ADVICE & TIPS, COUNTERTOPS

What Are Compact Laminate Worktops – Everything Explained

Were you cruising through the home improvement store and passed a display promoting compact laminate worktops? They looked just like the solid surface or regular laminate worktops, but they came with a higher price tag.

Is there a real difference between compact laminate and laminate? Is this a fad or a trending choice for kitchen worktops?

In this post, I’ll explain what compact laminate worktops are, how they’re made, their pros and cons as well as answer some common questions about the topic.

Let’s get into it!

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What Is A Compact Laminate Worktop?

A compact laminate worktop (sometimes called solid laminate) is an extremely durable surface that can be used in your kitchen, bathroom, or even an outdoor application.

Compact laminates add additional layers to the manufacturing process until the desired thickness is achieved. It is usually available in thicknesses from 6mm to 18mm with most worktops using a 12 or 13mm laminate. They are solid throughout and do not have any particleboard substrate like a traditional laminate worktop.

The solid construction means that they are waterproof and suitable to use with undermount sinks. You can even cut drainer grooves into the surface.

You can order compact laminates in solids, specks, textures, and stone finishes. Polymer is matched to the laminate surface and used to eradicate seams on corners. It is also possible to build your cabinetry out of the material.

Best of all, compact laminates are less expensive than quartz or stone worktops.

Zenith Compact Laminate Worktop With Undermount Sink & Drainer Grooves
Zenith Compact Laminate Worktop With Undermount Sink & Drainer Grooves

What Are Compact Laminate Worktops Made Out Of?

Kraft paper and resin layers are treated to high pressure and heat to create the core of the compact laminate. The top and bottom then receive a layer of coloured or decorative paper. A final layer of clear resin seals the entire compact laminate.

The resin makes the laminate impervious to water and resistant to scratches. The factory can make the compact laminate as thin or thick as needed for worktops, cabinets, or furniture.

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Compact Laminate Worktop Costs

You will spend more on a compact laminate compared to traditional laminate, but less than a stone or solid surface. Expect to spend between £250 to £500 for the custom-cut worktop pieces. The sheets are formed in traditional widths and depths for easier installation and customization.

Some sheets are as thin as 3mm, but the most common panels for worktops will measure 12 or 13mm thick. They are available in set lengths like standard laminate worktops, or like stone worktops, the sheets are cut to order at the fabrication shop and assembled in your kitchen.

The installation will take one to two days. You will need to let the worktop cure for one to three days after installation to ensure that your invisible seams do not crack. Expect to spend about £200 per day per worker for installation.

Compact Laminate Worktop Pros

You can use compact laminate to finish any of your kitchen design projects. They can support undermount sinks and drainer grooves. Since they are available in a variety of thicknesses, you can precisely match the splashback and cabinets. Its water-resistant properties make it a great choice for workstations.

  • Discover an endless array of contemporary colours, patterns, and designs available as compact laminates.
  • It can be cut to any shape or size to fit a bathroom, office, kitchen, or retail store.
  • Water resistant – suitable for undermount sinks and drainer grooves
  • It is extremely durable and will last for decades.
  • You save hundreds or even a thousand pounds compared to solid surfaces, quartz, or natural stone worktops.
  • It uses renewable materials making it an eco-friendly choice.

Compact Laminate Worktop Cons

  • Limited in edging options due to its layered construction
  • Chips will be noticeable and more difficult to conceal compared to stone
  • Even the stone patterns will not quite look like a natural material
  • It can be scratched

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What Is The Difference Between Laminate And Compact Laminate Worktops?

Traditional laminate uses just three layers of Kraft paper and a decorative top layer to create a sheet just 2mm thick. The sheet of laminate is then glued to particle or medium-density fibreboard. If you cut through a laminate worktop you will see the thin laminate top and a thicker MDF layer underneath. The MDF or particleboard will absorb water which results in the worktop bubbling and losing its structural integrity. 

The laminate itself is very durable but is known to scratch, fade, and chip. Since it is such a thin material, it is very affordable to manufacture and install. It is still the most popular material used for worktops in flats and homes throughout the UK. You will see seams and edges where the laminate is cut.

Compact laminate worktops use the same process to make the laminate, but keep adding layers of paper and resin to achieve the desired thickness of the worktop. It is not applied to a supporting MDF surface but instead provides its own structure.

You can actually soak a piece of compact laminate in water, and it will not start to fail for a day or two. Newer polymers and resins combine for a tougher worktop designed to retain its like-new appearance for up to 20 years.

A matched coloured polymer is used to marry two pieces of compact laminate resulting in a near-invisible seam. The front edge can be crafted in a way that hides all cuts and seams during the manufacturing process.

Standard Laminate Worktop
Standard Laminate Worktop – Showing Thin Top Layer And Particle Board Centre

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Can You Put Hot Pans On Compact Laminate Worktops?

The tough surface can resist some heat for short periods, but in general, it is not wise to place hot pots and pans directly on the worktop. It is fine to place a warm plate just out of the microwave on the counter while you grab a fork, but no longer than a few seconds.

Most compact laminate worktops can withstand heat (up to 220°C) for 10 minutes.

Because the compact laminate uses heat to set the polymers and resins in its construction, exposure to excessive heat can soften the adhesives and cause the material to deform and delaminate. A hot iron may leave a scorch mark.

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Final Thoughts…

There you have it! Everything you need to know about compact laminate worktops.

While they are still a relatively new product to the kitchen countertop market they are growing in popularity, and for good reason. Priced in that sweet spot between standard laminate and stone countertops, compact laminate offers a lot of the benefits of stone and other solid surface countertops with a much more competitive price tag.

So, will you go for a compact laminate worktop in your new kitchen?

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Author

Michael from Kitchinsider.com

Michael is a kitchen designer from the UK. He's been designing and project managing new kitchen installations for over 10 years. Before that, he was an electrician and part of a team that fitted kitchens. He created Kitchinsider in early 2019 to help give people advice when it comes to getting a new kitchen.