acids, and stains. Another advantage of plastic laminate is that no finishing is required. It also cleans easily with mild detergent.
Laminates are known by such trade names as Formica, Micarta, Texolite, Wilson Art, Melamite, and many others. They are manufactured in many colors and designs including many wood grain patterns. Surfaces are available in gloss, satin, textured, and other finishes. The distributor supplies samples or chips of the different colors and finishes to help the customer decide which to use.
Generally two thicknesses of laminates are widely used: thick and thin.
Thick laminate is about 1/16-inch thick. It is used on horizontal surfaces, such as counter tops, tables, dressers, and desk tops.
Thin laminate is about 1/32-inch thick. It is used on vertical surfaces, such as the sides and front of kitchen cabinets. This is because vertical surfaces take less wear than horizontal surfaces. Thin laminate makes a more pleasing appearance because of the thin edge line it presents when trimmed. It is also less expensive than the thick laminate.
A thinner laminate, called backer laminate, is also available. It is used to cover the inside of doors and the underside of tabletops to give a balanced construction to the core.
Plastic laminate sheets come in widths of 24, 30, 36, 48, and 60 inches and lengths of 5, 6, 8, 10, and 12 feet. Sheets are usually 1 inch wider and longer than the size indicated.
Most distributors cut sheets in half through their width or length. This action increases the range of sizes. Since the material is relatively expensive, it is wise to carefully plan and order the most economical sizes.
Before a counter top is laminated, make sure all surfaces are flush. There should be no indentations where the pilot of the router bit will ride. Check for protruding nailheads and points. Plane or sand surfaces that are not flush. Fill in any holes and sand them smooth. Drive nailheads flush, fill, and sand.
There are a number of ways to cut laminate. Whatever method is used, cut the pieces 1/4 to 1/2 inch wider and longer than the surface to be covered. Laminate must be handled carefully, because it is very brittle. It may crack if dropped or handled roughly.
One method of cutting laminate is to use a straightedge and a router with a flush trimming bit. This method is used frequently by installers on the job and in the shop. It is easier to run the cutting tool across a larger sheet than to move a large sheet across the cutting tool. Also, the router bit leaves a smooth edge.
The table saw can produce a smooth edge, cut with a 60-tooth, triple-chip carbide blade. Laminate may also be cut with a portable circular saw, saber saw, or band saw. However, these tools will not give a clean, ship-free edge.
Plastic laminates can be cut to rough size with a table saw, portable saw, or saber saw. Use a fine-tooth blade, and support the material close to the cut. If no electrical power is available, you can use a finish handsaw or a hacksaw. When laminates are cut with a saw, place masking tape over the cutting area to help prevent chipping the laminate. Make cut markings on the masking tape.
Measure and cut a piece of laminate to the desired size. Allow at least 1/4-inch extra to project past the edge of the counter top surface. Next, mix and apply the contact bond cement to the underside of the laminate and to the topside of the counter top surface. Be sure to follow the manufacturer's recommended directions for application.
Allow the contact bond cement to set or dry. To check for bonding, press a piece of waxed brown paper on the cement-coated surface. When no adhesive residue shows, it is ready to be bonded. Be sure to lay a full sheet of waxed brown paper across the counter top. This allows you to adjust the laminate into the desired position without permanent bonding. Now, you can gradually slide the paper out from under the laminate, and the laminate becomes bonded to the counter top surface.
Be sure to roll the laminate flat by hand, removing any air bubbles and getting a good, firm bond. After theContinue Reading