Today I’ve got my hard hat and my safety glasses because we’re about to seriously test the limits of the three most common work surfaces.
Disclaimer, I’m not a scientist, or a professional myth buster… so please don’t try what you’re about to see at home… or at work.
Let’s meet our contenders in this Epic Work Surface Showdown:
Solid wood furniture is heavy, durable and can be refinished over and over. It’s also very expensive.
We have a lot of work surfaces pass through our facilities and in most cases, the hardwood we see is veneer – a thin layer of real wood on top (usually an 1/8 of an inch thick) glued onto cheaper wood, particle board or MDF (medium density fiberboard).
Less expensive than solid wood
Look and visual appeal more closely matches wood
More warp-resistant than solid wood furniture
More refinishing options than veneer
Greater variety than solid wood
More expensive than laminate
Can be difficult to repair
Doesn’t react well to liquid or heat
HIGH PRESSURE LAMINATE (HPL)
Multiple layers of kraft and decorative paper are melamine resin treated and covered with a water resistant overlay. Kraft paper is known as the world’s strongest paper and is usually what sand paper is made out of. These layers are then fused to a particle board or MDF with high pressure – usually around 1,400 PSI (pressure per square inch).
Less expensive than wood veneer
Easier to clean than wood
More durable than wood – and possibly LPL
Lower maintenance than wood
More color options than wood
Many designs and textures
More expensive than HPL
Easier to clean than wood
THERMALLY FUSED LAMINATE (TFL)
Also known as Low Pressure Laminate or TFM (thermally fused melamine), this surface is made by fusing a decorative sheet directly to the particle board or MDF with high heat and lower pressure – usually around 400 PSI.
Less expensive than HPL (and therefore also wood veneer)
Compared to wood, all of the same benefits as HPL
Many designs and textures
Slightly less durable than HPL.
Can sometimes take longer to produce
HPL has more material, costs more, and is said to have higher durability, greater impact resistance and less scratching due to the multiple layers? Let’s find out!
Test One: Liquid
It’s late and it’s been a long day at the office. Your untouched ice water condensates all over your desk. Somehow you’ve managed to spill your coffee and knock over you’re soda. Let’s top it all off with a nice heavy pour of crown royal whisky. Beautiful.
Water, coffee, coke and crown royal directly on laminates for 48 hours each. 24 hours on the wood veneer.
WINNER – HPL performs the best with minimal damage shown.
TFL shows minimal water damage.
LOSER – Wood Veneer with highly visible water damage.
Test Two: Heat
The deadline is approaching and it’s the 11th hour. You need to save time so you grab a hot pocket. There’s no time for plates… so you toss it on your desk and dive back into your work. You never get around to eating because… well… it’s a hot pocket… and so a steaming hot sleeve of mystery meat sits on your work surface for hours. Will it leave a ring?
Extremely Hot Pocket placed directly on each surface and left for 24 hours. Fresh, hot pot of coffee placed directly on each surface for 10 minutes.
WINNER –Tie between HPL and TFL with no visible impact.
LOSER – Wood Veneer with highly visible cloudy ring on surface. This effect is made even more substantial.
Test Three: The Wipe Down
You’re a rebel who operates outside the lines. That’s why you spilled 4 drinks all over your desk and also managed to cover it up in permanent marker scribbling.
Liquid and heat test messes are cleaned off with wet paper towel. Black permanent marker is applied to each surface and left to dry for 24 hours. Wet paper towel is used in attempt to clean marker. Second attempt is highly toxic Goof Off.
WINNER – Tie between HPL and TFL. Liquid and Heat test residue wiped off easily with no visible impact. Permanent marker could not be wiped off with water. Goof Off worked with minimal impact to surface, although this is not recommended.
LOSER – Wood Veneer was harder to clean with water. Water may have had a negative effect due to results of liquid test. Permanent marker could not be removed with water. Goof Off worked, but took longer to scrub off and left a cloudy imprint moments later.
Test Four: Scratching
You have a car. You have keys. You have a desk.
Key run along each surface. Increased pressure applied over multiple attempts.
WINNER – HPL and TFL both stood up to the key very well. Due to the different colors in surface finishes, it was impossible to tell if one was more scratch resistant than the other.
LOSER – Wood Veneer definitely scratched much easier than both laminates. Scratch marks were highly visible.
Test Five: Scratching
You’re a high-energy and spirited individual prone to dropping heavy objects, flipping over your desk and… well… let’s just do this.
We dropped an eight pound weight with soft edges from about 5 feet on each surface. Then we dropped a 35 pound weight with hard edges from 5 feet on each surface. Finally, we ran over each surface with a 2017 Toyota Camry.
WINNER – Wood Veneer actually withstood the impact best by a small margin. This was most likely due to the hard wood veneer not cracking as easily under the heavy weight. Most surfaces withstood the 8 pound weight with soft edges with minimal damage – with the exception of TFL when the weight came down on the edge of the surface. All surfaces sustained notable damage with the 35 pound weight. The car did no visible damage to all three surfaces.
LOSER – TFL seemed to show the most damage with substantial cracking and denting after the 35 pound weight test.
So there you have it! For all of you whisky drinking, Hot Pocket eating, office weight lifting viewers… you now know what could happen to your work surface if you don’t change your ways!
For those of you trying to decide which work surface option is right for your space and your budget, give us a call or connect with us to speak with an experienced workspace expert!
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