Install a Custom Countertop
Give your kitchen an updated look with new custom laminate countertops.
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Materials and Tools:
3/4-inch particle board (two sheets)
laminate for countertop (two 5'x10' sheets)
contact cement (one gallon)
air compressor with hoses
flush-trim bit for router
1. Carefully remove the old countertop.
Important: You'll want to use the old countertop as a template, so use caution to avoid breaking it as you remove it.
2. Trace the old counter onto the new particleboard. This will be the line for your cut.
Note: For the new countertops for this project, we used particle board, or MDF, as the base, covered with a sheet of laminate. You can find laminate in a variety of styles and designs at any home improvement center.
3. Using a circular saw and jig saw, cut along your traced lines to cut out the new counter shape from the particle board.
4. For the edges of the counter, you'll want to add a layer of MDF all around on the under side to bring the edge thickness of the counter to 1 1/2 inches. Glue and staple (or nail) the edge pieces to secure them (figure A).
5. Using a belt sander or hand-held router, make sure all edges are smooth and the transitions are seamless (figure B). Note that any imperfections will show through the laminate, so take your time with this step.
6. Cut three inch strips of laminate for the edges. The extra width allows ample room to work.
7. Apply the laminate. Apply contact cement to the edge of the particle board, and to the back of the laminate. (The particle board may require two coats.) Once the cement is set (tacky, but not dry), stick the laminate on.
Important: When applying laminate, make sure everything lines up before you stick. Once it's placed, it is permanent.
8. Trim the edging. Use the router and trim the top and bottom of the edging.
Note: It's important to install the edging first so there's no space for moisture to get in behind the laminate. Once installed, the top laminate will overhang the edge, so moisture will run off, not behind, the edging.
9. Rough cut the laminate to fit the top. (Cut it a couple of inches oversized. You will trim off the excess once it is applied.)
10. Apply the contact cement to the MDF surface (figure C), let it set until tacky, then apply the top (figure D).
Tip: When applying the laminate to the top, use thin strips of scrap wood as spacers. Set the strips every 16 inches on the counter, then put the laminate over the strips. Pull the strips one by one, until it is stuck. Roll over the entire surface with a laminate roller, or use a block of wood, to press it down firmly.
11. Once the laminate is in position, apply strips of blue painter's tape to hold it secure while the glue cures (figure E).
12. Once the cement has had time to cure, trim the laminate using a router and flush-trim bit. Run the router around the perimeter, trimming the laminate to the edge.
13. Once the laminating process is complete, install the new countertops.
14. To reinstall the sink, measure for proper placement, mark the edge of the opening with blue tape, then trace the perimeter of the sink to provide guides for cutting out the opening.
15. Drill a hole through the countertop to start the cut, then cut out the opening with a jig saw.
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