Any easy upgrade for formica countertop?

jerry_njMarch 28, 2009

I have a vanity in the master bedroom that is about 25 years old. It has a single sink and formica counter-top, both are in good condition, but a bit dated, 25 years old.

I can, of course, replace the cabinet, counter/cabinet and sink, but wonder if there is some update/upgrade that can be done that is easier and lower cost...e.g., how about using ceramic tile on top of the formica? Will the adhesive hold on formica? Is there some other material I can put on top of the existing formica? Can I just put new formica over the existing formica?

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Jerry...Had the same problem as you with an older home. Esily recovered countertop in new formica. Huge choice of colors and finishes available. Total cost for materials was @$100.00 and a day of my labor. Looks wonderful! Mark in Buffalo

    Bookmark   March 30, 2009 at 2:23PM
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Thanks, did you have to put down a new counter, or did you put the new formica over the old? My application can stand the extra 1/4" or whatever the thickness is. Still, the way the counter fits in the vanity area, between the wall to the bathroom and the wall to the walk-in closet. The only way I can trim is to pull the counter and work on it out in the open. That may be the standard process. This may be the bigger part of the job...I'll take a look at how the counter is attached, maybe it is just attached to the cabinet underneath and to the wall on one side where the cabinet is just a horizontal drawer.

    Bookmark   March 30, 2009 at 2:54PM
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Jerry...Yes, I removed my old countertop as it was only held with a couple of screws from below and a bead of construction adhesive along wall. Ordered formica from Home Depot and solvent based contact adhesive, NOT the water based as the old kind holds much better. Lightly sanded the old finish to get a good hold and applied two coats of contact tto both surfaces and let dry before attaching together. Usinf a rounter with a ball bearing laminate bit, route out the opening and edges...take your time. The formica laminate is only @ 1/6 " thick and is easy to cut with a SHARP knife to score partly thru, then break along score. Leave pieces slightly larger to allow for finish routing. Mark L.

    Bookmark   April 1, 2009 at 12:11PM
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Why go to all of that trouble when you can buy completely new countertops for maybe $100 more? They sell slabs at the big box, and if you're handy enough to consider recovering, you're handy enough to cut them to size and replace what you've got. Even special ordering a non stock color won't be that expensive and it's much less hassle.

    Bookmark   April 1, 2009 at 3:59PM
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Thanks, good suggestion. The only cut other than the overall fit is the hole for the sink.

    Bookmark   April 1, 2009 at 4:29PM
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Just an fyi....after seeing this question I did 2 tests...I put formica over formica and tile over formica from some scraps I had. They both worked great. I liked the tile and actually did a soldering bench top with it. I used regular thinset for tile and when it dried, I grouted it and sealed with silicone sealer. It did a great job...In both cases I lightly sanded the existing formica. I used contact cement for the new piece of formica/over formica and it held too. On both, I tried to pop them back up with a putty knife and they didn't budge.

    Bookmark   April 4, 2009 at 6:26PM
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maryland, thanks, my main concern was adhesion. About 20 years ago I repaired a kitchen counter top that had burns in the Formica near the electric range, too many hot pots set on it. But I think I removed a section of Formica in that area and replaced it with ceramic tile. I think it looked fine, and I figured the ceramic tile would stand up well to heat. I moved soon after, so I have not knowledge of how it held up.

In the house we moved to we started with a glass (ceramic?) plate/cover which sits on the counter top next to the range. It has short stand-off pads on the bottom, so it is easy to pick up for cleaning. No more burns there, we've been here for almost 20 years.

The current subject isn't in the kitchen, no burns, my wife is just tired of it, and the wall paper in the master bedroom too.

    Bookmark   April 4, 2009 at 8:23PM
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I've seen the tiles on counter tops in show rooms before and they really look good. I wondered if one could put them over formica. When I saw your question, I just had to know for myself too.

Good luck on the wall paper job!! Have you ever removed old wall paper? I did it once and in my opinion, it ain't fun!!! I used a steamer but don't know if there was an easier way. It was an older house with wall paper that was about 50 years old on plaster walls.

    Bookmark   April 4, 2009 at 11:36PM
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That's what I'm doing, to the second bedroom, both of which are rooms in which I installed the wallpaper about 15 years ago. It was good wallpaper, and the rooms were never occupied by children with crayons and art paint.. so the paper was/is in good condition.

I didn't use a steamer on the one room completed, just the DEF (if that's the name, may be no better than vinegar) and a lot of repeated soaking and scraping/picking, not fun. It then took some effort to get the remaining glue off. The walls are wallboard, the house having been built in the mid 80s. I suppose I did a lousy job of "sizing" the walls, so it is appropriate that I pay the price when it is time to take it off.

The master bedroom has the subject alcove/vanity area that is distinct but fully visible from the bedroom, and has the sink and counter. I suppose it is about 8' wide by 5' and is the entry to the master bathroom and on the other side to the walk-in closet. It has 8' foot ceiling (happy I've never owned one of the modern mansions with the 10' ceilings). I took the wall paper off of one wall, and it was such a job I decided to spackle the joints and feather sand and prime/paint. The oil-based KILZ primer/sealer is recommended for use over wall paper, the oil will not lift the wall paper (guess what, even when you can't get the paper off, a water-based paint/primer will find spots to lift) and will seal it so that a latex paint can be used for the final finish. I did the vanity area that way, and looks fine...time will tell. I may do the same for some large areas of the master bedroom too. Heck, this gives me another layer of barrier on exterior walls, two walls are exterior. I'm not suggesting a measurable increase in R-value, just trying to feel better about not getting the wall paper off. I'm yet to see how hard it is to take the paper off. I have had better experience removing paper I have installed, but as luck would have it, it was on a smallish room, still I appreciated the paper coming down in large pieces, even sheets.

Sorry for the long post, hope there's something useful in there.

    Bookmark   April 5, 2009 at 10:07AM
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