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Old 07-16-2011, 10:13 PM   #1
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Removing Formica


I covered a surface with Formica using contact cement. How can I remove the Formica without destroying the wood underneath?

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Old 07-16-2011, 10:31 PM   #2
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Removing Formica


Not gonna happen. Why wouldn't you replace the particle board as well?

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Old 07-16-2011, 11:10 PM   #3
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Removing Formica


I pulled some OLD formica off the walls in one of my bathrooms. It was glued to beadboard. I used a putty knife to pry up an edge and started breaking the formica off in chunks. It was a PITA, and afterwards I had a TON of glue to remove from the beadboard. I did it with razors/naphthalene spirits/lots of time.

If your substrate is relatively stable, you might be able to 'pull it off'. Get it?
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Old 07-16-2011, 11:37 PM   #4
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Removing Formica


The secret is heat.
A hair drier will soften the glue, but there is an overlap between hard and melted where it gets very sticky and difficult to work with.
A heat gun will melt the glue and allow removal. Some pieces of the partical board may break loose, but you can always epoxy it smooth with a filler which contact cenment can stick to.

The heat remains on the surface in the old formica for a second before it transfers to the glue. Keep the heat gun moving and just slight upward pressure on the edge of it. With a little practice you'll be done in no time.

Protect the painted walls with a shield made of sheet metal, and have good ventilation.

I've heard you can just formica over the old formica as well, but never tried it.
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Old 07-16-2011, 11:41 PM   #5
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Removing Formica


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Originally Posted by Ralph9999 View Post
I covered a surface with Formica using contact cement. How can I remove the Formica without destroying the wood underneath?
In my opinion removing the Formica and trying to reuse the old top is not practical for several reasons.

1. It is time consuming and somewhat expensive.
2. There is some danger involved as you are going to work with a highly flammable solvent.
3. By the time you figure your material cost and time you will find that it wasn’t worth it.


If you decide to give it a try make sure that there are no open flames or pilot lights, no smoking, plenty of fresh air and protect your eyes and skin with safety goggles and apply skin cream to exposed skin and use solvent resistant rubber gloves.

The materials that you will need are as follows:
1) Several thin putty or narrow spackle knives
2) Lacquer thinner
3) Safety glasses and rubber gloves
4) Shim shingles, available at most home bldg supply centers
5) 3-4 pc’s of wood 1/2-3/4" thick, 3-4' long
6) Lots of newspaper to stand your Formica top on and absorb the mess.
7) A fresh water supply nearby for accidental contact with exposed skin as the lacquer thinner will Burn.


Also avoid working in direct sun or in a heavy breeze but make sure you have PLENTY of fresh air!! And Turn OFF any and all pilot lights and no open flames or smoking.
When finished soak all rags, newspaper, wood etc in water and allow to dry before disposing. If you happen to put your wet rags, newspaper, wood etc in a closed trashcan or bucket they can burst into flames (spontaneous combustion) so be careful.

Now stand your Formica surface on edge. Take a thin putty knife or spackle knife and work it into the crack where the Formica meets the wood. Once you have the knife inserted a little pour a little lacquer thinner into the crack. The lacquer thinner will soften the adhesive and you can start working the knife in deeper a little at a time. As the glue loosens you start inserting thin wedges of wood, shim shingles are good for this as they are tapered from real thin to about 1/4" thick. As the crack opens keep adding more lacquer thinner and drive the shims in until you can start inserting pieces of longer thin wood up to 1/2" thick and as long as the surface is wide so that they reach the bottom. Try to work the whole edge evenly so as to keep a nice pocket for the thinner. Leave the outside edges intact until the very end.


Once the Formica is removed you need to scrape off as much old adhesive as possible and smooth out the surface as any globs or built-up areas of adhesive will show through the new Formica. Patch any gouges, sand smooth and then apply a new peace of Formica if required.
Still want to try it?
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Old 07-16-2011, 11:59 PM   #6
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In my opinion removing the Formica and trying to reuse the old top is not practical for several reasons.

[FONT=Times New Roman]1. It is time consuming and somewhat expensive.
It is NOT a time or $$ saving project. The only reason I did it was to preserve the original 1890s beadboard. Otherwise..... I would have taken the mutimaster and a sledgehammer to it.
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Old 07-17-2011, 12:05 AM   #7
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It is NOT a time or $$ saving project. The only reason I did it was to preserve the original 1890s beadboard. Otherwise..... I would have taken the mutimaster and a sledgehammer to it.
do you want to do it again?
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Old 07-17-2011, 12:08 AM   #8
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do you want to do it again?
For the right price.... or for the purpose of bringing my old house to it's former glory. I won't tell you how long I spent restoring a pair of double-hung wooden sash windows... But the work beautifully now (top and bottom) and I kept the 120 year old glass. I know I'm crazy. Double paned glass is for sissies who don't know how to put on a sweater in the winter time
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Old 07-17-2011, 12:14 AM   #9
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Hey when you enjoy the fruits of your labor with a beautiful outcome who counts the hours spent to achieve beauty and satisfaction on a job well done.
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Old 07-17-2011, 01:31 AM   #10
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Removing Formica


if you tried using a putty knife with no luck then you may want to try a heat gun I used it once and it worked real good the Formica was layed over plywood the tops were custom cuts. my client just wanted a new look with the same existing lay out and I didnt want to have to remove and recut all the plywood patterns from scratch just didnt make sense not to mention any damages to the existing walls. what you want to find yourself a heat gun and putty knife or a flat bar worked good for me. what you want to do is pry off as you heat the surface sections at a time I was working with two square foot areas at a time just be patient and you will be done in no time. by the way by doing this proses you save yourself a pretty good money good luck
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Old 07-17-2011, 04:01 AM   #11
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Removing Formica


Why not sand, prep, and lay new formica over the existing surface?

If the existing formica counter is flat and square, why not use it as a base?
Adding 2/16"won't be noticed in most cases, and it is a flat, hard, true surface.

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