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Thursday, January 14, 2010

Tips for Cutting and Installing a Laminate Countertop

It's pretty amazing to consider the options you have available for countertops these days. From some of the most beautiful polished stone designs and custom concrete to solid surface or less-expensive laminate.

For my Inglewood Cottage project we wanted the high-end look without the price tag (who doesn't, right?) so the homeowners chose a textured black custom laminate top that had the look of a natural stone. My job was to install it. Here are some tips for cutting and installing a laminate counter.

This was a simple galley kitchen that would be just a matter of cutting the counter to the right length and then making a place for the sink. I measured the space and cut the counter around 3/8" short so that I have enough wiggle room to side it in.

To make the cut I first put painters tape across the counter. This serves two purposes: 1) It helps me see my pencil line on the black counter & 2) It helps prevent any chipping or scratches from my saw while I'm making the cut. I use a jig saw to first cut through the backsplash and the back corner. Then I cut the rest from the front.

After the counter is in place on the cabinets, it's very important to get it level. This is especially important because I'm tiling the backsplash and I want it to be level along the top of the counter. Leveling is a matter of securing the counter at the high point and then shimming the low points to bring them up to level before adding screws in those areas. It's worth the time to make sure it's level both left-to-right and front-to-back.

Cutting out the sink is a time to measure at least twice. If anything, make the hole a little small. You can always make it bigger... :) Usually, it is centered on the sink cabinet. Look inside and see if there are any braces that will get in the way. In my case, I wanted the sink to be as far back on the counter as possible. This would give me just enough room to get the sink in these particular cabinets.

I like to start by using a hole saw to make a hole in each corner. Sink corners are normally not square, so this allows for more of the counter to support the sink. I then use a reciprocal saw and carefully cut along the back before I use the jig saw to cut out the rest. However, before you completely cut out the sink hole, place a board across the opening and screw it to the piece that's in the way of the sink. This keeps it from falling or breaking off before you're ready.

Mounting the sink requires a little silicone caulk under the lip and sink mounting clips underneath. You can usually get these wherever you buy sinks, but make sure they fit your particular sink. I've had cases when I'm reusing an old sink and they need a unique sink mounting clip. Unfortunately, they aren't one-size-fits-all.

With the counter and sink in, I'm ready to think about the upcoming subway tile backsplash. Stay tuned for that,


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