Relaminate a Countertop
Credit: BTomwsulcer via Wikimedia Commons

If you have a rental property or an older home with laminate countertops that are in need of repair, and you do not have the funds to install new granite or other more expensive options, the good news is that you do not have to tear out the old or damaged countertop to replace them. Instead you can simply re-laminate it.

There may actually be an even more practical reason for laminating older counters. If a home is older 30 years old, it may not have standard 24 inch cabinets that ready-made countertops will fit over without altering anything. 

But perhaps more importantly, removing older countertops will likely destroy the cabinets below and perhaps the walls they are attached to in the process. In short, replacing counters could be more money and trouble than they are worth.

The cost of laminating a countertop will range between $100 -$300 depending on several factors such as the quality of laminate and the size of the counters. Before you begin any project, make sure you have the right tools and safety devices.

In this diy project, you will be dealing with contact cement which is very strong so you do not want to breathe it in or work with it near an open flame.

Prepping the Area: Remove the Sink and Backsplash

How to Install Laminate Countertop Sheets
Credit: mjpyro

If you are thinking about re-laminating, it may also be a good time to install a new kitchen sink. In any event, you will have to remove it either way.

Begin by shutting off the water supply to the faucet and disconnect the water supply lines, drain lines and dishwasher hookup if necessary. Unscrew the clips that hold the sink in place underneath and lift out the sink.

Most laminate countertops have a lip that goes up the back on the wall and acts as a backsplash. If necessary, carefully pry the backsplash away from the wall using a scrap piece of wood to protect the wall from the prying action.

Verify that the area around the sink hole has not bubbled up from moisture and that the laminate is still secured to the countertop. If the area is swollen, flatten it with a block wrapped with sandpaper. To prevent water damage in the future, apply a waterproof polyurethane finish to the edge of the sink hole to seal it. Let it dry, then apply another coat.

Clean the laminate, then sand it with 60-grit paper so that the contact cement will have a perfect surface to adhere to when it is rolled on.

Before you begin re-laminating a countertop, make sure the existing laminate is bonded properly. If the edges are an issue, simply reapply some adhesive to secure it. However, if there are major areas that are loose, nail a layer of ¼ plywood over it, then set and fill the nail holes.  Fill the seams with leveling compound and let it dry.

Next, remove the sanding dust by cleaning the top with acetone or lacquer thinners. Be careful because they are very strong and you can become nauseous very fact unless you are in a well-ventilated area and wearing an appropriate respirator.

At this point you should consider what type of edge you will be applying. You can go with a laminate edge, or nail a wood edge in place.

  • For a wood edge, cut the wood strips to length. Miter inside and outside corners, then nail or screw to the edge. Fill the nail or screw holes with wood putty.
  • For a laminate edge, cute strips of laminate 1/8” wider than the existing edge and ½” longer than needed. Apply glue to laminate and counter edge. Wait for the glue to dry a bit then apply to the edge so it extends slightly at the top, bottom and ends. Press the strips on with a laminate roller.

Whichever you choose, sand the edge flush with the countertop using a belt sander if possible. Make sure you do not found over any edges. If you do not have a belt sander, you can use a file on the edge and a sanding block with 80-grit paper on a wood edge.

How to Cut Laminate

Cutting Laminate
Credit: Tomwsulcer via Wikimedia Commons

You will need to cut pieces of laminate and piece them in to cover all of the area of the counter. The good news is that laminate is very easy to cut. You simply score it with a utility knife using a straight edge as a guide, then snap it inward toward the score line

  1. Measure and make the piece of laminate needed for an area. When you measure, make it ¼” wider and ½” longer than needed.
  2. Place a piece of laminate on the floor and hold a straight edge tight against the mark.
  3. Run a utility knife along the mark in 3 t o4 passes, each time going a little deeper.
  4. Put your knee down on the larger piece of laminate and pull the smaller piece up toward the cut. 
  5. For smaller cuts where bending is not possible, break it off with pliers or tile nips.

