on photos to enlarge
1: Particle board and plywood form
the base for the galley countertop. This one
is substantial and well constructed.
2: Swelling and warping have already
occurred on this galley counter where wood trim
meets the laminate surface.
3: Ceramic tile counters are difficult
to keep clean.The grout lines between the tiles
can quickly build up dirt and grime, and the
tiles crack easily, as seen here.
4: Laminate counters, when well done,
are just fine for vacation and weekend RVing.
5: It's a good sign when the laminate
material is also used to cover the backsplash.
Laminate is much easier to clean than wood.
But the seams must be expertly sealed to avoid
moisture seepage and subsequent warping.
Solid surfaces can either have a matte finish
or shine like polished marble. |
all the features in an RV galley, the countertop
probably takes the most use and abuse. Because
it's regularly subjected to banging, scraping,
scratching, chopping, and heating, the material
it's made from must be able to withstand these
forces to a reasonable degree throughout the
life of the RV.
are generally installed over particle board
or chipboard, which can vary greatly in quality
(Illustration 1). In some cases, when inferior
materials are used, the counter in a brand-new
RV may even warp before it is sold (Illustration
a wide range of countertop choices exist for
stationary homes, options for RV counters are
basically limited to two: plastic laminates
and solid surfaces. Occasionally you'll find
ceramic tile on a galley counter. While it's
attractive and economical for a fixed home,
it has a tendency to chip and crack and it's
difficult to clean in the grout lines, where
dirt and bacteria can accumulate (Illustration
3). Tile doesn't work well for a house that
travels down the road.
laminate is the material most commonly used
for RV counters. It's easy to clean, comes in
almost any color your heart desires, is relatively
inexpensive, and if properly installed
and cared for can be long-lasting. It's
the best choice, in our opinion, for every RV
type except those designed for fulltiming (Illustrations
4 and 5).
materials are manufactured in thin sheets consisting
of at most several layers of paper
that have been saturated with a synthetic resin
or a combination of resins and then pressure-laminated
(hence the term "laminate") with a top layer
of decorative paper. The entire countertop is
then covered and sealed with clear plastic.
The final product bears a surface that is highly
resistant to heat, stains, and abrasion. This
does not mean, however, that a laminate counter
is immune to abuse. Direct contact with hot
pots can damage the plastic seal. Cutting, chopping,
and slicing without a cutting board can cause
permanent scars. Flooding with water may cause
sealant to dissolve and allow moisture seepage
into the seams with subsequent warping of the
counter. Once a laminate surface is damaged,
repairs are difficult, and the entire counter
may have to be replaced.
surfaces vary in quality and durability. The
most desirable are high-pressure laminates like
Formica that are made up of multiple layers
of paper and resin. Some simpler ones that are
bonded at lower pressure and contain fewer layers
are not as durable or as resistant to damage.
Formica is the oldest and best-known brand of
plastic laminate. Other brands of the same type
and similar quality include Wilsonart, Nevamar,
and Pionite. Know what you're getting before
other type of countertop you'll often find
especially in high-end RVs is made with
solid-surface molded acrylic resin enhanced
with mineral fillers. Sometimes called "cultured
marble" because it is designed to resemble marble
or other types of stone, it is available with
either a matte finish or a shiny surface like
polished marble. Although white or beige shades
are the most common, solid-surface material
comes in as many as 90 different colors and
patterns.(Illustrations 6 and 7).
material generally comes out of the factory
in 12-foot-long, 30-inch wide, 1/2-inch-thick
sheets that are then cut and shaped as needed.
The material can be cut with woodworking tools
or formed and molded with the application of
heat into various shapes in a process called
thermoforming. (Illustration 8)
counters and sinks are very water and stain
resistant and easy to clean, although they do
stain more readily than laminates. Their nonporous
nature makes them almost impervious to invasion
and buildup of bacteria. Stubborn stains, as
well as minor cuts and abrasions can easily
be sanded away and the counter's original look
restored. The manufacturer or dealer should
be consulted for specific cleaning and restoration
Corian, made by DuPont, is the best known solid-surface
material, there are many others on the market,
including Avonite, Surell (a trademark of the
Formica Corporation), Corinthian, Gibraltar,
Earthstone, and Swanstone, to name a few (Illustration
9). Most solid-surface polymers are similar
in composition and properties. They may, however,
differ from each other in specific qualities,
such as weight, heat resistance, and durability.
(Corian, for instance, weighs 4.5 pounds per
square foot, while AvoniteŽ weighs 4.0 pounds
per square foot). Therefore, it's important
to know which brand is being used in your RV
and ask your dealer lots of questions. Ask for
specifications, for instance, and what they
mean. If the dealer is too vague or talks in
circles, the information you need is available
on the Web. If you don't understand the data,
the manufacturer can help. Then you'll have
a basis to compare different brands. This also
applies to laminate materials.
you're snowbirding or fulltiming, a solid-surface
counter offers greater durability than laminate.
However, it's often an option even in some high-end
RVs advertised as fulltiming, and practically
always an option in the low-to-mid-price range.
It's also more expensive and heavier than laminates,
adding to your overhead and adding extra weight
to your RV. (Illustration 10)
relatively new surfacing material, made from
pulverized quartz combined with acrylic resin,
is probably too heavy to be used for RV counters,
but offers exciting possibilities as a decorative
accent for edging and inlays. It can be readily
combined with solid surface material. This product
(for example, Zodiaq, a trademark of DuPont)
is extremely scratch resistant, easy to clean,
luminous (a property of quartz), and, like quartz
gemstones (amethyst, citrine, jasper, carnelian,
etc.), offers the consumer a broad spectrum
of the type of countertop material used, the
workmanship must be good if it is to last the
life of the RV with reasonable wear and tear
(Illustrations 11 and 12.) Solid-surface counters
must be professionally installed and are usually
under warranty. Laminate counters, on the other
hand, are not always installed by trained specialists
(there are do-it-yourself manuals on the subject)
and may or may not be warrantied. Wilsonart,
for example, offers a one-year warranty on its
laminate products. Again, because quality of
workmanship and materials can vary wildly, it's
a good idea to ask lots of questions. The more
you know, the happier you'll be with your choice
and the more you'll enjoy your travels.
learn more about galley counters, countertop
materials, and how to evaluate them, please
refer to the downloadable publication RV Walkabout, available
as a bonus when you Join RV Consumer Group.
mentioned in this article are pending trademarks
or registered trademarks of the respective companies.
on photos to enlarge
While you'll most often encounter solid surfaces
in shades of white, off-white, and beige, enough
colors and surface patterns are available to
suit every taste, such as this countertop that
simulates the look of green marble. Of particular
importance in this counter design is the splashguard
protecting the furniture from spills.
use of superior materials like Corian adds value
and durability to the motor home.
seen here, is another brand of solid surface
you'll find in RVs. Like the RV itself, not
all solid surface brands are created equal.
consider Corian and other solid surfaces too
heavy for RV tabletops. If the table came loose
in an accident situation, it could become a
flying projectile with consequences no
one wants to think about.
Although solid surface counters must be professionally
installed, it pays to watch out for things like
this counter \ backsplash unit that was sloppily
attached to the walls of this RV.
Good sealant and good workmanship might have
prevented a crack from forming in the galley
counter of this 7-year-old motor home.