Material Questions

ISFA, the International Surface Fabricators Association, has published standards and leads the industry in the manufactured surfacing material category. For this conversation, we will focus on the material attributes associated only with manufactured or man-made materials, since that is our specialty. The most widely recognized are laminate, solid surface, quartz, and modern materials. All of these materials provide non-porous hygienic options for your countertop surfacing needs. Beyond using a basic breakdown by material, we encourage homeowners to consider some often-overlooked questions to help determine what material is best for you.
Many studies show that we become more sensitive to sound as we age. However, sensitivity to sound isn’t just associated with ageing, according to the US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health,

studies also suggest a link between sensitivity of sound with depression and anxiety in the general population.

Softer, denser surfacing materials can help absorb sound.

A great way to test materials is by placing a dinner plate on them to experience the sound reflectivity.

Glare is most often related to conditions of the eye’s lens, such as glaucoma, retinal detachment, cataracts, and other health issues commonly associated with aging. Studies suggest, in addition to aging, that as many as 90% of migraine sufferers are sensitive to light. *

Often, vision challenges can be minimized by the sheen selected (less reflective matte) and the color hue (light versus dark). The surfacing color contrast to the surrounding finishes can also be of help to those with sight challenges.

The potential of glare from sources such as under counter lighting or a large window with natural light should also be considered.

This is a great question to contemplate what works and what does not for you and your household.

Make a list of the pros and cons and share these with your fabricator or designer.

Materials such as solid surface can include a coved area between the countertop and backsplash, eliminating the point of transition gap which is commonly filled with a silicone-based sealant.

Solid Surface sinks may be mounted seamlessly to the solid surface countertop. Less common, a solid surface sink may also be seamlessly integrated into a quartz surface material by manufacturer endorsed fabrication methods as well.

Today there are many surfacing manufacturers who have found ways to reduce their impact in terms of recyclable ingredients, recyclability, energy consumption as well as waste. Asking to see options of materials where sustainability is a concern for the manufacturer is a great place to start. In addition, looking for ways to reduce impact by repurposing or donating materials which are being replaced are also things to consider.
Most reputable manufactured surfacing materials provide a material warranty. Great questions to ask are whether a warranty covers the installed project or just replacement of the material itself. In addition, does your fabricator provide an installed product warranty?

The type of sink you select is important in the countertop conversation. Why? Aside from being the most heavily used appliance in your kitchen, it is a lasting choice. Depending on the surface material selected, it can make or break the possibility of changing sink models later.

Typically, your sink must be selected and available prior to templating for your countertops. The same questions about light, reflectivity and warranty will apply to the sink you choose too. Taking time to select the right one is critical to the story of lasting satisfaction.

It is important to view a large representation for veined aesthetic patterns, as veining may not always be revealed in a smaller sample.

In addition, dark colors tend to show scratches more than lighter colors. This can especially be true within the solid surface category.

High gloss colors not only reflect light more, but they also reflect imperfections more.

Keep this in mind when choosing to put them on a horizontal, high use surface like a countertop.
As an example, imagine a brand-new shiny jet-black car.

While beautiful, it seems easier to scratch because scratches are more noticeable on glossy surfaces.

It would also require more frequent washings as dirt and water spots are more noticeable on dark colors.

*Evans RW, Seifert T, Kailasam J, Mathew NT. The use of questions to determine the presence of photophobia and photophobia during migraine. Headache 2008; 48:395-
*Main A, Dowson A, Gross M. Photophobia, and photophobia in migraineurs between attacks. Headache. 1997. 37:492-5.

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