The current market trend is a good way to evaluate whether or not your company is offering what consumers are buying. One thing that trends are reflecting is that consumers want a solid surface top to look like a polished rock top. That is very easy for consumers to want and trends to report, but as a fabricator it seems like a boat load of work. If done correctly, though, this trend doesn't have to mean more work for you. There is a relatively quick and simple way to accomplish a mirror finish.
I did not say a shiny finish or a high-gloss finish. Please note, I said a mirror finish. This is because a shiny finish is a solid surface top that has been buffed, but still has tons of scratches in the top and these scratches will become more and more obvious as time goes by. This will cause the top to look less desirable in a very short time and the end result is a customer call-back. Buffing is not a very durable finish, and I do not recommend installing this type of finish on a job, ever.
A high-gloss finish is more durable than buffing; however, there are usually some dull areas in the deck caused by fine sanding scratches still in the surface. A fabricator will buff and rebuff these areas with a rotary wheel to try to blend the top. In taking these steps, the top does get a little shinier, but the fabricator is actually making the scratches deeper. Yes, like buffing, those scratches are still there and will become more obvious with time, creating dull spots.
That is the problem with the rotary wheel and polishing solid surface, it digs as well as creates a tremendous amount of heat. Heat will scorch polyester or a blend very easily. When this happens you must resand that area or the finish will never look right, and you can't polish it out, so don't even try. You will only make it look worse.
Another mistake fabricators usually make is the high-gloss top doesn't look exactly the same everywhere on the countertop. To correct this, they apply wax or other products to make the deck look more uniform. That's great for out the door, but in a matter of weeks those blotchy areas will show up just as they did in the shop, but now the top is in the customer's home and they are not happy.
Dani Polishing System
That is one of the major problems with using the rotary wheel to finish your top; you are constantly throwing raw compound all over your finished work creating more dull spots. I polished tops for 10 years with the rotary wheel and I know how much work it takes to make a top look great. When Avonite announced its 1st annual edge treatment contest in 1995 I knew then the top I was going to do would need to be a mirror finish. I wanted to blow their socks off when they saw my top. That was the beginning of the Dani Polishing System—a vast improvement over the rotary wheel. (Don't get me wrong, I didn't throw my rotary wheel away; I still use it to rough finish the front edge and top of a coved backsplash.)
I spent three years perfecting and improving this system to make it so user friendly that even a home owner could use the system with perfect results. The system will not scorch polyester and is very clean, you only use very small amounts of compound, unlike the rotary wheel where you end up with Lambs wool and compound everywhere.
Over the past 21 years of fabricating solid surface, 30 percent of all the tops that have been fabricated in my shop have been installed with a mirror-polished finish. I basically only sell two finishes, mirror polish and satin finish. I have never been able to sell a matte finish because the customer will always say the finish is too dull—they want the shinier one. With more than 1,200 mirror-polished tops in service, I have never been called back to refinish any of those installed, although I have repolished many tops installed by other fabricators.
I know you are thinking, how is that possible? The first thing to do is to teach your customers how to clean their top—no solfscrub, scotch-brite or cleansers. A mirror finish is very easy to maintain because all scratches have been removed. That means there is no place for stains to collect. A little 409 or Fantastic will do the trick. Because the number one destroyer of polished tops are those 99 cent coffee mugs and stoneware, I also give my customers several sheets of 400-grit wet/dry sand paper to sand the bottoms of their mugs and plates so the rough glazing edges are gone. If the customer doesn't want to do the sanding, I will include the cost in my price and do it for them.