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How to Cut a Laminate – Formica Countertop

By on January 28, 2010
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.

Tools

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.

  1. Mark your measurement for the necessary length on the edge on the counter.
  2. 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.
  3. With a carpenter’s square mark your cutting line onto the first piece of masking tape.
  4. 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.
  5. Set the depth of your blade to 1/8th inch deeper than the thickest part of the counter.
  6. 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.
  7. 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:

  1. Again, use masking tape where you will be cutting to protect from chipping.
  2. The manufacturer of your sink should have supplied a template that you can transfer onto the counter to get an exact cutting line.
  3. Drill a starter hole inside the template marks.  The bit should be wider than the blade to your jigsaw.
  4. 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.
  5. Insert the blade into your starter hole and start cutting. Again, always have the blade up to full speed before initiating the cut.
  6. 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.

29 Comments

  1. Annie-o

    January 31, 2010 at 3:37 pm

    It’s the laminate BACKSPLASH of the countertop that’s the problem. Any suggestions how to shorten a counter with attached back?

  2. Jeff Sawyer

    January 31, 2010 at 6:38 pm

    Annie-o – that is a difficult task. My best advise is to find a friend that owns a radial arm saw, or rent one for the day. That will solve your issue of cutting through the backsplash in one motion. Of course, there is the issue of portability with a radial arm saw. So, a second solution is to do the majority of the cut with your circular saw and finish (very carefully) with a hand saw. As I mentioned in the article, if you keep the cut wide of your mark, leaving some material, you can sand out imperfections.

  3. Van

    April 13, 2011 at 6:20 pm

    Jeff, is it advisable to turn the counter top upside down and cut it through as much of the backs plash as I can before I finish the cut by hand?

    Van

  4. Jeff Sawyer

    April 16, 2011 at 12:07 am

    @Van if you’re comfortable going freehand without a visible mark, I would say that’s fine. Again, cutting wide of the mark and sanding down later gives you some latitude.

  5. kahn

    September 9, 2011 at 10:28 pm

    what kind of saw good to cut the laminated countertop for kitchen

  6. Jeff Sawyer

    September 11, 2011 at 3:19 pm

    As mentioned above, your best bet is a circular saw, but be sure to put on a “thin kerf” blade. Preferably a carbide blade with 60 teeth.

  7. Darlene

    December 27, 2011 at 12:36 pm

    I have an island cabinet with an overhang. I want to cut off some of the width. The top is detachable so that will not be a problem to take it off the cabinet. The edges are beveled. How can I do this?

  8. Jeff Sawyer

    December 29, 2011 at 10:09 am

    Darlene – If I’m understanding the question correctly, you want to shorten the overhang. Most of what is described in this post still pertains, but in this situation you will need to make a second cut by angling your saw blade to match the existing bevel. I would not recommend trying this without previous practice. Even more difficult will be getting your hands on some matching laminate so you can re-laminate your new edge. If you still want to give it a shot, here’s a good article on laminating counters: http://www.doityourself.com/stry/h2laminatecountertop#b

  9. Andrea

    March 23, 2012 at 5:30 pm

    What about laying the laminate on the countertop I want to recover? Would that work as a rip fence/template? My problem is that the counter has a curve on the end that I need to get right.

  10. Jeff Sawyer

    March 24, 2012 at 9:53 am

    Andrea – It sounds like you’re into a project beyond the scope of this article. The rip fence suggestion is really for a straight cut, and I’m not quite sure what you mean by “recover.” If you are going to laminate a counter yourself then check out the link just above in the reply to Darlene.
    -Good Luck!

  11. sharon harlan

    March 30, 2012 at 7:53 am

    Is it correct to use a circular saw with more teeth in the blade and put masking tape on the counter so that the counter doesn’t split ?

  12. Jeff Sawyer

    April 2, 2012 at 2:14 pm

    That is exactly correct Sharon. The more teeth the finer the cut, and the masking tape will reduce the chance of chipping.

  13. Ken Hill

    April 26, 2012 at 4:55 pm

    hi,

    Can you tell me how to trim the pre-made endcaps? They iron on and there is always allot of extra material that needs to be removed.

