Kitchen-tops for the kitchens: necessary, enough, excessive

To the kitchen-tops special requirements are presented, in particular they have to have increased water-resistant, heat resistance, resistance to the chemicals impact, to the appearance of spots, mold and accumulation of bacteria 

It’s obvious that such kind of requirements determine and choice of material and using of the necessary technologies. 
However and the price for them should be acceptable for the consumer, that’s why a compromise solution is usually required. We asked Tatiana Belova, brand manager of “Kitchen-tops” department of “Soyuz” Industrial group company how to obtain compromise in terms of price without lost the quality.   
–  now days the base of the most popular postforming kitchen-top is a hardboard. Which characteristics do you consider to be necessary and which ones enough?
Of course to save money on board’s water-resistant is a risque, because just a theoretic can hope for an ideal protection of basic boards from humidity. And if humidity penetrates onto unprotected part of the kitchen-top, for example in a place of the insert of the sink into the kitchen-top, board of the increased resistance endures this impact, and an ordinary gets more likely swollen, and this already irreversible process. 
As a base we use high quality board of increased water-resistance. Thanks to the special melamine film 38mm board gets resistance to mold appearance and accumulation of bacteria. It’s durable and resistant against exfoliation, provides with hygienic safety because of emission class E1. Our hardboard corresponds to P3 class (in accordance with GOST 32399-2013 for water-resistant boards) with using for not bearing constructions and requirements of the improved water-resistance in comparison with standard boards. However some of the manufactures use the boards of P5 class, also improved water-resistance but destined for increased workloads, by that they positioning P5 class as an advantage but it’s not an advantage in fact. A kitchen-top isn’t being a bearing construction to have an increased workload, what for the price raising is needed? 
–  But the materials used for the treatment is a very important component for the protection of kitchen-tops, are there any resources for the economy but saving of quality?
There are the resources, of course. For example, in choice of facing material from the rear, not working part of the kitchen-top. As a rule by the manufacturing of the kitchen-tops a compensation material is used, it allows to avoid the deformation of the sheet of the kitchen-top by impact of the decorative cover of the working surface. For these cases we use high quality Back-cover with special humidity resistant features. 
But there are manufacturers which use as a compensation material laminate, explaining it by improved operational characteristics of the kitchen-tops, particular in the places of wash – dishing machine insertion. But firstly by the proper insertion of wash – dishing machine an impact of steam on the opposite side of the kitchen-top is excluded. Secondly, the manufacturers of the the home appliances put inside of the package a special protective band. As it is shown by the practice, kitchen-tops of “Soyuz” Industrial group production successfully serve more than 10 years even without using this band. So the use from this “option” is doubtful, but the expenses are obvious. 
Coming back to the question of the protection of the kitchen-top I’d like to underline the following: such constructive element of the kitchen-top as a drip tray counteract to the humidity penetration to the base-board. By us it is fulfilled in accordance with the modern technology, allowing to provide secure joint of the laminate, board and Back-cover and thanks to the configuration of the hermetic material to exclude humidity penetration outside its boundaries. Due to our experience, this solution is necessary and enough for the kitchen-top protection. 
Some of the manufacturers stick the laminate overlapped onto the compensation cover on the reverse side. Other practice, declaring this as an advantage, increased angle of the reverse bend, that can lead to the increased resistance of the material and its further destruction. But a reliable protection is a drip tray, made in a technologically right way.   
One more important component of the kitchen-top protection is an edge. Is there any difference between using of the melamine edge and PVC-edge? Both materials have the same function, both are water-resistant. And the quality is determined by the production technology combined with the materials being used. By the finishing of the rear edge of the kitchen-top by the melamine edge using high technology Italian equipment we achieve quality spreading of the glue, and homogenous glue joint makes a good barrier against humidity penetration onto the base. And even if the increasing of price of the product with PVC-edge is not as big, but if there any sense in it?   
