A specifier’s guide to Laminex’s Formica and Melteca products
HPL and LPM go by various product names and are often referred to collectively as ‘Laminex’. But whilst they look similar on the surface, they are really very different materials – each with its own unique characteristics and advantages depending on the intended application.
This guide will give you a more detailed working knowledge of both, so you can confidently specify the right product for the project, and answer any questions your client may have – from material selection to performance and sustainability.
Highly evolved technology and contemporary design
Laminex introduced high-pressure laminate (HPL) to New Zealand in the 1950s and it quickly became the go-to choice for Kiwi home and commercial counter and benchtop surfaces. Laminex Laminate and Laminex Formica have continued to evolve into the design-driven, technologically advanced products of today.
Decorated board – or low-pressure melamine (LPM) – was developed more recently and took off just as quickly. Most people know it by the brand name Melteca, and it was designed as a cost-effective panel to build cabinetry. It was much lighter than solid wood, quicker to assemble, prefinished, and smooth for easy cleaning, with a wide selection of colours and finishes. It is commonly specified alongside HPL by NZ designers and fabricators.
HPL and LPM both look terrific, with a wide range of design options in textures and contemporary colour palettes. But what are the important material differences? Can you make a cabinet from Formica? Is it alright to use Melteca as a benchtop?
The fundamental differences between HPL and LPM
The best way to appreciate the differences between HPL and LPM is to understand the unique properties of each – exactly what they are composed of and how they are manufactured.
To create HPL, sheets of kraft paper are impregnated with phenolic resin. Designs such as woodgrains or patterns are achieved using multiple image layers, topped with an overlay paper for textural detail. After being dried and cut to size, the layers are fused together using high pressure and heat. This produces a highly durable surface that is resistant to UV, moisture, heat and everyday wear and tear.
The resulting .7mm layer can then be bonded to any substrate, such as medium-density fibreboard (MDF) or plywood for benchtops, or wall linings.
While LPM might have a similar surface appearance to HPL, its material make-up and production process are quite different. MDF is used as a rigid core, and then melamine-impregnated decorative paper is bonded to both sides.
Why and where to specify HPL
- Kitchen benchtops
- Commercial solutions
HPL is absolutely the best choice for most medium-impact applications such as kitchen benchtops, where it is adhered to a solid substrate. HPL’s inherent durability and longevity also make it a great solution for commercial use situations.
Why and where to specify LPM
- Kitchen cabinets
- Commercial solutions
LPM Melteca is made in New Zealand and the best choice for structural work – such as cabinetry carcasses, doors, panels and furniture – where its extra thickness provides greater strength. Being a prefinished panel, it is a more cost-effective choice for those applications – the product is simply cut to size, finished with edging and easily assembled into the final design.
LPM panels are also well suited to larger-scale projects needing a mix of installation efficiency, aesthetic appeal, durability and ease of maintenance – so LPM is often specified in retail, office fit-outs and multi-residential projects.
While HPL can be used for all those applications as well, it needs first to be adhered to a rigid substrate, with implications for time and work involved in fabrication. This makes it less cost effective in those uses – except perhaps for projects that prioritise durability or flexibility.
Thoughtfully designed, and made to last
With our HPL and LPM products, we draw inspiration from the colours and textures of nature, reflecting what we see in the diverse New Zealand landscape.
It’s also important to know that Laminex meets the expectations of New Zealand designers, fabricators and end users, with our over-arching commitment to sustainability in both manufacturing and product life. Melteca is based on Lakepine MDF, which is especially low in formaldehyde – in fact, it contains less than the average apple!
See and feel for yourself
Laminex has a beautiful solution for all needs, design directions and budgets. If you’d like to know more and see and feel these materials, please get in touch and order samples. If you have any technical questions, we will be happy to assist.