Product 101 – Materials Defined

There’s so many different products…and names for the same product.  It can get confusing.

Here’s an overview of some of the more common products used in millwork.

As always — if you have a question, ask us!


  • So many names for the same product!
  • It’s decorative thermally fused panels flat pressed from a melamine resin impregnated web or a thermoset polyester (less common)
    • thickness is typically 1/2”, 5/8”, 3/4 or 1”
    • sizes are 4 x 8 and 5 x 9 foot sheets
  • Most products are pre-laminated to Industrial Particleboard or Medium Density Fiberboard (MDF), providing a hard, permanent thermoset bond between paper and the core
  • There’s lots of different colours & finishes from several manufacturers
  • It’s know for it’s hardness, scratch resistance and color stability
  • Not so good for impact resistance, which is why laminate is recommended for heavy traffic areas and counter tops


  • Good for resistance to wear and many common stains and chemicals
  • Very durable for high-impact usage situations
  • Laminate is typically applied to plywood, particle board (PB) or Medium Density Fiberboard (MDF) substrates
    • counter tops
    • wall panelling
    • casework exteriors
  • The laminate colours and patterns are created through the process of decorative paper with multiple layers of kraft paper saturated with phenolic resin, fused together under heat and pressure
    • Thickness is 0.7 mm (post-forming grade) to 1.2 mm (general purpose grade)
    • Sheet sizes are usually 4 x 8 and 5 x 12 feet
  • There’s several grades when it come to laminate
    • General purpose horizontal application like counter tops
    • Vertical grade and post-forming grade — thinner, used for vertical applications and counters with profile edges)
    • Cabinet liner grade — thinner still, used for cabinet interiors
    • Backing Sheet — brown backer for counter tops or panels to maintain a balanced sheet which would protect against warping
    • Chemical Resistant
    • Flame Retardant
  • There’s many manufacturers including Formica, Arborite, Wilsonart, Pionite, Nevamar and others
    • We’ve got samples in-house of the main suppliers


  • Solid Surface is a cross between laminate and granite
  • Has good wear resistance
  • Doesn’t require a finishing coat and is resistant to many common stains and chemicals
  • Many colours and designs are available
  • It can be fabricated with inconspicuous seams, and joints are impervious to moisture
  • Scratches can be sanded out – it is repairable!
  • Solid surface is manufactured by blending acrylic polymers (basically plastic) and stone-derived materials. This mix is poured into molds to make half-inch-thick sheets. The composition is consistent all the way through… or “solid”. It looks the the same throughout its thickness
  • Manufacturers include
    • Caesarstone® solid surfacing
    • Corian® solid surfacing
    • Formica® solid surfacing
    • Wilsonart® solid surfacing


  • More of an investment than laminate or solid surfacing products
  • Great for counter tops
  • Variety of different patterns and colors available
  • Virtually no-maintenance required
  • Very stain-resistant — dropping a glass of wine on them simply requires a quick cleanup
  • Quartz does not require any sealing – ever – as it’s non-porous, unlike Granite
  • Quartz counter tops contain crushed quartz mixed with resin in a ratio of 93% quartz to 7% resin
  • The slabs are typically 3cm thick
  • Manufacturers include
    • Cambria® quartz
    • Staron® quartz
    • Wilsonart® quartz


  • Granite is one of nature’s strongest materials from liquid magma, thus each piece is unique
  • It’s resistant heat, scratch, dent and chemical resistant.
  • The lighter granite tend to be more porous and susceptible to staining, but sealer can assist with this.
  • Will have visible seams
  • Finishes include polished, honed, and a variety of textures
  • Edges can have different profiles – bull nose, chamfered, cove — or have a built-up edge
  • Granite slabs range in sizes
    • 105 x 55 inches up to 130 x 80 inches
    • cut in either 2 cm | ¾ inch or 3 cm | 1 ¼  inch thicknesses


  • PVC — Polyvinyl chloride – is a synthetic plastic
  • ABS — Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene — is a thermoplastic resin
  • ABS is more environmentally friendly because it is 100% recyclable, but there’s not the colour selection
  • Edging is used to cover raw edges of cabinet panels – shelves, gables and doors
  • Variety of different widths and thicknesses available, depending on the finish
    • ¾” building materials use edging that’s 3.0 mm thick and 15/16” width
    • 1” building materials use 5/16” wide edging needs to be used (only available in some colours)
  • The commercial millwork standard is…
    • 0.018” thickness for semi-exposed cabinet parts — cabinets sides
    • 3.0 mm for parts subject to more wear and tear — cabinet doors, shelf edges and exposed cabinets (no doors)
  • Comes in rolls 200-600 feet long



Click for a Stress-free Project