The two common types of countertops are pre-formed and self-rimmed. Pre-formed tops come assembled from the manufacturer while self-rimmed tops are built at the job site using raw materials (laminates and plywood or particleboard).
Most Common Mistakes
Commons mistakes include not sanding countertops to the contours of the wall, not applying the finish surface accurately, not cutting the sink opening to the proper dimension, scratching the countertop over the course of the installation, puncturing the countertop with screws while fastening it to the base units, and not spreading enough adhesive. This will result in bubbles or may lift up in corners or along the edges.
Self rimmed plastic laminate countertops are both handsome and durable for the hardworking kitchen, and they are not all that difficult to install. The sheets of 1/16" thickness are stocked with most dealers in 4x8 foot sheets but can be special ordered in a range from 2 to 5-foot widths and from 6 to 12-foot lengths. The laminate should be stored in your kitchen for at least 48 hours prior to installation to have time to adjust to the temperature and humidity.
Before You Begin
Make certain that the surface upon which you will be applying the laminate is even and smooth. If you will be topping an existing laminate counter, repair any gouges or loose edges and be sure the existing laminate is glued firmly. If the counter is rimmed with a metal band, remove it and fill any holes with wood dough.
Step 1 - Plan
When planning your cuts, reserve the factory edges for those counter edges that you will be unable to reach with a router, such as where the countertop meets backsplash. The laminate should be cut with a sabre saw fitted with a fine-toothed blade, and cuts should be made leaving a half-inch margin on all sides but the factory edge.
Step 2 - Clean
Use a soft paintbrush or a vacuum cleaner to completely remove any dust from the counter and the back of the laminate strip being applied.
Step 3 - Spread Cement
Spread contact cement onto the counter edge with a 3/4 inch natural bristle brush, covering the entire surface. Then brush the contact cement onto the back of the strip of laminate and allow both of these to set for about 15 minutes. It will be ready for bonding when a piece of brown paper will not stick to it. When working with contact cement, make sure your work area is well ventilated.
Step 4 - Drape
Drape the strips of brown wrapping paper over the edge of the counter so that the two cement covered surfaces will not come in contact with each other.
Step 5 - Position
Position the strip close to the counter edge so that the 1/2" margin is extending evenly above and below the edge of the counter. This may take two people. If one end of the strip is to meet an inside corner, start by butting that end into the corner, pulling out the first piece of paper, and pressing the strip onto the counter's edge.
Step 6 - Remove
Work your way along the edge of the counter, alternately removing a piece of paper and pressing the laminate into position. Be sure the laminate is exactly where you want it.
Step 7 - Use Rolling Pin
Once the entire strip is in position, roll over it several times with a rolling pin or a hand roller using firm, even pressure to ensure a good bond.
Step 8 - Trim
Trim the laminate with your router fitted with a carbide-tipped flush-cuffing bit. Hold the router in position with the lower part of the faceplate flat against the newly laminated strip and the bit held just above the excess. Slowly lower the router until the bit meets the countertop then move the router along the strip, trimming flush with the countertop. Trim the excess laminate on all sides of the edge, moving in a counter-clockwise motion.
Step 9 - Sand
After laminating all of the counter edges and trimming them with the router, smooth the top edges with a sanding block fitted with 80 grit sandpaper. Then dust thoroughly. Do not touch the sandpaper to the laminate surface as it will leave permanent scratches.