Cutting and Installing Laminate Countertops

One of the reasons laminate countertops are so popular is the fact that, with the right equipment, they can be installed by anybody. This lowers the costs even more, and can help cash-strapped homeowners save some money. Cutting and installing laminate countertops can be surprisingly easy if you are confident about your DIY skills.

Tools You’ll Need

Laminate is supplied in the form of thin sheets, which you’ll need to cut to about the same size as the surface you are installing them on.

Once glued in place, the excess is trimmed and the corners smoothed.

To do this you’ll need

  • a sabre saw
  • a J-roller
  • a router with a laminate cutting bit to trim the excess
  • a flat file to smooth any corners

Cutting Laminate Countertops

The first step is measuring the laminate and marking the pattern you intend to cut. Measure twice, cut twice! Double check your measurement because otherwise you could be wasting a large amount of material. In order to avoid seams you should buy a roll of laminate that is wider than your countertops and aim to cut as large a piece as possible.

Use a large, flat surface to lay the Formica on, and then draw the size of the laminate countertop base. Remember to include cutouts for sinks and any other inlays. You will need to use a sabre saw with a fine-tooth blade to carefully cut the laminate, but don’t follow the pattern exactly.

Top tip: Cut it a centimetre or two bigger than the real surface you intend to use. It is always easier to cut a bit extra afterwards than to try to fix a countertop laminate that is too small.

Installing Laminate Countertops

It is generally easier to ask somebody to help you with this, especially if you intend to cover a large surface with laminate countertops.

Prepare the surface first by following the instructions in the adhesive you are using. This would involve lightly sanding the plywood base and wiping off any dirt or dust. In order for the laminate glue to stick properly the surface needs to be clear of dust, oils and any residual dirt. Otherwise your laminate may lift! If you are resurfacing countertops, the process is very similar but you may need to remove the existing adhesive before applying new one. You can use specific solvents to achieve that.

Apply contact adhesive evenly to the back of the laminate sheet and to the plywood base, but make sure the glue is spread well and there are no obvious bumps. While you need a good amount of glue (every single square inch of both surfaces should be covered) you don’t want to add so much it overflows and creates bubbles.

Set the laminate sheet in place, and slowly apply pressure with the j-roller (or even a wallpaper installation tool if you don’t have a j-roller handy) making sure there are no bumps on the surface and you apply pressure evenly. If you can get somebody else to hold the sheet in place it becomes much easier, but you can do a small surface by yourself.

Once the laminate is glued to the base, the next step is removing any excess by trimming with the router. Rough spots and sharp edges can be smoothed with a flat file. always filing in the same direction to avoid the different layers on the laminate surface splitting.

If you aren’t very sure about how to do this, or it’s your first time cutting and installing laminate countertops, practice on a small surface first. Use the off-cuts from the laminate roll and a spare piece of plywood and just practice adding the glue and slowly rolling it together.

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