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Installing Laminate Countertops

Looking for an inexpensive custom countertop? An expert installer walks you through a typical installation, including gluing and trimming a laminate top.

By the DIY experts of The Family Handyman Magazine

Build a seam-free laminate countertop

Laminate is a budget-friendly alternative to granite, quartz and other solid-surface countertops. And building custom countertops in place is a great way to deal with unique shapes and sizes. There are hundreds of colors to choose from, and you can order 5 x 12-ft. sheets of laminate at most home centers. With a sheet that size, you can avoid cutting difficult miters, and usually eliminate long, crumb-catching seams.

If you've never tackled custom countertops, don't be intimidated—let our expert walk you through the process. You'll need a couple of specialty tools, including a compound router with an offset base, a laminate slitter and a laminate file, but the several hundred dollars you'll save by installing your countertops yourself will be more than enough to pay for these tools. And just think of the bragging rights!

Anatomy of a countertop

Anatomy of a countertop

Figure A: Anatomy of a Countertop

Before you assemble the underlayment, plow a 1/4-in.-deep, 1/4-in.-wide dado into the backsplash (Figure A). The laminate slips into the groove to give you a little wiggle room when you install it. Jamey cuts his dado by making a few passes on his table saw.

Assemble the underlayment in place

Cut the sink hole

Sand the seams

Use a “slitter” for narrow strips

Cut the top with a circular saw

Glue the end caps first

Scribe and cut the top cap

Install the front edge

Flush-cutting bit

Flush-cutting bit

Routing Tip

When you trim the main countertop and the top of the backsplash, the guide of your router bit will be running along finished laminate, so keep the router moving. If you stop for any length of time, the bit will grind into the surface of the laminate. Jamey rubs a little petroleum jelly along the edge where the bit rides to prevent marring.

Apply the adhesive with a scrap

Use spacers to install the top

Smooth it with a board

Trim down the backsplash with snips

Trim out the sink hole

File downward

Back to Top

Required Tools for this Project

Have the necessary tools for this DIY project lined up before you start—you’ll save time and frustration.

    • Air compressor
    • Air hose
    • Brad nail gun
    • Circular saw
    • Belt sander
    • File
    • Scribing tool
    • Self-centering drill bit
    • Paintbrush
    • Table saw

You'll also need a pneumatic staple gun, laminate slitter, compact router, router offset base and flush-cutting bit.

Required Materials for this Project

Avoid last-minute shopping trips by having all your materials ready ahead of time. Here's a list.

    • Laminate
    • Contact cement
    • Towel
    • Masking tape

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