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How to Clean and Refinish Corian® and Other Brands of Solid Surface Countertops

Corian® Sonora - matte finish

Image 1: Corian® Sonora in a matte finish

With the holidays right around the corner, you’re probably thinking about cleaning and getting the house in order before all the guests arrive. Two questions that come up quite often at this time of year are:

  • What is the best way to clean and refinish my Corian® [solid surface] countertop?
  • How can I remove stains from my solid surface countertop?

Whether you have Corian®, Avonite Surfaces®, LG HI-MACS®, Staron®, Mystera®, or any other type of solid surface countertop, the basics are the same since they are all made of acrylic-based resin material and fillers (except Aristech®’s STUDIO Collection® which is a more translucent resin).

Consider the Finish and the Color

Consideration of color is important when it comes to the use patterns and the way stains and blemishes are approached because darker colors show use more than lighter colors.

Before using any type of cleaner or performing any repairs on your solid surface countertop, consider the degree of shine on the finish and the color of the solid surface. The degree of shine on the solid surface finish is achieved by using increasingly finer grits of sanding abrasives. For a glossy shine, after using the fine abrasives, polishing with a buffing pad and polishing compound is the final step of the process. We mention this to assure you that what we discuss below is in keeping with the way the finish was originally applied to your countertops.

Examples of Shine

Examples of shine can be seen in the images of this article. Image 1 is done in a flat/matte finish where none of the objects on the countertop have a reflection. Image 2 has a satin finish denoted by the “not so distinct” reflection cast by the objects on the countertop. Image 3 presents a semi-gloss finish with a moderately distinct reflection. Image 4 shows a gloss finish where the reflections of the objects are distinct.

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Make Holiday Magic: A Corian® or Solid Surface Cutting Board to DIY For!

Finding cool, unique gifts can be tricky. At this point, you might be feeling the crunch! Not only do you want to find a gift that your loved one or special someone will like—the greater challenge lies in finding something that will stand the test of “that’s a GREAT gift!” time.

Well, we have an easy solution that will set you out as the gift-giving guru this season. Creating a Corian® (or other solid surface material) cutting board is a personal, thoughtful and unique way to bring a smile to your loved one’s face.

Who Doesn’t Like A Custom Gift

The first step is to decide on a design for the cutting board or trivet. Consider creating a custom design that reflects a favorite shape or hobby of your gift recipient. You can also create a design that reflects a popular or regional shape (like a specific tree leaf, animal or activity) or one that will remind them of the season itself (like a snowman or Christmas tree ornament.)

Whatever your design, one thing is for certain, using any solid surface material like Corian® will ensure you are creating a quality cutting board that is not only beautiful, but also durable. All solid surface material is non-porous, so your gift recipient will never have to wonder about bacteria getting trapped on the surface. Solid surface material also provides a more resilient surface for cutting on than plastic or wood, which can often sustain deep, permanent cuts. To the contrary, scratches and cuts can be easily sanded out of its surface. Plus, your lucky gift recipient will also soon realize numerous other benefits to owning a solid surface cutting board or trivet, such as being dishwasher safe and heat and stain resistant.

Let’s Get Started!

As you will see, creating a custom cutting board out of solid surface material is an easy way to give your loved one or that special someone a unique gift they are sure to cherish. Get started by following these few simple steps:

STEP 1: The first step is to create a template for the design. You can create a template in a couple of ways. One is to take a piece of cardboard and create a template of the desired shape and draw an outline of the shape onto the solid surface material. The second way is to create a more substantial template out of solid wood, particleboard or MDF (medium density fiberboard.) Sand the edges of the template to ensure there aren’t any bumps, as you will be using this edge to guide the ball bearing collar on the router. Attach this template to the piece of solid surface with dabs of hot melt glue or use this template to draw an outline of the shape onto the solid surface material.

STEP 2: If you have it, use a router with a ball bearing collar or guide and a carbide bit to rough cut out the desired shape from the solid surface (the collar will rest against the template and enable you to maneuver with more accuracy around the attached template.) The optimal method would be to cut the shape out with a jig saw within 1/8” of the template edge. This will allow you to then dress the shape out with the router bit.

