Laminate Installation for Countertops

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The following instructions are intended to save you time, effort and money when it comes to installing plastic laminate or Formica on countertops.

Laminated plastics are available in many hardware and home improvement stores in a wide variety of colors, designs and patterns, and they have many applications, such as for countertops, tabletops and flooring among others. Sheets of laminated plastic are available both in dull or gloss finish, so you have a choice when preparing for a project. Laminated plastic is made from layers of paper that are injected with resin and bonded together under with a great deal of pressure and high temperature in order to form a strong, rigid sheet.

When preparing the surface- Laminated plastic sheets of 1/16 thickness are usually recommended when working on a flat surface. On vertical surfaces you should use 1/32 thickness sheets. Thoroughly sand and clean the surface where you plan to apply the plastic laminate, removing any paint, varnish, dirt or imperfections in the surface. Although many manufactured countertops utilize high-density particle board for their surfaces, regular particle board or plywood may be more ideal bases for plastic laminates.

When cutting laminated plastics- You can use a circular saw, saber saw, backsaw or utility knife to cut through plastic laminate. If you plan on using a saw, make sure that the saw blade is a fine-tooth blade. If you use a strip of masking tape along the cut line, it will help prevent chipping and make the line much easier to see while cutting. If you’re using a power circular saw, or a table saw, cut on the back side of the laminate to prevent chipping. Cut at a low angle from the front side if you’re using a hand saw to cut the laminated plastic. In order to allow for trimming, make sure to cut the sheet of laminated plastic slightly larger than what you will need. You may also consider using a straightedge or a steel square in order to create a smoother and even cut. You can use a utility knife to score the laminated plastic, then lift the shorter end and apply a slight pressure to snap the scored line. Make sure to choose the proper cutting implement based on the size of the job.

When Applying Laminated Plastics- You can usually use contact cement to apply laminated plastic. Epoxy adhesives can also be used but in general, contact cements are recommended. You should first roughen the surface using coarse grit sandpaper, but make sure to clean the sanding residue away with compressed air or a light brush to ensure that the surface is as clean as possible. Next, you will want to brush on the contact cement, applying it to both the counter surface and the back of the clean laminate sheet. After both surfaces have dried, you can lay the sheets of laminate down.

To finish Off the Job- Use a roller to apply pressure to the newly applied sheets of plastic laminate. Make sure to roll the entire surface thoroughly in order to eliminate any trapped air pockets, and to be sure that the plastic is attached firmly at all points. You can also use a wooden block and mallet in order to assure proper adhesion on the newly laid surface, by working out any trapped bubbles and pressing both contact cement layers together as much as possible. If there is any extra contact cement where it should not be, you can remove it with a special solvent, or with nail polish remover.