Surface materials Glossary of Terms

Glossary of Terms


HPL or High Pressure Laminate: HPL is about the most durable laminate available. It is made of several sheets of paper that get bonded together using high pressure presses. It is used in many horizontal applications such as counter tops and higher quality table tops. On vertical surfaces, it is commonly used for doors and drawer fronts of cabinets. HPL has higher impact resistance than most other laminates. The product gets glued on to the panel generally using a PVA glue. Usually a backer is used to prevent warping or the colored laminate is on both surfaces.

The four most common brand names in the US are Formica, Wilsonart, Pionite, and Nevamar.

Grades available:

  • Standard (also referred to as Horizontal grade) is .050″ thick
  • Post form is .040″ thick and is used to make post formed counters and tops
  • Vertical grade is thinner. .028 – .030″ thick
  • Cabinet liner and some import grades are .02″ thick

Melamine or TFM (Thermally Fused Melamine) or LPL (Low pressure laminate): Melamine paper is thermally bonded to particleboard or MDF panels. TFM must be applied to the front and back of the panel to keep the panel balanced. Sometimes a brown backer is applied to the bottom if color is not needed. This is produced in higher volumes than HPL. It is thinner (about .007″) than HPL and is more economical. Since it is thinner, it has less impact resistance than HPL. The insides of cabinets, store fixtures, POP displays, and shelving are common uses of this product.

Foil or Top Coated Melamine: Instead of being thermally fused to the board, it contains a low amount of melamine resin and gets applied to panels using glue. This product is the least expensive laminate. It is primarily used as drawer bottoms or vertical applications such as cabinet backs, signs, or inexpensive side panels in the Point of Purchase Industry. It can be applied to both sides of a panel or one surface without risk of warping.

Vinyl: This is very similar to the foil product. The benefit is that it is good for silk screening on Point of Purchase applications. It also good for miter folding (producing speaker boxes or colums) because of its flexability.

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