ACS Continues to Study the Difference between Wood and Chemical Resistant Plastic Laminate


Advanced Cabinet Systems
Marion, IN  December 23, 2014


For years, wooden cabinets have been the go-to solution for the storage of equipment and chemicals in science laboratories across the nation, but is it the best solution? Because ACS has received many questions on the difference between wood and laminate labs, Advanced Cabinet Systems decided to conduct an in depth study that dove deeper into this debate before the 2015 remodels began. The study is on going since it's an ever changing industry.

From middle school labs to the more advanced labs found in higher education buildings, the general consensus among fixture specifiers seemed to be that wood was the best solution for these areas. In recent years, however, companies like Wilsonart and Formica have worked to change the minds of these individuals with the introduction of chemical resistant plastic laminates.

Although wood has the ability to withstand the physical wear and tear that a typical lab is routinely subjected to, it naturally omits acids and other pollutants, with oak (most often used) being the worst offender. The porous nature of wood allows it to easily absorb odor and contamination, as well as potentially harbor mold and other bacteria, all of which can be detrimental to sensitive test results. The density and hardness of plastic laminate means that it omits very little chemical gasses, and as long as it is glued to an NAUF substrate, gasses coming off of this material should be of little concern.

Wilsonart's Chemsurf and Formica's ChemTop2 lines are an affordable alternative to wood cabinetry, wainscoting, and in some settings, are even suitable for use as counter tops. Each line carries a large variety of colors and patterns, making them great choices for lab areas that need to make a big statement. If the customer desires the look of wood with the functionality of laminate, they also come in a wide range of realistic wood grains. Each product's ability to resist harsh chemicals, stains, and mild abrasion make them a durable, long-lasting option for intermediate-type labs in hospitals, schools, and factories.

Over time, as wood surfaces are exposed to strong chemicals, excessive cleaning, and in some instances heat, they tend to lose their protective finish--leaving them susceptible to corrosion and staining. However, in rigorous product testing, both Wilsonart and Formica's chemical resistant laminates held up beautifully, with only a slight change in color or gloss when exposed to bright light and certain chemicals over prolonged periods of time.

While wooden casework needs routine cleaning and polishing to maintain its durability, with chemical resistant plastic laminate you simply wipe the surface clean--no scrubbing or harsh cleaning agents are required--offering years of superior performance that is unmatched by its competitor.

Talk to your ACS representative for more thoughts and ideas before designing your next space. ACS can also provide samples of each type of material for you to review. Give us a call!