Making a Seam

Eventually you will need to join two piece of laminate together such as a corner, which willLaminate Counter Top Installation TipsCredit: Tomwsulcer via Wikimedia Commons create a seam that you must address. If you have to make seams at some point, do not put them near the sink where water will eventually get into  and warp the counter and weaken the bond.

When making seams with laminate a tool called a laminate trimmer will make the job much easier. It sits at the edge and will trim an overhanging laminate flush with an adjacent surface. You will still probably have to trim some carefully by hand with a utility knife.

Mark the edges that will form the seam. Find two pieces of wood or plywood that are as long as the seam.

Position the plywood under the laminate so 1/16” of laminate extends past the edge. Set the second piece of plywood on the laminate 1/8” back from the edge and clamp them together.

Trim the laminate with a flush trim bit.

Repeat the process for the other piece of laminate that will be joining.

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Applying Contact Cement to Laminate

There are two types of contact cement: water based or solvent based.  When adhering laminate to laminate, solvent based cements provide a better bond.

  1. Lay the laminate upside down on the counter and apply the adhesive to it with a low nap roller. Try to get a consistent layer of glue along the entire surface area of the laminate. Be sure to roll it out all the way to the edges.
  2. Move the laminate to a spot where it can dry with the glue face up. By dry, I do not really mean dry permanently, but you want to give it time to become sticky to the touch.
  3. While that piece is drying, apply contact cement to the existing laminate countertop already in place.
  4. Let it dry for another 10 to 15 minutes.

Positioning the Laminate over Laminate

To prevent the cement from setting upon contact, try using some long dowels across the top to hold the new piece up while you position it in place. Then you can slowly remove the dowels.

  1. Position the laminate so it overhangs evenly along the edges.
  2. Remove the dowels one at a time while working from one end to the other. As you remove one, press the laminate down as you go.
  3. If you approach an area that requires a seam, apply one piece first, then carefully position the second piece and butt the seam together before pressing down the second piece.
  4. It only takes a few seconds and a little pressure for contact cement to bond. Use a J-roller to roll it down applying pressure along the way.
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Routing the Edges

Relaminate CountertopsCredit: Tomwsulcer via Wikimedia CommonsYou can trim off small amount of extra laminate at the edges with a file but it will go a lot faster if you have a routing or a laminate trimmer I mentioned earlier. Just remember, trim the laminate flush to the edges keep the base flat along eth edge of the countertop if using one.

For a wood edge, rout a profile with a router or laminate trimmer using a bit called a chamfering bit which will make a cleaner bevel cut across the wood and laminate.

For a laminate edge, file the edge with a mill file and work your way along the length of the counter.

Installing the Sink

Most people simply laminate over the sink hole, the cut the opening out with a router of laminate trimmer. Whatever you use, be careful not to damage the edge of the counter. You do have some margin for error here because the lip of the sink will go over the edge you are cutting.

  1. Apply a bead of silicone caulk around the edge of the sink hole, then drop the sink in.
  2. Reattach the drain lines, water supply lines and dishwasher hose.
  3. Turn the water back on and test for leaks.

You can make or purchase a backsplash that matches the laminate countertop. In either case, cut the backsplash to length.

  1. If applying at the ends, miter the inside corners of both the back and end pieces.  
  2. Dry fit the piece against the wall, then apply construction adhesive and glue it to the wall.
  3. Apply a bead of silicone caulk between the backsplash and the counter and between the backsplash and the all.
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This project is not difficult but it may take you a couple of days to get it finished. The job is definitely easier if you have a couple of tools for the job such as a laminate trimmer and a J-roller for pressing the new laminate.

A laminate countertop is perfect for older homes that have odd sized counters, homes in a certain price range or vacation rental properties because they can withstand a lot of abuse, are easy to clean and as you can see now, easy and cheap to replace.

Depending on the size of your kitchen, you should be able to complete the project with less than $300.

How to Re-Laminate a Countertop