Repair or Replace Laminate Countertops?

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A laminate countertop is just about the toughest material in the home. Still, it’s not indestructible. Many homeowners often search for information on how to patch or otherwise repair laminate kitchen counters. Here are some sound tips:

If your countertops are old and generally worn over a large area, the best repair is to recover them with new laminate. While the job is not particularly difficult, it does require a wide variety of skills new to most homeowners. You'll have to disconnect the plumbing, remove the sink, and cut, apply, and trim the laminate. Then the sink has to be replaced and reconnected, and some trim may be required.

All that adds up to a lot of work. That's why it's usually best to have the job done by a kitchen remodeler. Note, however, that even a remodeler can't do the job if you have post formed counters. These are the type with backsplash and a slight lip along the front edge molded right in. These curves make recovering impossible. If you have post formed countertops, repair will require replacement of the whole top, not just the covering.

Can I Paint Laminate Countertops?

Many homeowners want to know if dull, worn laminate can be painted. The answer is yes, but don't expect it to look like new. No matter how careful you are, it will still look like a painted counter. If you do decide to paint, do it right. Clean the counters thoroughly, and then sand them well with 120 grit sandpaper. Use epoxy paint for best wear and adhesion.

If the damage is localized—say a small gouge or burn—you may be able to make a spot repair. Making a good patch is tricky, so try to get around the problem whenever you can. One trick is to permanently mount a wooden cutting board over the damage. Here's how:

Run a bead of clear silicone caulk around the perimeter of the bottom of the board. Then squiggle a few beads of the silicone across the center of the board. Place it in position and press down. The perimeter bead of caulk should squeeze out around the edges of the board. That's good. Wipe it away and let the board sit undisturbed for at least 12 hours. The silicone will cement the board in place and prevent dirt and spills from slipping beneath the board. If at any time you decide you don't want the board mounted in place, you can remove it by carefully prying it off the counter.

Patching Laminate Countertops

Patching will require a piece of laminate large enough to cover the damaged area, but there are a few warnings before you start. Locating a piece of laminate to match your existing countertop may be difficult. Colors can vary slightly from one production run to another, so even solid colors may not match perfectly. Matching patterns and wood grains is even trickier.

From your piece of new laminate, cut a square of rectangular patch large enough to completely cover the damaged area of the countertop. File or sandpaper the edges straight and smooth. Place the patch directly over the damage and secure it with a piece of double-faced carpet tape so it won't skid.

Holding it firmly in place with your left hand, scribe around it with a sharp utility knife. Cut right into the laminate on your countertop. You will probably have to scribe around the patch a dozen or more times before you cut through the old laminate. Change to a fresh blade now and then for faster, cleaner results.

When you finally cut through the old laminate countertop, carefully lift off the patch. Then chisel away the damaged section of laminate. Check the patch for a good fit. If you’re satisfied, glue the patch in place with contact cement. If not, cut a new patch slightly oversize. Sand or file its edges a bit at a time until it fits. Then cement it in place.

If you decide that this process is just a bit too much for you, or if you’d rather just replace the entire countertop, you can find a local installer or remodeler—or a fabricator if you opt for a stone or solid surface top—at NKBA.org/ProSearch.

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