And there's so much more. Solid surface has no fissures, and is not porous, so it doesn't require sealing. Because of its chemical composition, it doesn't support the growth of mold or mildew. It is "seamless" because the two-part adhesive used for joints basically becomes solid surface when it dries. It is therefore also repairable. It is easily renewable with the proper equipment. And, it can easily be sanitized with a bleach product to rid it of germs sitting on its surface. This last characteristic makes it a great product for use in hospitals and medical facilities, and is NSF approved for use in commercial kitchens.
As they say, "With solid surface, you are limited only by your imagination and your purse." It is so much more than just a kitchen countertop product. It's wonderful for the bath: vanity tops, tub and shower surrounds, wall cladding, shelving, flooring, moldings and sills. And, there's no grout!
Solid surface has unlimited commercial applications as well.Architects are really starting to understand its features and design possibilities, and are specifying solid surface for horizontal and vertical applications in medical facilities, including operating rooms. There are reception desk counters, conference tables, casino counters, restaurant and food court tables and counters, and it has numerous applications all over airports. It can be found everywhere.
Solid surface has been sculpted, inlaid, thermoformed into interesting shapes and more. You may recall the beautiful sculpting done by the artist, Becki Babb. There are beautiful inlays. The Hotel Puerta America done in LG HI-MACS by Rosskopf & Partner is a perfect example of the possibilities, with each level of the hotel brought to life by a different famed designer and featuring massive amounts of solid surface. The level of sophistication fabricated into these jobs attest to the fact that almost anything can be done with this Space Age material.
WHAT IS SOLID SURFACE?
Solid surface is a combination of natural and synthetic ingredients. The first major ingredient is a mineral (the "filler") and the other is a resin (the "binder"). Also included are various additives for color and performance enhancements. These are combined and cast into shapes or sheets.
Alumina trihydrate, or ATH, has great physical properties, and serves as the filler for most solid surface products. It is refined from bauxite ore, which is a form of clay. It is hard enough to give superb impact resistance but soft enough to be machinable. And one last almost magical property: Not only will it not burn, but because it has "water in hydration," when attacked by heat, ATH actually releases steam, which makes it a natural fire retardant.
Quartz has also sometimes been used as a filler in the manufacture of solid surface sinks. However, quartz yields a material too hard to be machinable with woodworking tools. Breton Industries of Italy, using quartz as a filler, developed a new product category, and the machinery to produce it, calling it compound stone or what is known today as quartz surfacing or engineered stone. The first plants for manufacturing large slabs of the product using the company's vibratory compaction process were installed in 1984.
Other materials have also been used as fillers for solid surface. Calcium carbonate was used in the first Corian sheets. Swanstone uses glass fibers to add strength and impact-resistance to its product. Glass beads have been used to achieve special effects. There is also a company that uses a filler of recycled newsprint.
And then there is solid surface that uses only small amounts of filler. Avonite's Class III colors contain on average 10 percent ATH. This is a conscious choice, and is used in darker colors, because ATH scratches white. By eliminating ATH, they also lose many of its benefits, chiefly the Class I fire rating and some hardness. It is a trade-off, according to Wayne Rutledge of Avonite, but one that allows Avonite to produce a range of dark, extremely rich, deep-looking colors.