Melamine laminate is a hard resin commonly used as an overlay for building materials like MDF or plywood. In its most basic form, melamine is an organic compound that when combined with formaldehyde forms a durable thermosetting plastic. This 'plastic' is then added to a paper base to form the laminate that covers a variety of materials and household objects.
Melamine is a laminate, but not all laminates are melamine. Following? When melamine laminates are manufactured, they’re created by molding a melamine/formaldehyde combo into a durable plastic sheet. This is done by applying a certain amount of pressure-per-square-inch to the laminate. However, the amount of pressure applied changes the classification of the laminate. Melamine is a low pressure laminate (LPL) because it is made with a pressure of 300-500 pounds-per-square-inch. High pressure laminate (HPL), also called Formica, is made with over 1400 pounds-per-square-inch of pressure.
While the melamine itself is waterproof, if water gets to the particle board underneath, the dampness could cause the melamine to distort. Similarly, while melamine is very durable, if you incorrectly install or assemble a piece of laminate furniture in a way that damages its particle board, it could cause the melamine to chip.