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Old 08-23-2008, 09:51 AM   #1
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Removing fromica from countertop


I want to replace my counter tops, however I need to remove the formica from the countertop because top was attached to the base prior to the formica being laid. My problem is I'm pretty sure that the countertop is screwed to the base , so I will need to remove the formica laminate to get to the screws. Is there some type of solvent that can be used to lossen the glue and work the formica lamenate up?
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Old 08-23-2008, 11:01 AM   #2
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Removing fromica from countertop


The Formica was probably attached to the countertop substrate with contact cement; what you seem to be looking to do is find all the screws that hold the substrate to the cabinet frames, and remove the Formica there in order to remove the screws...?If I have followed you OK, that sounds to me like a heck of a lot of work providing you know where the screws are...miss one or two and you're back to square one.

I don't know of any solvent you could use to go through contact cement (I'm sure they are one or two) but the time involved to me rules this option out. Gotta be a better way.

No, I think this is a call for courage and a saw. Make some cuts where the cabinets frames aren't and then pry the substrate up in smaller sections. Sure, there's a risk you run with the frames but I'm also sure you aren't the first person to have this happen to, and thus, countertop installers have seen this before.

Hopefully, those with countertop experience will chime in here. Those guys know.
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Last edited by ccarlisle; 08-23-2008 at 12:38 PM.
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Old 08-23-2008, 11:25 AM   #3
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Removing fromica from countertop


Pretty good advice from ccarlisle. That contact cement sticks down hard as a rock, and I don't know of any way to get it off, especially through the formica. Not a chance!

What a bummer that they screwed the substrate down before laying the formica. That isn't a great way of doing things!

I'd suggest cutting the countertop...In place...Into manageable pieces with a circular saw, leaving the attached strips of counter in place at the joint with the cabinet carcase and faceframe. Set the saw to the exact thickness of the countertop. You can use a sawzall with a wood blade to get at the edges.

Once the bulk of the countertop is removed, you'll be able to easily get at the joint with a sawzall (reciprocating saw). Go slowly and use a 6" or 8" fine tooth metal cutting blade. You need a long blade so it will flex and follow the underside of the countertop. You'll make a careful plunge cut between the cabinet and the underside of the countertop, and follow the joint, taking out each screw (and minimal wood) as you go. I think it will be reasonably easy. Honestly, you can do a little damage to the carcase without causing any problems. If you gouge or otherwise booger it, you can add small strips of harwood or plywood where you'll never see them to give yourself something stronger to secure the counter to. Diagonal blocks at the corners can be glued and nailed in to also allow attachment of the counter from the underside. The faceframe will require a little care when cutting the counter off...Just go very slowly.
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Old 08-23-2008, 01:19 PM   #4
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Removing fromica from countertop


I remove Formica from existing square edge counter tops all the time. Or at least in the past 10 years, I've done it about 20 times.

Take out your kitchen sink and put a plastic bag over the drain pipe to prevent crap getting into the drain.

Take the drawers out and number them with masking tape so they don't become a puzzle to get back into the right positions when you're finished installing the new top.

Use an ordinary pry bar to pry the laminate off the counter top. Sometimes it might pull up a bit of wood with it, but that's not a problem.

Removing the old contact cement is easy with lacquer thinner.

For the wood top, simply paint the lacquer thinner on in a small area and scrape most of the contact cement off with a paint scraper. Then paint more lacquer thinner on, brush with the grain with a steel brush, then rub across the grain with your fingers, and it'll all roll off the wood like eraser greeblies.

If you have a laminate backsplash, that will be stuck to the wall with contact cement too. Pry that off the wall and remove any aluminum moldings. Grip a single edge razor blade with a pair of needle nose style locking pliers to make a "Nestor scraper", named after it's inventor. Paint a small area of the contact cement on the wall with lacquer thinner and shave the softened contact cement off the wall with the Nestor scraper.

Then, laminate the edges of your existing cabinet, and install a new counter top OVER your existing plywood counter top. That's the best way because it avoids having to remove the old plywood top from the cabinet.

