How To Install Formica

Installing Plastic Laminate on A Countertop Or Table

Formica is a brand name for Plastic Laminate. It is a very popular material for counter tops because it is highly durable, and very inexpensive compared to most other counter top surface materials. Formica and other plastic laminate products like Wilsonart and Pionite come in hundreds of colors and patterns like wood and metal which makes it popular with designers and architects.

This article teaches you how to cut, glue and install formica on a flat table top with a square drip edge. The table built in this article was made with 2" square metal tubing and a single sheet of MDF (Medium Density Fiberboard) as the table top. The same techniques can be used to install formica on a kitchen or bathroom countertop.

brief how to

In this article, you will find information about:

  1. Figure Out How Much Formica You Will Need
  2. Cut The Drip Edge Or Edge Band
  3. Glue The Edge Band Drip Edges
  4. Install The Formica Drip Edge
  5. Roll The Formica To Fully Set The Glue To The Formica
  6. Trim The Formica Drip Edge Band
  7. Sand The Substrate Surface To Remove Glue Or Other Bumpy Particles
  8. Apply Glue To The Substrate And The Back Side Of The Formica
  9. Install The Formica Sheet On The Countertop Or Table Top
  10. Trim The Formica Countertop Edges
  11. File The Formica Corners

tools and materials

  • Plastic Laminate
  • Router with a laminate trimming bit
  • Clamps
  • Adhesive; For smaller jobs it is easier to work with spray adhesive, larger jobs you can use liquid adhesive applied using adhesive roller covers on a regular paint roller handle.
  • Tape measure
  • Sanding block
  • File, preferably a laminate file but a fine steel file will work

step 1 Figure Out How Much Formica You Will Need

Plastic laminate comes in sheets of 4x8 and 4x10. It can be purchased from larger home stores and sometimes from counter top shops that manufacture plastic laminate counter tops.

  • Measure the areas that you want to cover and then add about one inch to each dimension so you can be sure that the formica will extend past the edge when it is first glued on, before it is trimmed.
  • Take into consideration any design on the formica. A design such as a wood grain formica will need to be installed in a certain direction so the wood grains line up. This means that you can't always just use just any piece because you need to consider the size of the piece and the grain or pattern direction.

step 2 Cut The Drip Edge Or Edge Band

The drip edge or edge of the countertop or table top are installed first before the table top. This this order of installation allows the plastic laminate on the table top to cover the seam at the top of the drip edge giving a cleaner look and better protection of the corner seam between the countertop and drip edge. To cut the strips of formica for the drip edge you will use a circular saw with a blade made to cut plastic laminate or by using a router with a bit made to trim plastic laminate. To cut with a laminate trimmer:

Lay the sheet of formica on a flat working surface with a straight edge. Use the edge of the table or countertop as a straight edge. Lay the laminate on the surface and overhang the edge the height of the face of the drip edge plus 1 inch. (this gives you 1/4" above and below the drip edge and 1/2" of material that the router will remove when it cuts. Make sure the distance from the face of the cutting table is the same all the way along the cut so you end up with a straight cut.

Clamp the formica to the working surface with one of the clamps far enough in so the router can start cutting without hitting the clamp. Start the router, put the bearing against the edge of the work surface and the base of the router on top of the formica sheet. Push the router along the edge keeping the bearing in constant contact with the edge so it cuts the laminate in a straight line. You will need to move the clamps out of the way to cut all the way across the sheet of formica.

cutting formica edge band

step 3 Glue The Formica Drip Edge Band

To glue formica you must coat both the wood substrate and the back side of the formica, let the glue dry and then put the pieces together. Spray the drip edge and the back side of the formica drip edge strip. Let the adhesive dry enough so that when you touch it it does not feel sticky, about 3 minutes.

glue formica edge

step 4 Install The Formica Drip Edge Band

After the glue is not tacky you are ready to install the edge band strip. Care must be taken to not allow the surfaces to touch each other before they are properly aligned. Line up the drip edge with the substrate drip edge and starting at one end you will begin pressing the formica onto the substrate. continue along the piece until you get to the other end.

put on formica edge

step 5 Roll The Formica To Fully Set The Glue To The Formica

Use a Roller to apply concentrated pressure all along the newly glued formica strip. If you don't have a roller you can use a sturdy toy car with wheels that are soft enough to not scratch the formica.

roll formica edge band

step 6 Trim The Formica Drip Edge Band

Trimming the overhanging drip edge must be done before the table top or counter top can be laminated. Use the laminate router to trim the overhanging formica. Make sure there are no little bumps that will hold up the edges of the counter top.

trimming formica drip edge

step 7 Sand The Substrate Surface to Remove Glue Or Other Bumpy Particles

The surface of the countertop substrate must be perfectly flat with not bumps that will hold the formica sheet off and not allow the glue to adhere the two surfaces together. Use a 150 grit sanding block to sand off any glue residue or other particles. Wipe the surface with a clean rag.

sand the formica substrate

step 8 Apply Glue To The Substrate And The Back Side Of The Formica

Apply an even coat of glue to both the top of the countertop substrate and the bottom side of the Formica sheet according to the manufactures recommendation on the can. Let it dry until it is no longer sticks to your finger when you touch it.

apply adhesive to formica

step 9 Install The Formica Sheet On The Countertop Or Table Top

Position the sheet of formica above the countertop substrate. Hold one end up high and the other end close to where it will be installed making sure it is lined up correctly. Once you start sticking one end the rest of the formica sheet will follow the same angle, you will not be able to take it off and reposition it. Attach the one end and then work your way across the sheet laying down the formica as you go.

Roll the entire surface with a roller as before.

roll laminate

step 10 Trim The Formica Countertop Edges

Trim the top formica sheet just as before.

trimming plastic laminate formica

The only difference now will be the possibility of the router cutting the surface of the drip edge. This happens when the router is not held flat on the surface or the drip edge is not cut perfectly square. If the router is scraping the surface of the drip edge then you can use a scrap piece of laminate to hold up the router base plate as shown in the picture.

laminate surface cut

router trimming

step 11 File The Formica Corners

The edges may be softened up a bit by using a file. This takes off any sharp edges created by the router. Be careful to not remove too much material.

file plastic laminate corner edge

Wipe off the dust and enjoy your new countertop or table.


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