If you are interested in a solid-surface product for your kitchen countertop, you can search for a fabricator at the Web site of the International Solid Surface Fabricators Association. Russ Lee of Fry Communications, a marketing and communications agency offers these suggestions for working with a fabricator:
1. Ask for and check references. 2. Discuss with your fabricator the various brands of solid surface available. 3. Ask for design ideas and specialty applications. 4. Avoid making changes to the project once the fabricator has visited your home and created a template. Changes may delay installation and could affect your cost.
While the word solid surface may seem unclear to some consumers, the mention of various brands, such as the long-popular Dupont Corian, can bring more recognition. Aristech Acrylics' Avonite Surfaces, LG Hi Macs by LG Chem, Hudson Surfaces' Mystera, Chemcore Industries' Dovaé, Wilsonart's Gibraltar and Earthstone labels, Formica brand solid surfacing, Fountainhead, and Samsung's Staron are some well-known brands. In addition, Eos Surfaces offers a product than comes standard in 3 cm. sheets—about 1¼ inch—instead of the typical ½-inch material. At that thickness, it does not require edge buildup.
Installation is almost exclusively by professional fabricators or countertop professionals, according to Lee. "The important thing, between factory and finished installation, is the intermediate step: the fabricator. The fabricator is the key." He says installing a solid-surface countertop is not typically a do-it-yourself project without prior training.
Most fabricators prefer to assemble much of the countertop in the shop to better control the process and quality. Shop-built counters have less potential for error and require less onsite preparation and inconvenience for the homeowner.
When your countertop arrives at your home, it may not be in one piece because of access and maneuverability factors. In those cases where an onsite seam is necessary, most fabricators use equipment fitted with dust extraction to keep the home dust-free. Specialized tools for clamping and finishing seams onsite also can be used to speed the process and improve the quality of installation.
The fabricated countertop will not be screwed in or nailed down. Instead it will be attached with dots of silicone caulk that will allow it to expand and contract. The drop edge or buildup will typically be created by cutting narrow strips (usually between 1 to 1½ inches wide) lengthwise from the solid-surface sheet and stacking, gluing, and clamping two strips together on the underside of the countertop deck, to create an edge that is 1½ inches thick. After the glue dries, the squeezeout—glue that has oozed out of the layered solid-surface sandwich and hardened—is machined off and a profile is routed into the edge and finish sanded, says Lee.
In a new house, installation may take a few hours. In a remodel, the process may take about a day. A cutting-edge trend that has begun in the New England area, says Lee, is a mobile fabrication shop. These fabricators are able to visit a site, create the template, fabricate the countertop and install it in about one day—start to finish.