To see what that looks like, visit my web site at:

http://www.ilos.net/~nkelebay

Last edited by Nestor_Kelebay; 08-23-2008 at 01:32 PM.
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Old 08-23-2008, 01:38 PM   #5
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Removing fromica from countertop


Yup, guess you could just install new plywood over the old, but I thought the OP wanted to replace the countertop - not just the Formica...? He was looking to find the screws, I thought...

If that were the case - and he had enough room to do that - why remove the Formica? Why not just screw in new plywood over it?
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Old 08-23-2008, 06:25 PM   #6
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Removing fromica from countertop


Carlisle:
He may say he's looking to remove screws, but there's a real strong liklihood that there aren't any screws. On my counter tops, there are several nail heads I can see in plywood, but they don't hold the plywood down. The nail holes were predrilled when the plywood top was being positioned on the cabinet, and then the top was removed, glue applied to the top of the carcass, the top set down on it, and then the nails were tapped in to ensure the top was in exactly the same position as before as the glue set up. If his tops are glued down too, he'll be able to get them off, but it's gonna be a fight, there's a chance he might even loosen the cabinet (that's nailed down to the floor), he may take some of the carcass off with the top, and it's not at all necessary. In my view it's just as good to leave the old plywood top on and laminate it's edges, and install a prefab top over it. That way you can screw the new top down in convenient locations rather than in the front and back corners where it's hard to reach.

Why remove the old Formica?

Well, the edge of the counter top is also laminated, and if you install a prefab top over your old counter top, that laminate will show. So, if you remove the laminate around the edge of the top, then the laminate on top is going to overhang the edge of the plywood a bit, and that in turn causes a hassle getting all the old contact cement off that edge so that you can laminate the edge. Also the back of the laminate on top of the counter will normally engage an aluminum molding that holds the laminate backsplash up against the wall. If you don't remove the laminate, you can't remove that aluminum molding along the back of the counter top (cuz it's nailed down under the laminate), and that means that the back edge of the new counter top will be resting on that aluminum molding. (Also, you'd have a harder time removing any laminate backsplash without removing that aluminum molding.)

It really isn't necessary to remove the old contact cement from the top of the old plywood, but I do it cuz I'm a bit of a perfectionist. It doesn't take long, and removing it makes for a cleaner surface to be working with, and that makes doing the work a little more enjoyable.

Last edited by Nestor_Kelebay; 08-23-2008 at 06:31 PM.
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Old 08-24-2008, 08:21 PM   #7
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Removing fromica from countertop


On my tombstone will be carved: there are six ways to do anything..out of the six..three will be pretty good... which ever one of the three good ways the mechanic is the most comfortable..let them do it...

(reasoning is they have the know how, tools and confidence to do it right...the way they pick.)

the above posts are 2 of the 3 good ways.


fd501 has not responded:

1. it is most unusual for the substrate plywood to be screw down from the top. ( I've seen it twice in 30 years) done by the HO and previous HO.

A. It is more cost effective to produce a counter top and back splash at a shop. Hence the norm is R&R. ( remove & replace) substrate with laminate affixed.

B. an existing plastic laminate counter top can be covered in place by another laminate. An additional substrate is not required. (It is a royal PITA) and requires a high skill level, patience, and a little luck. [hence A. is preferred by most contractors] or much higher on site fabriction rates apply.
I will post details if fd501 or anyone is interested.. back splash is still R&R.

I miss the old chrome back splash metal.. curse the new home builders thats saved a buck and came up with the 4" back splash without metal.(thus they created the new and modern look) I bought all I could find when it was discontinued.. in the early 90's.... my stock only lasted 6 months.

Does anyone know if it can still be had?

Last edited by Big Bob; 08-24-2008 at 08:24 PM.
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Old 08-24-2008, 08:52 PM   #8
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Removing fromica from countertop


OK.. to remove old laminate.

start with old sharp wood chisel... the one that has a nail dent.. tap lightly at laminate edge..pry gentlty.. when enough is raised.. use a good sturdy kitchen knife... heat gun..spray or brush in lacquer thinner.. light a cigarette.. pry gently..tap back of knife with a hammer...heat gun... get enough up to use an old broken putty knife.. repeat above... swap pry tool for sharp machete...tap..heat gun... repeat cigarette as needed..
snap off as you go.. or the laminate will restick.. PITA..
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Old 08-25-2008, 02:01 AM   #9
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Removing fromica from countertop


