Warranteeing Laminate-on-Particleboard Countertops

How long should your guarantee last for a laminate countertop? Installers discuss warrantees and materials. October 8, 2005

I did a kitchen a year ago and built the counters out of Formica over particleboard. The client called me today complaining that the laminate lifted in front of the sink. I did do the sink install (over mount) and did caulk the sink in properly. The water got in at the edge seam (yes, the edge went on first, then the top).

What sort of warranty period should this type of work carry? I did not give her a warranty on paper. Naturally, I will repair the problem for her, but what do you think is fair as far as a warranty is concerned?

I made an appointment with her for next week, so I can think things over. The last time we spoke (unprovoked), she told me she has a history of legal action against many people including her former employers, condo board and a few contractors in the area. So, she is a senior citizen that is sue happy. I sure can pick them.

Forum Responses
(Business and Management Forum)
From contributor S:
In my opinion, the warranty will depend on what type of business you have and where your client base comes from. All of our business is word of mouth, so any length of warranty is a bit tricky. As a result of not having a standard policy, we err on the side of overbuilding everything to avoid callbacks. Even so, we have had a few callbacks. The most common are problems with hardware. We have never had anyone call us back after a year and a half or so.

Using PB is always a risk when water is involved. If I was doing a project like you outlined, I would first try and sell the client on a different core material. Whatever you choose as a different material is going to cost more. If they don't want to pay more, use the standard PB top and explain the problems that might occur with it and give them a short warranty, maybe only 90 days. If they still choose to use PB, it's on them.

Any callback, even if you take care of it for free, has a negative effect on word of mouth business. If you take the time to explain the advantages and disadvantages of the materials, hardware, finish, etc. in the project, it seems to be easier to avoid callbacks and also sell a better product.

From contributor R:
I think the law throughout the country is 1 year labor warranty on any home improvement, unless otherwise stated.

From contributor T:
What kind of adhesive do you use for making laminate counters? I use the red spray adhesive and have always put laminates onto particleboard, and fortunately have never had a problem. Does anyone seam at the middle of the sink? I did this one time at the customer's request, and I understand the logic - less visible seam that is easier to fit, but it seems like a liability to me.

Contributor S, you talked about using a different core material. Are you talking about ply or marine ply or something else? Maybe I can learn something that will keep me from running into this in the future.

I have never offered a written warranty. If a problem arises, I just go fix it. Usually, it is well after a year and it is to clean toothpaste off of cabinets where "the finish is turning white."

From contributor S:
Really, laminate countertops aren't my specialty, but I have done a few and I have used marine ply and laminated both sides after the edges. Seemed to work fine. Cost way more and took more time than if I had used PB.

There is a newer product out now that I am really impressed with called Amorcore by States. I've suggested it on a few other threads. It is basically an FSC certified eco-friendly multi-lamination ply that has no formaldehyde in it. The good thing about this stuff is that both outside veneers are actually MDF like material (about 1/16" thick). After they laminate everything, it is widebelted to a uniform thickness. None of the ply veneers telegraph through the MDF veneer. I think that this would make an excellent material for laminated countertops. Down side is it's about $75 a sheet. I haven't used it for this application, but it seems to hold up well with moisture (it's practically all glue).

From contributor B:
First off, the problem here is water, not the particleboard core. Water got into the edge of the seam and the glue line failed. I guess you will need to fix it, but changing the substrate is not the answer. Plywood does not expand and contract at the same rate laminate does. This will cause the glue line to sheer. PB and MDF most closely match the expansion rate of laminate (which is made of paper). This is why they are the recommended substrate, not because they are less expensive.