How To Cut Formica Countertops: 8 Steps

Introduction

Installing countertops can be described as a reasonably straightforward task. Various materials have been used on countertop lamination but none more extensively than Formica. The main idea when laminating countertops is to enhance durability and the general aesthetics of the surface in question. This article is aimed at establishing the correct method of installing Formica, the considerations and tools you will need.

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What is Formica?

The material Formica is a type of versatile laminating material comprising various composites. The plastic comes in a wide range of textures, finishes, and colors. In technical terms, Formica now refers to a laminating material comprising several layers of “woven fabric” adulterated with melamine thermosetting resin and finally topped up with a decorative layer alongside an extra coating of melamine. The resulting composite is heat cured and compressed making it durable and extra hard.

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The invention of the material is attributed to Daniel J. O’Connor and Herbert A. Ferber in 1912 while at Westinghouse. The Formica patent was filed the following year at which point the pair left to start a new company. The material was widely viewed as a possible replacement for the material Mica. Mica was used in electrical insulation. The name Formica’s etymology is quite simple really; Mica was the dominant electrical insulation material. The new material was the replacement for Mica on the same. Get it?

Over the years, Formica has seen the rise of several variants. The variations solely depend on the materials used as the cover sheet. The Formica research labs are the brains behind new advances in Formica related lamination materials.

Formica countertop lamination is economical, durable, easy to clean and best of all relatively easy to install. The laminating material requires moderate proficiency with a set of specific tools. The good thing, however, is that you can quickly learn how to install Formica countertops properly.

The Tools You Need

Before delving into the Formica cutting and installation bit, you will need a couple of tools to handle the specifics of the project effectively. You obviously want to achieve professional grade results with this so the prime objective is to use the correct tools and methods. Generally, you will need the following;

- Jigsaw: A jigsaw is a type of power tool comprising a motor that is used to drive a sawing blade in a repeated up and down motion. The mode of operation in jigsaws can be compared to the up and down motion of a sewing machine’s needle. The sawing blade is connected to the motor via a set of gears with off-center axes. Mounted gears convert the motor’s rotary motion into quickly alternating up and down motions. Jigsaw blades cut material via upstroke and down stroke motions. In specific, jigsaw blades cut on the upstroke position. This is attributed to the saw’s teeth pointing upwards. Some blade variations are modified to cut in the down stroke position. Down cutting jigsaws are better suited and in particular ones with 10 teeth per inch minimum.

- Circular saw: A circular saw with a thin kerf preferably using a carbide blade with no less than 60 teeth.

- A sanding block or a belt sander: Sanders are the easiest and surest way to smoothen wood and other surfaces. Sanders work by attaching a sandpaper to a rapidly moving mechanism housed to hold it onto the working surface firmly. Most sanders are electrically powered but there are air operated sanders. There are various types of power sanders each designed to accomplish sanding on different types of surfaces. There are sanders designed for woodwork projects, metal sanding and other material surfaces such as plastics amongst other softer surfaces. A palm sander is a handheld power tool used to smoothen surfaces using abrasion. Sanding surfaces using a sandpaper can be a tedious task, especially where the surface in question is large.

- Portable drill: A conventional power drill is a relatively easy to use the piece of equipment. A squeeze of the trigger switches on the electric motor that then rotates the drill bit or screwdriver. There are of course other components and features to a drill. Being power tools, cordless drills feature elaborate designs, parts and moving pieces. The inbuilt motor converts electrical current to mechanical energy providing the necessary power to turn the drill bit.

- As a standard, always ensure you have protective gear when handling power tools and especially where there’s debris and material pieces flying around.

How To Cut Formica Countertops: Step By Step

Step1: Determine The Size Of Formica Sheet

Determine the appropriate size of Formica sheet you will need for your countertop. Take measurements to approximate the rough area of laminating material you will need. Use a tape measure to determine how much Formica you will need.

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Step2: Formica Standard Size

Procure the Formica you need for your countertops: Having correctly established how much Formica you need, consult a carpentry materials store and seek an opinion on the buying options. Formica sheets vary in size with the smallest being about 0.9 meters by 2.44 meters. Some home improvement stores may offer smaller buying options for small scale projects.

Step3: Measuring

Make cutting line markings on the Formica using a pencil. This will help you cut a clean and precise line. The last thing you would want is to make a wavy unguided cut unless that is the plan. That will basically ruin your Formica.

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Step4: Using Masking Tape

Using masking tape, follow the cutting line and if necessary follow up with extra layers of tape at the Formica edge where the circular saw will start the cutting.

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Step5: Place The Formica On A flat And Rigid Surface

Place the Formica on a flat and rigid surface: The perfect surface would be a plywood surface or a wooden tabletop. Bear in mind that the surface upon which you place the Formica is going to be cut by the saw. Cement and other hard surfaces are therefore not the ideal places to commence work on the laminating Formica.

Step6: Using The Circular Saw

Using the circular saw, cut the Formica into large pieces. It is recommended not to attempt circular cuts with circular saws. The trimming portion of the job should be left to a finer saw. Flexible saws achieve exemplary results in such cases.

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Step7: Apply Glue On The Desired Surface

Apply glue on the desired surface or countertop ensuring you spread evenly and avoid any lumps and air bubbles. Afterward, install the Formica sheet onto the countertop or desired location and press the Formica to ensure it adheres to the glue. Afterward, use a jigsaw to fine trim the edges and make round cuts where necessary.

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Step8: Using The Power Sander

Use a power sander with a grit of 80-100 to smooth out the edges. The alternative is using a metal file or a sandpaper. The latter options apply to persons who find sanders a bit heavy to handle.

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There you go! A perfectly laminated countertop. The fit should be perfect. As mentioned, Formica is unbelievably durable and easy to clean. Installing Formica isn’t that hard. As a matter of fact, once you get the hang of it, you might really enjoy it and even consider going pro. But that’s just me.

I hope you found this article enlightening and as much fun as much as I did research and writing it. Feel free to share any thoughts, suggestions, and comments in the section provided. Share with a friend and fellow home improvement enthusiasts.

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Jose A. Brown
 

Jose A. Brown is a mechanic engineer and an enthusiastic blogger whose mission is to provide the readers with the best tips, guides in the Home Improvement, DIY Project, and Industry.

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