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Laminate Countertops . . . How to Make Your Own.

So, you’re thinking about a laminate countertop (like Formica, Wilsonart, etc.), you’ve seen kitchens that spark your creativity, you want a smooth counter you can roll out a pizza on, you want it within your remodel budget and you want to DIY, right? You’ve got a decision to make.

If you have all the tools, or are looking for an excuse to buy the tools needed to make your owncustom countertop from raw sheets, scroll down to STARTING FROM SCRATCH below. If you want to do the measuring and installing only, start here.

INSTALLING IT PREMADE

Premade means the laminate is adhered to 3/4″ particle board (or similar) complete with backsplash, edge and counter or counter alone. They’re made in standard cabinet depths with a 1″ (aprox.) overhang.

Called post-form countertops they’re made in standard lengths – 6′ to 10′ and also come mitered at 45°, right or left. Cost: less than $150 for a 10′ section.

Note that post-form countertops are somewhat fragile until they’re installed, especially the mitered ones. You should be careful how you handle and support them. Also, errors are sometimes not easy to correct or hide.

STARTING FROM SCRATCH

Building a kitchen counter is not too difficult, but you must be willing to go carefully. And you can go right over the old countertop, provided it’s well sanded, smooth and absolutely glued tight to the substrate. Now may be a good time to give some thought to what you’re going to do about the backsplash, too, if you’re not set on making yours from the laminate.

Tools and Materials List

You may print this and use it as your checklist.

Hand Tools:

           Measuring tape
           Hammer
           1 1/2″ to 2″ Putty knife
          Carpenters Pencil
           3′ or longer straightedge
           Carpenters’ square
          Safety goggles
           Notched spreader (trowel)
           Roller or rolling pin
           Fine-toothed flat file

Power Tools:

           Belt sander
           Fine tooth carbide blade saw (saber, circular, table)
           Router with edge-trimming bit for plastic laminates

Materials:

           Plastic wood or wood putty
           3 or 4 Medium and medium-fine-grit sanding belts
           Rags
           Tack cloth
           Precut plastic lam edge strips (or cut your own)
           Sheet(s) plastic laminate*
           Nonflammable contact cement
           Brown paper or wax paper
           1 pint solvent for cement

Preparing the Counter Surface

           Sink any protruding nails with a hammer and a nail set
          Fill cracks with plastic wood or wood putty
          Sand the surface with a belt sander and medium-grit belt
          Smooth and level the substrate thoroughly

The lam sheet should be large enough to cover the entire countertop or end at a place you can live with a seam. Buy precut edge strips to finish the edges, or if you’re good with a table saw, cut your own.

Measuring and Cutting Tips

Wear safety goggles to trim the sheet, as plastic laminates are very brittle. Support the sheet firmly as close to the cutting line as possible and hold it down firmly to prevent shattering and chipping. Remember, Cut the lam sheet face down with saber saws or circular saws, face up with table saws. Test on a scrap of material.

Edge Strip and Bonding Tips

Apply contact cement to the back of each edge strip and to the edges of the substrate, using a nylon paintbrush or a notched spreader. Align the edge strip perfectly as you press it down, because once it makes contact with the cemented edge, it can’t be moved. With a belt sander and a medium-fine-grit sanding belt, sand the edges exactly flush with the counter surface, then use a fine-toothed flat file to smooth the edge in tight spots.

Use brown paper (or wax paper) between the substrate and the glued side of the lam sheet (it won’t stick) and carefully slide it out once the lam sheet is exactly in place. Use a roller or a rolling pin to press out any air bubbles left between the lam sheet and the substrate.

Clean Up

Remove excess cement from the completed counter with water or the cement solvent and scrape off large blobs of cement with a scrap of laminate, NOT a metal scraper.

Follow the manufacturers instructions, and remember to get those when you pick up your materials. Its also a good idea to have help on this project. Two people can finish a kitchen many times faster than one person alone.

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Updated: October 3, 2013 — 6:46 am

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