    Thanks

  14. Jeff Sawyer

    May 7, 2012 at 10:09 am

    Ken, this link provides a good solution to trimming end caps, plus images on how to do it: http://www.mal-o-sen.com/apply_end_cap.htm

  15. kitty

    June 9, 2012 at 6:02 pm

    Hi Jeff!

    We want to cut the formica back splash down, without removing them and add granite counter tops, on top. (Trying to go green, by NOT removing them.) Can this still be possible, by using a circular saw and masking tape? Or do we need to remove them first and then use the circular saw?

    Thank you very much for your time.
    kitty

  16. susan

    June 29, 2012 at 8:46 am

    I want to cut a leftover piece of laminate into a corner desk. The edges will butt the walls since I plan to form a right angle at the apex, the wide curved being the front. I don’t have a circular saw to use, but I do have a jig saw, will this work?

  17. Jeff Sawyer

    June 29, 2012 at 12:10 pm

    Hi Kitty – If the back splash is a separate unit from the counter top then it is probably secured with screws coming up from under the counter, and possibly glued to the wall. If the back splash is a molded piece of the counter, then just have at it with the saw. You’ll be covering it with the granite, which will hide the cut anyway. Nice job going GREEN!

  18. Jeff Sawyer

    June 29, 2012 at 12:20 pm

    Susan – should be no problem, just make sure you get a reverse blade for cutting metal. This will make a much finer cut, and cut on the down stroke to avoid chipping (along with the masking tape). Be sure to create a jig to maintain a straight line.

  19. edubb

    September 15, 2012 at 12:43 am

    I want to cut the backsplase off my famica counter top is that possible

  20. Jeff Sawyer

    September 16, 2012 at 9:22 pm

    It’s definitely possible to cut it off, but what’s the plan once its removed?

  21. Gabe

    December 19, 2012 at 6:50 pm

    Sorry but this isnt the best advice…. I build cabinets and regularly cut and install laminate tops. Best thing you can do is flip the counter upside down and make all of your measurment marks. Fasten a fence to the bottom matching the offset of the circular saw faceplate. Then make your cut in two passes. One for the backspash, and one for the top its self. The saw blades motion cuts up into the laminate when cut upside down. This will prevent chips, no need for masking tape, and since your cutting on the underside you cant scratch it with the saw……again no need for tape. Way quicker….. and dont even think of touching a laminate top with a jig saw unless its the sink opening which will be overlapped…. Jig saw = chips….

  22. Jeff Sawyer

    January 7, 2013 at 5:44 pm

    Gabe – Thanks for your input. Personally, I have not had chipping problems when using the proper blades as described in the article. Your method does sound to be the “quick” solution, but I’m curious what you use to set the counter on. By flipping it over I would think the backsplash creates an awkward angle for cutting.

  23. Robert

    March 19, 2013 at 10:20 pm

    Great tip on cutting counter tops thank you it worked out well and got an even cut

  24. Bill Stark

    May 4, 2013 at 10:53 pm

    I was able to save my marble countertops from Hurricane Sandy, I had to throw away the cabinets. My problem is the countertop was epoxied to 3/4 ” plywood and then secured to the cabinets. What is the easiest way to remove the old plywood from the countertop so I can reuse the marble counertop.

  25. Nichi

    June 7, 2013 at 7:17 pm

    We are using the Rustoleum countertop kit to re-finish our laminate countertop to save money on our kitchen remodel. Can we use a router to bevel the edge of the countertop before we paint it to give it a more modern look? We are hoping the paint kit would cover the “naked” section of the countertop since we will not have laminate on the edge we cut?

  26. chris

    May 23, 2014 at 3:44 pm

    With just an 1/2 inch clearance from where you are to cut opening into countertop, what tool
    Do you use to cut the opening. The plate on the jigsaw is to wide. Help please…

  27. Bill Witt

    June 3, 2014 at 3:00 pm

    If you are installing a counter top in a corner and your walls are not square how do you cut a prefabricated counter top to match the walls ?

  28. Jeff Sawyer

    June 5, 2014 at 1:23 pm

    @Bill – That would require scribing the cut line onto the countertop. For details, read my article on how to scribe and cut irregular shapes.

  29. Jeff Sawyer

    June 5, 2014 at 1:38 pm

    @chris – I would suggest making a plunge cut using an oscillating tool with a flush cut blade.

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