Re-Covering a Laminate Top

Advice on handling the edge detail when applying new laminate over old. December 24, 2009

A customer wants me to re-cover their kitchen countertop with new material. I'll rough-sand the top and use contact cement, but can I do the same with the existing edge? Or do I have to strip off the old edge and fight with the gummy edge before putting on the new edge? I tried to convince them to use bevel-edge, but they weren't able to find a match. They're looking at Cabinet Parts online. For the bevel-edge, I thought I'd really have to get down to a clean raw edge, maybe by routing it off. Can't saw it off because of the shape.

Forum Responses
(Cabinetmaking Forum)
From contributor R:
I would check to see if the edging is still sound, just like I assume the top mica is all sound. If so, rough it up and apply as usual. If not, I would use a heat gun and remove the old edging, then just take a 60 grit sanding belt on a block and proceed as normal.

From the original questioner:
Thanks. I was concerned that if I took off the edge and ground it down, as you suggest, the edge might not be so good to glue the bevel-edge onto. Kuhen says not to use contact cement. By the way, Cab Parts does carry matching edges, on special order.

From contributor K:
Both Kuehn Bevel and Gem-Loc carry an extensive line of matching laminate and solid-surface bevel edges... If you can't find a match in stock, they can still make it.

From contributor T:
So the labor to remove or prep and re-laminate (including the scribing) the tops is cheaper than buying new particle and laminating that? You mentioned the difficulty of the shape, and needing to use a router; is it curved? The bevel edge will not work on a radius.

From contributor S:
Instead of routing an edge off, why not add an edge on? You could even make a beveled edge of your own, fasten it to the front, then laminate the top.

From contributor J:
If you remove the back and end splashes, then squirt a small amount of acetone under a lifted edge, the plastic laminate will literally jump off the substrate before you can set the squirt bottle down. Same with the edge. And be ready for re-gluing by the time you get back from the dumpster. Kuehn will make any bevel edge you want, in any brand, any color, plus solid surface edge.

From the original questioner:
Thanks. Contributor T, I think it's easier for me - I have a hard time dragging heavy panels around, especially 5x10's. The shape is basically L shaped, straight lines.

Contributor S, thanks, but I don't get it. If I made a beveled edge myself it would never be as good as the ready-made ones. And why would I laminate over the beveled edge? That would reveal the black edge, even if I could find a way to trim it over the angle.

Contributor J, thanks for the tip about the acetone. I've always used lacquer thinner for that purpose - I guess acetone would work better. But anytime I've removed a surface, I seem to remember having to contend with a lumpy rubbery surface. Do you think that's better than going on top of the existing surface? I'll use acetone on the edges.

From contributor K:
For an L-shaped top, you are better off starting from scratch. The existing top is already your template for size and sink placement, so no measuring.

If you plan on adding a bevel-edge, you are just better off working with new... By the time you fart around getting the edge off sanding it or routing it to clean it up, you could have popped the existing top off, templated and cut it. Have the edge/cross sticks pre-cut with you.

I would assume that in the L-shaped, there is a stove to the left/right of the L... so you will have to move that anyway to laminate the existing top. With the new, the stove would just stay in place, and you can slide the top out. If you are going to try and laminate an existing backsplash in place, it is a pain. If you are making new, all the more reason to just start with new material.

If you work by yourself, get a day laborer from a local office. All you need is someone to help you remove it and place it... $30-$40 for a half-day's work, to save your back, is well worth the money.

You should be able to bang this top out in about three hours, and you can walk away knowing it was done right, and not have any potential delamination problems.

From contributor B:
Thanks for the excellent advice. I'm removing the old top anyway, and the splashes (I think), and taking them to my place for the work. Copying the shape onto new material is almost a no-brainer. But handling the 5x10 is a major consideration for me - too heavy, not enough room in my mini-van. My shop is a 1 car garage.

Yes, the stove is on the left. It never occurred to me that doing this laminating in place (in the kitchen) was even a possibility. I wouldn't consider that unless it was impossible to remove the counter. In the past I sometimes used 3/4 luan plywood for the substrate, which I liked. I've never used water-resistant particleboard. What would you recommend? I guess I could probably use 4x10. Actual size is 48x108.

From contributor K:
Why take the old top back to your shop? Bring two-three horses, lay down some tarp and do it right there in the driveway. Once you are done, fold up the tarp with the shaving in it, and bring that back to your shop, not the heavy material.

Have your supplier load the particle board (this is one big block of glue) into the back of your van. At the job site, put the horses out behind your van, slide the PC out and lay it onto the horses. If you are concerned about your back, have a helper (or the husband if he is home - people like to help) for $30-$40 help you move the tops in and out of the house.

Make all your cuts outside on the tarp and you minimize the cleanup inside. Once you are done using the old top as a template, cut it into two manageable pieces to load up and discard. Put the bevel-edge on once it is inside... This way you don't have to worry about dinging it on the way into the house. You are making this a little too hard for yourself.

From the original questioner:
Thanks for the excellent plan. I decided to take the top back to my place because it's easy and close (15 minutes), and then I can take my time and do whatever might come up unexpectedly. Also, transporting horses, routers, sander, extension cord, tool box, etc. is also a pain. Especially since most times like that, I wish I'd remembered something left behind.