Installing laminate countertops yourself can be tricky if you're mathematically challenged or impatient. Otherwise, with some planning, good measurements, and attention to detail, it can be a relatively straightforward process.
For installing laminate countertops, you'll need the following tools. It will also help if you have some experience with carpentry.
- Circular saw
- Belt sander
- Carpenter's Square
- 36-Grit sanding belt
- Clamp-on saw guide
- Measuring tape
- Safety goggles
Check Your Space
Measure your cabinets, and make sure they are level and that your walls are square. With post-form countertops, you can make adjustments of up to 3/8 of an inch to the backsplash to make the countertop fit flush with a wall that bows slightly. Using a compass, scribe a line corresponding with the widest gap in the wall and remove small portions of the countertop to compensate. When installing square edged countertops, you can typically compensate for up to a 3/4 inch variance. This may be a determining factor when deciding on a backsplash style for your kitchen.Countertop suppliers will need precise measurements, so make sure to measure everything more than once and position cutouts, like the area for the sink, carefully. It's also a good idea to ask for a fact or cheat sheet to use when measuring. If you don't understand a particular measurement, be sure to ask for an explanation instead of making your best guess. After the top has been selected and cut, it's too late to change your mind.
How to Install Laminate Countertops
If you're cutting the top yourself, be sure to turn it face down. This will help avoid scratching or gouging the finished surface. Laminates can be long wearing when used appropriately, but they can still be damaged with your saw, sander, or drill during the installation process. Also, make sure that you use a fine blade on your saw and work with a clamp-on guide to keep your cuts straight. Instead of using a circular saw to trim the scribe marks you've drawn to make the countertop align with the walls, use a belt sander instead. A coarse grit sanding belt - 36-grit should do it - will help you trim the edge precisely. Take your time and use light even pressure to sand the edge to the scribe line.
For the best results, have a professional prep any splices you need to make for corners or to extend the length of your counter. They'll make very precise cuts and rout the clamp grooves for you. With that out of the way, you'll be ready to glue and clamp the sections of countertop in place.
Putting it all Together
Attach countertops by drilling pilot holes at two to three foot intervals along the top that correspond with stable sections of the cabinet frame. Secure the cabinet so that it won't shift, and insert screws straight up. The longer the screw, the better, but be careful not to screw through the countertop by accident. Check with your retailer for his recommended methods and materials for your specific installation. He might recommend the use of an adhesive as well.
Glue pre-cut end caps into place. If the glue is heat activated, you may have to use a clothes iron to complete the end cap installation. If there is an overlap, sand off the excess. Apply caulk to the gap between the countertop and the walls.
Updating your countertops can add style and value to your home. With some time and patience, you can have the countertop look you want and save on labor costs. If you're lucky enough to have some carpentry experience, you can probably complete the job in a weekend with time to spare.