Although it’s not the preferred method, if you don’t have a router you can also use a jig or scroll saw to cut out the entire shape—you will just have more sanding to do in order to smooth out the rough cut edges.

STEP 3: Determine what you want your finished edges to look like. If you are creating a cutting board or trivet with straight-line edges, you could add a rounded or beveled edge. If your design is more intricate (like an animal silhouette or shaped object) you will most likely want to just sand the edges smooth or slightly round them.

STEP 4: (Optional) Add a creative flourish to your cutting board or trivet by engraving a special message or adding a contrasting inlay. You can accomplish this by using a router with a 1/4” diameter bit to carefully scroll through the surface of the material (as if writing), making a groove. You can also clean out the groove and apply a different colored solid surface adhesive for contrast. For example, if the solid surface material you chose was white or cream, you could slightly overfill (to allow for shrinkage) the groove with a red or green adhesive. Once the filled adhesive has dried, rough sand the surface smooth with 180 grit sandpaper and a random orbit sander and move on to Step 5.

STEP 5: Put the finishing touch on your gift by sanding and polishing the cutting board or trivet surface to the desired finish. Start out by sanding the surface with 280-grit sandpaper, switching to a 400-grit to achieve a smooth semi-gloss finish. For a high-gloss finish, follow up with 600-grit and 1,000-grit sandpaper. Lastly, apply an automotive polish with a 200-grit polishing compound to put the final touches on your high gloss surface.

With a little bit of creativity and thought—while following the five steps we’ve laid out above—you’re bound to create a unique gift that will impress your loved one or special someone for years to come.

Happy Holidays from the entire SolidSurface.com family to yours!


How to Make Solid Surface (Corian®) Windowsills

Using Corian® or solid surface window sill treatment is a great way to create beautiful, long lasting, water-damage proof, windowsills for your windows. It’s time to let go of your fears of what will happen to your windowsill surface if you accidentally over water your plants, forget to close the window during a rainstorm, or if condensation builds up on the inside of your window and drips on the sill. Breathe easy—these mishaps have no effect on non-porous, solid surface windowsills!

Solid surface material has many attributes that contribute to making a windowsill a labor of love and ease. Here are six…

  1. No grain and is Non-porous.
  2. Cuts and sands like hard wood.
  3. Virtually “seamless” after gluing pieces together.
  4. Sunlight and UV resistant.
  5. No coating to peel or fade.
  6. Won’t rot, mold or mildew.

The Evidence Speaks for Itself

Solid Surface Window Sill

Picture 1. Solid Surface Window Sill.

Solid Surface Window Sill

Picture 2. Solid Surface Window Sill.

As you will see, solid surface windowsills speak for themselves. Pictures 1 and 2 below show a Corian® Glacier White window sill that has been in place 17 years and has always had plants sitting on it. This sill has withstood water rings and if a metal pot left a rust ring on the sill, Comet and a Scotch Brite pad removed it with a few scrubbing motions. Otherwise, maintenance consisted of simply wiping it clean with a damp cloth.

In the first picture you can see the three main components that make up the sill: 1) The overhang that extends down at the front of the sill; 2) the ends (ears or wings) of the sill that extend beyond the edge of the window casing; and 3) the flat surface between the overhang and the window that is commonly referred to as the deck.

Create Your Own Corian® or Solid Surface Windowsill

windowsill-figure-01 windowsill-figure-02To create this sill, glue together three strips of solid surface material to create the overhang and ear (or wing) portion of the sill. (Figure 1.)

Next, glue the three-strip portion to the front edge of the deck piece that sits in the sill area. (Figure 2.) Notice, that even though there are three seams present, there is no evidence of their existence after the excess glue squeeze-out is sanded away. Building the overhang in this fashion is advantageous because it can be sized so the wings and overhang are exactly what you want, without having to trim them to size after they are glued to the deck piece.

