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Old 01-26-2012, 10:42 AM   #1
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Alternatives to formica?


Hello there! I have three tables I want to finish. I was considering on painting them but after a failed attempt (paint got smudged easily. probably not a good choice for desks that will be doubling as work benches downstairs) and continued reading suggesting paint would be "okay" I decided to pull the plug. Instead, I'm going to cover the tops in laminate.

Formica is on my radar. But while I'm still stripping the desks, I decided to shop around for alternatives. Formica for the 3 tables is adding up to be quite a bit, but it's one of those things I know I'll be doing it right and it'll be worth it. But while we're at it, are there any other alternatives that are worth considering for a counter-top-like finish?

I considered on getting a roll of harder flooring, but I'm not sure how that would hold up over the test of time on a desk. But since it's flooring, maybe so. Problem is I want a solid black finish... something I have been unable to find in all nearby home improvement stores. Heck, I can't even find black formica besides on the Lowes site to order.

Any suggestions? I have a feeling formica is the answer, but like I said, while I'm in the design phase I'd rather bounce the idea around while I can! Thanks guys.

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Old 01-26-2012, 10:57 AM   #2
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Alternatives to formica?


Formica is by far the least expensive thing you could use.

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Old 01-26-2012, 11:18 AM   #3
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Alternatives to formica?


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Originally Posted by roasted View Post
I have three tables I want to finish. I'm going to cover the tops in laminate.
Formica (tm) is on my radar; and Wilsonart (tm) are good quality PL brands.

...are there any other alternatives that are worth considering for a counter-top-like finish?
What is the intended use for these tables?
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Old 01-26-2012, 12:22 PM   #4
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Formica is by far the least expensive thing you could use.
I kind of thought that might be the case. The three tables would require 3 different sheets to do the tops. They are about 3x6 ft, 2x8 ft, and 32"x65". The 3x6 and 2x8 have a 2nd shelf on the bottom, which is really just where my stereo, laserjet printer, computer tower, etc sits. When I priced it out originally to formica everything it was ~200 bucks. Since then I figure the tops are what's important, so I've considered just getting a semi gloss black enamel to paint the bottoms and the legs and use the formica on the top. I hope the mixture of black semi gloss paint vs black formica would look okay together... But anyway when I cut out the bottom shelves I'm looking at ~115 or so in formica alone. I would still need to get a router (but I need one anyway, I was just holding off until I had a reason to get one since we just bought a house) and contact cement, but that's nothing to break the deal. As long as black enamel and black formica look good together, we should be okay. Lowes has some black formica square samples, so maybe I'll begin painting and after a few days compare it to the sample and see. Then once done if it's good I'll order some big sheets to get the job done.

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What is the intended use for these tables?
Well, I work in IT and I do some side jobs as well. So the two side tables would likely be used as a work bench, but not a work bench you'd find in a carpenter's shop. I want them to look good, be functional, and be durable. The last idea was a bust because just by moving a computer tower to me the rubber feet scuffed the finish. Not to mention, my monitor which had only been sitting there for 3 days had already left rings where the rubber feet were. Granted, I think I did a rush job on the finish with paint and polycrylic, but nonetheless it was enough for me to re-think the entire process. The main desk will simply be my computer desk... something I want to be decent for years to come.

Formica is definitely something I feel will be a home run. But when I see rolls of kitchen flooring (9 x 12 foot sections) for 25 bucks it's hard to think "maybe if I could get that in flat black, it would be suitable for me?" That's what caused me to pop the question here.


EDIT - Looks like Formica indeed is the cheapest of the hard laminate. 36x96 sized sheets are 12 bucks cheaper than the same size in black laminate from Wilsonart. Hmm... Is Formica and Wilsonart the big two? Or are there others to consider?

Last edited by roasted; 01-26-2012 at 12:39 PM.
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Old 01-26-2012, 12:38 PM   #5
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Alternatives to formica?


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Well, I work in IT and I do some side jobs as well. So the two side tables would likely be used as a work bench, but not a work bench you'd find in a carpenter's shop.
Poke around in your town for a casework fabricator.
Ideally a not too big one who does mostly commercial work.

They can **professionally** apply any PL you might like with all the little pro touches that might/will be needed and that all require a special tool and usually for not much more than what you would otherwise pay just for the PL from a wholesaler if you did it yourself.

The key to savings is in "sheet optimization"... get all you need from one sheet.
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Old 01-26-2012, 01:09 PM   #6
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Originally Posted by TarheelTerp View Post
Poke around in your town for a casework fabricator.
Ideally a not too big one who does mostly commercial work.

They can **professionally** apply any PL you might like with all the little pro touches that might/will be needed and that all require a special tool and usually for not much more than what you would otherwise pay just for the PL from a wholesaler if you did it yourself.

The key to savings is in "sheet optimization"... get all you need from one sheet.
Pardon the question but what is PL referring to?

I was able to find sheets large enough for what I need but I do run into a wall in terms of transporting them home, so 1 sheet for all 3 tables is a no go. But I can consolidate two into 48x120 sheets @ 75 bucks. Then the main table can work with a 36x96 sheet @ 45 very easily.

The only thing I'm not sure of is they have a 2.5" lip on all sides I'd like to Formica as well. For all I know another 37 dollar charge might be thrown in there for a 30x96 sheet to handle that. Meh.
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Old 01-26-2012, 01:18 PM   #7
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Alternatives to formica?


I'ts delivered rolled up with string or tape around it, not laying out flat.
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Old 01-26-2012, 01:26 PM   #8
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Alternatives to formica?


Man, I don't know. I think I'll shop around a bit longer. I like Formica a lot, but when you think about it, it's actually very expensive.

I just can't help but to think there's got to be something else that's more affordable that would do the job I need. Meh...
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Old 01-26-2012, 01:40 PM   #9
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Alternatives to formica?


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Originally Posted by roasted View Post
Pardon the question but what is PL referring to?
As Kleenex = facial tissue and Xerox = photo copy Formica = plastic laminate (PL)

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I was able to find sheets large enough...
Find someone in the business with a shop

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What is STD Thickness?
All countertops that are fabricated out of plastic laminate should have been done so with Standard (or “STD”) thickness mica. It is 1/16 of an inch thick and more durable than the vertical grade (VT) that is glued onto the cabinets.

3’ x 6’ ; 3’ x 8’ ; 3’ x 10’ ; 3’ x 12’
4’ x 8’ ; 4’ x 10’ ; 4’ x 12’
5’ x 12’

Wilsonart Color Samples:
http://samples.wilsonart.com/default.aspx

Last edited by TarheelTerp; 01-26-2012 at 01:52 PM.
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Old 01-26-2012, 02:51 PM   #10
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Alternatives to formica?


Aside from color choice, smooth vinyl flooring is an excellent desk surface.

We used that on the drafting board at work and it held up for nearly 10 years. A major use of the drafting board was cutting -- we'd run Xacto knives along a parallel bar, cutting through the paper into the vinyl. If it wasn't for the cutting, I'm sure it would still be there.

When we resurfaced it I took the scrap home to put on my work bench.
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Old 01-26-2012, 04:05 PM   #11
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Alternatives to formica?


IT? As in working on electrical components....i.e., Computers?

Unless you plan to use an anti-static mat, formica is not a good choice.....static electricity.
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Old 01-26-2012, 07:29 PM   #12
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What else would you recommend? As of now it's the only option.... How bad of static electricity is it? Very tame that you can't even feel? Or something that could actually be threat to a component?

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