How to Install Laminate Countertops


Installing laminate countertops can be a great way to update the look of your kitchen or bathroom without spending a fortune. Laminate countertops, also known as Formica countertops, provide an affordable and stylish alternative to more expensive natural stone or quartz countertops. With a little bit of DIY spirit, you can install laminate countertops and transform your space.

In this comprehensive guide, we will walk through everything you need to know about how to install laminate countertops yourself, from planning and prep work to securing and sealing the countertops. With the right materials, tools, and techniques, you can achieve beautiful, long-lasting laminate countertops that look like they were professionally installed. Let’s get started!

Choosing the Laminate

The first step in any laminate countertop installation is selecting the right laminate material. Here are some tips for choosing laminate countertops:

  • Consider the laminate thickness. Laminate sheets are available in different thickness levels, typically ranging from 1/16 inch thick to 1/2 inch thick. Thicker laminates are more durable and resistant to damage. Most DIY installations use 1/4 inch thick laminate.
  • Choose matte finishes. Laminate sheets come in glossy, satin, and matte finishes. Matte finishes do the best job of hiding scratches and wear over time. Glossy laminates will show more scuffs and marks.
  • Select laminates with textured surfaces. Subtle texture on the laminate surface can help hide imperfections and make the countertops look more realistic and less “plasticky”.
  • Get samples. Order free samples from laminate manufacturers like Wilsonart, Formica, and Nevamar to get a sense of colors and patterns in person before purchasing sheets.
  • Consider heat and impact resistance. If the countertop will be used in a high heat area near stoves and ovens, choose a laminate rated for heat resistance. Near sinks and dishwashers, chip and impact-resistant laminates are best.
  • Match your cabinets and decor. Coordinate laminate colors and patterns with your cabinetry finish and overall kitchen or bath decor. Contrasting or bold countertops can make a design statement.

Doing your homework on the laminate options will ensure you get the right product for your particular countertop installation.

Preparing the Base Cabinets

After choosing the laminate material, the next key preparatory step is making sure your existing base cabinets and support structures are ready for countertop installation.

  • Ensure cabinets are level. Use a cabinet level tool or laser level to confirm all base cabinets are level front-to-back and side-to-side with no tilting or uneven spots. Shim and adjust cabinets as needed.
  • Check for plumb corners. The corners where two cabinets meet need to be perfectly plumb (precisely vertical). Use a plumb bob or level at corners to check for any out-of-plumb issues and adjust cabinets if needed.
  • Secure cabinets together. Make sure all base cabinets are firmly joined together with nails, screws, or commercial metal fasteners. The countertop will help hold everything together, but you want a stable cabinet base first.
  • Remove doors and drawers. Detaching doors and drawers from base cabinets will make it easier to install the countertops without interference. Number doors and drawers to ensure proper reinstallation later.
  • Reinforce support. Add reinforcing support strips or brackets underneath cabinets at seams for extra stability. This prevents sagging when heavy items are placed on the countertops.
  • Fill gaps. Seal any visible gaps between the wall and cabinets or between cabinets with caulk for a neater appearance.

Taking the time to properly prepare and stabilize your cabinets will mean less headache during the countertop installation process.

Gathering Materials and Tools

Installing laminate countertops requires certain specialty materials and tools. Here is an overview of the key items you will need:


  • Laminate sheets
  • Plywood substrate sheets (3/4″ thickness)
  • Construction adhesive
  • Wood putty or filler
  • Finishing nails
  • Edge banding
  • Silicone caulk


  • Table saw or circular saw
  • Router
  • Drill and drill bits
  • Jigsaw
  • Random orbital sander
  • Belt sander (for radius edges)
  • Hole saw set
  • Clamps
  • Straight edges/levels
  • Hammer
  • Trim gun for edge banding
  • Safety gear like eye protection and respirator mask

Having the right tools for the cutting, shaping, bonding, and finishing steps will ensure your project goes as smoothly as possible. Consult local home improvement stores for assistance if certain items are unavailable.

Cutting the Plywood Substrate

After your cabinets are prepped and you have gathered the necessary materials, it’s time to measure, cut, and secure the plywood substrate sheets to the cabinets.

  • Measure cabinet dimensions. Take precise measurements of each cabinet’s length, width, and any interior corners or angles. These measurements will be used to cut the plywood sheets. Add 1/2″ overhang to dimensions.
  • Cut plywood pieces. Using a circular saw or table saw, cut your 3/4″ plywood substrate boards to the measurements for each section of cabinetry.
  • Make cutouts. Measure and mark any areas on the plywood where sink cutouts, cooktop cutouts, or other appliance cutouts will go. Use a jigsaw to cut out these openings.
  • Sand edges. Lightly sand cut plywood edges to remove splinters or rough areas.
  • Secure plywood. Place plywood sheets on each cabinet section and attach securely from underneath using wood screws or construction adhesive.
  • Fill gaps. Seal any visible gaps between plywood sheets or between plywood and walls with wood filler for a seamless look.

Getting a perfectly fitted plywood base established is crucial for proper laminate installation later. Take your time with the measuring, cutting, and securing process.

Applying the Laminate Sheets

Now that the plywood substrate is in place, you can move on to adhering the laminate sheets to the plywood surfaces.

