Laminate is a common choice for many retailers when they are building their fixtures because it is durable, customizable, and long lasting. But that doesn’t mean it’s immune to problems.

After 25 years of designing and manufacturing retail fixtures, and often being asked to consult on projects that have failed, we can tell you why most laminates crack, split or delaminate.

Reason #1: Too much moisture

Water can destroy a fixture – especially if the water is allowed to sit for a long time. As soon as water gets into the underlying material (below the laminate) it will start to swell and peeling and delamination will occur. Keep your fixtures away from water and condensation, and use proper cleaning products to ensure a long life for your fixtures.

Reason #2: Too little moisture

The humidity of your retail environment plays a large part in the lifespan of your retail fixtures. Too humid, you’re going to run into trouble with swelling (as discussed above). Not humid enough, you may find your laminates shrinking relative to the core causing unsightly gaps.

You’re also going to want to consider where your fixtures are coming from. If you’re purchasing custom retail fixtures from a manufacturer in Calgary (where it is notoriously dry) for a retail location in Calgary…your fixtures will be used to the climate. If you’re bringing your fixtures in from overseas, you can’t really know how your local climate will impact their lifespan.

Reason #3: Holes not pre-drilled

This is a big one for gloss laminates. Laminates can be brittle and if you don’t predrill holes (with the proper type and size of bit) BEFORE you try to put screws into your panels, cracks will form. We recommend using a drill bit slightly larger than the screw you want to use to get through the laminate layer, and then change to the right size bit once you’re in the core. This will ensure your screw won’t actually touch the laminate or cause it to crack.

Reason #4: Edges not rounded

90-degree angles are not good for inside cut-outs when you’re using laminate. When ever you need to cut a square out of a laminate surface you want to make sure you’re using rounded edges (make sure your fixture maker knows to radius the corner). If not, you’re going to end up with stress cracks again.

No retailer wants to invest in beautiful laminate fixtures only to have them crack, split or delaminate. Make sure any company you’re purchasing your fixtures from has a warranty to protect you. A good warranty will cover poor workmanship as well as supplier issues such as a bad batch of laminate, glue that doesn’t stick or a number of other issues outside of the builder’s control. And if you are hiring independent installers, make sure they have experience installing the materials you’ve chosen. When possible, try to find suppliers that understand your climate and are willing to give guidance on proper humidity levels for the fixtures. Lastly, if you’re moving into a space where you won’t be able to control the temperature or humidity of your retail environment, talk to your design and manufacturing team to ensure you’re choosing the appropriate materials.