DuPont developed the Corian material in 1968 from a blend of acrylic polymer and alumina trihydrate, according to the company's website, and first exhibited it at the 1971 National Association of Home Builders Show in Houston. At that show, only three years after the material was created, DuPont made the solid surface material in only four colors--Cameo White, Olive Mist, Dawn Beige and Autumn Gold.
The laminating process, which involves pressing several sheets of material together, was first developed in the early 1900s as insulation in the electrical industry, according to "Plastic Laminate Countertops" by Tim Carter.
Laminate countertops consist of several layers of kraft paper, a layer of decorative paper and a clear surface layer that's pressed together under high heat and pressure. Because of this, the color and design possibilities are nearly endless. And according to WilsonArt, a company that manufactures laminate countertops, the clear plastic top layer protects the countertop from any staining or lasting damage.
DuPont's Corian is made of acrylic polymer and alumina trihydrate, a blend of water and aluminum oxide. The countertop is manufactured in 6 mm, 12 mm and 19 mm thicknesses. Multi-density fiberboard is added as support in work surfaces, which average to 38 mm thick. It now comes in 130 colors, including two of the four originals--Cameo White and Dawn Beige.
Both Corian and laminate countertops are stain- and heat-resistant, though Corian can be formed into various shapes when heated to 300 degrees Fahrenheit. Corian's consistent color and material throughout means scratches and slight burns can easily be removed with sandpaper, and stains disappear under assault from abrasive cleaners such as Comet or Ajax.
Laminate countertops allow you to have any color or design you want, including a wood look, depending on the kind of decorative paper sandwiched between the layers of kraft paper and the plastic coating. According to Carter, there are even some laminates, called laminate veneers, that allow you to stain and finish the counter yourself.
When deciding between Corian and laminate, one of the things to think about is what design you want. Though DuPont makes Corian in more than 100 colors, the only limit to the design of a laminate countertop is your imagination and what manufacturers such as WilsonArt make.
Laminate is also less scratch resistant than Corian, and Carter suggests using liquid dish soap to clean up spills rather than abrasives, which can be used on Corian.
Though heat resistant, it's still not a good idea to put hot pots or pans on either laminate or Corian if you want the countertop to last a long time. A similar warning applies for cutting on these materials--scratch-resistant doesn't mean a knife won't cut either surface.
Another misconception is that higher price equals higher quality. For both Corian and laminate, the strength of the material only changes when thickness changes. Purchasing a thicker, more expensive countertop may not significantly increase the price compared to the extra life you may get out of the heftier material.