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THE LEVEL-HEADED LOW DOWN ON LOOSE LAMINATES AND CRAPPY COUNTERTOPS!!

Alliteration aside, we ask a lot of our countertops! We expect them to be durable, strong, heat and water resistant, child-proof, sanitary, and beautiful. Tough row to hoe, if you ask me! But, thanks to the ingenuity of modern man and the wonders of chemistry, there are products that can come close to meeting these expectations. Too bad they don't last forever...

Click on any question below... or do it the leisurely way and scroll downwards!!

Countertop and backsplash cartoon

The laminated edging on my kitchen and bathroom countertops is coming loose. I'm afraid the kids are going to break it, so please tell me the best and easiest way to repair it.

Some of the Formica on my countertop seems to be lifting away from the wood underneath. Is there a fix for this, or do I need to think about new countertops?

I am interested in replacing my laminated kitchen countertop with one of those solid countertops. My neighbor has one, and she said it is called Corian. Can my husband do it himself, and where can I get some information without being attacked by salesmen at a store?

I've done some tile work, and would like to try doing my kitchen countertop and rear wall, which now both have plastic laminate on them. Any tips?

What do you think about installing new laminate over existing laminate? It seems like a heck of a lot less work than starting from scratch!

How can I clean and protect my laminate countertop?


The laminated edging on my kitchen and bathroom countertops is coming loose. I'm afraid the kids are going to break it, so please tell me the best and easiest way to repair it.

The following excerpt appears on the GOOP page in the index. Please go there if you would like to get the skinny on GOOP adhesive.

If you have edging strips that have released, the Goop is a great substitute for contact cement. It adheres to the old contact cement without any complaints, and is more forgiving... if you slightly misalign the laminate, you can make corrections. If you have worked with contact cement, you know that once contact is made, it's a done deal! Simply apply the Goop to either surface. Do not over apply or put it too close to the edges, to minimize squeezeout.

Press the laminate into place, then pull it back off for a few seconds (watch out for the adhesive 'strings' that form). This allows the Goop to begin to dry, increasing its tackiness. Press back together and apply masking or low-tack painter's tape at 6 inch intervals to hold laminate in place as the Goop dries. Because Goop air dries, drying is slow between two nonporous surfaces, so full strength may not be achieved for days. However, enough holding strength is reached in 24 hours for tape removal, if done carefully.

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Some of the Formica on my countertop seems to be lifting away from the wood underneath. Is there a fix for this, or do I need to think about new countertops?

In most cases, this is an impossible repair. Trying to lift the laminate off of the countertop will probably damage it, unless the loose area is at or near an outside corner that you can get a putty knife under. Then, if you are really lucky, you might be able to get the laminate lifted up enough to apply more contact cement and reglue it. I wouldn't use GOOP for this, because Goop is not a spreading adhesive and is best for spot gluing rather than gluing large areas of flexible material needing uniform adhesion.

If this is not the case, and if you can find a match for the laminate (some styles and colors have been around for 20 years or more), you might be able to completely remove the old laminate and install a new piece, and in the process get a few more years out of the countertop!

I did one such job for a customer who had an unattractive gash in the laminate on a kitchen counter. Replacement of the countertops would have been prohibitively expensive for him, so I agreed reluctantly to do the job, with the understanding that the end product might be worse than the original damage.

We were able to find a color match for the old laminate by obtaining samples from a local kitchen and bath shop. I removed the old laminate by deft use of a putty knife, heat gun, and patience. Needless to say, it was in a million pieces by the time I was done.

Once I made sure that there were no remnants of laminate on the countertop (lumps of any kind under the laminate are unacceptable), I applied the new contact adhesive with a roller on both countertop and laminate. The new adhesive activates the old, so adhesion is nearly as good as in the original job.

After allowing the adhesive to dry per manufacturers instructions, it was time to put the new laminate in place. Just be sure that there is no tackiness in the contact cement.

(NOTE: You may have to do some precutting of the laminate depending on your own situation. See the end of this page for more info.)

Cover the raw countertop with 6" wide strips of a very heavy paper or posterboard, running from the front edge of the countertop to the back wall. You want to position the laminate or the paper without having it stick to the countertop just yet.

Place the laminate on the paper in the exact location you want it. You must be sure to have the piece aligned perfectly. Carefully slide out one end piece of the paper without moving the laminate. Then press the laminate down firmly onto the countertop. If you don't have a roller like the pros use, you can use a rolling pin or even your hand wrapped in a thin towel so it slides on the laminate. Press all contact areas firmly and thoroughly. Once you have the first section firmly pressed into place, remove the rest of the paper carefully, a piece at a time, using the same procedure, to secure the rest of the laminate.

I have not mentioned any of the particulars of cutting the laminate. Many good home repair books have descriptions of tools and techniques involved in the much easier process of new countertop assembly and laminate application.

This is not the kind of job most contractors will take on, because the time required to do it is not estimable. However, as is true for many do-it -yourselfers, we do it to save money... and this is one project that can save you a bundle if you can pull it off.

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I am interested in replacing my laminated kitchen countertop with one of those marble-looking countertops. My neighbor has one, and she said it is called Corian. Can my husband do it himself, and where can I get some information without being attacked by salesmen at a store?

