How to Install Laminate Countertops

Modern Kitchen With White Countertops

s-cphoto / Getty Images

Overview
  • Working Time: 3 hrs
  • Total Time: 3 hrs, 15 mins
  • Yield: 10 linear feet of countertop
  • Skill Level: Intermediate
  • Estimated Cost: $150 to $400

Laminate countertops already add value to kitchens and bathrooms due to their economy and surface durability. But there's another benefit that distinguishes laminate from other countertop materials: ease of installation.

Laminate countertops are one of the most installation-friendly countertops for do-it-yourselfers. Laminate countertops are simple to install because they are lightweight and easy to cut, plus they quickly attach to the base cabinets. With only a few tools, you can install laminate countertops in a moderately-sized kitchen in about a day.

Installing Laminate Countertops vs. Other Countertops

Laminate vs. Quartz Countertops

Quartz or engineered stone countertop material is difficult for most do-it-yourselfers to fabricate and install. Quartz is a heavy, dense material that challenges consumer-grade saws. When seaming quartz, grain-matching must be taken into consideration. Working with quartz countertop can be equated to working with natural stone.

Laminate vs. Solid Surface Countertops

As a solid, through-body countertop material similar to quartz, solid surface is somewhat easier for a determined do-it-yourselfer to work with. Though fabricator-grade tools work best, short sections of solid surface countertop can be cut with ordinary woodworking tools.

Laminate vs. Tiled Countertops

In terms of ease of installation and cost, laminate and tiled countertops are about equal. Tiled countertops have long been a favorite of do-it-yourselfers because ceramic and porcelain tile are cost-effective, easy to cut, and flexible. Laminate countertops' rolled front edges are smoother and less obtrusive than installing bull nose tile on the front.

What You'll Need

Equipment / Tools

  • Cordless drill and driver bits
  • Circular saw with fine-tooth blade
  • Tape measure
  • Pencil
  • Carpenter's square or drywall square
  • Speed Square
  • Sandpaper
  • Clothing iron
  • Clear packing tape
  • Keyhole saw

Materials

  • Laminate countertop
  • Wood screws
  • Miter bolt kit for corners

Instructions

  1. Measure the Base Cabinets

    Before you purchase the laminate countertop, use the tape measure to measure the base cabinets. The cabinets should either be newly installed or should be existing cabinets that have been stripped of their old countertops. Measure from side-to-side. If the countertop meets up with a refrigerator or other appliance, leave no overhang. Otherwise, leave a 3/4-inch overhang.

    Measure from the front of the cabinets to the back wall. Verify that your cabinets are a standard depth to accommodate the 25-1/2-inch laminate countertops.

  2. Mark the Laminate Countertops

    When the laminate countertop needs to be cut, mark a clear line with the pencil on the laminate side of the countertop. Turn the countertop over and use the Speed Square to transfer those measurements to the back side. Draw another line on the back. Cover both pencil lines with clear packing tape.

  3. Cut the Laminate Countertops

    Fit the circular saw with the fine-tooth saw blade. Set the blade to a depth just past the thickness of the countertop, or about 7/8-inch. Cut the laminate from the back side. Move carefully and slowly to avoid chipping the laminate.

    Tips

    Setting the blade to a low cut depth is essential for avoiding chipping. To keep the cut line straight, you may want to buy or make a saw guide.

  4. Create the Sink Cutout

    Using the template provided by the sink manufacturer, draw a line for the sink cutout on the laminate side of the countertop. Drill holes at each of the four corners of the cutout. Use the keyhole saw to cut the lines. Use fine-grit sandpaper or a file to smooth down bumps or chips in the laminate. Imperfect cut lines and edge chips will be covered by the rim of the sink.

    Important

    Only drop-in, self-rimming sinks can be used with self-installed laminate countertops. Undermount sinks cannot be used because the cut edge of the laminate MDF wood base would be exposed to water.

  5. Join Corner Sections of Laminate

    It's always best to join 90-degree angled sections of laminate countertop before mounting the countertop. Lay the countertop upside-down, with the laminate facing down. Make sure that the work surface is perfectly flat. Attach the miter bolt kit to the seam and tighten. With an assistant, turn the countertop over.

  6. Mount on the Base Cabinets

    With an assistant, lay the laminate countertop on the base cabinets. With the countertop in position, have the assistant hold down the countertop while you screw it in place. Use a work light as you go below the cabinet. Drill pilot holes in framing members of the cabinet. Then, drill wood screws upward through the framing and into the countertop base. The screws will help pull the countertop down and create a solid bond.

  7. Add the End Caps

    Edges of countertop can be covered with end cap kits supplied by the manufacturer. Tape the end cap to the edge of the countertop with painter's tape. Warm up the iron. Firmly press the iron against the end cap, sliding it back and forth. This activates the glue on the end cap. Let the end cap cool for about five minutes before removing the tape.