Cutting Sink Holes in Laminate Countertops

Introductory tips for a new installer on cutting laminate countertops. May 22, 2007

I normally do not install countertops, but have a new contract with a builder who requires us to install the laminate counters with our cabinets in the kitchen.

What is the best way to cut this stuff without chipping or damaging it? My countertop supplier will miter the corners and make slots for the dog-bones. But what is the best way to cut out for the sink with the backsplash in the way of the router? Do I tip it over and rout it with the counter upside down with a template? I know this may seem simple, but I don't want to screw this up and have to purchase material twice.

Forum Responses
(Cabinet and Millwork Installation Forum)
From contributor K:
To scribe the backsplash, measure from the front of the cabinet to the front of the countertop, making sure that it is the same on both ends (the top is sitting in place). If one side reads 1 1/4, make sure the other side does too. Use a scribe tool along the wall to mark the piece. Putting tan masking tape on the splash will make it easy to see your line when scribing. For side splashes, attach one side at a time so you can scribe each one individually. This will allow you to cut them until each side is the same thickness. When scribing to walls, use a skill saw and cut at a bevel. Leave your line while you cut so you can sand to it with a belt sander.

For sink holes, turn the top upside down and use the skill saw. Cut on your lines, this time stopping short of the radius turns. At this point you can use a jig saw. Make sure that the fall off is supported so that it doesn't break off at the end. It takes a while to get used to installing countertops, but when you've done several kitchens, you get used to it.

From contributor V:
For sink cutouts I use a jig saw with a downcut blade once the top is fastened in place and the plumber traces out the sink where he wants it. For scribing, if I have to cut out a lot of material, I'll use a jig saw. I use a mini grinder with a 60 grit sanding disc to scribe to the line; it's very fast, accurate, and easy to control.

From contributor S:

I don't put my backsplashes on until I've made all my cutouts. Had to fight a slide-in one time with a hand saw, and I won't do it twice. Unless I have really tight tolerance on the cut, I use a 101B upcutter with my orbit up one notch (jigsaw). Let the saw do it's thing and it won't chip out. I only use the downcutter if it's a finished cut.

From contributor D:
Cutting for the sink is best done by using a jigsaw. You can cut accurately to a pencil line without having to grind or sand. I first drill out corners with a 1/2" paddle bit (access for the jigsaw). If the countertop is a postform top and the cutout is close to the backsplash, I reach under and cut the corners out from below. I also use the jigsaw to hog off deep scribe areas and finish with 36 grit on the belt sander. 1300 countertops in 5 years... I have a system down that works for me.