Back in the heady '80s, Wilmington, Del.– based DuPont's Corian solid surfacing used to cost an arm and a leg—about $50 per square foot on the low end. But the company's patent expired, foreign companies emerged, and now you can get solid surfacing for as little as $35 per square foot.

Though still the market leader today, Corian is experiencing “solid” competition from other polymer-based surfacing, such as that produced by Wilsonart and Formica. And Asian imports such as LG's Hi-Macs acrylic surfacing and Samsung's Staron are making huge strides in the relatively short time they've been available in this country.

“Samsung was successful in Europe and Asia for about 10 years and has seen about 32 percent growth per year [since being introduced in this country in 1999],” says Dale Mandell, national sales manager for Samsung Chemical USA, in La Mirada, Calif. Despite this aggressive growth, the company's market penetration remains somewhat limited. Still, Samsung is methodically establishing its sales and distribution network, and Mandell believes the growth will be even more impressive once everything is in place.

Contrary to popular belief, says Mandell, there are no huge and surprising differences between most of the solid surfaces on the market, whether they're from DuPont, Formica, or anyone else. “The technology is not different, and the formulations are no different,” he says.

What will vary from manufacturer to manufacturer is cost. Still, that cost is more palatable than in the product's early days. Solid surfacing once carried a hefty price tag, but now, you can get it for almost the same price as custom laminate.

Mandell says Staron products range from $45 to $65 per square foot installed. DuPont says Corian goes for about the same, but adds that a selected number of products can be as low as $39 per square foot. LG Hi-Macs—available in this country since 1995—also goes for $39 installed. Coming in with even lower numbers, Avonite Surfaces says its prices start at $35 per square foot installed.

DuPont realizes that the healthy mix of competition has brought price advantages, but the company believes Corian will remain the market leader. “We have brand awareness, offer over 110 colors [and] a 10-year installed transferable warranty, and offer value to the builder,” says Valerie A. Aunet, marketing manager for the company's residential builder division. “Where we love to position ourselves to the market is in quality and service.”