Recutting Installed Countertops In Place

Advice for trimming a few inches off a laminate countertop, in place. January 9, 2006

A customer I built a kitchen for earlier this year has called me to come back and recut the counter top where the stove fits in. I have to build a narrower cabinet to fit to the left of the new stove, which is 1-1/2" wider than the one we built the kitchen for. The problem is I will need to cut the countertop back. I made the top - it is a one piece top in an L that is 5' wide on the return leg, 25" deep to the wall. The backsplash is solid cherry, top is laminate. The long leg of the L is 10'. I really don't want to take the whole thing apart. The back splash is nailed and siliconed to the wall and top. It is going to be a real job to remove, and I run a risk of tearing it up, which neither I nor she can afford to replace.

Can I use a fine set jig saw blade to cut this top up to the back splash, then finish off with a Dozuki saw? My concern is chipping the laminate. There is not enough room to run a router all the way to the wall. Although, I may use it to cut to the first part of the top as close as I can then switch to the Dozuki saw to finish the last few inches of the cut, then file and finish off with a cherry end cap. Are there any other suggestions out there? My dad suggested scribing the top with a marking knife first before I cut.

Forum Responses
(Cabinetmaking Forum)
From contributor A:
I think Dad is right. I would use a laminate scoring knife - you should have one.

From contributor B:
A laminate scoring knife makes a large kerf. Use a fresh blade in a utility knife. I have done this very thing and I scored the entire cut line first. Then jig saw and rout guided by a clamped straight edge.

From contributor C:
How about scoring the line and using one of those cordless circular saws with a straight edge? I think it would be a lot neater than using a jigsaw.

From contributor D:
Use a down cut jigsaw blade, eg: Bosch T101BR (teeth facing down instead of up), cut it about 1/16" bigger that you need. You won't get any chipout with the blade. Just be careful to hold the saw down tight as it will want to jump if you don't. Then use a 60 grit belt on your belt sander to fine tune it and remove the 1/16". Do a test cut close to the edge to make sure everything is going to work for you. It wouldn’t hurt to put a score line to help prevent chip out anyway.

From contributor E:
I had a similar problem. A client replaced a drop in range with a free standing one. Since there was a splash behind the drop in range, it stood in the way of the free standing one going all the way to the wall. There was a cabinet above it. I ended up using a cordless drill to make a series of very closely set holes, creating a zipper effect. Then I broke the webs between each hole with a chisel. I used a random orbit sander to finesse the cut. It worked.

From contributor F:
I concur with contributor D. That is our typical high-end install protocol for new installation.

From contributor G:
I have run into this situation many times as an installer and I would proceed as contributor D said as well, with these exceptions. I would remove the cabinet under the top to be cut out, (put in a dead leg if necessary) then scribe the line you want to cut to across the top and backsplash. Use some painter's or similar tape to come right up to the keep side of the scribe line which will help in chipout a little bit. Use a jigsaw with a new blade (not reverse cut) and cut from beneath the countertop watching the blade's progress from the top of the counter. This sounds difficult but is actually quite easy and allows you to see exactly where the cut is occurring without being inhibited by the frame of the jigsaw in any way. Continue cutting to the wall as far as possible and stop. Then I use a Dozuki or Japanese backsaw to carefully cut to the line on the backsplash. All of these cuts should be just shy of the line and then block sanded to the line for a perfect straight line. Using the jigsaw from the bottom should take care of the blowout on the laminate, always did for me. I was an installer for five years before I started building cabinets.

From contributor H:
Use a router to go as far as you can then switch to a Fein Multimaster for the remainder.

From contributor I:
My experience with a cordless circular saw is that they don't have enough rpm to make a neat cut. Plus a fine tooth blade is hard to find for one of those things.

From contributor J:
Use an off-set laminate trim router and a template to cut through the laminate first, following the cutout dimensions. Then you can cut the substrate any way you want without chipping the laminate - like cutting butter with a hot knife!