Much like Wonder Bread, an iconic brand that came to symbolize the exuberance and optimism of post-war America, high-pressure laminate countertops like Formica were a common sight in diners, soda shops and nearly one-third of all homes by the early 1950s. Gleaming countertops like the one seen above in an award-winning home restoration in Pasadena, Calif., were seen as a triumph of American modernity and manufacturing ingenuity.
After falling from favor for several decades, Formica is now experiencing a resurgence in popularity as it turns 100 years old. There are now literally thousands of colors, patterns and textures of Formica. And with the adoption of new manufacturing processes that use nontoxic resins and recycled paper, Formica has become the darling of many budget remodelers and green builders.
What is Formica? Layers of paper soaked in resin and compressed together at extremely high pressure to form a surfacing material. It’s named Formica because it was originally produced as a substitute for mica, a naturally occurring substance that was used to insulate electrical material.
What are some of the cool properties of Formica? It’s super thin and very strong. Since it’s just paper, you can print virtually any pattern or design on it.
How is Formica used? Today it’s primarily used as a decorative application for countertops and tabletops, walls and other surfaces. It was initially developed by a research engineer at Westinghouse to be a strong, lightweight material for electrical insulation. By the 1930s, major automobile manufactures like Chevrolet, Buick, Pontiac and Studebaker were using Formica to make timing gears.
What can you use Formica for? We’ve seen people doing lots of creative things with Formica lately, from making jewelry and sculpture to creating accent walls and colorful DIY headboards.
See even more reasons why Formica is making a comeback in kitchens, baths and many places inside and out of the home.