It’s a lot easier to create and finish some aspects of the overhang prior to gluing it to the deck piece. For example, trimming the wings to fit around the window casing is not necessary if the pieces that make up the overhang are sized correctly before attaching them to the deck. On the other hand, routing a profile on the overhang is easier if it’s crafted after the overhang is attached to the deck. Remember to leave ⅛” on either end of the deck to allow for expansion.

Once the windowsill is completed and dry fitted to the windowsill area, it’s ready to be attached. The sill must be supported by an adequate substructure of either wood or masonry materials. Depending on what it’s being attached to, you may want to include an insulation layer like a thickness of wood or other insulating sheet under the deck of the sill. Attach the deck of the sill to the substructure with several daubs of 100% silicone sealer.  Apply a 100% silicone bead of caulk around the perimeter of the deck and overhang to stop water seepage and let it set overnight. Now you can enjoy your new trouble free windowsill for years to come!

How to Make (Corian®) Solid Surface Shower and Tub Walls

There are many compelling reasons to use Corian® or another solid surface material in your bathroom. These range from aesthetics, to ease of cleaning and its antiseptic properties, to its durable nature. And if that’s not compelling enough, did you know…if you’re like the average person, you will take a shower 7,300 times in your lifetime? That’s a lot of time spent in your shower space. If that’s not a compelling enough reason, we don’t know what is!

Mystera Solid Surface used for bathroom countertops, shower walls, and wainscoating.

Mystera Solid Surface used for bathroom countertops, shower walls, and wainscoting.

Corian® and solid surface material can be found in virtually any color and hue. There are solids, small and large particles and veined or swirled patterns to choose from (See Image 1. Example of veined product called Mystera.) It’s as simple as choosing that perfect color to adorn your walls from the lists of hundreds of solid surface colors available.

Cleaning solid surface is a breeze compared to tile, granite, cultured marble, natural marble and quartz. Tile has grout lines that can collect soap scum and mold and granite is porous and easily stained. Cultured marble possesses a gel coat finish that is vulnerable to scratches and natural marble can be eroded with acidic cleaners. You also need to be careful not to scratch quartz with abrasive cleaners. In sharp contrast, you can easily clean and remove stains and scratches from solid surface using cleaners like Comet and by simply using sand paper.

Durability is also a hallmark of solid surface materials.  It is nonporous and invites the use of both abrasive and chemical cleaners. This nonporous quality also effectively inhibits the growth of mold, mildew and bacteria, making it a perfect candidate for your shower or bath.

Installing Shower and Bathtub Walls (Surrounds)

So, you’ve decided to surround yourself with Corian® or another solid surface material for one or more of those “7,300” showers or baths that we mentioned previously. Now it’s time to get down to the nuts and bolts of installation.

Let’s start out determining how much material will be required.  For bathtub surrounds the long wall will need two sheets. Two sheets may be needed for the end walls as well, depending on the size of the tub enclosure. Showers may or may not need more than one sheet per wall, but most will likely have at least one wall that will. Shower and tub surrounds are usually made from 1/4″ solid surface material, but 1/2″ material can just as easily be used, it’s just not as flexible and heavier.

Since existing walls are not always square, it may be necessary to scribe a wall sheet in order to get a good fitting cornerRough cut the sheets with any type of saw and then route them to remove any rough areas left by the saw blades. Dry fit the sheets to see if adjustments to the edge of the sheet are needed.

Scribing is one of the key techniques for installing material against odd shaped or crooked walls for a perfect fit. Once a line is scribed using a pen and compass, it’s a simple matter of cutting or sanding off the excess material to create the correct fit. If the wall is narrower than 30″, use a narrower, square sheet of material, scribe it, and then transfer the scribe to the actual piece.

Make sure to leave 1/8″ for expansion and contraction between sheets on the long wall(s), in the corners, and at the bottom. Cutouts for the faucets and other fixtures can be made with a router or hole saw. Finish off this part of the job by sanding the edges of these openings to remove any chips.

