For several years now, solid surfacing has been the material of choice for homeowners looking to upgrade their kitchen and bathroom countertops. While solid surfacing entered the market as an upscale product with a matching upscale price, those prices have started to come down over the past few years. This has been driven partly by increased competition from imported (and less expensive) natural granites and engineered quartz. Also, new manufacturers have entered the American market with lines of solid surfacing. Not only has competition lowered prices -- making the material more accessible to a broader demographic of homeowner -- but it has also created a greater breadth of color and pattern choices.

"We're pleased to see that we're pulling [market share] up from the lower end of the market spectrum that had been owned by ceramic tile and laminates," says Jerry Bailey, co-owner and president of LG Hi-Macs. "The typical homeowner wants the properties associated with solid surface, such as seamlessness and nonporousness."

Demand for the material hasn't slackened, even with competition from natural and engineered stones, according to manufacturers. "Remodeling's at an all-time high, and people want to put in a material that's going to last a lot longer than what's in place, and they're willing to upgrade to solid surfacing," says John Scott, vice president of Swanstone products for The Swan Corp.

Solid surfacing manufacturers have continued to introduce color blends with larger and varying particulate sizes to mimic the appearance of natural granite and engineered quartz slabs.

Snazzier colors and patterns are on the horizon, too, such as Formica's new vanity sink in a stainless steel-like color and LG Hi-Macs' new acrylic-based, large-particulate Volcanics Collection.

"People have more choices to select colors and products from," says Katherine Lee, national sales manager for Samsung Staron.

Competition is also spurring new developments in the applications of solid surfacing. DuPont Corian, for example, recently introduced its Bas Relief line, originally available only for commercial applications, to the residential market. The Bas Relief collection features patterned textures intended for vertical applications, such as backsplashes or walls. And several manufacturers are currently researching additional uses for the material.

"Looking beyond the kitchen and bath areas to more applications where solid surface products can be use" is the only way the category will grow, Scott says.

As the category continues to mature, solid surfacing's future looks bright. "I see it becoming more of the mainstream material because of the selection that will be available with all the different manufacturers," says Tripp Parker, sales and marketing director for Transolid.

"We want to start looking for a way to reposition this material as the new American standard for countertops and homes," Bailey says.