Laminate countertop woes - pls help!

kashka_katAugust 20, 2008

Hi  I am in the middle of constructing laminate countertops. Somehow spilled some water that got underneath laminate sheets lying on the floor. Now there is some slight warping in areas where the water was  arghhhh!!! Will this flatten out once its glued and rolled with a roller? Seems like it might but I want to be 100% sure before I attempt it because if it doesnÂt work then IÂm really screwed, my particle board base will be ruined as well as the laminate.

AlsoÂ. Other questions how long do you have to let the glue set before flush trimming with the router? After trimming, can I use a bevel router bit instead of doing the filing by hand? That filing by hand makes me nervous  IÂm afraid I might chip the laminate. Speaking of chipping  its really hard to cut laminate without making a mess of it. IÂve been allowing an extra inch & ½ for chipping.

thanks in advance for any & all input

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You are saying the laminate warped? Have no idea how or why that would happen since the intent of the laminate is to be water resistant.

If you use a beveled router bit---which is fine---you will need to add a strip of wood to the front/exposed sides before applying the laminate. Leaving the particle board exposed will look terrible, INHO. Then apply the laminate, covering the edges.

If you use laminate adhesive, you use a roller to apply a coating to the substrate and a coating to the bottom of the laminate. Allow both to dry until the surfaces are tacky---not wet, but dry and tacky. Time for that is usually 10 to 20 minutes.

Using a flush trim router bit---it has a guide roller that rolls along the edges----simply trim off the excess. I've done a lot of laminate installation and never had a bit hurt the laminate.

Then carefully clean any excess adhesive off the exposed edges(and off the guide bearing of the flush trim bit) and use the beveled bit(also with a guide bearing). That bevels the top edge nicely, exposing a bit of the wood trim for a professional finish.

    Bookmark   August 20, 2008 at 12:32PM
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Yes, the plastic top is water resistant but the bottom side is not- somewhere I read that its made out of resin coated paper or something. The water seemed to absorb into it kinda like it was paper, then when it dried its slightly wavy like paper is if its been wet and then dries. I just wonder if it will lie flat once it's glued.

The sides will be laminate strips - no wood. The instructions I have say to use a file to smooth off the roughness after the flush trim router bit. I'm wondering about using a bevel bit - but only just enough to get off the rough edge, not to bevel right thru the laminate to the wood. HOpe that makes sense!


    Bookmark   August 20, 2008 at 2:30PM
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I heard a presentation on Laminate by the lead technical guy at Formica Corp. Among other things, he does all the laminate work in the executive offices. One of the things he said was the difference between an ordinary job and a good job is hand filing the edges.

Just go "off" the edges, not on. And be very careful not to let your router 'wobble'; an offset base would be a plus if you are not used to doing this.

Here is a link that might be useful: How Formica is made

    Bookmark   August 20, 2008 at 4:26PM
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I don't think anyone can promise you, from a distance, that the warped laminate will lie down flat. If it doesn't take much force for you to push it down flat onto the substrate without glue then your chances are probably good. If you have to fight it now, glue isn't going to make it more cooperative.

Don't be scared of the file. Get a nice, sharp, new single-cut file and use it gingerly. Take a stroke with it, then run your fingers over the area to feel the result. Start slowly and you'll be okay.

    Bookmark   August 20, 2008 at 5:24PM
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The file advice is good---do not use a beveled router but on laminate trim---it will expose the particle board between the top and the trim.

Install the top laminate and trim with the flkush cut router bit. Then install the edge trim and file.

File from the front towards the countertop---that puts no pressure on the trim.

    Bookmark   August 20, 2008 at 6:07PM
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Put TWO coats of contact cement on BOTH surfaces, let them dry between coats and let the 2nd coat dry about 30 minutes before laminating. Laminate the edges and sides first, trim them flush with the top surface, then do the top. Use a bunch of skinny dowels laid across the top as spacers while you position the big section of laminate. Use a roller to apply pressure over the entire surface while laminating. Roll from the center toward the edges. Pressure is the KEY! The other key is to use plenty of contact cement (why I always put 2 coats on both sides) and let it dry properly before sticking, about 30 minutes at room temp. After rolling it out with lots of pressure, use the trim router with a flush bit (not a bevel) and then use a very fine metal file to break the edges. Laminate edges are as sharp as a razor and need to be filed. Also the trim router does not get it perfectly flush, so the file is essential to getting the top edge flush with the side. If the top sticks proud at all, it will be a constant snag problem, and this causes delamination. Hold the file at the desired angle and draw it toward you, making sure the serrations on the file are turned the right way to remove material.
Good Luck!

