We built and installed our own laminate countertops and we’re sharing all the details with you today.
Hi friends! We made some good progress on our kitchen remodel this weekend and I’m excited to show you the changes!
When it came time to choose new countertops, we headed to Home Depot to price things out. I knew natural stone would be expensive, but holy crap. Stone is EXPENSIVE!!
So we ruled that out pretty quickly. I don’t think our home value can support $5000 worth of countertops, I don’t care about having granite that much, and I knew we could come up with something else that would still be pretty.
Next we looked at laminate countertops. If we had ordered laminate countertops from Home Depot, it still would have been about $1800. Ouch!
So I got on the internet and researched every option for inexpensive, durable countertops that we could install ourselves. Here are the DIY countertops we considered:
- I love the look of concrete countertops, but hubby vetoed them. He said they were too likely to stain, too rustic and too trendy. I complained a little before moving on.
- We looked at butcher block countertops next, but the maintenance seemed daunting and it wasn’t really the style we wanted. We USE our kitchen hard, so I didn’t think wood could withstand my kids.
Then I came across THIS post by the amazing Anna White and knew that it was the solution we were looking for. We could build our own laminate countertops!
Laminate has come a long way, friends. It is really pretty nowadays and comes in so many styles. I was amazed at the samples. I considered the Formica Argento Romano:
|via Two Twenty One
I loved the soft look and the mix of gray and white. Isn’t Chelsea’s kitchen so pretty?
I considered the Formica 180fx Calacatta Marble:
The look of marble without the maintenance? Sign me up!
But my husband wanted more contrast. We are painting our cabinets white and I want a white backsplash, so light countertops would have made the whole kitchen white. Which I would love, but the hubster not so much. And I did like the idea of contrast, so we narrowed our choices to a black countertop.
We chose Formica Basalt Slate Scovato Finish. It’s black, but not solid black. It has a lot of natural movement, but nothing splotchy or too busy.
So we went back to Home Depot and special ordered one 4’x12′ and one 4’x8′ laminate sheet. There are places online that you can buy laminate sheets, but shipping costs add up and special ordering from Home Depot ended up being the cheapest. We paid $200 total for both sheets, plus another $200 or so for the MDF and other supplies to build the actual countertop forms.
If you are thinking about doing your own laminate countertops, here’s a run-down of the process:
1. Build MDF Countertop Bases. We glued and screwed (from the bottom side) two pieces of 3/4 inch MDF together to get the right thickness for the countertops, then cut them to the shape of our counters and sanded the edges smooth. The countertops have to be pulled away from the wall when you place the laminate on, so just keep that in mind.
2. Rough Cut Laminate. Cut strips of laminate to cover the edges of the countertop, then cut a big piece to go on top. Leave at least two inches of overhang on all sides of the projects. Trust me on this one… you want to start big and trim it off afterwards. We used our circular saw to cut through the laminate.
3. Glue Counter Sides. Cover the backs of the long strips of laminate pieces and the countertop sides with an even layer of contact cement. We found the easiest way was to apply the cement using cheap foam rollers from Harbor Freight. Let glue dry for 30 minutes (check the instructions on the can since some brands may have different dry times).
There is another way to do the edges of a laminate countertop that I just recently found out about. They sell special pre-made edges that you can glue onto your countertops. If you want a fancy ogee, bevel or bullnose edge, this is something you might want to look into. I think it’s a great idea and it actually looks easy to do. HERE and HERE are two different videos showing how this type of edge is applied and HERE is a place that sells the edges for a lot of different types of laminate, including Formica’s Basalt Slate, which is the laminate we used. It runs about $30 for an 8 foot piece, so it would add a bit of expense to your countertops, but probably not more than $100 or so, which I think is still really reasonable.
4. Adhere Sides. Before we go any further, you need to know this critical information: Contact cement seems like no big deal when you touch it with your fingers BUT once contact cement touches itself, it is glued forever. FOR-EV-ER, do you hear what I’m telling you?!? So you need to be reeeeeaaaaalllly careful as you start pressing the laminate strips to the edges of the counter. If you get off somehow, you can’t pull it back off to fix it. That’s why you leave so much overhang. It’s your safety net. Start on one end and gradually smooth the piece down the entire length of the countertop side.
We have an angled corner cabinet, so we had to curve the laminate strips. We did this using a heat gun before any glue was involved. If you have any curves or rounded edges, here are some resources you might want to check out: Heating Laminate to Bend and Curving Around an Outside Radius
5. Route Around The Edges. Using a laminate bit, run your router around the edges of the countertops to trim off the extra laminate. You may need to do several passes to get the edges flush with the wood. I also suggest doing a test run on scrap material so you don’t mess up on your actual countertops.
6. Glue Counter Tops. After all of the edges of your countertops are covered in laminate and routed flush with the wood, it’s time to put glue on the top surface. Roll contact cement on both the back of the laminate and the countertop. Let dry 30 minutes.
