You are remodeling your kitchen, ready to install the laminate countertop when you notice that the countertop has not been cut well. Either the countertop is more extended than the cabinet installed, or the wall on the back of the cabinet is bowed or out of square.
And you are in a fix. What do you do about it?
You may also be someone who likes to DIY stuff and wishes to create the laminate countertop all by yourself.
Luckily, none of the problems are grave, and you can quickly rectify or cut the laminate countertop without professional help. But just cutting the laminate countertop will not solve the purpose. It needs more than that. You need to ensure that the laminate covering does not chip or crack. A single mistake can destroy the entire countertop and rip you off a whole lot of money.
You have only one chance to give your countertop an accurate and clean cut! Yes, we have scared you here, but we are also here to help you with it. Relax and take some time to understand the right ways of how to cut the laminate countertop.
Before we get into the process, a little bit of theory does help to let you understand the basics of why laminate countertops may chip. It is the old-school technique to get your roots strong for you to understand the complexities better.
So Why Does Laminate Countertop Chip Easily?
A laminate countertop comprises two components, namely the plastic finish and the thick wood base or particle board layer. If you just go ahead and cut through the countertop straight, then the blade will quickly tear the laminate layer chunks.
You thus need to invest in a saw blade that is mainly designed to cut the particle board or the laminate. The steel blade has small, sharp teeth that give it a cleaner cut.
Another trick that can save the laminate from tearing is to add masking tape on the cutting line on the side of the laminate and creating an initial score cut.
Now that you understand the basic nuances of what a laminate countertop is composed of let us discuss the safety precautions so that you do not end up injuring yourself.
Adhere to these Safety Protocols
When you use a saw blade, there is a risk of inhaling the fine laminate particles. The debris could enter your eyes, nose, or mouth. There is also the danger of hurting yourself with the blade.
Safety measures to be followed:
- Wear respiratory and eye protectors before you power the saw.
- Using a push stick is a great idea to minimize the risk of hurting your hand.
- Ensure that you switch off the power before you adjust the blade on the saw.
- If you feel that you may not be able to handle the project yourself, then seek professional help without delay.
Laminate is a raw material, and its sheet is made of paper bonded layers. It is then compressed with resin. It is also topped with a melamine plastic clear coating for protection which is about an mm thick, brittle but semi-flexible.
It is easy to cut a plastic laminate. A router, circular saw, or a jigsaw, and some hand tools can do the trick.
People do cut laminate using a utility knife. This is ok if you want a straight and a shortcut.
provided you plan to cut it oversize and then will trim it. Snip easily cuts through the laminate, but the cut is not clean. This technique is thus suitable if you wish to cut an oversized laminate and will later trim it with a router after the laminate is bonded to its substrate.
For an elegant and clean edge, the best is to use a router that is equipped with a straight edge guide.
It is very tricky to cut an assembled laminate countertop, and you need power tools for the same.
Laminate countertops were often looked down upon as cheap and of an inferior quality. Things, however, have changed, and the latest laminate countertop designs do not just look classy but also boast of a long life.
The best part about laminate countertops is that one needs a little bit of knowledge on how to cut and install it, and that should be enough to DIY the project all alone.
Tools That You Will Need
There are many ways to cut laminate countertops. We, however, are focusing on a straightforward method that most homeowners will vouch for.
Here is the list of things to source:
Selecting the Blade
It is vital to take time and use the right blade to equip the circular saw.
Laminate is a soft material as compared to granite, and thus a regular circular saw blade should be enough to accomplish the job
The best would be to get a fine teethed blade like the one carpenters use to cut plywood. The blade minimizes the risk of the laminate countertop from cracking or chipping as you cut through it.
The circular saw is now ready with the right blade. Before you cut, take all the measurements. You need the length and the width as well as the measurement of any cut-outs like for the sink before you cut the laminate with the circular saw.
This is important for cutting as well as installation. Measure and re-measure to be sure that you have got it right.
Cutting Through The Length
The first step is to cut the laminate countertop to match the length.
Here are the steps to follow.
- Measure the length of the countertop and then cut the laminate slab to a slightly longer size using the circular saw.
- You will need the carpenter square to draw a straight line across the laminate countertop slab.
- Cut along this line and then place the slab on the countertop area. There should be a bit extra overhanging length.
- You may choose to cut the slight overhang now that will match the exact length of the countertop. Else you may decide to wait till the project ends and then give it a final cut.
Cutting Through The Width
Now that you have cut the laminate countertop to match the length, it is time to measure and cut the width.
- Use a tape measure to measure the width. The laminate countertop should be cut a little wider than the measured width.
- Now place the laminate on the countertop area. You are using your scribing tool, scribe the countertop width.
- Make another cut through this scribe mark and give the laminate countertop an exact fit.
If you have followed the instructions above, then your laminate countertop will fit precisely on the countertop area.
You now need to do the final step, which is to cut for any sink openings or other factors in your countertop. And this is a little complicated than the steps listed above. So go a little slow.
You will need a jigsaw to cut through the laminate to allow for the sink opening. Trace around the opening of the sink and get an accurate measurement. Then use the jigsaw and cut the sink opening.
It is recommended to cut the sink outline a bit smaller. This will give you enough space in case you need to make any additional cuts so that the laminate countertop fits the kitchen countertop perfectly.
Give Your Countertop a Smooth Finish
You have cut through the laminate countertop, and it is all ready to be installed. The edges, however, feel a little rough. Here is what you can do about it.
- Take the belt sander with the 200-grit sandpaper and sand the edges until you smoothen the rough bits.
- You may choose to sand by hand as well, but that is going to waste a whole lot of your time.
That is all about it! So you see it was not all that difficult to cut the laminate countertop.
The Secret to Make a Straight Cut on the Laminate Countertop
Cutting gets a little complicated when the laminate is bonded to the substrate. You will need a straight and clean cut. A circular saw with a blade made of fine-tooth carbine does this job the best.
A jigsaw with a fine-tooth blade can also be used. For this, you will need to cut from the countertops’ bottom side using the up-cutting blade. On the other hand, when you cut a sink with a jigsaw, you need the down-cutting blade.
The secret, however lies in using a straightedge or a custom jig that works as a guide letting the saw make a linear cut.
Keep in mind to always cut the laminate countertop from the underside irrelevant of whether you use a jigsaw or a circular saw with a standard blade. The blade will cut when it comes up through the laminate material. This is because the top or the underside is more prone to chipping than the bottom side.
Cutting holes, Curves, and Sink Opening Perfectly
Large holes, sink cut-outs, and curved cut-outs are usually made with a jigsaw. Jigsaws are best if you will be hiding the cut in the final installation.
However, if the large holes and curves need to be cut precisely, then a router and a jig with a template to guide the cutwork the best.
For smaller holes that are below 2 inches, you can use a drill.
Sink cut-outs are common and the standard procedure is to use a reverse tooth or a down-cutting jigsaw. These cut from down, opposite to how the standard up-cut jigsaw blade cuts.
The down-cutting of the laminate blade lets you cut from the laminate countertops’ top-side, taking care that the finished surface does not chip.
Do not rush to cut before reading this manual completely. If you have any extra laminate material at home, then you may want to give the laminate a test cut before jumping into the real project.
Here we have a complete A-Z guide to assist you with cutting a laminate countertop and giving your kitchen an impeccable finish. Use this handbook to remodel your kitchen countertop with absolute perfection and confidence.