I'd go for 1/2" ply, with 1/4" MDF on top of that. Hardwood edging
Ply is much stronger, on a large scale. But MDF is pretty good at the
small scale, such as impacts from corners and small tool impacts. Ply
is also much stiffer, especially for long-term drooping and sagging.
MDF is also quite strong on the face, but terrible around the edges,
so fit that edging strip.
With a top layer of 1/4" MDF held down with no more than DS tape, you
can also replace it after a few years. I use a sewing table that's
maybe ten years old and has an MDF top that sees a lot of wear from
roller cutters and knives used in pattern cutting. With deliberate
mis-use (ie cutting into the tabletop, but not hard) it's still a long
way from needing replacement. MDF is cheaper and comes in bigger
sheets than a vinyl cut mat.
I've seen this done with laminate. The surface is hard, sealed
against oil, and wears well. It's also slippery and not too pleasant
to work on for woodworking. As a motorbike fixing bench, it seems to
be working though. The owner originally wanted Formica, but the price
was frightening and the colours were horrid.
What sort of flooring are we talking about ? Laminate flooring is far
from "real hardwood". For the 3/4" hardwood flooring, the price for
maple is about the same as buying the sawn timber, but cheaper than
buying surfaced maple (maple is expensive in the UK). I've made my
solid timber tops from 2" or thicker material, but if I wanted a 3/4"
top surface on an existing bench, I'd certainly think about it.
Laminate ? It's actually pretty cheap. If you're doing whole rooms
and buying big bulk packs, you may even have enough in spare strips.
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