Making Laminate Countertops

kitchen butcher block countertopMaking laminate countertops is not rocket science; like anything else DIY, you just need to have the right tools to do a professional job. You will need laminate material (your choice of color or pattern), contact cement, a utility knife, 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.

Surface Prep

Start with sanding the surface on which the laminate will be applied (old laminate or three quarter inch plywood) to take off the top wear layer and provide a better sticking surface for the contact cement. Take off the dust using a vacuum cleaner or a damp rag.

Now, measure both the length and the width of the countertop. Transfer those measurements to the new laminate sheet adding one or two extra inches for finish trimming.

Cutting

You want to be careful cutting the laminate as it is quite expensive. You can cut it with a special power saw blade or score it with an extremely sharp utility knife blade using a straightedge as a guide, and then snap it along the resulting line.
Measure and cut strips in the same way for the laminate countertop edges.

Now, apply the laminate edges first by painting on contact cement to the laminate and counter edges. Allow it to set until it is tacky to the touch, and then press the edge banding carefully into place.

Then use your J-roller to firmly adhere the laminate to the counter edge and eliminate any air bubbles. Trim the excess laminate with a router and laminate bit. Be sure the bit you use is carbide and is equipped with a roller!

Masking

Next, apply painter’s tape to the edges to protect them during the next step. Use your paint brush again to apply contact cement over the surface to be covered up and the bottom of the new laminate top. Once it becomes tacky, place your wooden dowels roughly every four inches on the surface to be covered up.

These are used to create spacers so you can work one bit at a time methodically. Once the two contact cement surfaces touch the bond is made. Now, place the new laminate on top of the dowels.

Locating Spacers

Align the top carefully and take out the dowel spacers one at a time working your way from one end of the countertop to the other. Proceed slowly and methodically to prevent shifting because as stated above, it's stuck once it is in contact with the cement. Use the J-roller as you go to press it firmly in place and run out any air bubbles.

When you get to the end trim the edge just as you did before. Proceed slowly; laminate is a plastic and if the router bit heats up too much it may start to melt. You may have to stop on a long run and allow the bit to cool.
When you have completed installing all the trim and tops to your countertop you still have one step to go.

The edge around the border of the countertop will be quite sharp. Take a wood file and using the flat side, stroke down and at an angle on the edge starting from one end and working your way to the other. Keep an eye on it and keep everything smooth and equal.

See Also: Painting Laminate Counter Tops

photo by Chris Darling / CreativeCommons