What Is Formica?

In modern construction and manufacturing, there are numerous materials that are available – one of which is formica, a composite material that can be used for any number of different applications. 

What Is Formica?

But what exactly is formica, and what is it used for? 

What Exactly Is Formica? 

Also known as ‘formica laminate’, formica is a type of plastic made from composite materials of paper, textiles, and a melamine resin. 

Originally conceived as a replacement for ‘mica’ – a silicate material used in electronic applications – formica has since gone on to be used for numerous different tasks, including manufacturing furniture and work surfaces, construction, and all manner of other things. 

What Was ‘Mica’? 

The predecessor to formica, mica was originally used for electrical insulation – protecting users from electrical shocks, and protecting the cables themselves from weather damage. 

A common material found in igneous and metamorphic rock, mica belongs to the silicate family, which includes sand and other elements. 

Where Does The Name ‘Formica’ Come From? 

As the product was originally conceived as a substitute ‘for mica’, the manufacturers (Faber) took that name, and branded the substance as formica – which remains a household name to this day. 

The name already existed in the natural world as a species of wood ants – a species from which formic acid, and the derivative product formaldehyde, were first isolated. However, there is no relation between the ants and the product we are talking about today. 

When Was Formica Invented? 

While seemingly a modern product, formica actually has older origins than you might think. First invented for the Westinghouse Electrical Corporation in the USA in 1912, formica was invented by creators Daniel J. O’Conor and Herbert A. Faber. 

What Is Formica Used For? 

As mentioned previously, formica has numerous applications across a multitude of industries. 

Laminated Countertops

Laminated Countertops

One of the most common products that formica is used to make in modern times is laminated countertops – a cheaper alternative to wood, and one that can be found in countless homes around the world. 

Far lighter than quartz (see also “Does Quartz Stain?“), and much cheaper than wood, this became the perfect choice for the housing boom in the 1950s, when affordable housing and consumer products were the ideal of the day . 


Formica is also used to make any number of pieces of furniture – namely shelves and bookcases – and it is widely popular due to being cheaper than wooden alternatives. 

These are commonly found in cheaper consumer items, and changed the game on affordable furniture for the consumer market. 

Consumer Goods

Consumer Goods

Formica is also used for all manner of consumer goods – especially those wherein a wood substitute is required. This usually includes wall and mantle clocks, as well as other decorative and functional pieces that are mainstays in the home. 

Wall Boarding

Along with other composite materials, formica is also used for wall boarding in construction. This proves to be a cheaper and versatile material, and one that can be used in exactly the same way that wood can. 

This has been pivotal in affordable housing over the years, and has helped to add to the rise in consumer spending throughout the decades. 

What Are The Benefits Of Formica? 

As you might imagine, formica has many benefits that make it so popular in so many different industries. 


Like many composite materials, formica is much cheaper than natural products like wood and stone, making it a great choice for consumer products and construction purposes within affordable housing. 


However, just because it is cheaper, does not mean that it cannot handle heavy loads. Formica is also one of the most durable materials on the market, which makes it a great alternative for stone and hardwoods. 

Easy To Clean

As a form of plastic, formica is also easier to clean than wood, meaning that it is a great substitute for consumer furniture and products that could otherwise become damaged throughout the trials of daily life – especially where children and pets are concerned. 

Easily Maintained

Formica is also easier to maintain, and doesn’t need the same treatments that wood and stone require. This makes it much better for those who want an easier maintenance schedule for their homes, or who might not have the time to maintain their furniture etc. 

What Are The Downsides Of Formica? 

What Are The Downsides Of Formica? 

However, there are some downsides of formica that people need to be aware of. 

Easily Warped

One downside of formica is that it can easily be warped with heat and other extreme elements. This is due to the fact that it is a form of plastic, and as such is highly susceptible to these kinds of environmental changes. 

Thin Laminate

The laminated outer surface is also prone to peeling away from the formica – something that can leave furniture looking old before their time. 

This however is the price you pay for cheaper consumer products – which are made to be replaced, rather than maintained. 

Cannot Be Repaired

Following on from the above point, formica cannot be repaired when it becomes damaged, meaning that you need to replace the entire section (or product).

This is obviously more effort to the homeowner, and depending on the needs you have, you could wind up spending more money than you would have done with wood/other materials. 

This is why it is important to do research, and make informed choices. 

Final Thoughts

And there we have it, everything you need to know about formica, and what exactly it can be used for. 

It’s certainly true that there are many materials you can choose from when outfitting your home – be them natural or synthetic.

However, there are few materials that have such a wide range of applications as formica, which explains why it remains so popular to this day. 

So if you are looking to take care of any of the tasks mentioned above, then be sure to consider formica. Something tells me you won’t be disappointed!

If you enjoyed this post, you might like our article about ‘What Color Is Slate?‘.

Luke Powell
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