What is a Solid Surface?
Popular among architects and designers, a solid surface is an engineered, man-made material that is commonly composed of a combination of natural stone dust (such as marble), acrylic and polyester or epoxy resins and alumina trihydrate (ATH) – a material that is derived from bauxite ore, a source of aluminium.
They are made by using fillers, binders, pigments and particulates; the filler in a solid surface is typically the ATH, and considering that this is a product of aluminium, its unsurprising that it brings a high-tensile strength to a solid surface. The binder is the resin; acrylic resin is used as it allows the surface to be thermoformed, while polyester resin is used if a high-gloss finish is to be achieved. Pigments are the dye, to achieve the required colour and particulates are added in order to achieve the varying textures, patterns and designs that are possible.
Solid surfaces have a legacy of commonly being used as countertops in kitchens, and in bathrooms, due to their hygienic qualities, but they are now also being used to create bespoke items of functional furniture, accessories, lighting and building skins in both commercial and domestic markets.
Due to the versatile nature of solid surfaces, nothing is off limits when it comes to colour and design! The advancements in technology mean that solid surfaces can be combined with digital features – touch sensitive controls, LED lighting, wireless charging and audio-visual technology can all be infused into solid surface creations.
The first solid surface was created by chemist Donald Slocum for DuPont®, in 1967, a patent was issued the following year, in October 1968 and it was first brought onto the commercial market in 1971. Donald was determined to create a material that rivalled natural stone in its strength and durability, but was also sanitary and easy to maintain, while being elegant and striking.
Corian® was made to be almost completely non-porous, keeping bacterial and mould growth at bay, meaning that solid surfaces are unparalleled in their hygiene and cleanliness properties. This non-porous nature also means solid surfaces are also far stronger than many popular surfaces in modern kitchens and bathrooms; unlike laminate, the material of a solid surface remains the same the entire way through and as a result, it resists impact far better than laminate. This isn’t to say that solid surfaces are completely resistant to scratches – it is possible for them to become scratched, but these scratches can be dealt with, with recommended products at home, or by a professional who can carry out the repair on site.
While Corian’s® patent has expired and other solid surface manufacturers have entered the market, DuPont® has continued to evolve the original solid surface, introducing new technologies, applications and collections that includes various colours, finishes and effects that have been made in conjunction with well-known public figures such as Martha Stewart.
Other leading solid surfaces include;
Krion™ – Developed by the Porcelanosa group, Krion™ resembles natural stone because of its high content of
minerals. Krion™ is comprised of two-thirds ATH and high-resistance resins. Sheets of Krion™ are chemically bonded, and designs are thermoformed. You can find examples of Krion™ being used in high profile political buildings, such as The Emirates Room at the United Nations office in Geneva.
LG Hi-Macs® – A favourite among the eco-conscious, LG Hi-Macs® has gained certifications from a variety of regulatory bodies. LG Hi-Macs® has been used in Prague in an installation that pays homage to a prominent Czech poet, Konstantin Biebl. The surface is used on the exterior of an apartment block, whereby words of the poet are lit up in the material.
Hanex® – Hanex® is a solid surface with a high acrylic content. Its properties are extremely similar to Corian®, but it requires a more specialist approach when it comes to cleaning, for instance, bleach cannot be used with a Hanex® surface,
unlike other solid surfaces, it is only suitable, and warrantied for indoor use.
It’s important to understand that there is a world of possibilities available when using a solid surface in your home, regardless of the environment, room or colour theme that you are wanting to achieve – there will be a solid surface that suits your requirements perfectly.