This issue was raised with some enthusiasm by chairman Lee Miller at the TAPPI Decorative and Industrial Laminates Symposium in Atlanta in August (full report starts on p44).
He wants the industry to raise the profile of laminates generically. He said the industry had marketed to the specifiers and not educated the public. He talked of a ‘Decorative Surfaces Institute’ to raise the industry’s own image to be the "premier decorative product", funded by the industry for the benefit of the industry.
His other concern was with rogue contractors who use a lower grade of laminate than that specified. For instance, he highlighted the potential use of non fire retardant laminate where such a grade was demanded. As the grade is stamped on the back face of the laminate, how would the client know? Another example is the use of unbacked laminate worktops above dishwashers, where heat and humidity levels lead to warping of the worktop.
The result of these misuses is not, of course, one instance of fire damage, or one worktop failure. The real result is damage to the image of decorative laminate in total. Mr Miller suggested certification of contractors as one answer to this problem.
Decorative laminate technology has developed so dramatically that it takes close examination to tell a wood-grain or stone-effect laminate (particularly if it is embossed-in-register) from real wood or stone. It is no longer ‘just a laminate’ but a high-quality product in its own right – available in unique and stunning designs as well as copies of natural materials – which has resulted from extensive research and development and should be appreciated as a surfacing choice in its own right, not as a ‘cheap’ alternative.
Does this all sound a little familiar to panel manufacturers too?
If a non moisture-resistant panel is used in the wrong place. or a panel is subjected to bad site practice, failure can result and that will reflect badly on wood based panels in general.
Too often the supplier of a panel has not enquired as to its end-use to ensure the correct product is being supplied.
Generic promotion of all products, including the value-added ones, and of their correct application, would obviously benefit the whole industry and improve that public perception. But who is going to do it?