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Picture of DIY Laminate Countertops

Last summer we renovated our kitchen. We did all the work ourselves and bought IKEA cabinets, and had planned to purchase three solid quartz countertops and get someone else to install them. However, we got a reputable local company to quote these for us, and to say we were shocked at the $8000 price tag was an understatement. We thought about what else we could do with that money, and I concluded I'd try making some myself. Laminate countertops aren't as pretty as quartz, but when I budgeted it out, I worked out I could make all three countertops from scratch for less than $400! We're very happy with how they turned out and even happier that we saved 95% on the original price. Here's how I did them.

Step 1: Materials and Tools

Picture of Materials and Tools

Materials
We couldn't purchase the usual style of pre-made countertops because they come in a fixed depth and we had a peninsula that was extra-wide to accommodate a breakfast bar. So I planned to make them all from scratch using two layers of particle board as a base and sheets of laminate glued down with contact adhesive. This wasn't terribly efficient as far as the laminate material was concerned - I needed a whole 4 x 8' sheet for each countertop, because all of them were >2' deep. However, they only cost $70 each from the local hardware store so this was no big deal. I bought 3 sheets of 3/4" particle board ($25 each), because even though the top sheets needed to be whole, the bottom layers could be made up of offcuts because it only needs to be two layers thick on the edges. I also bought a gallon of contact cement and used some wood glue I already had.

Tools
A laminate trimmer, which is basically a cute little one-handed router with a flush-cutting bit. The cutting was done with a circular saw with a fresh new blade intended for cutting laminate materials, and a jigsaw for the cutouts. I used a file to finish the corners that weren't 90 degrees. My folding plywood sawhorses came in handy, too.

WVANCURA1 year ago
Great job. Excellent presentation. As long you don't buckle the laminate there should be no air bubbles. The wood base is very porous and should readily absorb the bubbles.

the way I was always taught:
start at a straight edge and work your way to the other slowly, pressing down in a 45* angle... as you slowly pull out the dowels back to front, and never let an area touch until everything before has been glued.

makendo (author)  WVANCURA1 year ago
ah, that makes sense
baybabe751 year ago
Wow! It looks fantastic.

