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By Kurt J Schefken
Formica offers a plastic laminate surface that can be applied to countertops. The laminated plastic sheets come in a wide variety of colors and designs and can be applied to other surfaces in addition to countertops. Fortunately, you can install it yourself to save money but the process does involve a few steps which should be followed closely to ensure quality results.
You will first need to prepare the surface for the plastic. Laminated plastic sheets with a thickness of 1/32′ can be used on vertical surfaces, while sheets of 1/16′ thickness are recommended for flat surfaces. Before applying the laminate, you must remove any paint or varnish and sand and clean the surface thoroughly. Most countertops are manufactured with a high-density particle board. However, regular particular board is ideal for plastic laminates.
Once the surface is appropriately prepared, you should cut the laminated plastic. Please note that it is important to always cut the sheets slightly oversized to allow for trimming. You can cut the sheets with a circular saw, saber saw, backsaw or even a utility knife. If you use a saw, keep in mind that the saw should have a fine-tooth blade. Circular saws or saw saws cut on the upstroke. Cutting from the back side of the plastic laminate will help prevent chipping. Additionally, placing a strip of masking tape on the cut line will also prevent chipping. This technique also makes the line more visible. When using a hand saw, always cut from the front side at a low angle.
Take your time when applying the laminate sheets. Though epoxy adhesives can be used to apply the plastics, contact cement can usually be used and is actually more recommended. However, before applying the sheets, be sure to roughen the surface to be covered suing a course sandpaper and, of course, clean away any sanding residue. Again, do not rush in this of the process. In fact, fifty to seventy-five percent of the bonding strength when using contact cement is made in the plastic’s first contact with the surface. With this in mind, confirm that the pieces are accurately positioned before allowing the plastic and the glued areas to meet.
Once the laminate sheets are positioned correctly, you can slowly remove the dowel rods as you bond the pieces together. A roller can be used to apply pressure to the sheets once laid properly. Roll the entire area to smooth the surface and eliminate air pockets. You will need to make a seam in the laminate if the sheet is not large enough to cover the entire surface. Simply bond the larger piece into place and apply the second. To finish laminating the edges, clean the base of your router to prevent anything from scratching the new laminate counter top. Applying tape to the base of the router is a good way to avoid this scratching. Finally, remove any extra contact cement. You may want to try nail polish remover. It is good for this purpose.
About the Author: Kurt Schefken frequently creates summaries on ideas relating to woodworking machinery and power tools. His writings on table saw reviews are published on insidewoodworking.com/tasa/index.html .
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