Countertops can be purchased surfaced with a number of materials besides the conventional plastic laminate and its variations (such as tapered edges, moulded countertops with integral backsplashes, and strip-inlays to break up the boring, landscape-like feel of most laminates). If you have the creative urge and the cash to back it up, you can have your kitchen counters made of materials such as marble, ceramic tile, slate, clear or colored plastic resins with imbedded collectibles... the list goes on. I think the most unique one I've seen is a countertop made from limestone... complete with seashells and other fossilized critters!

However, there is a man-made material that in the plastics industry is known as "solid surface". First invented by Du Pont over 30 years ago, and now produced in various incarnations by a handful of manufacturers, this material is a plastic resin mixed with another substance to add strength, color, or both. The original Du Pont name "Corian" has become almost a generic label for all solid surface, even though a number of companies are now manufacturing a similar product under other names.

You cannot purchase solid surface products for self installation. The reason is simple... to maintain the quality of the product and the installation, only trained, licensed contractors are allowed to service and install these products. And with good reasons, one relating to quality and one to economy.

There is a certain 'knack' that has to be developed in working with most products, be it wood products, drywall, etc. Solid surface is no exception. Combine that with solid surface's high cost and the fact that owner installation will void the manufacturer's warranty, and you can see why I must grit my teeth and say... for now anyway, until more common or competition brings substantial price reductions, this is a job best left to the pros!!

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I've done some tile work, and would like to try installing it over my existing kitchen countertop and the wall behind it, which have plastic laminate on them. Any tips?

First, let me rain on your parade... just to see if you get wet! Tile is a really hard... I mean really hard surface! A glass or plate that would bounce on a plastic laminate countertop will shatter into a thousand razor-sharp pieces on a tile counter! Tile is harder to keep looking good, and, even if installed correctly, will produce constant maintenance concerns (repatch grout, caulking, loose tiles)... plus, as an added bonus, it is fragile, and that broken plate can take a chunk out of the tile, making the countertop look crappy! Still want tile? Then, read on...

If you can answer yes to all these questions, you have a great chance to produce a quality, long lasting tile job:

  • Run a plumb line across the back of the countertop... are there any sagging spots? Not noticing this may be a visual nightmare if you install square tiles!
  • Is the countertop level across the back? Like the above problem, this defect won't be noticeable until you begin installing tile... unless you look for it ahead of time!
  • Is the countertop warped? Use a straightedge to check. Warping is unacceptable, and, if uncorrected, the countertop should be replaced.
  • Is the existing laminate firmly attached? No brainer... remove the laminate if loose, or add an additional layer of plywood, minimum 1/4", glued with construction adhesive and screwed (maximum 4" to 6" apart), over the laminate before installing the tile.
  • Is the countertop solidly mounted, without 'soft spots' when you apply vertical pressure?

If your answer is no to any of these questions, you may still be able to install the tile, but only if you can successfully repair the defect. For example, if the countertop sags, you may be able to reinforce it from within the cabinets. If the countertop is not very stiff, or some of the laminate is loose, you can add additional plywood as described above. Be aware that such a modification raises the height of the countertop about a half inch... more if you use a thick tile! Will this look okay with your major appliances or other built-in's?

Your tile supplier should be able to fix you up with the right adhesive for the job, as well as advise you about the proper edge treatment and the right stain-resistant grout for your tile.

And, oh... almost forgot... be sure to rough up the laminate with sandpaper so the adhesive will really grab!!

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What do you think about installing new laminate over existing laminate? It seems like a heck of a lot less work than starting from scratch!

Yes, this can be done, though some inherent problems may make this type of project undesirable.

You should first be sure that you are satisfied with the general condition of the countertop. Go up to prior question concerning ceramic tile over laminate for a few pointers about accessing the condition of the countertop. One addition to that list (unnecessary for the ceramic tile installation) would be that the old laminate be virtually flawless, with no serious breaks, cracks, or gouges. These may show through the new laminate.

You should rough up the old countertop with a medium sandpaper by hand to improve the bond of the contact cement. If you use a machine, such as an orbital sander or a belt sander, you may gouge or pit the old laminate and blow the job!

You should understand that your ability to trim the new laminate neatly will be limited by your ability to cut close to the walls or other obstructions... that is, unless you detach the countertop, from the walls and cabinets, and slide it away from the wall.

Since the old countertop provides an excellent template for a new countertop, and removal of the old countertop is the hardest part of this job, it might make sense to just build a new countertop and not cut corners!!

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My plastic countertops are old, dull, and stain easily. Is there some way to protect or restore them?

There is not permanent restoration except for replacement, but there are products that can add years of useful life and improve their appearance. These products are wax based sealers, and are available in a paste, liquid, or spray form. Minwax, for example, has a paste polish. There is a popular product called Gel Gloss that is as easy to apply as car wax, and is also available in a spray form.

Though the temptation might be to use auto wax, restrain yourself! Auto wax has additives that make it suitable for a car that may not be healthy to use on food contact surfaces.

Prepare the surface by thorough cleaning. If there are difficult stains, try a low abrasion cleaner such as Soft Scrub. Rinse thoroughly before applying the sealer.

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How can I clean and protect my laminate countertop?

Click HERE for a great article on cleaning and stain removal for plastic laminate countertops.

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