7. Cover Countertop with Dowels. This step is crucial. Remember how I warned you that you have exactly one chance with contact cement? Place dowels ever 3-5 inches across the entire surface of your countertop. The dowels won’t stick to the contact cement and will prevent the laminate from sticking to the MDF until you want it to.
8. Bond Laminate to Wood. Place the laminate sheet on top of the dowels. Make sure everything is lined up correctly with the wood. Carefully begin pressing the laminate to the wood, leaving plenty of laminate overhanging on all sides. Start in the middle and work to one side, then do the other side. Remove the dowels as you go.
9. Route Around The Edges. Trim off the extra laminate with your router bit, just like you did on the countertop sides before.
10. File Edges. The edges of your freshly cut laminate will be sharp, so file them down with a metal file at a 45 degree angle.
Check out our new countertops! I am so pleased I could squeeeeeeaaaaaallllll!!
They sure do make the cabinets look awful, don’t you think? Haha.I don’t profess to be an expert at laminate countertop installation. Here are the resources I found most helpful. If you are serious about DIY-ing your laminate countertops, I’d read through all of the links before you get started.
Here’s some insider information, the down-low if you will, on what it was like installing our own laminate countertops:
- We love the finished countertops. I would choose the same color and style of laminate again in a heartbeat. It does not look cheap at all! It cleans up beautifully, has natural movement and doesn’t show smudges or wipe marks. I think it looks a lot like honed marble or slate.
- This project was definitely one of the harder and more stressful DIY’s we have attempted. There’s a learning curve using the router and we have a few places where we chewed through the colored layer of laminate or accidentally knicked it. Nothing a black marker couldn’t fix, but I want to give you all the info… the good, the bad, ALL of it.
- We messed up. Yep. Royally. One fateful Saturday some time well past midnight, after working on the kitchen for 12+ hours and not being completely right in the head, we laid the laminate down crooked on the main section of our countertop. Remember how I said you get one chance with contact cement? I know from experience, because we ruined a piece of laminate and had to special order a new one, which left us without a kitchen sink for a week, cost us an additional $70 and left us scraping off dried up contact cement for hours so that we could prep the MDF for the second try.
- I love the price. The total was $470 for new countertops (that includes the extra piece of laminate we had to buy after making our big mistake). Even with the mistake, I’ll take it! And let me just remind you that we have a lot of countertop in our kitchen. The main section is 12’8″ long plus we have a 3’x5′ island too. Our DIY laminate countertops cost 90% less than granite!
- I just about threw a hissy fit when I realized that we would have to have a seam in our countertop. I thought my life was ruined. I thought you would walk into the kitchen and say, “Nice kitchen. Except for that seam. It’s glaring at me like a neon sign.” Laminate sheets only come in 12 foot lengths and our longest stretch of countertop is 12’8″. I was ready to chop 8″ off my base cabinets. Luckily I have a rational husband who assured me it would be fine. And guess what? It’s fine. It’s hardly noticeable, really. No neon sign! Plus, we placed the seam under the spot where I keep my dish drying mat. So I never even notice it. Do you see it in the picture below? Very non-neon sign-ish, wouldn’t you agree?
I really wanted those fancy edges that they make for laminate now, but that’s not something you can DIY. I was really worried that I would have those ugly brown lines around my edges and then every time I’d walk into the kitchen those brown lines would be like little neon signs too. Guess what? No neon sign again! The only thing that bothered me about my edges was that you could see a bit of the white center layer of the laminate. So I got out my permanent marker and fixed it and now my edges look great.
So here’s the summary…
1. I’m happy with the finished product. It’s pretty, inexpensive and easy to clean.
2. It was a hard DIY because of the huge 12’8″ section we have in our kitchen. Smaller would have been much easier. Our island was a breeze.
3. I would absolutely do it again.
UPDATE: We’re five plus years down the road from when we first remodeled our kitchen and we are still SO glad we went with laminate countertops. They have a few tiny dings here and there, but because of the color we chose and the natural color variation, they are not very noticeable at all. And I bust out my permanent marker to touch up spots sometimes too. Five years later, we’d choose the same thing again 100%
Did you happen to see my new undermount sink in some of the pictures? Oh, baby. I love this thing! Did you know you can install an undermount sink in laminate countertops? Isn’t that the most amazing thing you’ve ever heard!? It’s a Karran sink made for laminate countertops. Read all the gory details about the sink installation HERE.
Are you thinking about DIY-ing your laminate kitchen countertops? I’d be happy to answer any questions you have!
Here’s where we started in this kitchen remodel:
And here’s where we are today:
I was NOT compensated for this post in any way. We researched the available options and chose what we thought was best. I always give you my honest opinion, whether I’m working with a company or not.