any visible trace of a joint. SS work, like woodworking, involves measuring and measuring again to ensure that large cut pieces actually line up when glued together. If, for example, one is doing a large L-shaped counter and when the pieces are mated, your 90 degree angle is really 85 degrees, then the top may not conform to the kitchen wall. The SS tool investment for me was limited to some specialty router bits, a hotmelt glue gun, a SS glue gun and a range of abrasives needed for sanding and polishing the stuff. Adhesives, of course, are matched to the material and color being fabricated and run about $20/tube.
In conclusion, I must say that working with SS material is really quite fun and rewarding. One is especially pleased when the final details have been completed and the spouse is all excited with her new kitchen or bath countertop. I've even been asked by friends and relatives to do work for them. However, I don't recommend this, because it is much more difficult working in another person's home. One will also soon realize when doing SS, that the entire process is very labor intensive, so I don't fault Robatory for charging what he does.
Good luck.

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[snip of an excellent post]

LG HiMacs is acrylic and a pretty good grade at that. The fact that a manufacturer suggests the same adhesive as LG, doesn't mean much as almost all use the same adhesive on either polyester or acrylic.

The distributors don't see it that way. They, in most cases, sign deals with the manufacturers who are quite anal about the warranty issues. They'd rather pass than get involved with the general public. They really do need to support their network of fabricators. OSHA, Elmer the Safety Elephant and HazMat-type folks have a bit to say about the distribution of the adhesives as well. I do not know to what extent that plays a role in the US, but here, in Canuckistan, it does. Ground transportation only.
[snipparized for brevity]

I have always liked working with the stuff. When thermoforming (something which cannot be done with polyester) the creative juices flow. A full 1-1/2" bull-nose around the perimeter of a kidney-shaped island sure looks pretty cool. There are so many applications for that material. A counter top is but one application.

yea..you tell'm! I'm worth it!
Thanks for the link and I appreciate your post.
$180 for a sheet, eh?..Wowsers that is cheap.
r
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My comment about accountability and DIY has nothing to do with what SS distributors believe. The point I was trying to make to Patriarch is that if he should find a source for his SS project, it may be not that important that he limit his search to just acrylic materials. It might be that for one's own countertops, the after-sale warranty is just not an issue. If he can find someone selling a polyester product at a low price, perhaps that will fill the bill. After all, I doubt that any supplier (of acrylic or polyester based SS) is going to extend its warranty to a non-certified installer. Therefore in his case, he really is on his own no matter what the material used in the project.
Just out of curiosity, how long does it take for a bad seam to fail? Specifically, will a failure appear in a week or two or does it takes months or even years? Most of my work is only about a year old, so I have no point of reference on this subject.
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Robatory
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As a DYI he SHOULD focus on acrylic as it is far more forgiving than polyester in terms of fabricating and transporting. Simple tasks such as carrying the sheets is far trickier with polyester as that stuff can break in your hands for no obvious reason whatsoever. Acrylic is less brittle.

See above.

When I do a seam, I use a 'True-Match' bit (wavy bit) to lengthen the glue-line. After the seam is set-up, I adhere a 3 1/2" wide bevelled backer strip onto the back of the seam. In the case of an on-site seam, I glue that on at the same time as the seam. I have never lost a seam. I have, however, repaired other fabricator's seams ( I'm a warranty depot for some of the products). In most cases, they were installed in new construction and wall/cabinet movement played a part in the seam's demise. Seams don't 'just let go'. If yours are a year old, and the structure isn't moving around, you'll probably won't have a problem. I'm assuming you didn't over-clamp and squeezed out most of the adhesives.. in which case..it's a time-bomb just waiting for the right jolt/temperature........
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<snip>

Another gotcha! I like in expansive soil, seismicly active SF Bay Area. I can jack, brace & stiffen the house structure all I like, and the earth still will move seasonally, and also randomly. So the house has some 'give' built in, and we patch (small) sheetrock cracks at the joints, and live with it.
I'm thinking that this is going to be more trouble that the benefits attributed to it. That's my excuse, and I'm sticking to it! ;-)
Patriarch
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Robatoy,
Thanks for the advice relative to seaming. I don't use the wavy bit, but do use the backer plate that seems offer a lot of glue surface below. With six jobs, I've not had a seam fail, so with luck, I am doing well.thus far.
Thanks for your response. By the way, do you use MDF as the substrate or some sort of plywood? Or does it depend on the situation (e.g. MDF under most conditions and plywood when one is doing some unsupported thing such as the overhang on a bar)?
Thanks for your advice.
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I support the periphery only. Overhang is legal to about 6" unsupported. These are specs for acrylics. When dealing with overhangs beyond 6", 3/4" plywood to an overhang of about 10", then it's brackets and/or legs.
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