It’s a standard joke among solid surface fabricators that some people appear willing to pay thousands of dollars for a countertop just to get the free cutting boards that come along with the installation. That’s an exaggeration, of course, yet it serves to underscore the notion that it’s always important to pay attention to the little things when dealing with the public.
In the case of cutting boards and trivets, in particular, there are some very good reasons for making sure that all the little details are attended to.
Just like carpet, wallpaper and paint, matching solid surface sheets are sold in lots or runs. And while it’s possible that two sheets of the same brand and color will match even if they come from different production runs, the only guarantee of a match is if they come from the same lot.
Thus, having a cutting board hand made from the same material as the countertop ensures a matching piece is available, in the event that a repair must be made to the installation.
Less obvious, but potentially more important, is the fact that providing your customer with a cutting board and/or trivet might well be one of the best things you can do to help protect the customer’s solid surface warranty.
Virtually all solid surface manufacturers provide a 10-year warranty covering materials and labor in the event of a countertop failure. Assuming the job has been fabricated and installed properly, about the only way to void that warranty is for the homeowner to do something that is outside the limitations of normal use.
In the case of solid surface, placing a hot pot directly on the countertop is considered excessive wear and tear, and will definitely void the warranty. It’s not so much that a red-hot pot will damage the solid surface, although I have seen cases where the color has been bleached out of the material due to excessive scorching. Rather, most of the problems associated with placing hot items directly on the countertop surface have to do with one of the material’s greatest virtues the fact that solid surface can be seamed invisibly.
Even your fabricator has a hard time finding the seams in a finished countertop installation, unless he happens to remember where they were placed during fabrication. That characteristic of solid surface makes for a smooth and flowing installation, and is a major reason why it is so popular with today’s consumer. But, if your customer happens to place a hot pot or appliance directly above an invisible seam, it could spell disaster.
The reason for this is simple: Solid surface readily absorbs both heat and cold, and it is constantly expanding and contracting as it seeks a state of thermal equilibrium. If excessive heat is applied to the material, it will undergo rapid expansion. When that kind of heat occurs over a seam, the two matching pieces of solid surface rapidly expand, causing movement in the joint. The result of such movement is often a crack.
While a trivet placed directly on the countertop surface will help buffer the effects of direct heat over a seam, the inclusion of rubber feet on the trivet will effectively divert the damaging heat away from the joint and preserve the integrity of the countertop. That is because solid surface is such a good conductor of thermal energy that it is necessary to create a pocket of air between the two pieces of material, in order for the excessive heat to dissipate.
But using a solid surface trivet with rubber feet is not the only way to deal the problem of placing hot pots on the countertop deck. Another creative method that uses the air cushion principle has been developed by The Pinske Edge in Plato, MN.
Pinske markets a set of three “hot rod” patterns made from four colors of powder-coated steel, which rest in grooves routed into the countertop deck by the fabricator. Since the hot rod trivet becomes part of the countertop surface, the homeowner always has a heat shield available when a hot pot comes off the stove. Yet, because the trivets are removable, they can be washed along with the dirty dishes and returned clean to the countertop deck.
The extent of variations possible using the principle of removable metal geometric shapes is limited only by one’s imagination, and Pinske’s method is only one of many available through your fabricator.
Regardless of the design employed, hot rods offer an attractive solution to a potentially costly problem, as well as offer a subtle reminder to the homeowner that care should be taken when placing sizzling containers on the countertop surface.
Slightly more whimsical, yet equally effective for shielding solid surface from the effects of hot pans and heat producing appliances, are trivet boards cut into easily recognizable shapes. Your fabricator certainly has the capability to create cutting boards and trivets in custom shapes, but he may not deem the effort worthwhile. To that end there exist several companies that specialize in producing imaginative forms in solid surface at reasonable prices.
One of those is Eraz Corian Designs, which offers a line of stock shapes, as well as the ability to create custom profiles on demand. Dolphins, pigs, bears and hearts in a variety of colors and sizes are available at reasonable prices, as are standard geometric shapes likes ovals and rectangles. Eraz also offers an attractive thermoformed Corian stand for displaying the cutting boards while not in use.
Whether it be a square of solid surface fashioned from a sink cutout, or a custom trivet made by a specialized company, a little thing can pay potentially big dividends.
And the potential benefits both in enhanced customer goodwill and/or the avoidance of potential problems in future years are certainly worth the minimal investment involved.