Laminate (Formica) countertops are a form of plastic and while they are extremely hard-wearing, over time styles change and even laminate can lose its ability to resist staining and start to show scratches. If your laminate countertops are showing their age and need to be replaced, you don’t have to go to the expense of buying a brand new countertop, you can relaminate your own countertops. Relaminating isn’t very difficult and can usually be handled by a person with only a little DIY experience.
Step 1 - Get Ready
Start by measuring your existing countertops. Replacement laminate sheets are available at most consumer home improvement stores usually in 5’ or 10’ sheets. You can cut them to size your self (see below). Some stores will cut them to size for you. If you do get your laminate cut at the store, be sure to have it cut a little larger than your measurements so you can trim them in place.
Besides the replacement laminate sheet, you will need some sandpaper, contact cement, a number of small dowels or thin pieces of wood (long enough to extend more than the width of your countertop) and a roller (a rolling pin will do).
To cut and trim your laminate you will need either a laminate cutting blade or a utility knife, a fine-toothed saw blade for your circular saw or jigsaw, or a laminate cutting bit for your router. Any or all of these are available at home and hardware stores.
Step 2 - Relaminate Your Countertops
Sand your existing countertop to rough it up and give the contact cement a surface it can grab on to. After sanding, clean and vacuum away all the dust to ensure the contact cement will make a strong bond with the counter.
Next, spread a thin layer of contact cement on both the sanded countertop and the underside of your laminate sheet. Give the glue some time to set up (usually 5 to 10 minutes) but check the manufacturer’s instructions on the can. While you’re waiting, place the wooden dowels about 18” apart along the length of your counter. (Don’t worry, they won’t stick.)
Once the contact cement is ready (slightly tacky), place your laminate sheet over the old countertop resting on the wooden dowels. It’s a good idea to have a helper for this step since the laminate sheet can be awkward for one person to position properly.
After the laminate is positioned, start at one end and remove the first wooden dowel. Press the sheet down firmly onto the counter and use your roller (rolling pin) to ensure there is a good bond and eliminate any air bubbles. Now, move onto the next section by removing that wooden dowel and rolling that section down. Work your way along the length of your counter, removing the dowels one at a time and attaching the new laminate.
Finish up by trimming the edges flush with your countertop.
Step 3 - Cut Laminate
You can cut your laminate to size using a sharp utility knife and a straight edge. Measure carefully, then using a straight edge as a guide, score the laminate. Bend the sheet until it snaps along the line.
A fine tooth saw blade will also cut laminate. To prevent the laminate from chipping while you’re cutting, run a strip of masking tape along the cut line and since power saws cut on the upstroke, cut from the back side of your sheet.
Router bits designed specifically for cutting laminate are also available and these can make trimming and edging easy.