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Gerry Kiernan 10-09-2008 06:09 PM

Counter top plastic laminate
Hi out there.

We are going to recover our kitchen counter tops with plastic laminate and I would like to know what is the safest and easiest way to cut it without cracking it.:huh:

Thanks in advance.


Nestor_Kelebay 10-10-2008 12:22 AM

Probably the best advice I can give is:

Lay the laminate on top of your counter, and trace the perimeter of the counter on the underside of the new laminate with a pencil or felt pen.

Score down the outside edge of that felt pen line with a plastic laminate knife (which costs about $5 or so at any hardware store). Once you score it deep enough, it will break along that scored line when you bend it.

Sand down the old laminate and spread contact cement on it, allow time for the contact cement to dry, and cover it with strips of wax paper. Spread contact cement on the underside of your new laminate. (Before doing this, I'd try sanding down some sample chips of laminate and sticking sample chips of laminate to them with contact cement. I don't know for certain that contact cement will bond to the top of plastic laminate. It'll bond to the bottom, but it has to bond well to both before you can contact cement plastic laminate to plastic laminate. Otherwise, you might be best off removing the old plastic laminate and bonding the new plastic laminate to the plywood under your old plastic laminate.)

Place the new laminate on top of the wax paper, contact cement side down. Use a pair of clamps to clamp one edge of the new laminate down to the counter so it doesn't move during the gluing process. Lift the opposite edge of the laminate and remove as many wax paper strips as you can. Press the new laminate down onto the exposed contact cement. Remove the clamps, pull up the opposite edge of the new laminate and do an encore peformance so that the new laminate is glued down.

Now, use an ordinary steel file to file the new laminate down so that it's flush with the old counter top. Alternatively, use double sided tape to stick some of the thinnest sheet metal you can find to the edge of the counter, and cut the new laminate close to flush with the old counter using a hack saw or jig saw fitted with a metal cutting blade. Then remove the sheet metal and file the new laminate down flush with the old counter with an ordinary file.

Metal cutting blades have closely spaced teeth, which is what you need for a thin material like plastic laminate.

PS: The "right" way to do this is to cut the new laminate considerably larger than the old counter, glue it down, then trim it down with a bearing piloted router bit so that it's the size and shape of the old counter, and then file the edge down as necessary with an ordinary file. Normally, you would laminate the edges of the old counter top first, then laminate the top. However, a router or laminate trimmer is gonna cost at least $100. A bearing piloted bit will be another $25 at least.

I own a small apartment block, and I removed the old plastic laminate from my plywood counter tops and installed new prefab plastic laminate counter tops over the old plywood. I think that's a better way of doing this job than laminating over the existing laminate or replacing the existing laminate. You can see what this looks like on my web site at:

Gerry Kiernan 10-10-2008 09:41 AM

Thank you for your advice Nestor. It is pretty much along the line of what I was thinking, but it's always nice To hear from someone who has worked with the stuff recently. I will take a stab at lifting the old laminate, but if it is glued down too well I will sand it down and overlay on top. The edges of the counter are trimmed in maple strips, so I am going to remove them, refinish them and reinstall.

I have routers, and piloted bits, so I think that will be the way to go for trimming it.

Your website is well set up for displaying your suites. Real easy to navigate.

Thanks again


Nestor_Kelebay 10-12-2008 12:39 PM

Here are some additonal tips that should help:

1. If you intend to replace your sink, place a large piece of glass on it (like a sliding window) before removing it. If necessary, take the strainer basket out of it and slip a light through the hole. Place a sheet of paper over the glass (like tracing paper) and draw the shape of the sink on the paper. Enlarge that shape by 1/8 inch all around (or thereabouts) to determine the size and shape of the hole you need to cut in the new top.
(Cut out the shape you draw on the paper and determine the principle axes of the shape by folding the paper in half in both directions. That will allow you to ensure that your sink hole is centered with any holes you cut for the faucet and parallel to the counter top.

2. Paint any and cut edges of the particle board with several coats of oil based paint to water proof them. That includes the sides of the holes you cut for the sink and faucet, underside of the top near those holes, the back side of the front bullnose and the mitered edge where countertops might meet.

3. The way some counter top installers install prefab tops is just plain dumber than necessary. They put the top on the cabinet carcass and scribe the contour of the back wall onto the top of the backsplash, and then cut along that line. A smarter way is to put a board between the front of the cabinet carcass and the back of the front bullnose, and THEN scribe the contour of the back wall onto the top of the backsplash. That way, the top fits to the back wall equally well, but it will also be installed parallel to the cabinet. If you just go according to the back wall, then the top might not be square to the cabinet. Using the board to ensure the top is parallel to the cabinet carcass when you scribe insures that it will be that way when installed.


Gerry Kiernan 10-13-2008 10:44 AM

Thanks Nestor.

We will be keeping the original sink, so that part will be pretty straight forward.


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