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Resurfacing Formica Countertops E-mail
Formica is the leading name in laminate construction and countertop material. Offering a wide range of designs for a fraction of the cost of granite, it has become the material of choice for homeowners looking for a cheap but stylish kitchen centerpiece. But as with any laminate furnishing, Formica countertops are far less durable than their granite and solid surface counterparts.

Unless you don't use your countertop at all, Formica countertops will eventually succumb to the heat, moisture, end pressure of daily use. Almost every Formica owner will have to resurface their countertop after a few years. Fortunately, that is also why resurfacing products and services have become a big business. Resurfacing kits are available from almost any hardware store, and even a first-timer can resurface a Formica countertop in no time. This article provides a quick do-it-yourself guide.

Removing the top

It's usually more practical to replace the entire countertop than to remove the Formica and put on a fresh layer. But if you're not doing a full remodel or if you want to save costs, it may be a better option. Here's how to go about it:

Insert a thin putty or spackle knife under the top, in between the wood and the Formica. Pour a small amount of lacquer into the space to loosen the adhesive, and gradually work your knife deeper into the crack. Pour in more lacquer as necessary. Start putting in thin wooden wedges, using longer and thicker wedges as you widen the crack towards the bottom. Make the edges as even as possible to create a 'pocket' for the thinner. Keep loosening the Formica until it separates fully from the wood.

Preparing for installation

After removing the old Formica, scrape off the remaining adhesive from the wood. The dull edge of a knife will do, but a flat handheld scraper will do a much better job. You don't have to remove all of the adhesive, but try to make it as smooth as possible. Make sure there are no clumps of adhesive that can show through the new top. Fill in any gouges with seam filler or plaster, then sand the entire surface until smooth.

Cutting the laminate

Mark the cut line with a pencil, then place a strip of masking tape to prevent chipping. Allow an inch or two on all sides to make room for trimming. Slowly cut through the sheet using a utility knife or any saw with a fine-toothed blade. Cut from the back side if you're using a circular or saber saw, and from the front at a low angle if you're using a hand saw.

If you're using a utility knife, use a steel square or straight edge to guide your stroke. Instead of cutting through the board, just score it end to end with the knife. Press down on the wide end of the board, then snap the smaller part loose at the scored line.

Applying the new top

Before applying the laminate, make sure the surface is smooth and dry. Remove any residues from sanding with a brush or compressed air. Use a brush to apply contact cement on the back of the laminate and the counter surface. You can also use epoxy glue, although contact cement is much stronger. Let the cement dry before placing the top, but don't wait too long as this can weaken the bond. Check the drying time on the label.

Carefully position the laminate over the countertop. Make sure the two surfaces are perfectly aligned before they touch each other. Contact cement clings almost instantly. Use dowel rods to keep them apart, then remove one dowel at a time to bond the two surfaces. Smooth out the surface with a roller, applying slight pressure to remove air pockets.

If you're using more than one piece of laminate, apply the larger piece first. Place a strip of wax paper along the edge of the laminate, then tape the second piece to the first. This will hold it in place as you apply the contact cement, following the same instructions. You can also use dowels to position the laminate, and rollers to smooth it out. After all pieces have been laid out, cover up the seams with colored seam filler and remove any excess contact cement with nail polish remover.

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