  • Dry fit laminate. Always do a dry fit without any adhesive first to ensure the laminate pieces fit properly on the plywood before permanently bonding them.
  • Prepare adhesive. Mix up your construction adhesive according to package directions. Choose adhesive suitable for bonding laminates.
  • Apply adhesive. Spread a uniform layer of adhesive over the entire plywood surface using a notched trowel or adhesive spreader.
  • Position laminate. Carefully lower the laminate sheet onto the plywood surface and press firmly from the center outward to bond.
  • Remove air pockets. Use a J-roller or rolling pin to roll over the entire surface to bond tightly and remove any air pockets.
  • Clamp edges. Use bar clamps along the edges while adhesive dries for the strongest bond.
  • Wipe away excess glue. Remove any squeezed-out adhesive with a damp rag before it dries.
  • Make seams invisible. For multiple laminate pieces, make seams between sheets fall directly over cabinet seams for the best concealed appearance.

Patience and care will result in smooth, ripple-free laminate application. Follow the adhesive manufacturer’s instructions for open time and proper drying before moving to the next steps.

Adding the Edge Banding

Most DIYers apply edge banding to cover all exposed plywood edges after the laminate sheets are secured. Here is how to achieve clean, professional edges:

  • Measure edge perimeter. Carefully measure the exposed perimeter edges of the plywood substrate that will be visible after installation.
  • Cut edge banding. Cut pieces of edge banding to the measurements, allowing for slight overlaps at corners.
  • Adhere banding. Remove backing and use a trim adhesive gun to tightly adhere edge banding along all exposed plywood edges.
  • Trim excess. Use a sharp utility knife to carefully trim away any excess edge banding for a flush finish.
  • Secure corners. Where two pieces join at corners, file the edges at 45 degree angles so they fit snugly together, then glue and clamp securely.
  • Sand away overlaps. Lightly sand to remove any imperfections or overlaps in the edge banding.

Taking the time to neatly finish the countertop edges makes a big difference in the final installed appearance.

Shaping and Sanding

For custom shaped edges or more refined finishing, you will need to do some careful shaping and sanding:

  • Cut corners and curves. For rounded front edges or curved transitions, use a jigsaw or band saw to cut the desired shapes from the laminate covered plywood substrate.
  • Smooth curves. For smooth rounded edges, use a belt sander to carefully sand curved laminate edges into a perfect rounded profile.
  • Soften edges. Soften all top and bottom countertop edges with a light sanding to prevent sharp corners from chipping over time.
  • Ease transitions. If joining two laminate sheets near a sink or cooktop, slightly round and smooth the transition with sanding for a seamless look.
  • Remove scratches. Sand the entire laminate surface with 220 grit sandpaper to remove any light scratches or roughness in the laminate finish.
  • Clean laminate. Wipe away all sanding dust using a cleaner designed for laminates to prepare the surface for use.

Customizing the look and feel of your edges with careful sanding and shaping can really make your DIY countertops look professionally fabricated.

Installing the Countertops

You’re finally ready to install your custom laminate countertops! Here are the final steps for secure and flawless installation:

  • Apply backsplash. Cut laminate pieces to size and adhere to wall as backsplash using construction adhesive.
  • Loosen cabinets. Temporarily loosen cabinet screws underneath so the countertop can slide into place but still have a little play for adjustments.
  • Apply silicone to cabinets. Run a bead of clear silicone caulk along the top edges of all cabinets to create a moisture barrier and aid adhesion.
  • Lift into place. With an assistant, carefully lift each finished countertop section and lower into place on the waiting cabinets. Slide into position.
  • Secure countertops. From underneath, attach countertops to cabinets using screws drilled up through corner blocks or strips on the cabinets into underside of countertops.
  • Seal seams. Apply thin bead of silicone caulk and smooth with wet finger along all seams and edges for waterproofing.
  • Reattach doors and drawers. Once countertops are completely installed, reattach cabinet doors, drawers, and hardware.
  • Make adjustments. If any minor gaps are visible, shim spacers can be used to adjust level and fill small gaps.

Take your time during installation and don’t rush through these final steps for best results. Then step back and admire your handiwork!

How to Install Laminate Countertops FAQs

Still have some questions about DIY laminate countertop installation? Here are answers to some frequently asked questions:

What tools do I need to install laminate countertops?

You will need basic tools like a saw, drill, router, jigsaw, clamps, adhesive applicator, straight edges, tape measure, utility knife, sandpaper, and safety gear like gloves and eye protection. Specialty tools like a trim adhesive gun and belt sander are also very helpful for finishing.

Can I install laminate over existing countertops?

It is not recommended to install new laminate directly over old countertops. The adhesive will not bond well. Removing old countertops entirely before installing new laminate is best.

How long does the adhesive take to dry?

Adhesive drying times vary by product but are usually several hours up to overnight. Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions. Clamping and weight can help speed bonding process.

Should I caulk the seams between countertop pieces?

Yes, caulking between countertop seams and along the backsplash and edges with silicone sealant waterproofs the joints and prevents moisture damage.

Can I use laminate sheets on uneven surfaces?

Laminate performs best on a completely flat and smooth substrate surface. Any significant unevenness in cabinets should be remedied before laminate installation.

What thickness of plywood should I use under laminate?

A 3/4″ sheet of plywood is ideal as a sturdy base layer beneath laminates. Thicker plywood is heavier and harder to cut precisely.

How long do laminate countertops last?

With proper care and maintenance, laminate countertops generally last anywhere from 10-20 years before needing replacement. Laminates stand up well over time.


Installing your own laminate countertops can be a very gratifying DIY project. The process involves careful planning, precision cutting and installation, and some finishing work to create a flawless countertop surface. Taking the time to follow the best practices for preparing your cabinets, applying adhesive, joining seams, trimming edges, sanding, and securely attaching your custom laminate countertops will lead to years of enjoyment and function. While it does require some work, the savings versus hiring a professional are significant. With these helpful steps on how to install laminate countertops, you can transform your kitchen or bath with beautiful, affordable countertops you installed with your own two hands.