You've made it look so easy I think even I could do it ;)
Pa19631 year ago
Make sure that the wood surface is super clean before you lay down the laminate. Even a small speck of dust will show through. Also the tip from hlanelee sounds good. I've never tried it, but it makes sense. With contact cement you only have 1 shot. Once it's stuck, it's STUCK. The white glue will be a lot more forgiving give you some working time.
Pa19631 year ago
The laminate can have almost a razor sharp edge after it's cut, so you want to take your file and "break" the corners of the laminate. Hold the file at a 45 degree angle and run it along the edges in a long smooth stroke. One light stroke should be sufficient.,
your using press wood, if you allow a groove to collect moisture it will only get absorbed in the pressed wood and make it swell and then fall apart. It should be sealed tight so no water can ever get in there.
makendo (author)  WilliamC3201 year ago
The groove is on the underside of the countertop and forms a drip edge. The groove does not collect water, it sheds it. The groove (and the rest of the underside) is painted to seal it.
zoomgod1 year ago
Your counter tops came out nice, I like the island. They make laminate rollers which help ensure a solid bond. They look like a paint roller but have a hard rubber roller, I highly recommend them and their not very expensive. Anyway nice work!
hammer98761 year ago
Thank you! Everyone is so insistent on granite, quartz, etc. Laminate is easy on the budget and lasts perfectly fine for years and years with just a little bit of common sense.
That is beautiful!
I hope you won't mind my borrowing the idea for my wife? :-)
makendo (author)  simon kaniu1 year ago
sure I put it up in the hope that it inspires someone else to try it!
pgs0709471 year ago
This is how worktops used to be done with Formica and EvoStick - Formica is still going strong and the original stuff was far tougher than the newer post formed stuff.
A couple of tips - a laminate trimmer is fine provided the ball race runs smoothly. If it doesn't, it will put a nice line all along the edge of your surface which you won't want.
I used to use router to square of a commercial worktop to stop splintering, but having seen the results from a decent circular saw with a new fine tooth carbide blade fitted. Cut from the "wrong" side and the finish is absolutely perfect, couldn't believe just how good. It's worth getting a new blade just for one job. For thinner laminate, cutting the over-hanging laminate with a sanding block with carbide paper at a 45-degree angle works well - with the laminate trimmer, one mistake can be costly.
makendo (author)  pgs0709471 year ago
Yep, this laminate was the Formica brand.
You're right about the ball race, but even if it doesn't run smoothly (buildup of contact cement), you get a wobbly edge but you can go back over it (after cleaning) and it comes out nicely. Good tips re: the sanding block & saw
Finished job looks nice - who needs kitchen fitters?
It looks wonderful! And I'm not just saying that because I have a preference for laminate! lol Laminate looks good, and is so so so durable and easy to care for. Good job!!!!! :-)
makendo (author)  pattymadeit1 year ago
thanks, glad it has worked well for you!
Draano1 year ago
Looks great! You basically have a pair of rectangles. My counter is a big U - outside dimensions are 8'4"on the left, 10' across the back, and then 7'8" coming back on the right. Left counter is 25" deep, across the back is 24.75" and the right counter is 24" deep. My question is, how feasible is it to butt two pieces next to one another without the joint being obvious? Like you, I dread spending $thousands on marble/quartz/granite.
makendo (author)  Draano1 year ago
There is hardware designed to join together countertops called drawbolts (http://amzn.to/2Gxep1c) - basically you rout a cavity on the underside of the two pieces to pull them together. So yes, it's quite feasible to butt the two pieces together (usually along a miter to increase the gluing area and to improve the look).
hlanelee1 year ago
I worked in quality assurance at Nevamar for three years. We made high pressure laminates. Contact cement is great but adds steps. We attached laminate sheeting to plywood or particle with Elmer's white glue and never had any problems.
It turned out so well!! Definitely looks great without the backsplash :D
jfilz1 year ago
Problems with contact cement collecting on the bearing or poor bearing? Uneven wood surface? Put a strip of (masking) tape over the raw wood/glue before running the bearing on it. Use a sanding block if you need to bring it down level. Adding a few layers of tape to the underside edge/raw wood side would ALSO give you a very small drip edge that would also not affect/touch the wood substructure as much. Other (pro) option is use a slightly larger bearing (or add tape/short tight fitting tubing to the bearing - non-pro/lazy way) when trimming up just the bottom edge to create a drip edge.
I have done my own before and you are right not all that hard. The under edge groove is brilliant. Nice Job. I can't seem to locate sheets any longer and I need to make counters for my Tiki BBQ hut.
makendo (author)  retiredphnman1 year ago
found these at one of the bigger home depots. Not much choice - white, concrete (as here) and a couple of other only
LynetS1 year ago
Hey thanks for this! Now where was this Instructable 2 years ago when we did our 5'x5'.5" island!?
We used bull nose edging and ordered those pieces directly from the laminate supplier. We still have a 5' or so piece left over from the original sheet because they sold it in 5' by 10' sheets. Nice job!
makendo (author)  LynetS1 year ago
thanks. That is one monster sheet - I would have got all three countertops out of that one rather than buying 3 8x4's...
ToGrin1 year ago
Nice job! It's amazing how much you can save on a kitchen remodel by doing this type of work yourself.

A suggestion for those looking to others looking to laminate their own countertops is to use manufactured 3D edging. The stuff I used was from Wilsonart and comes in a 1/2" thick beveled or crescent shape, that matches the color and texture of the laminate. I chose the crescent because it looks like the edges commonly used on granite. Installing it involves routing a 1/4" wide groove around the edge of the counter to accept a tongue on the back of the edging. The edging is then simply glued on with Titebond, or other similar water resistant glue and held in place with tape to dry. Here is mine:



20171212_130715(1).jpg
makendo (author)  ToGrin1 year ago
great tip, looks excellent
seamster1 year ago
Nicely done Scott. I'm a big fan of laminate - the ease of use and durability for the money is great. Your counters look excellent!
makendo (author)  seamster1 year ago
Thanks Sam. Was pleasantly surprised with how they turned out.