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    Five durable interior surfacing materials for homes to hospitals

    Geraldine Chua

    The sleekness of metal, the warmth of timber, and the raw aesthetic of concrete – interior surfaces matter when it comes to the feel of spaces, whether they are private or public.

    The term ‘interior surfaces’ is broad, and can be used to describe anything from flooring, walls and ceilings, to upholstery and materials used for joinery and accents. Some of the products included under this umbrella category are paints and coatings, vinyls and textiles, and materials such as natural stone, solid surface materials and plastic laminates.

    While these materials and products are often chosen based on their aesthetic qualities and price points – with an almost dizzying myriad of options to select from – the longevity of these interior surfaces is also a key consideration for interior designers and architects. Floors, walls and ceilings need to be durable (i.e able to withstand wear, pressure, and damage), both structurally and in terms of quality, as do things like benchtops and joinery, which must be able to stand against the test of wear and time.

    This is especially true for public institutions such as hospitals, but just as applicable for retail environments and residential applications. But, as Barclay Gillett, National Specification Manager at Austaron Surfaces, notes, interior surfaces are quite often ‘miss-specified’ and unable to stand up to the rigours of their environments.

    “Polyurethane would probably be the most miss-specified material I see out there in the marketplace, plus a few other ones like certain laminates,” says Gillett.

    “As a designer, specifier or architect, you’ve got to ask yourself, is that material I’m specifying fit for purpose? It’s got to stand the test of what it’s intended to do.”

    Some common properties that define the durability of products are UV stability (UV light can cause non-resistant materials to fade or discolour), their level of porosity (the lower the better) and resistance to abrasion and scratches, and whether they are homogenous. The renewability of a product is also important – whether it can be easily repaired when it is damaged.

    Here are five innovative interior surface products available in Australia that can stand more than a few knocks and scratches:

    Dekton by Cosentino

    An evolution of Cosentino’s engineered stone products, Dekton is an ultra-compact surface – a material pressed into a large format compact material – made with a mixture of the raw materials that is used to manufacture glass, porcelain materials and quartz surfaces.

    It is produced with Sinterized Particle Technology (TSP), a process which replicates the metamorphic changes natural stone undergoes when subjected to high pressure and temperatures over thousands of years, but accelerates the process to create the product in just a few hours.

    This ultra-compaction process is responsible for the material’s mechanical properties, which contributes to its low porosity, making it low-maintenance. With five times the flexural strength of granite, Dekton can be installed thinner (0.8cm – 2cm), over greater span large formats (320cm x 144cm), and is highly resistant to scratches, knocks, stains, burns, abrasions and weathering.

    DEKTON was used in Restaurante Dani Garcia, Marbella, Spain

    Unlike Cosentino’s previous products, Dekton has high UV resistance and can be utilised in external applications. Design-wise, it can be manufactured in colours identical to wood, rust, natural stone and metal, and in a variety of textures such as rippled, leather, denim, slate, brushed or coated.

    Staron Solid Surfaces by Austaron (Samsung)

    Design by Dune Design in collaboration with Rork Projects

    Solid surfacing materials are typically known for their high resistance to stains and scratches, and Samsung’s Staron Solid Surfaces, manufactured from a natural mineral refined from bauxite and blended with pure acrylic resin, is no different.

    With 0.004 per cent porosity, Staron prevents stains from penetrating its surface, allowing benchtops to be hygienic and easy to clean. According to Gillett changes in the ingredients used to make the product, such as the company’s decision to use high quality alumina hydrate in the resin, have improved its performance.

    Design by Sublime Architectural Interiors

    With no need for any finishing polishes or sealers, Staron is similar to Dekton in that it has a strong UV stability. It is also repairable and renewable, which means that after years of use it can simply be sanded and restored back to its original condition.

    The solid surfacing product is seamless and flexible, able to be bent into any shape and used as a huge expanse with no need for joints. Residential applications include integrated heatrods, drainers, edge profiles, and as benchtop to splashback. In retail applications, the translucency of selected colours allows Staron to be backlit and illuminated.

    Austaron is close to releasing a new line which could take the market in a new direction, says Gillett.

    Corian from DuPont

    Like most materials, interior finishes and surfaces with dark, heavily pigmented colours are more sensitive and require more care and attention to maintain their look. Dupont’s new Corian DeepColor Technology seeks to address these issues, delivering greater depth of colour and improved durability to its other dark Corian colours.

    The technology offers minimised scratch visibility by 50 per cent as compared to Dupont’s previous ranges. It also ensures improved colourfastness in hot and wet environments, and reduced whitening caused by impact, heat or thermoforming – processes that previously created stretch lines when Corian was used to create complex shapes and forms.

    The range has expanded to include 11 dark coloured options, from black to browns and greens.

    Compact Laminate from Laminex

    Laminex Alfresco Compact Laminate

    Compact Laminate is a decorative panel designed with thermosetting resins that are homogenously reinforced with cellulose fibres and manufactured under high pressure and temperature. This gives it durability and inherent strength, while making it self-supporting and moisture resistant.

    Suitable for both vertical and horizontal applications, the panels can take rough treatment, and are scratch, wear, stain, moisture and impact resistant. Each panel is manufactured with a black core that when machined, presents a distinctive black edge which serves as a unique design feature. Its machinability is similar to hardwood.

    Seating systems with Laminex Multipurpose Compact Laminate

    Laminex Compact Laminate comes in four ranges, each with its own particular properties, applications and decors. One range suitable for interior applications is the Laminex Multipurpose, a GreenGuard Certified product that is non-porous, easy to clean, and proven to prevent the growth of bacteria on its surface up to 99 per cent within 24 hours (certified antimicrobial to JIS Z 2801:2000)

    Laminex XR Grade Compact (pictured above) is another range. A stain resistant decorative panel, it can be used in more unforgiving applications, such as for prison furniture and public amenities. It is graffiti resistant (tested as per ASTM D 6578-00), with an Electro Beam Cured (EBC) surface for enhanced chemical resistance and hygiene properties. It is also non-porous and resistant to acids, alkalis, and corrosive salts.

    Both ranges are backed by a 10 year limited warranty.

    FORESCOLOUR by Porta Commercial

    FORESCOLOUR is a FSC certified solid wood based panel board composed of wood, resin, wax and natural colours. It features consistent colour distribution as organic pigments are integrated directly into the wood fibres.

    According to Porta, this enhances the durability of the product, allowing it to maintain its appearance in environments “where laminates and painted surfaces show scratches and chips”.

    The engineered coloured board, available in nine colours and in a plain or embossed surface, is made using eco-friendly (E0) colour fast materials, and can be machined to create three dimensional effects. A polyurethane coating with UV filter is suggested for premium colour and stability, with both plain and embossed ranges suitable for office signs, bookshelves, art works, and interior uses. 

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