How to Install a Laminate Countertop

Laminate is a popular and economical alternative to traditional stone countertops in kitchens and bathrooms. Made of plastic fused with kraft paper or particle board, laminate is a durable material available in a wide range of color options. These countertops are waterproof, heat resistant, impervious to staining, and stylistically versatile with prints often mimicking different natural materials.

Apart from these functionality benefits, prefabricated laminate countertops are simple enough to be installed as a DIY project, saving up to 50% of the overall project cost. Enjoy your own laminate countertops at a fraction of the typical cost by measuring, purchasing, and installing your own with these easy steps.

Tools:

  • Tape Measure
  • Screwdriver
  • Belt Sander
  • Hand Saw
  • Caulk Gun
  • Adhesive and Clamps
  • File
  • Scribing Tool
  • Masking Tape
  • Laminate Cutter (Optional)

Choosing the Right Laminate Countertops

It is possible to order custom laminate countertops or buy them from a selection of in-stock options from many home centers. While either option can work for your project, opting for custom laminate cabinets enables you to choose details such as the edge profile, and if and where to leave holes for a sink basin.

Measuring Your Countertops

No matter whether you choose custom laminate countertops or select something in-stock at a hardware store, it is important to know accurate cabinetry measurements before making a purchase. A good way to keep track of your countertop measurements is to quickly sketch the rough configuration of your cabinets and label the dimensions of each side. Starting along the back walls, first measure how much countertop is required to span the full length of distance to cover the full run of cabinets, adding ¾” inch to account for the countertop overhang on each exposed side. Once you know these dimensions, add an extra 1” to any edges that end adjacent to freestanding appliances, such as refrigerators or ranges, to allow for notching. Notching these edges of your laminate countertop will create a finished and professional look.

Next, measure the depth of your kitchen countertop and add ½” to the dimension to account for the countertop overhang along the front of the cabinets. Most laminate countertops come in a standard depth of approximately 25”, but you can custom order other sizes to fit your kitchen cabinets if necessary.

If you are purchasing long spans of laminate countertops, you may want to consider having the pieces delivered to your home. These unusual shapes and sizes can be difficult to transport safely in a car with limited space.

Assembling Your Laminate Countertops for Installation

Build-Up Strips

Build up strips are narrow lengths of ¾” thick wood used to add support and fill up space underneath the laminate face of the countertop. Attaching these build-up strips to the underside of your laminate countertop helps to ensure that the top drawers of your cabinetry open without obstruction from the countertop itself. You can make your own build-up strips on a budget by using ¾” or 1” thick plywood scraps since this portion of the countertop will not be visible after installation.

Finishing the Edges

Typically, the exposed ends of laminate countertops may be finished by covering them with end caps matching the color and texture of the countertop. These end caps may come in a variety of styles, including rounded forms and squared off edges. Regardless of the profile style, these end caps are ironed onto the edge of the laminate countertop, which may require minimal filing and adjustment to create a perfect fit.

Installing the Laminate Countertops

Scribe the Backsplash

If your kitchen has an interior corner, such as an L-shaped kitchen, start installing your countertop by creating a temporary joint between the two pieces of laminate that meet at the corner. Using miter bolts, attach the two portions of laminate that create the interior corner of your countertop along the underside. Once secured, you can slide the corner into place up against the wall of the kitchen. Attach a piece of masking tape along the length of the top of your laminate countertop’s backsplash so that it is possible to mark key areas with pencil as you scribe the countertop to the wall.

Using a scribing tool, note the full length of each countertop and mark the largest existing gap found between the laminate and wall. To do this, set your scribing tool to match the widest gap you encounter along the length of your countertop and make a small mark on the masking tape edge of the backsplash. This ensures a straight application of the laminate against the wall, regardless of imperfections and contours in the wall construction itself. It is usually possible to eliminate about ½” of your backsplash to accommodate a better fit to your wall, so don’t worry if you find that the kitchen wall appears uneven.

With these measurements marked along the masking tape on the edge of your laminate, it’s time to sand down the back edge of the backsplash using a belt sander. Holding the belt sander at a slight angle to undercut the laminate may help create an even tighter fit.

Cutting a Hole for the Sink

At this point, if you need to cut your own sink basin hole, remove the temporary miter bolts from the inner corner of your countertop in order to measure and cut the opening. Depending on the type of sink you are working with, it may be possible to flip the basin upside down and trace around the perimeter of the sink directly onto the laminate piece. In this case, be sure to come in about ½” along the entire perimeter to ensure enough countertop remains to fully cover the area surrounding the sink and provide sufficient support to hold up the basin.

New sinks often come with templates to help gauge the proper opening size and shape to cut in a countertop, but if you are working with an order sink, be sure to check your work for accuracy. Regardless of what the sink basin opening looks like, it’s a good idea to attach build-up strips surrounding the opening and underneath the backsplash behind the sink for additional support.

Cut the Countertop Lengths to Size

Once you are ready to cut off excess laminate to fit the countertop space, carefully mark the area you would like to cut by placing a piece of masking tape on top. This way, you can clearly see any pencil marks you make to indicate the cut line and the tape will help reduce chipping as you saw. Using a handsaw will provide you greater control over the accuracy of your cut and is recommended. Once cut, use your belt sander to get even closer to the cut line and create a smooth, squared off edge. Lastly, glue another build-up strip to the bottom of this cut edge and fix it into place using a clamp.

You may place end caps to cover any freshly cut ends of your countertop or make use of scrap laminate to finish off the edges. Either way, consider using a file to slightly bevel the edges of your countertop and remove sharp corners that can cause injury or cause fabric to snag.

Fixing the Countertop to the Cabinets

You can now push your laminate countertops back into place against the wall, apply caulk to the miter joint created by the interior corner of your cabinetry. After this, reapply the miter bolts to the underside of this joint for additional stability. Anchor the tops of your laminate countertops using steel angle supports. Be sure to make use of ⅝” long screws in order to prevent the hardware from showing through on the top of your countertop. You may want to attach these steel angles about every three feet along the full length of your countertop for a stable installation. Your laminate countertops are now successfully installed and ready for use and enjoyment for years to come!

Find Everything You Need at Grayco 

The Hardware section at Grayco Hardware & Home Center has everything you need to update your kitchen countertops. Our store representatives will be happy to provide advice and help you find what you’re looking for. Visit us today!

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