How to Cut a Laminate – Formica Countertop
Plastic laminate countertops are economical, durable, easy to clean, come in a wide variety of designs, and best of all are relatively simple to install yourself. Here are some tips on how to cut a laminate counter to fit your need.
You will want to gather the following items:
- Jigsaw (saber saw) with a “down cut” blade minimum of 10 teeth/inch
- Circular saw with a thin kerf (space left by cut of blade) carbide blade with 60 teeth
- Sanding block/Belt sander with 220 grit sandpaper
- Portable drill
- As always, eye protection
Cutting to Fit
You can buy laminate countertops in stock sizes that come in two foot intervals between 4 and 12 feet. There is a good chance that the space you have for a counter is not perfectly divisible by two. But fear not, cutting the counter to fit is not a terribly difficult chore. As a matter of fact, quite often the retailer will have end trim pieces of matching laminate to glue on after you make a cut. Here are the steps to get a clean cut off of your counter.
- Mark your measurement for the necessary length on the edge on the counter.
- Adhere a strip of masking tape on the counter where your cut will be to protect the laminate from chipping. Lay a second piece of masking tape so the shoe to your saw will rest on the two strips of tape and protect the counter from being scratched.
- With a carpenter’s square mark your cutting line onto the first piece of masking tape.
- Measure the distance from the blade on your circular saw to the edge of its shoe. You will want to clamp a 1×2 to use as a rip fence. Use this measurement so that the saw rests against the fence and the blade is lined up with your mark. Hint: add 1/16th of an inch to your measurement so that your cut is actually a little wide of the mark. This way if there is any minor chipping to the laminate then you can sand it out with the belt sander and the counter will still be the correct size.
- Set the depth of your blade to 1/8th inch deeper than the thickest part of the counter.
- Always get the blade up to full speed before initiating your cut. Another suggestion is to do a practice cut into the waste side of the counter so you can get a feel for it.
- After making your cut sand the edge even with your mark and remove the masking tape. When sanding be sure to use down strokes only so you are not pulling the laminate away from its base.
Cut Hole For Sink
Cutting out the hole for your sink is similar to the steps above but with a few differences:
- Again, use masking tape where you will be cutting to protect from chipping.
- The manufacturer of your sink should have supplied a template that you can transfer onto the counter to get an exact cutting line.
- Drill a starter hole inside the template marks. The bit should be wider than the blade to your jigsaw.
- Screw a 1×2 (you can use the same piece you used for a rip fence if it is wider than the sink) to the center of your future hole. This will support the cut away so that its weight won’t break any laminate when reaching the end of your cut. Use only one screw so the board can be spun out of the way a little when you get to that section of the cut.
- Insert the blade into your starter hole and start cutting. Again, always have the blade up to full speed before initiating the cut.
- You will find that it is a little harder to control a straight line with a jig saw but not to worry, the lip of the sink will cover any minor slips over your mark.
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