acids, and stains. Another advantage of plastic laminate
is that no finishing is required. It also cleans easily with
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.
Width and Lengths
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
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.
Inspecting the Surface
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.
Cutting Laminate to Rough Size
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,
Working with Laminates
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 manufacturers 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 the