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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<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
* 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
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
Thanks for the well written insight and history lesson. That's what I
was looking for.
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:
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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
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! ;-)
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.
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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