Installing Formica

Installing formica is not really that hard of a project and like anything else DIY, you just need to have the right tools, patience, and some common sense to do a professional job. You will need formica or more broadly, laminate (Formica is a brand name), contact cement, a utility knife, a small paint roller, a straightedge (a sheetrock T-square works great), J-roller, router with a carbide laminate bit, a wood file, painter's tape, small paintbrush, and finally, wooden dowels.


Begin by lightly sanding the surface on which your formica is to be applied. This surface will most likely be old laminate or three quarter inch plywood. This is to take off the top wear layer and to provide a better sticking surface for the contact cement. Then take off the dust using a vacuum cleaner or a damp rag.

Now, measure both the length and the width of the project surface. Transfer those measurements to the new formica sheet and add one inch to allow for finish trimming.

Cut the Formica

Be cautious when you cut your formica because it is expensive. It is easiest to cut it with a special saw blade on a table saw or with a Skil saw but in a pinch you can score it with a very sharp utility knife. Use your straightedge as a guide. Carefully snap it along the score line.

Do the same for edges or any other pieces. For the sake of argument we can assume your project is a counter top.

Prepare and Apply the Formica

If you have edges on your project (such as on a counter top) do these first by spreading contact cement on both the formica and the project surface. Whether you use the paint roller or brush depends on the size of the formica. Let it to set until tacky to the touch, and then press the formica carefully onto the project.

Now use your J-roller to get a good adherence and to squeeze out any air bubbles. Trim off the excess formica with your router and laminate bit. Be sure the bit you use is carbide and is equipped with a roller on the tip.

Apply painter’s tape to the edge you just trimmed. This will protect it during the upcoming step.

Use your paint roller or brush again to spread contact cement on the surface to be covered up (counter top) and the bottom of the piece of formica. Once it becomes tacky, set your dowels about every four inches on the countertop. These work as spacers allowing you to work one bit at a time. Once both of the two surfaces with the contact cement make contact, the bond is made. Carefully set the new formica on top of your dowels.

Align the top carefully and remove your dowel spacers one after the other as you work your way from one end of the countertop to the other. Proceed slowly and carefully to prevent shifting because as I said earlier, once it's stuck, it's stuck.

Use your J-roller as you go, firmly pressing it in place and eliminating air bubbles. When you reach the far end, trim off the edge with the router just like before. Go slowly; laminate is a plastic and if the router bit overheats it may begin to melt. It is advisable to stop occasionally on a long run to let the bit cool.

The Finishing Touch

When you‘re finished installing the trim and top of your countertop you’ll still have one important step to go. The edge of your project will be very sharp. Take your wood file, and using the flat side, stroke it downwards and at an angle on the edge starting at one end and proceeding down to the other end. Take your time with this step and keep everything smooth and equal.