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Preping The Subsurface
Self Edge
Pre Cut The Laminate
Preparing For
Applying Adhesive
Laying Out The Spacers
Where To Start
Applying The Laminate
Seams
Rolling It Out
Trimming The Edges



~ With in depth instruction and lots of pictures heres ~

How To Install Laminate Countertops
(click to enlarge)


~ Preping The Subsurface ~

Laminate work (aka. Formica) begins with a smooth even surface.

Fill any voids with "Fix All" and sand down any ridges or bumps to an even smooth flat surface.

~ Self Edge ~

At this point if you have any "self edge" to do its time to do it. (That is the side edge that is covered with the same laminate material as the top.)

See below for gluing instructions and do it the same here.

For a good self edge job you should start by adding a 1x2 border piece flat to the side of your subsurface. Attach it with construction adhesive and nails or screws.

This gives a good solid smooth uniform base to adhere the self edge to. Add it into your width figures when you design and construct the counter top. Your surface laminate will finally cover this and the self edge.

You want your good straight (possibly factory) edge pointing down and measured to where you want it to finally be.

Leave enough excess rising above the surface so that you can route it off flush after you glue it on.

Back to the surface sheets.

~ Pre Cut The Laminate ~

Pre cut your laminate to an oversize that allows plenty of extra overhang on the edges. This will all be routed off clean after you glue it down. This allows forgiveness. If you try to fit it too close, once you start to glue it down and get a little off on a long run it can leave you very unhappy when the far end of your run wanders off and doesnít cover.

The glue you use is called "contact cement" for a reason. Once you touch surface to surface its forever. You canít readjust it, so everything has to be planned towards that moment.

Where it meets a wall, leave a little room if you will put trim over it later.

If it will show it will have to be cut exactly as it will meet the wall.

Any seams (where a sheet isnít long enough and another will join it) must be cut to fit perfectly. This is done by laying one sheet over lapping another by 1 1/2" or so, and routing along a straight edge making a cut through both sheets simultaneously.

The theory here, which works quite well, is that even if your router wanders a little, both sheets will be the same and the seam wont show a gap.

This takes a little time and setup.

Tape it all down, both sheets and straight edge, over a piece of scrap ply that you can cut through both sheets and all the way down into.

If its your first time make a practice cut on throw away material to prove out your method.

When your done butt the ends together and slide them back and forth to find the perfect fit. Once your satisfied make a pencil mark across both pieces so that when you finally glue them down you can match up these marks across both sheets.

Now lay your cut sheets on the bar surface exactly as you will finally glue them down.

Does your wall connection look good?

Plenty of overhang on all edges?

Seams fit invisibly.

Good, set the sheets aside.

Now more preparation.

~ Preparing For ~

Find many lengths of small dowels, or slats, or any similar size material about 3/8" or more to lay down across the bar every three inches or so along it's length.

Old venitian blind slats (plastic not painted) work perfectly. Every piece must be smooth and clean. Paint chip, dirt, and splinter free.

These will keep your laminate and bar surface separated while you position your sheets exactly.

Set them aside.

Make a place on your sawhorses or floor area away from the bar where you can turn the laminate upside down to apply the contact cement. See the upside down pieces to the right, on the horses, and over on the far counter.

Clean up your work areas and bar surface immaculately before you get the glue out. One little piece of grit or splinter will make a void where the two surfaces cant make contact and it will leave a little three inch wide bump.

Open the windows and turn on the fans. Contact cement vapors are very strong, intoxicating, and flammable and your going to be in there for a while, but you will get a couple of breaks to go out for a breather.

~ Applying Adhesive ~

I'll say it again. Contact cement is a different kind of adhesive. You'll get no chance to slide into position after you touch your surfaces together. The adhesion is instant and permanent. You can touch anything else to either surface, it's barely tacky, but not to each other.

Apply contact cement evenly to both joining surfaces. The favored tool is a notched trowel.

Pour out a pool and work it around to cover all areas of the bar surface and the underside of the laminate evenly.

Let it dry to the point where its slightly tacky, not wet or sticky. Touch it with a piece of paper. It should easily come loose.

Itís normal to have to apply two or more coats. Especially on wood surfaces as they can drink it up. After the first coat has dried for fifteen minutes or so (after youíve gone out for some air) look and feel for dried areas. Often youíll need to apply two full coats and then look for dried spots.

