Replace old countertops with laminate for a new look (7/25)

July 25, 2009|By PAT LOGAN / Creators Syndicate

Dear Pat: My kitchen countertop has seen better days. It is time for a change, yet I am on a tight budget. Is it possible to make a new one myself? -- Gail K.

Dear Gail: Designing and installing an attractive countertop is not a difficult job and can be done with just a few tools and a little imagination. If you are lacking in the imagination department, just use the old countertop as a pattern for a new one.

The easiest way to transform the look of your kitchen is to use plastic laminate for a new countertop surface. Plastic laminate cane be durable, inexpensive, lightweight and easy to work with.

Plastic laminate sheeting is basically made of a decorative piece of paper and a heavy Kraft paper backing. The two paper layers are encapsulated under heat and pressure in durable clear resins. The type of laminate used for countertops is usually about 1/16-inch thick.


Laminates are great for kitchens because they resist stains and allow for easy cleanup. Some household products can harm or cause discoloration of plastic laminate, however, so always clean off any staining substances with mild soap to be safe. Be sure to rinse off the soap because soap residue can mar laminate countertops.

Attractive plastic laminates are available in dozens of patterns and colors to match any kitchen decor. Most home center stores will have a small selection of plastic laminate, most often in 4-foot-by-eight-foot sheets. Sometimes you can special order larger sheets in 5-foot-by-10-foot sections.

If you want more from your new countertop, you can choose from the different edge styles such as rounded, squared or beveled. Some will even accept accent strips made of a different color laminates or other material. Solid wood moldings are available that are made specifically to fit the edges of countertops.

Take care when handling plastic laminate sheets because they are brittle when not supported by a countertop. To transport the laminate sheet from the store to your house, roll it in a 24-inch minimum roll and tie it with string. Lay it out flat as soon as you get home.

If you decide to apply the laminate over an existing countertop, fill in any deep gouges in the existing countertop to make as smooth as possible. If you would like to change the present shape or design of the existing countertop, it is possible to make a new one using 3/4-inch, high-density particleboard for the base. Particleboard is relatively cheap, strong and easy to work with.

Inspect the particleboard surface carefully before you start your project and repair any noticeable blemishes. With a circular saw, cut the particleboard into a basic rectangular size and then use a jig saw to cut any curves.

Once the countertop base is ready, all you need do is unroll the plastic laminate. Clamp a straight edge over the laminate to secure it, use a scoring tool to mark the laminate and then flex it up and down to break it. Finally, use a water-based cement to glue the laminate to the particle board or existing countertop base.


Scoring tool

Circular saw

Utility knife

Smooth-cut file

Metal straight edge

Heat gun




Contact cement


Plastic laminate

Send your questions to Here's How, 6906 Royalgreen Dr., Cincinnati, OH 45244 or visit

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