Choosing Countertops: Laminate

Budget-friendly laminate sheds its dowdy reputation thanks to new, stylish prints and patterns.

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Once considered dowdy by designers, laminate has come a long way and is one of the best options for the budget conscious buyer. "I think it's a great product. There are some beautiful styles out now; you can't even tell they're laminate," says designer Jennifer Gilmer, of Jennifer Gilmer Kitchen & Bath, Ltd. in Chevy Chase, Md. Known by its brand names – including Formica, Wilsonart and Nevamar — you can even install laminate yourself.

Design Tip:

Scratches tend to be more visible with dark colors. If you love a rich color, find a pattern that will help disguise scratches. The boomerang style looks great in a retro kitchen.

Maintenance:

Rinse after cleaning to avoid soap rings. Laminate is susceptible to heat and standing water. No sealing is required.

Cost:

$25-$60/lin. ft., installed.

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