Combining Solid Surface With Other Materials
By Russ Lee
Take solid surface, for example. You already know it as a
monolithic-like surfacing material that hugs the contours of a
kitchen layout with no visible seams, and options like integral
sinks and coved backsplashes make the product a low-
maintenance, repairable and watertight installation.
But, chances are you haven't thought of solid surface as an accent to other surfacing materials in the kitchen or bath. Designers are finding that the physical and aesthetic properties of laminate, stone, tile and even wood are enhanced when combined with edging, shaped goods or inlays made from solid surface.
The laminate industry was the first to take advantage of solid surface's many benefits by creating edge strips from Corian, Surell, Gibraltar and other leading brands, which glue directly to the laminate countertop deck. The strips are designed to be quickly installed by laminate fabricators using tools already found in their shops, or that can be purchased inexpensively.
The obvious benefit of this type of edging is that it eliminates the black line associated with self-edge laminate tops. But, there are other benefits as well. A variety of edge profiles are possible with the half-inch-thick, machinable strips, thereby adding a custom touch to an otherwise bland installation. The solid surface edges are stronger and more impact resistant than laminate, and can be heated and bent to conform to virtually any radius. Three companies offering pre-made solid surface edging are Kuehn Bevel Inc., Loti Corp. and Wilsonart International.
Fabricators of other surfacing materials have taken their cue from the laminate industry and are now offering solid surface edging on their products, sometimes with a twist. Technistone USA, Inc. imports a half-inch-thick engineered stone product that it calls Kodiak. It is specifically designed to be edged with solid surface strips. The company also advocates seaming solid surface sinks to the underside of the engineered stone decks, thereby creating a watertight condition similar to solid surface's integral bowl concept.
According to Technistone's Tom Costello, the advantages of seaming solid surface to engineered stone become readily apparent in the fabricator's shop. "With a lower overall investment in fabrication equipment, any solid surface fabricator can enter into the engineered stone business and be competitive," he says. "The method also allows for greater design flexibility and provides the opportunity to offer a wider variety of colors and edge profiles not possible with stone alone."
For those consumers who appreciate an elegant touch to their countertop installation, at least two solid surface manufacturers now offer thicker, pre-cast edge strips with intricate profile designs already embossed on the face. One of those companies, American Marble Industries, offers 12 different intricate edge patterns available in a variety of colors, and has developed adhesives and fabrication systems for seaming its product onto all types of materials, including tile, laminate and natural stone. The other, Centura Solid Surfacing, offers a variety of sizes and styles of accent trim mouldings appropriate for countertop edges, backsplashes and even bar rails. As an added feature, Centura will custom match colors on demand.
Because of their dissimilar physical characteristics, one of the more unlikely material combinations is that of solid surface and wood. Where solid surface is the ideal product for wet applications, wood must be protected from the damp or it will stain and rot. Solid surface is temperature sensitive in that it will expand and contract with extreme changes in heat and cold, where wood is less affected by environmental conditions. Yet, in the hands of a knowledgeable and skilled craftsman, solid surface accents can be applied to wood with excellent results.
Bob Marasco of Severe Weather Solid Surface in Wilmington, NC, is a solid surface fabricator with a background in woodworking and custom boat building, who inlays butcher block tops with solid surface accent strips. Marasco indicates that he likes both the versatility and the range of color options available in solid surface, which present an interesting contrast to solid wood when the two materials are combined.
Indeed, it is the versatility of solid surface that makes it an ideal accent material for the entire spectrum of surfacing options available today. As a material that can be shaped, machined, sanded and invisibly seamed and one that is available in virtually every color of the rainbow properly fabricated solid surface enhances the appearance and physical characteristics of other materials as well.
So let your imagination run wild. Chances are that whatever you can dream up, your solid surface fabricator can help you turn it into reality.