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Installing Flat-lay Laminate Countertops

Construction How-To, Countertops, Kitchen May 1, 2010 Sonia


By Larry Walton

 

Not everything should be set in stone. Laminate counters still have their place in many home improvement applications.

 

Realtors often caution against over-building in some neighborhoods where values are established by comparable houses in the community. In these cases, it’s wise to select materials that keep costs down. This doesn’t mean you have to go with fake wood grain or avocado green. Large varieties in color and textures are available with today’s laminates.

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One of the big advantages to flat lay laminate countertops is the ability to fit them precisely to irregular wall shapes and a variety of countertop sizes. To do this, you should plan to fit and fasten the sub-decks to the cabinets or strong backs first, and then fit and install the laminate.

When preparing countertops for laminate, sand everything flat and smooth including seams and the self-edge connection.

When preparing countertops for laminate, sand everything flat and smooth including seams and the self-edge connection.

 

Design Options

Because flat-lay laminate can be fit very closely to the wall, it works well for desktop surfaces where no backsplash will be used.

One of the ways we eliminate seams is to buy large pieces of laminate to cut out L-shaped sections.

One of the ways we eliminate seams is to buy large pieces of laminate to cut out L-shaped sections.

When you want to use a backsplash for kitchens, baths and utility rooms, you have a number of options including tile, stone or matching laminate. One of my favorites is a 3/4-inch thick backsplash with a laminate face and wood accent cap to match the counter edges.

We make most of out cuts with a straightedge and a laminate cutting tool.

We make most of out cuts with a straightedge and a laminate cutting tool.

I prefer to use a hardwood self-edge, which can be stained or painted to match the cabinets. For this application we cut the countertops for a 1/4-inch overhang past the face frame of the base cabinets. We then install a 3/4-by-1-1/2-inch counter edge, which extends the overhang to the desired one inch.

After thoroughly scoring the laminate from the back, bend the piece until it snaps.

After thoroughly scoring the laminate from the back, bend the piece until it snaps.

Countertop-grade particleboard is my favorite material for laminate applications. The material is strong, consistent, smooth, flat and bonds well to contact cement. Plywood underlayment is not countertop-grade.

Occasionally we need to cut a piece for a counter that wraps around the outside of a corner. In these cases the cut needs to be accurate, so I drill a hole where the two cuts meet to keep the laminate from cracking.

Occasionally we need to cut a piece for a counter that wraps around the outside of a corner. In these cases the cut needs to be accurate, so I drill a hole where the two cuts meet to keep the laminate from cracking.

Once the countertops are fastened to the cabinets, apply the self-edge with carpenter’s glue and nails, either flush to the counter or slightly higher. When the glue is set, sand the self-edge flush with the counter top. Make sure the countertops are well fastened, flat, smooth and clean.

One of the big advantages of flat-lay laminate is that you can dry-fit and scribe the material to fit the wall precisely.

One of the big advantages of flat-lay laminate is that you can dry-fit and scribe the material to fit the wall precisely.