    Bookmark   August 20, 2008 at 6:56PM
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THANKS, this is great info. So I went and ordered a new sheet of laminate - at $70 a crack (SIGH).

More questions! What kind of file? Went shopping for files and there were different sizes and degrees of coarseness. And what the heck is a "b*st*rd" file? Excuse the profanity but that's what was on the label.

Re: using 2 coats of adhesive  how long does the first coat dry? You'd use 2 coats on both particleboard base AND laminate? Top as well as sides? Have heard of doing that for the sides but not the top.

After rolling with a roller  can I use the trim router immediately or does the glue have to set for a while?

    Bookmark   August 22, 2008 at 10:41AM
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For the file terminology, the best explanation I found on the fly was this one.

You're starting to see that there are different ways of getting the job done. I'm with aidan in that I'd do the edges first, but I would shy away from using two coats of adhesive on the top because I wouldn't want the glue build-up to prevent the seam between the top and edge laminates from being tight. To each his own.

In any case, you can trim the edges immediately after assembly. As handymac pointed out, the glue will be (essentially) dry before you put the pieces together.

BTW, I'd suggest you stay away from the newer water-based contact cement. My (limited) experience is that it's much less forgiving than the old, stinky solvent-based stuff.

Since you've apparently never done this before, you should probably use scraps to laminate a practice chunk of leftover particleboard, edges included, before proceeding.

    Bookmark   August 22, 2008 at 12:42PM
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We have to use the water based stuff now, they banned the solvent based stuff at our facility a few years ago. This is where I figured out the 2 coats thing. Use a high quality painters roller with low nap. Use a roller tray with liners, only pour a small amount of contact cement into the tray liner and apply it quickly so it doesn't start to gum up. Put the wet roller into a plastic bag to keep it from getting tacky. If the first coat is absorbed quickly into the material, a second coat is necessary. The dry contact cement should be clear and have a satin sheen, then you know enough has been applied. Some materials are more porous and absorb contact cement differently. Whether you use the solvent or water based glue it will dry to an even sheen when enough is on the surface.

    Bookmark   August 23, 2008 at 11:05AM
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OK 2 more questions - which of the 4 file types should I get for laminate purposes, coarse, b*st*rd, second or smooth? Someone suggested single cut - is that the same as "smooth"?

Re: glue, I happen to have some of the stinky stuff in a can left over from someone else's project last summer. I haven't opened it up yet, but I'm wondering what consistency it should have? It might be like paint in a can which thickens or changes consistency after its been opened and sits around.

Thx again for all assistance - this should be a beautiful counter (the pattern is Wilsonart Terra Roca - the little sample chips do not do it justice!)

    Bookmark   August 25, 2008 at 5:14PM
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I use "mill b@stard" and "mill second cut" files for laminate.
These are general purpose metal files. The b@stard is slightly coarser than the second cut, but both are very fine and can also be used to sharpen your lawnmower blade or machete. Get some solvent and a small wire brush to clean out the file grooves.

The glue should be a liquid pourable consistency, it needs to roll on evenly over the surface without boogers.

    Bookmark   August 26, 2008 at 2:53AM
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I've had good experiences with the water-based contact cement, in spite of reflexively thinking that "something stinky must be better".

What I mostly wanted to say, though, is that you shouldn't use the old cr@p glue you've got sitting around. I have had bad experiences with old glues (water and solvent). Think about the cost of a can of new, compared to your labour and expensive laminate, and the fresh glue won't seem so awful.

As an aside, the water-based contact cement covers way more area than solvent-based, at least in my supplier's line.

If you want a ton more reading about laminates, the link below is astonishing.

Here is a link that might be useful: Woodweb on laminates

    Bookmark   August 28, 2008 at 8:35PM
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