FORMICA: New Take on an Old Affordable Favorite


Just as other companies have done, Formica® has changed its product line-up, from new patterns and colors to different grades and even a sustainable version to meet consumer demand.

For years, its laminate took a backseat to sexier granite and then quartz and quartzite. All seemed to have more sizzle and cachet. In addition, laminates were thought of as an affordable also-ran, something ho-hum and functional when the more upscale choices weren’t in the budget.

Now with revved up choices, this well-known manufacturer is seeing its choices become more competitive. To find out what’s new and trending, we talked with Renee Hytry Derrington, Global Design Lead at the Formica Group:

Think Exotic. Because home owners and consumers love the look of exotic but know that they’re not always the most affordable, the company has created its 180fx designs. These give the look of true-to-scale granites, marbles and quartzes at a fraction of the price.

Variety Stars. Now there are various types of Formica® laminate. The company offers a standard version and premium laminate choices like ColorCore®, with its solid color throughout – rather than just at the top surface – so it’s great for high-traffic areas. There’s also Solid Surfacing, an acrylic option, which is also very durable and non-porous and good for work areas. And then there’s the company’s Writable Surfaces such as Chalkboard and Markerboard that can be used vertically and horizontally.

Palette Pleasers. The home palette has shifted from warm wood tones to a lighter palette that is more modern and contemporary. Whites, warm and cool grays and taupes show up in Formica® laminates, not just in the kitchen but in other home living areas. This includes surfaces for counters and desks in bedrooms and family rooms. The good news is that the modern neutral colors reflect layers of soft hues that can make a space more appealing.

Pattern Showstoppers. While stone and quartz laminate designs for countertops are still favored, due to their long-term appeal, the colors being used now are more muted, lighter and more natural looking. Some darker gray hues are also available for kitchen, bathroom and other spaces. The company’s recent 180fx Laminate introduction at the 2018 Kitchen & Bath Industry Show reflects this trend, and specifically its Stormy Night Granite and Quartzite Bianco are very good high-pressured copies.

Trompe l’Oeil Dimensional Effects. Texture and dimension on surfaces have changed in recent years so there is a greater feeling of a real dimension, so you can almost feel, what the company calls "grades." Several finishes that the Formica Group offers such as Scovato and Etchings give the impression of more depth than the flat matte product of prior years. Many consumers now also want "post-formed" options, which integrate a bull-nose edge or a 4-inch backsplash.

Sustainability and Durability Reign. Another change is that Formica® laminate is made from FSC wood and recycled papers, both of which are sustainable. And countertops can certainly be installed with low-VOC adhesives to make them greener. The carbon footprint for installation is minimal due to its lightweight mass and lower transportation costs than with heavier goods. It’s also certified as GREENGUARD Indoor Air Quality. Formica® products have also become more durable, non-porous and stain-resistant, making them easier to clean and maintain. All are manufactured with EliteForm technology, which makes them more scratch-resistant, so surfaces stand up better to wear and tear. Yet, care should be taken – it’s better to use a cutting board rather than chopping directly on laminate surfaces, for example. Experts also suggest not resting a hot pot or pan directly on the surface, which is also true with many natural stones and other countertop surfaces.

Competitive pricewise. A standard Formica® brand laminate ranges from $19 to $25 a square foot installed, which is usually significantly less than comparable stone-type materials like granite and quartz. Of course, it depends on the stone for an exact comparison. The 180fx would be more akin to $40 a square foot and therefore more comparable in price to natural stone.