Cutting Sink Holes in Laminate Tops

Installers trade opinions and experiences on sink cut-out tools and methods. September 25, 2009

I'm curious what you are using to cut a sink out in a laminated countertop. Do any of you use a router to do the cut? If so, what size router? Bit? What type of template? Do you feel it is better than using another method, like a jigsaw or a circular saw?

Forum Responses
(Cabinet and Millwork Installation Forum)
From contributor L:
Any time I have had to cut a laminate top for a sink it has been in the field. The only sink I have ever seen go into a laminate top is a surface mount sink with an edge that lips over the lam and covers the edge of the cut-out. Because of this, the beauty of the hole isn't critical and the fit is usually pretty forgiving. I use a jig saw.

From contributor D:
I use a jigsaw too, with a metal cutting blade and masking tape on the countertop. I cut it in place after it's screwed down. I hate installing laminate tops.

From the original questioner:
Same here! I use a jigsaw. A couple guys suggested using a router to do this type of cut. I have tried using a router before (long ago), but the one I had was a 2 hp, which did not cut very fast as opposed to a jigsaw. I just wanted to know if there were other options.

From contributor S:
I use a jigsaw too and make all but 2" of the cut on both sides of the hole. I then screw a scrap strip of wood to the cutout that is wider than cutout to hold it in place while I finish the cut. That way it won't drop down before the cut is finished, possibly cracking the p-lam.

From contributor T:
If I am building the countertop I make a template out of any 1/2 plywood or particleboard and make the cutout with a router from the top before laminating or from the bottom if I am using a postform blank. I usually go back and put a couple strips of buildup across the sink cutout to reinforce during transport. Once the top is installed you can cut them out with any saw. When I have to make cutouts on site for a drop in range or when the customer hasn't picked a sink, I will do a layout on blue painters tape then cut with a jigsaw. It is a good idea to put masking tape on the bottom of your jigsaw so you don't scratch the top. Also, use a push or down cutting jigsaw blade so you don't chip the laminate. I also like the sink catchers from Fastcap. After you cut most of the way around, you slide them through the cut and turn them 90 degrees to keep the cutout from falling. A few precautions will pay off in the end.

From contributor V:
The "down cutting" jigsaw blade he is referring to is a Bosch T101BR. The T101B is the most popular Bosch blade on the market, the BR (R for reverse) has the teeth going in the opposite direction. This eliminates any chipping of the laminate. Most jigsaw manufacturers also offer a No-Mar base that eliminates the need for masking tape, but tape is a lot cheaper and works as well.

From contributor J:
I used those 101BR blades for years in my Bosch saw to cut countertop openings. One day the last one broke and the only thing I had with me was a fine tooth metal cutting bit (don't know the number). I haven't looked back. They work so much better. For some reason, they seem to stay at a right angle to the surface much better too.

From contributor O:
You have to set the orbit to zero when using the reverse blades, otherwise they are hard to cut with. With no orbital action, they work great.

From contributor K:
I cut a top today and my jigsaw only let me cut an inch and a quarter from the backsplash. What would you use to cut closer, or is that the norm? It worked but I felt I was a little close to the front of the counter. It was a typical Formica top with the one piece moulded backsplash.

From contributor V:
Those metal cutting jigsaw blades worked for ya? Cool. I'd like to know which ones. I think some of them have a 5 degree negative rake that does not dig into the laminate but kind of scores it.

From contributor S:
Make the cut from the bottom side before you set the top. If it's already installed, try a recip saw with a spoil board taped to the backsplash that is the correct thickness to guide the blade along your cut line.

From contributor L:
Drill holes through the top at the corners of the cutout to mark it, then flip the top over and cut it from the underside of the counter. This way you can cut right up to the splash. What you might also consider doing is to rough cut the hole first. This drops most of the weight of the fall-off before making the final cut, greatly reducing potential binding or tear-out.

From contributor E:
If you are going to cut the hole from the bottom side then you don't want to use the down cutting jigsaw blade. Then you might chip the laminate. Routers are too messy - you have more cleanup involved.

From contributor I:
I've always cut them upside down. Skilsaw the long runs up to radius corners, then Sabersaw the rounds. A couple of 8d nails at angles into Skilsaw cuts on bottom keep it from falling through. Never had a problem.

From contributor V:

Yes, the Bosch T101BR from the top side only, otherwise it defeats the purpose of the reverse teeth.

From contributor A:
101B's for years. Keep the orbit low, and chipping isn't bad. If you use 101BR definitely keep orbit at 0. If we templated, we'll cut in shop with a 1/2" downshear before laminating.

From contributor R:
Regarding the question about getting close to the splash, you can take the whole foot off a jig saw and let it ride on the guide wheel. This gets you a lot closer to the splash, but you can do a little better if you lean the saw away from the splash, thus making an undercut, but that won't show. If the sink is a clamp-down stainless, be sure the undercut isn't leaving you with nothing for the little clamps to grab. Use zero orbit and take your time cutting. Remember not to get too close as the sink rim needs a place to seat.

I too like the 101 blades, but I spend the little bit more and get the BF. It is bi-metal so it zips through staples and keeps on moving. The chipping is never a problem.

I tried the downcut, and hated it. They kept shoving the saw up out of the cut, and did more damage than a little chipping.

From contributor J:
Those metal cutting blades that I've been using are Bosch T118A.

From contributor Z:
I use a hole saw in the corners, bulk of the straight cut with a circular saw, finish with jigsaw.

From contributor V:
Thanks! I'm going to try the T118As in our demo room in the morning.