We cannot forget that the main function of the edge is to cover not coated part of the hardboard to avoid emit of the harmful substances to environment. Protection from humidity penetration is a plinth with silicone or rubber seal. 
– All other important consumer features of the kitchen-top refers the decorative laminate. Which characteristics of it are the most important for the saving of quality of the product by the reasonable price?
Wear resistance, shock resistance, resistance to the difference of the temperature and increased humidity, resistance to the mechanical injures and chemicals is the necessary list of features, which a quality product should have, but we should forget about the esthetic side of the question. 
Two types of the laminate CPL and HPL are used in the kitchen-top production. 
HPL (High Pressure Laminate) is a laminate in sheets that had been produced by the high pressure method. 
Thanks to the technology of the production differs by the outstanding operational features, such as: thermoresistance being a max one among the laminate, wear resistance, durability, abrasion and mechanical injury resistance, resistance to the coloring products and chemicals impact. These features make this laminate the best cover for the kitchen-top. 
CPL (Сontinuous Pressure Laminate) is a laminate produced by the method of a continuous pressure. It differs by the big variety of decors in combination with a democratic price. There are no limitation in the length of material for CPL, but there are the limitations in thickness, from 0,15 to 1,2mm, it differs it from HPL which has length limitations but has the width from 0,5mm. The thickness of the laminate and the density of the base differ the shock resistance of the product. Resistance of the surface of the coating material to scratches is determined by its structure. Deeper and more interesting structure can be obtained only on HPL.
There is another argument, a price difference between the goods with using of HPL in comparison to CPL, it can be from 10 to 50% depending upon the type of embossing, décor, manufacturer and other factors. However the kitchen is not being bought for 5 years, that is why we don’t have to forget about disappointment from the low quality that can last more than the joy from the low price. 
– Thus, is there no reason to save money on laminate? 
From one side, there is no reason to save money and to use laminate of an insufficient quality. 
From another side, excessiveness of the characteristics doesn’t have any sense. For example, abrasion resistance is stipulated by the choice of the corresponding protective layer, overlay. By that if by the European manufactures its presence is meant to be, by the Russian manufacturers it is an additional option. 
It’s necessary to note that the laminates with increased wear resistant laminate (more than 1600 turns by Tyber) are present in market. If by laminate production to add to the paper mass some quantity of the filler from the special hard particles, then the number of turns by test on durability increases up to 1600 turns. The same facing material is used by the production of floors, where the products are exposed to intensive explotion. 
As a result the cost of the kitchen-top wit such super cover exceeds the cost of our premium kitchen-top for 120-300% . Besides of that, special saws are needed for such kind of products sawing, but it’s and additional expense. From one side this material has a long life, but what for should we pay for excessive quality. 
Laminate, being used by us, it’s a laminate by European manufacturers, totally corresponding to EN 438 norms. 
– What’s the share of imported laminate in the whole volume of laminate, being used by your company? And how can you evaluate the proximity of the Russian laminate manufacturers to quality and complete replacement of the imported laminate for kitchen-tops?
Our collection includes both laminate of the Russian and European suppliers, by that the share of the last ones is about 70%. It goes without saying that import replacement is actual now days, but it’s impossible and not needed to replace everything. What’s about the formation of the market proposal then? Unfortunately Russian laminate manufacturers try to expand their sales at the cost of well-recommended decors of the European laminate manufacturers, copying their pattern and texture, but not repeating their operational characteristics. And as it’s shown by practice, input of such alternative decors by the kitchen-tops manufacturers leads to decreasing the product price on account of quality.
Being absolutely identific visually, coverings may have absolutely different technical characteristics: thickness, abrasion resistance, shock resistance, resistance to increased temperature and light emission etc, that further negatively reflect on the long life and appearance of the products. For the consumer such kind of economy turns to disappointment and additional costs. Being the Russian flagship in the production of kitchen-tops we’ll never economize on quality at cost of our consumer. 

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