Locating and Fabricating Countertop Corner Seams

      Advice for a first-timer on making the corner joint in an L-shaped laminate countertop. May 31, 2010

I am building kitchen cabinets for a client and I am now at the point of making the counter tops. I don't build the counter tops but this time I am. Maybe I won't again. The area I'm working on is the "L" shape with the sink in the corner. I'm not quite sure of the best method to use. I am using Pionite laminate and my question is connecting the two pieces of the "L". I'm not sure how to make that connection. Do I laminate the two ends that get butted up and hold them in place with tite joint bolts or would I secure the two pieces with the tite joint bolts and then lay the laminate over that joint by a foot as my substrate is 4' wide and the laminate is 5'. I'm thinking if I make two separate pieces it would be harder to make the seam as unnoticeable. Does anyone have any thoughts?

Forum Responses
(Laminate and Solid Surfacing Forum)
From contributor V:
How long are the legs of the L?

From contributor B:
With the sink in the corner I'd keep the seam as far away as possible from it. I'd build the core keeping that in mind. So I firmly believe option two in your question is the best method. I would keep the laminate the full 5' width and butt the other leg to it. I'd use a router and a straight edge, butt the laminate pieces where you want the joint, mark it and clamp both pieces down and seam both pieces of laminate with the same pass. That way when you lay up the laminate on the core the joint is tight. Take a file and just skim the edges to remove the router burr. Make sure when you lay the laminate down on the core, you've got the joint lined up on your marks and have room to roll the laminate toward the seam. I stick the laminate away from the seam first and work toward it, it's a little trickier and takes a little practice, but the seam is tight that way.

From the original questioner:
Contributor V - one leg is 8'6" and the other is 7'. That is from end to end on each leg. Contributor B, I'm not quite sure I understand the rolling the laminate towards the seam? I thought with contact cement once its down you don't move it, unless you would use some other type of glue.

From contributor V:
Depending on where the kitchen is and what you are transporting the tops with I would tend to want to build this top in one piece. I've been down the road a number of times looking like leg that size out the back door of my van. If you made a template for the top and you could easily get it out of the house this is the option I would choose. Then your substrate seam will be about a foot from your laminate seam. Using the method of rolling the laminate into the seam does work well. What you will want to do is get you to mating edges perfect before you start applying any glue. If the seam doesn't look good dry fitting it will never look good. Then adhere your larger piece of laminate to the substrate. Be careful not to get contact adhesive on the mating edge. Then set up your second piece on dowels. I usually use 1/2 inch but the dowel closest to the joint use 1/4. Set the seam then leaving the 1/4" dowel about 8-10" from the seam roll the rest of the laminate then remove the 1/4 dowell and roll into the joint. It will produce a very tight joint. If you can't transport that or maneuver a top that size in the house then you will have to do a field seam (I don't laminate in the house). I would to 1 section 4ft by 7 and the other 4'6" attach them with H bolts. You can still get a good seam this way.

From the original questioner:
Ok, I have glued down the largest piece and now I have the remaining piece that is 22 inches wide left to glue. I clamped the two pieces down and ran the router down the joint and have a nice fit. What I'm having trouble visualizing is the "roll the laminate" part. Contributor B said (ďmake sure when you lay the laminate down on the core, you've got the joint lined up on your marks and have room to roll the laminate toward the seam. I stick the laminate away from the seam first and work toward itĒ). I'm using contact cement. Once you stick it you can't move it, unless I'm doing something wrong or using the wrong type of glue. I understand overlapping veneer to get a tight joint but you just sand it away, not laminate. Am I suppose to put it down while the glue is still wet so it moves? Help me out here, so far the countertop looks great. I just need to stick this one seam!

From contributor K:
You have to roll the laminate after the pieces make contact to ensure a good bond. That is the roll part. Use spacers to keep the pieces from touching while you line things up. (I use old laminate strips). Take out the spacer closest to the seam and mate the seam together. Then start at the other end and work towards the seam, pulling spacers and rolling the pieces together to make the bond. As you do this you will create a small hump in the laminate going towards the seam. When you get to the seam and roll it down again you are basically forcing the two pieces tight together. I know it says contact cement, but it will scoot a little as it is being rolled. To thick of spacers will give you trouble, but just a little hump to roll towards the seam will make it very tight.

From contributor B:
I use 1/2" or 3/4" spacers to keep the laminate off the core. About 6" from the seam I use a 1/4" dowel. I line up the laminate at the joint, making sure I have coverage and stick the edge, just the edge at the seam. I then stick the laminate behind the 1/4" dowel and work my way down to the end, just sticking it by hand. I then go back to the seam and stick about 3/4" along the seam with my thumb and take out the remaining 1/4" dowel. You should have a little hump left in the laminate. I roll the laminate from the hump toward the seam. It will move enough to make the joint tight. Make sure the laminate doesn't pop up at the seam. If it does, just stick it back before you keep rolling. I'd practice with a scrap core before the real thing if you are uncomfortable.

From the original questioner:
Well, it's done. Not bad, got a nice closed seam but for some reason it is just a hair high. My plan is I have a hard maple butcher block that will fit this area and I think I will just keep it there. Itís got the sink to the left and stove to the right so if I say I planned it that way most won't know the difference. I did as instructed, stuck the seam first and then started at the other end working back towards the seam. I used extra wooden blind slats that were about two inches wide and laid them about one inch apart. I didn't want too big of a hump. Thank you guys for helping me out. I appreciate it very much. For this job that will be the last and only seam for me to deal with. But I won't be afraid to tackle another.

From contributor Y:
I have been following this post very closely as I just had the same situation and I had to make mine in two pieces. I used the usual "dog bones" to join the sections but what I did was biscuit the top substrate as well. The seam lined right up when I installed it. The biscuits saved the day as I was alone on the install and didnít have the proverbial second set of hands that I really needed. Iím glad to hear yours turned out well. Thank you to all that answered the question. I learned a lot from this one as well!

From contributor B:
One last thing about your seam being high when you butted the end of one sheet to the side of the other sheet to get your joint (I assume that is what you did). When the manufacturer runs the laminate through the sander to grind the back, it doesn't always come out an exact thickness along the edge of the sheet to the middle of the sheet, if you get my drift. Sometimes the side of the sheet is just a bit thicker than the middle or vice versa. I dry fit the joint before I use contact and if needed sand the back side on one to get an equal thickness to get a perfectly flat seam.

From the original questioner:
I wish I had thought of that then. I will store that in my gray matter filing cabinet! It's a pretty unnoticeable joint. I would have liked to have had it a bit smoother but nothing at all hangs up on it. It's hard to see and you have to rub your hand across it to find it. I'm happy with it.

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