Choosing the perfect material to use in your home can sometimes be tricky. For example, are you debating on a melamine countertop, cabinet, or other surface and don't know if it's plastic or glass? Is melamine a synthetic material? What do you use it for?
Well, we've researched this topic extensively and have the answers below.
Melamine is a type of plastic. According to the FDA, melamine is a chemical compound that you can use for various home products and applications. Furthermore, melamine is often used as a finish for countertops and shelving, as it's considered a laminate.
So, even though your melamine isn't glass, there are many ways to utilize it.
As we start this article, we will cover all things melamine and discuss what it's made from. Whether you need to find new construction materials, have melamine in your home, or have other questions, we're here to help. With that said, let's dive right into this post!
What Is Melamine Made Of?
Melamine is a chemical compound that's organic-based and nitrogen-rich.
Furthermore, melamine is essentially a type of plastic. This material is often used for dinnerware, construction, and other home products and is pretty inexpensive to buy.
Most manufacturers create melamine products by blending melamine resin with strengthening materials, hence why they're so durable.
You might even know melamine because you have laminate countertops, which likely are melamine material. This plastic is incredibly versatile and is used globally.
That said, it can be tricky to know exactly what your melamine is capable of, depending on how much and hard you use it. Since this is a synthetic material, melamine isn't always as durable as natural stone, wood, or metal.
To get even more specific, melamine's scientific material/name is an organic compound with the formula C3H6N6.
What Do You Use Melamine For?
Depending on the application, you can use melamine for anything from dinner sets to bathroom or kitchen cabinetry. As we said, this synthetic material is versatile, often taking on many shapes and sizes.
For example, according to Forest Plywood, melamine is an excellent alternative to wood cabinets in the kitchen or bathroom because of its durability.
On top of that, melamine works well for shelving and display counters, office furniture, whiteboards, and even flooring. This compound tends to work closely with laminate and is considered one.
Therefore, you might have melamine dishes and be eating off a melamine countertop without knowing it. One of the main routes people take with melamine is cabinetry, as it's cheap and lasts pretty long.
Displays2Go explains how melamine works perfectly as an overlay for building materials like MDF or plywood, often the final seal or coating.
Of course, there are things you can't do with your melamine, which we'll detail later on.
Is Melamine A Sturdy Material?
In general, you can expect melamine to be a sturdy material. Since it's created through pressure, your melamine surface will withstand everyday wear and tear pretty well.
That said, melamine is cheaper for construction and products, often lasting much shorter than higher-quality or natural materials. For example, melamine can't tolerate extreme heat, which can become a problem in the kitchen.
Therefore, you may not want melamine-finished countertops if you often cook, as this can cause them to break down prematurely. However, melamine is water-resistant, scratch-resistant, and stain-resistant and should be very easy to clean.
Most synthetic products and materials are pretty durable, but that can be less true as they age. Unlike stone or something naturally-derived, your melamine compound loses strength over time.
That can become problematic for your cabinetry, display shelving, counters, or dinnerware, so it's something to keep in mind.
Is Melamine As Strong As Plywood?
Although melamine is often used instead of plywood and vice versa, it's not quite as tough. Most times, plywood will be a bit stronger than melamine.
That's because it's naturally-derived wood versus a chemical compound turned into plastic. Furthermore, plywood is lighter than melamine, which may surprise people comparing the two.
Even though plywood is lightweight, it holds durable properties and ages better long-term than melamine-coated products/surfaces.
With that said, melamine does have better waterproofing qualities. So, you might prefer a melamine cabinet over plywood in a bathroom.
Many pros recommend plywood for "dry" kitchens, ideally towards the upper sections of your cabinetry. Towards the sink or dishwasher, however, melamine may be the winner.
So, in a water-resistance test, your melamine would be technically the stronger material.
Can I Use Melamine For Flooring?
Yes! If you prefer melamine over wood or vinyl for your floors, that should be fine. As we said, melamine has great waterproof abilities, making it perfect for moisture-prone floors.
