The Right Surface for the Right Job

Using High Pressure Laminate and Thermally Fused Laminate in the jobs for which they are intended can maximize cost savings and durability.

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High traffic retail spaces use a combination of HPL and TFL depending on wear and tear in specific areas of the space.

Choosing the right surface for a project is about much more than selecting the right color, pattern, or finish. Advancements in material technology means that designers have access to a wider array of surfaces than ever before, so it’s more important than ever to choose the right surface fit for each use case.

The two most common surface technologies on the market today are High Pressure Laminate (HPL) and Thermally Fused Laminate (TFL). In order to choose between the two, designers and specifiers need to pay attention to how the surface will be used. “Different applications and environments”, says Ricky Crow, Director of Wilsonart’s High Pressure Laminate offering, “have different performance and budget requirements.”

HPL provides added durability, abrasion and scratch resistance so each surface maintains long-lasting brilliance.

The value of HPL is often underestimated. For high-traffic areas like a school hallway or hotel lobby that need surfaces to last for many years, HPL will provide the added durability, abrasion and scratch resistance you need to make sure that each surface maintains long-lasting brilliance. It is in low-traffic spaces that are not subjected to the same kind of heavy use, say the wall behind a check-in counter or display shelving, where TFL may be a less durable but more affordable fit for the job.

Each surface has different performance, budget and resilience requirements; Wilsonart understands this and makes HPL and TFL laminates for different purposes without compromising on aesthetics.

Cost savings comes at the price of durability, since TFL surfaces lack the workhorse performance benefits of impact-, scratch- and scuff-resistance inherent of HPL surfaces. In most cases, the cost difference between HPL and TFL is minimal compared to the total cost of a project. “If you look at a fixture such as a table, the cost of fabrication, transportation, and installation are the same for HPL or TFL,” says Crow who explains, “This means that the cost difference is really only a few dollars per table which is “cheap insurance” depending on the application.”

The ability to use HPL and TFL in combination provides the best combination of performance and price but can come with some design challenges. Most companies produce only HPL or TFL in-house. This often contributes to a designer’s hesitancy to specify a combination of HPL and TFL surfaces for low and high traffic areas. That’s because contracting out the production of TFL surfaces can mean that the finishes don’t quite match, and even if the supplier uses the same paper on which the design is printed, variations in production still occur.

Wilsonart’s TFL and HPL surfaces are virtually indistinguishable.

“That’s not a problem for Wilsonart,” says Crow, “because we manufacture both products right here in North America under our Coordinated Surfaces program. We use the exact same paper, the exact same press plate, gloss level, and finishes. So, we can guarantee the best match in the industry.” It’s so good in fact that Wilsonart’s TFL and HPL surfaces are virtually indistinguishable, meaning that even a single object—Crow cites a cabinet in the Wilsonart office—can be made out of both materials, and even an expert wouldn’t know where one material begins and the other ends.

Wilsonart achieves a high level of homogeneity in its HPL and TFL laminates, ensuring the space looks seamless.

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