Dry fit the pieces and make any necessary adjustments. You can bond the solid surface material to any wall that is constructed out of water resistant drywall, cement board or the previous wall if it is sound and water resistant (but not particle board). Coat the surface with a white primer suitable for adhering properly to that type of surface to keep this wall from showing through the 1/4″ solid surface. For 1/2″ solid surface this is not as likely to happen.

Adhere the solid surface to the wall using 100% silicone sealer and some hot melt glue. Apply the silicone to the backside, one inch from the edge around the perimeter of the solid surface sheet. Dot the inner part of the sheet with thumb size daubs of silicone in a 12” grid pattern. Once the silicone is in place, apply the hot melt glue to the wall in several places (do not apply it to the solid surface, as it will set too fast.) This will help hold the sheet in place until the silicone dries. Quickly press the sheet in place and hold for a minute or two while the hot melt glue cools and sets.

Next, after cleaning with denatured alcohol, caulk all the horizontal and vertical seams with color matched silicone. [Pro Tip: In order to get a perfect looking caulked joint, apply the bead of silicone so that it fills the gap. Lightly spray the caulk in the joint with denatured alcohol and run you finger along it to smooth and remove excess caulk. Any excess can be removed with denatured alcohol on a clean white cloth.]

To create a different look other than exposed caulked seams, do the following:

    • Batten strip, or turn around and use as corner molding, for covering seams.  Adhere to wall with silicone.

      Batten strip, or turn around and use as corner molding, for covering shower wall seams. Adhere to wall with silicone.

      Batten Strip—a batten strip made of 1/4″ or 1/2″ solid surface can be used to cover the seam in the long wall. It can be whatever width you like, but about 1-1/4″ to 1-1/2″ is good. Take a look at the batten strip from 1/4″ material in Figure 2 below. It has 45-degree bevels on the two edges that leave 1/16″ of the edge unbeveled. Place two small beads of silicone on the full length of the backside of the strip and position it over the seam and press it into place. You can use hot melt glue or tape to hold it in place. Remove any squeezed out adhesive with denatured alcohol on a white cloth.

    • Corner Moulding—use the exact same strip to cover the corner seams. Invert the strip in the corner so it spans the corner at a 45-degree angle.  Apply small beads of silicone the full length of the strip and press into place. Treat any adhesive squeeze-out as discussed above. Use tape to hold the moulding in place until the silicone sets.
    • Edge Trim— For 1/4″ thick walls, the trim to go around the top and sides can be created from 1/2″ thick solid surface. Cut a 1/4″ deep notch (rabbet) in a 1-1/4″ to 1-1/2″ wide strip of 1/2″ solid surface. Ease (round over) the outside corners and edges of the trim strips. Fasten the trim in place by using silicone on the part of the trim that laps over the sheet on the wall, as well as to the trim that butts against the original wall. Trim is not needed for a 1/2″ wall. Instead, use a router to create an edge profile or just ease the edge.
  • Invisible Seam—use a hard seam with color matched solid surface adhesive to create a seamless joint where multiple sheets of solid surface are being installed. There are two ways to approach creation of an invisible seam:
    • Cut them by using a mirror cut and then use a tongue and groove or a wavy edge seam router bit along the joining edges. Using one of these style bits will make it easier to align the two sheets when joining them with adhesive. This also reduces the amount of sanding needed to make the two sheets flush. Fasten this sheet to the wall by apply a large bead of silicone to the backside of the seam, in addition to the normally applied silicone detailed above.
    • Hard seam a backing strip of 2″-3″ to the back of one of the sheets. Leave half of the backing strip sticking out and make sure no adhesive remains on the portion sticking out. Notch the wall so the backing strip does not get in the way when the sheet is adhered to the wall. Once that sheet is in place, hard seam the second sheet in place. After you sand away the glue squeeze-out the seam should disappear. (NOTE: Do not hard seam corner joints since this will eliminate the space needed for expansion.)

Visit our Working With Solid Surface and SolidSurface 101 guides to learn more great fabrication techniques.