Have you ever walked through an airport terminal and noticed how bad some of the solid surface installations look? I have seen some of the worst mistakes possible in some of the most heavily visited, highest profile, places on earth. Contractors, who got their hands on material through an unethical distributor or purchased fabricated goods and installed it themselves with their "can do anything" carpenters, probably did these shoddy installations. Somebody needs to sneak into these places at night and either rip the garbage out or spray paint it to look like granite or laminate.
Our shop didn't always reinforce every seam and every cooktop cutout, but we do now. On commercial installations involving hotwell cutouts, we have clearly seen the advantage and improved performance of solid surface when we use Nomex insulation and reinforce these crack prone areas with tapered corner blocks.
As our experience has increased, so have the radii on all our inside corners. When we increased our standard radius from 1/4-in. to 1-in. our problems with inside corner cracking virtually stopped.
Caulking use to be a big problem and accounted for a significant percentage of our call backs until we established better techniques for applying and cleaning up after this potentially messy component of almost every job.
Underlayment expansion also gave us more than it's fair share of failures. When we enforced an ironclad policy to leave a 1/8-in. gap between all underlayment and the solid surface built up edge our problems in this area also disappeared.
Sanding and finishing can be the most time consuming process of all, yet no job can be left without the greatest attention to detail being paid in this final step. Shortcuts can always be taken to save time -- and obviously are in some cases -- but the customer will end up paying for these omissions in the long run.
Fortunately for our company, we reached the decision to do the right thing very early. Initially this change in our process to fabricate with new and better techniques was met with resistance from our fabricators and installers. Over time our installers realized they were no longer being called back to repair cracks in cooktop cut outs or unreinforced seams. Now you couldn't pay one of our fabricators to leave these important components of quality off one of their jobs.
Both our fabricators and installers have realized that these quality steps pay for themselves in down the road warranty repairs and additionally in preventing breakage in handling during the fabrication and installation process. In the final analysis, we have determined that producing quality has made us more profitable.
With the increase of material manufacturers and competition for market share, quality has taken a back seat to quantity. Fortunately in our market, many fabricators adhere to high quality standards, which keeps the product reputation at a high level. Unfortunately, in other markets with highly visible projects like airport terminals demonstrating the worst of fabrication and installation techniques, you have an uphill fight to undue the damage that has been done to the product image.