Quote:
Originally Posted by Big Bob View Post
OK.. to remove old laminate.

start with old sharp wood chisel... the one that has a nail dent.. tap lightly at laminate edge..pry gentlty.. when enough is raised.. use a good sturdy kitchen knife... heat gun..spray or brush in lacquer thinner.. light a cigarette.. pry gently..tap back of knife with a hammer...heat gun... get enough up to use an old broken putty knife.. repeat above... swap pry tool for sharp machete...tap..heat gun... repeat cigarette as needed..
snap off as you go.. or the laminate will restick.. PITA..
Big Bob:

No, you can't get that aluminum anymore. It's apparantly not hygenic because crap can collect in all the crevices, and then when you wipe down that aluminum to clean it, you can spread the bacteria growing in those crevices all over the laminate.

But, from what you are describing, I think someone musta stuck down your laminate with construction adhesive. I have never had that much problem removing laminate stuck down with contact cement from plywood.

I just use a pair of these:

http://www.arichard.com/en/PRODUITS_DESC.asp?ID=357582

The thin edge is sharp enough to get under the laminate and the scraper on the other end can be used as a pry bar once you get the laminate up enough.

You're description of the glue you're fighting with also doesn't sound like contact cement. For example, when you said:

"snap off as you go.. or the laminate will restick.."

Contact cement get's it's name cuz it sticks on contact. However, if you break the contact cement bond years after it was made, it will not stick on contact again. Contact cement has to be fresh to stick on contact. The 45 year old stuff still holds well, but won't re-stick on contact.

Even when I've had to remove laminate that was recently stuck down with contact cement (along the edges of the square edge top, I never had the kind of fight you're describing taking laminate off that was stuck down with new contact cement.

There are different thickness of plastic laminate; there is the regular stuff, and the much thinner "post formed" laminate. Could it be that you were trying to remove the much thinner "post formed" laminate with pry bars rather than the regular stuff?

Maybe I've just been lucky, but in the 20 kitchen counter tops I've removed the laminate from, it never took more than an hour to get all the laminate out of the kitchen and into the dumpster.

It's true. I vouldn't tell you if it vasn't true.
Why? Because I love children.

Last edited by Nestor_Kelebay; 08-25-2008 at 02:10 AM.
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Old 08-29-2008, 12:39 AM   #10
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Removing fromica from countertop


Nestor,

Thank you for your good post above...and your many thought out and articulate posts on this and other threads.

I'm glad you love children. Like Peter Pan I refuse to grow-up.

The bacteria thing & the no more metal... I thought that is why they invented steam cleaners ( the sharK).

Removing Old laminate: you are 100% correct. Most of the old I have removed were repairs to edges, back splashes, or small counter tops. They had problems and were not that much trouble. (done on site ..in place)

I probably have removed more new laminate...boogered during install. Not that we scared a lot of them going in...I have installed many a hundred counter tops. If laminate has been applied properly to substrate it is a PITA. Lacquer thinner will melt the (not cured a good long time adhesive) and evaporate quickly and allow the cement to tact up and re-stick if you are not quick enough.

VT (very thin) Laminate as used on post form counters is machine applied with lots of heat and pressure. [I could never dream of trying to overlay one of them] The cap edges are field applied and often not installed properly. Many repairs done on these.

On only a dozen or so occasions (over 25 years) Have I been called to laminate over an existing top..

If everything is stuck really good...
60 grit paper the existing laminate.add scars....clean dust off. very..very well... R&R back splash ...not worth the trouble demo b4 sanding...you can not get to the corners properly..Install edge laminate first..use router at top (corners need to be cut close so you can file where the router will not fit) PITA.

Install top laminate contact cement ( hint: make disposable brushes out of carpet scrap)...dowel rods..just like at the shop... cut the corners close so you can file...PITA...router front edge & sink cutout. Install back splash... reset sink or install new... clean-up..pack-up...go home and have a beer.

I wonder if OP discovered the substrate was NOT screwed down from the top after all.

Thank you again Nestor for helping to keep the posts as accurate as possible.

I'm just a child and I haven't got much, but what ever I have I will give it to you ....

We are what we give.

Last edited by Big Bob; 08-29-2008 at 12:46 AM.
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