If you’re doing the work yourself, the key is to install the countertops correctly. You won’t save any money if you have to replace a piece of the countertop or eventually call in a contractor to repair something. You won’t be happy if it doesn’t look right.
Having said that, this laminate countertop installation guide provides an overview of what is required to remove the old and install the new. Our FAQ section below discusses how much you can save with DIY laminate countertop installation.
Removing Old Countertops, Sinks and Cabinetry
The demolition side of the equation is quite easy. It can be done with a few basic tools and a dose of caution. These tools are helpful:
- Adjustable wrench
- Screwdriver or drill and bits
- Pry bar
- Towel or bucket
Step 1: Turn off the water supplies to the faucet.
Step 2: Use the wrench to disconnect the water lines from the underside of the faucet. Keep the bucket or towel handy to catch water remaining in the lines.
Step 3: Disconnect the collar on the sink drain line with the wrench.
Step 4: Remove the drawers from of the cabinetry to make it easier to get to the fasteners holding on the sink and countertop.
Step 5: Remove the fasteners and clips, and take out the sink.
Step 6: Remove clips and fasteners holding the countertop in place. A drill in reverse mode with a screwdriver bit works well for screws. Use the pry bar to pry the countertop off of anything it is glued to. You might need to break any countertop seams too. Remove the countertop pieces.
Step 7: Remove the fasteners securing the cabinets, and take away the cabinets. Removing the base cabinets first makes removing the wall cabinets easier.
Note: Take care in doing the work because you might find use for the old cabinetry and countertops in the basement, laundry room, garage or cabin. You might get a few bucks for them in a garage sale too.
Installing New Kitchen Countertops
We’re assuming that you’ve ordered custom cut plastic laminate kitchen countertop pieces, so we don’t cover building the wood core, cutting and gluing the laminate to it. Check YouTube for videos on those processes, if you’re going to build from scratch.
Even if installing pre-formed sections, you’ll need good skills to get professional-quality results.
Countertop installation tools and supplies:
- Dust mask
- Belt sander with 80-grit belt
- Handsaw with 10-tooth per inch blade
- Countertop glue
- Mending plates and brackets with screws
See our cabinetry guides for an overview of cabinetry installation. Here, we’ll focus on the countertops.
The wall cabinets should be installed before placing the countertop on the base cabinets. This eliminates the chance the countertop will be damaged while installing wall cabinets.
Step 1: Place the countertop pieces onto the cabinets to check for fit.
Step 2: If there are gaps between the countertop and the wall, you’ll need to trim the pieces. The same is true if the countertop has a built-in backsplash. Measure the widest gap between the wall and countertop. First, install mending brackets to the underside of the counters to hold the seams tightly together. Two or three per seam is sufficient. Cut a piece of wood out off the end of a 2×4 or 2×6 the width of that gap. Use that piece as a guide.
With the countertop pieces in place, run the piece of wood along the wall while it rests on the laminate. Hold a pencil to the outside of the wood piece, and mark the laminate with it. This will result in a line on the top of the plastic laminate that varies in width to match the run of the wall.
Now, remove the mending brackets, and take off the countertop pieces one at a time.
Step 3: Use the belt sander (preferred) or a jigsaw to remove the laminate material on the wall side of the line. You should rest the pieces on a sturdy set of saw horses spaced no more than 4-6 feet apart to give it the support it needs. Clamping the pieces to the sawhorse or having a helper hold them will make the job much easier. Go slow to avoid removing too much material.
Step 4: Place the pieces onto the cabinetry again to check the fit. Make additional adjustments, if needed.
Step 5: Use the sink template to mark the sink opening on the bottom of the countertop. Cut an opening with a hole saw inside the area to be removed. Then, use a jigsaw to cut away the material to create the sink opening. Cutting from the bottom reduces chipping at the cut line. Be sure to support the piece being removed, so that it does not pull away and fall as the cut is progressing. A helper will prove valuable for this. Turn the countertop over, and check the fit of the sink. If it binds while being set in the opening, you’ll need to do a little bit of trimming.
Note: Use build-up strips behind the sink and on both sides to provide extra support for its weight. This will prevent the countertop from sagging under the weight of the sink alone or when it’s filled with dishes and water.
Step 6: When the pieces fit like a glove, glue the edges where they meet, and anchor them to the cabinetry using 1 1/2″ steel angle brackets and 5/8” screws. Quickly remove any excess glue on the countertop surface. Attach the brackets to the cabinetry first using a drill or driver and a Philips bit. Then, attach the countertop. This method pulls the countertop down tight to the cabinetry. Some installers run a bead of glue along cabinetry where the countertop will meet it, but with the use of angle brackets every 18 inches or so, glue isn’t a necessity. Not using glue makes countertop removal easier down the road!
Step 7: Use the clamps provided with the sink to fasten it to the countertop.
Step 8: Use the handsaw to trim any countertop piece that extends beyond the end of the cabinetry further than you want it to. Cover the area you’ll cut with masking tape to reduce splintering. Go slowly and cautiously. When completed, glue the endcap in place.
Laminate Kitchen Countertop Installation FAQ
Here are questions we’re often asked about installing plastic laminate countertops.
How much will DIY installation save me?
Laminate countertop installation costs range from about $7 per square foot to $12 per square foot depending on who you hire. Disposing of the material yourself might also save you a bit of money.
What skills do I need for the installing plastic laminate kitchen countertops?
Experience with hand tools and power tools is essential. Previous installation experience will prove invaluable. Patience comes in handy too.
How much do installation tools cost?
A decent belt sander will cost $75 or more. A quality drill is $40 or more. Expect to spend at least $200 on the tools if you don’t have them and can’t borrow them.
How long does laminate countertop installation take?
Most installations are done in one to two days.
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