Often by the time youíve done all of this youíll have some stringy gobs that look like they will cause voids. Scrape off the worst but most will mash together in the final process.

You will probably have some spots that are tackier than others. Its the nature of it, but it all seems to lay down well if you look for an over all "best caseĒ average.

~ Laying Out The Spacers ~

Now lay out your sticks or slats every three inches or so. The trick here is to not allow any possibility of the two surfaces contacting each other before your ready.

!!DISASTER!!

Once it touches, its down. Sometimes you can get a really small area back up but itís a bad day if it goes wrong! Youíre tired and glue goofy and itís easy to concentrate on one end while the other end is touching. Or you forget and rest your hand in the wrong place.

Oops!

~ Where To Start ~

Youíll have to reason out for your self which end of which piece is the best starting point for the whole job. What ever you choose will set the direction for all the other pieces, as the seams will not allow any adjustment.

Think of it all as one long piece. In a twenty foot run a little angle will put you off a long ways on the other end.

~ Applying The Laminate ~

Once your spacers are laid out, position your pre cut, glued and slightly tacky laminate sheet very carefully over the slats and very carefully slide it into position.

When youíre absolutely positive touch down the center of your starting end. Then touch down towards the outside edges along that end. Now youíve established your direction and you can start moving down the length pulling out slats and sliding your hand along touching the center down as you go.

Its important to slide along down the center so you donít touch down two separated points and leave a bubble in between that wont go down.

As you go a short ways you can start smoothing towards the edges from the center with your hand.

Remember your direction was set as soon as you first touched down so you cant steer it now. Its all about making sure you donít touch any bubbles into it so just smooth your hand down along the center line as you pull slats out ahead of your path, one at a time and smooth out to the sides behind you.

~ Seams ~

Once you come to a seam finish with the first sheet as you have been and then start the next sheet very carefully, as you did with the first.

Take a thin slat and place it right up near the first sheets seam edge. Slide the second sheet into position so that your edge butts up tight (but still elevated) and your pencil marks match up (remember them? Now youíre glad you did that!)

Now carefully slide the slat out (or back) as you touch the center seam edge down. Then carefully work your way out towards the edges from there.

Take your time and be sure. Too tight and it can ride up and stay high. Too loose and it can leave a gap and throw your angle off.

Once your seam is set, work your way down the center just like you did on the first sheet. Remove a slat and smooth, etc.

~ Rolling It Out ~

Once its all touched down and smoothed out you will want to either take a kitchen rolling pin to the whole thing (put your weight on it) or hammer along everywhere with a flat piece of 2x4 or 2x6. Donít be afraid to give it good hard whacks. This will mash out any of those high points of glue and air pockets. Again work from the center outwards so you donít trap the air in. Be careful around the outside edges. Make sure the board or roller seals down the edge but dont let the hammer fall on the outside and break off your overhang, possobly splintering back into your surface area

Congratulations on your beautiful work.

~ Trimming The Edges ~

Now its time to rout off the overhanging edges.

Put a flush cutting laminate router trim roller bit in your router.

If you are using the self edge method youíll just route flush against the edge strips you glued on and routed off flush earlier.

If youíre trimming the edges out with wood, I like to hold or tape on a strip of scrap Formica and route along down to that.

It makes a much smoother edge and doesnít let the bit jump along on a rugged saw cut, falling into knot voids and such. Alternately a couple of layers of masking tape can smooth it out some. Or very thin rigid cardboard. Thin and rigid material of any kind. If you apply your wood trim strip with a bed of construction adhesive it will fill back some of the space that the little laminate overhang lip takes up. Regardless, the laminate guide leaves such a small little overhang lip that it doesnít create much of a difference. Even if the lip it leaves is too much, it makes a good starting rough cut and you can trim whats left off without as much heat and resistance.

Plywood can be a very rugged edge to route to, with all its voids and splinters. Its heart breaking to do a perfect job up to this point only to have the router bit roller fall into a void and cut a little half moon divot into your edge. Or route to a saw correction that an oak trim strip will never set to, and leave a void between the laminate and the trim that you can try to putty up.

If you made a perfect cut on particleboard, or used a factory edge, or added a 1x2 as with the self edge job none of this is necessary. Run your finger along the edge. If you feel anything youll see it in the cut.

There you have it. A job well done.

Ready for the next phase of your project.

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How To Build A Bar

How To Install Laminate Countertops