Usually, melamine works as an overlay for other materials, like MDF or plywood, being more of a sealant or top layer. Remember, melamine is a laminate, meaning it works well as the final touch on a stronger underlying material.
According to Capital Resin, melamine is a popular choice for many everyday objects, such as kitchenware, tile flooring, and laminates, because of its smooth, durable finish.
Again, that doesn't mean melamine is better than hardwood by any means, but it's certainly a nice finish for an alternative flooring material. Just because something is synthetic doesn't mean it can't be hardy!
Is Melamine Good For Countertops?
Yes. As long as the counters you build aren't intended for high-heat cooking, melamine will work nicely. As we mentioned above, melamine is a laminate, so you want to treat it similarly.
For example, a melamine countertop won't hold a steaming pan of food like a stone one could. However, you can get away with less scratching, staining, and scuffing if you have melamine, so that's a major plus.
One of the interesting features of melamine is its ability to stay pretty for long periods. Especially for a countertop, the number one thing homeowners worry about is damage: which melamine can help prevent.
On the other hand, melamine isn't as durable as natural materials for countertops. So, after ten years, you'll likely need to replace your kitchen counters if they're made with melamine.
According to IE Cabinets, you may consider using melamine countertops in the bathroom. Remember, this material is plastic, making it essentially water-resistant.
That can make for easier cleaning and upkeep, especially in moister rooms in your home. Of course, melamine is inexpensive because it looks manufactured, so keep that in mind.
Is Melamine Safe? Is It Toxic?
Overall, melamine is a safe material to use and build with. According to medical professionals, melamine dinnerware and other surfaces we come in contact with are generally safe and non-toxic.
However, if you have a melamine surface or dish, it can't be exposed to high heat (like a microwave). When the plastic is in too high of temperatures, that can cause it to break down and become toxic.
Therefore, avoid placing melamine dinnerware or other products in super warm places. It's also assuring that acute melamine poisoning is incredibly rare, so that should put your mind at ease.
Like any synthetic product, melamine has its pros and cons. For example, long-term exposure to toxic melamine can cause kidney stones, kidney failure, and death; again, this isn't common.
Additionally, there are no health risks for melamine counters, cabinets, flooring, or other construction-related surfaces, making it safe.
How Long Does Melamine Last?
You can typically expect melamine products to last anywhere from five to 15+ years. Depending on what melamine you're working with (counters, cabinets, dishes), this will impact their lifespan.
The same goes for cabinetry, especially if you take good care of it. One mistake people make with melamine surfaces is not taking care of them.
Although your counters may not be marble, that doesn't mean you should abuse them. Treat a melamine surface as you would any other, cleaning it routinely and not placing hot items directly onto it.
The same applies to flooring, so you need to clean melamine and not drag heavy furniture across it. Laminate gets a bad rep for being flimsy, but that's partly due to neglect by the owner.
How Much Does Melamine Usually Cost?
The final price tag can vary depending on what form of melamine you're buying. For example, if you want to purchase melamine panels for construction, you could pay upwards of $43 per panel.
Moreover, if you want to buy dinnerware or display ware, expect to pay between $6.44 per product to $44.00 per product. Again, this greatly depends on what you're getting and using the melamine for.
Moving to countertops, installing melamine should be between $10 and $20 a square foot. Your entire countertop project should be in the $790-$1,628 range, but this depends.
If you need to purchase melamine for your flooring, that pricing should stay between $3.80-$4.80 per square foot of installation and roughly $2.00-$3.00 per square foot of product.
To Wrap It All Up
Whether you want to try using melamine in your home or already have something made from it, it can't hurt to know the basics of its composition. We found that melamine is plastic, not glass.
Specifically, melamine is an organically-based chemical compound often used for dinnerware, cabinets, shelving, flooring, and countertops. Furthermore, melamine is a great finishing layer for other materials, like plywood and MDF.
You can use melamine for moister areas in your home because it is water-resistant. Again, this plastic comes in all shapes, sizes, and prices, so research what you want to use it for.
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