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How to Cut a Formica Countertop Without Chipping

How to Cut a Formica Countertop Without Chipping

With so many types of countertops to choose from and write about, we won’t run out of material (pun intended) for this and future posts.  Granite, quartz, concrete, wood, Formica (laminate), and more come at different price points and degrees of difficulty to work with during installation or keeping clean.

This piece addresses Formica and asks the question of how to cut a Formica countertop without chipping.  Formica is not stone.  Rather, it is a laminate and cuts differently than does granite and quartz. Laminate countertops require a greater degree of care in cutting to size for a proper fit.

Laminate Countertops

Laminate countertops are layers of paper that have been glued together and finished with a resin topping.  It is not necessarily difficult to cut, but it is easily subject to chipping, and in the trimming of the edges can also be worn down.

To prepare to cut a Formica countertop, you’ll first need to gather your tools and supplies.  Among them will be:

  • A circular saw, or in the alternative, a jigsaw
  • A tape measure or long ruler
  • A rip guard
  • Masking tape
  • A belt sander or sanding block
  • A metal file
  • A vacuum cleaner
  • Safety glasses and mask

What Kind of Blade Do You Use To Cut Formica?

As carpenters know, the more teeth on the circular saw blade, the finer the cut.  The teeth are smaller, and if sharp, will give you a clean cut.  You can minimize the potential for chipping if you use a finish blade with lots of teeth, making sure the sharp is keen.

You can further reduce the chance of chipping by using masking tape along the cut line and cutting through the tape.  As with all cutting, measure at least twice and mark the line well and clearly.  Of course, you remove the tape when you’ve finished the cutting.

You might wonder, too, if you can cut Formica with a utility knife or construction scissors.  Actually, you can use a utility knife to make a scoring cut on Formica.  Formica brand plastic laminate is commonly used to cover kitchen countertops, and a utility knife would work for that purpose.  Heavy-duty construction scissors with sharp blades could also be used.

Kitchen Sink Cutouts in Laminate Countertops

The same process and tools are used to cut out the opening for drop-in sinks in your kitchen.  Measure carefully, drill corner holes to begin cuts with a jigsaw (also using a blade with a high tooth count for a cleaner cut), and make as steady a cut as you can. 

However, in this instance, it’s not quite as important to be steady in the cut. If you swerve a little bit and the cut is not absolutely straight, the rough edges will be covered by the perimeter rim of the drop-in sink.  If that rim is well sealed with a silicone sealant, water will not seep in to cause damage to the countertop.

Let’s Get To The Formica Countertop Cut

With tools assembled, safety glasses, and face mask on, let’s get to work.

Measure the countertop carefully at least twice.  Mark the line with the masking tape and set up your rip guide so your circular saw blade is aligned with the cut line.

A blade depth of 1/8th inch will be sufficient, so set the saw for your cut.  Slow and steady wins the race, so to speak.  The goal is to make an accurate cut without chipping, and slow and steady will help you reach it.

The guide will help keep the saw on line; but, if you are not using one, not to worry.  A little swerving won’t hurt the end result, as the belt sander or sanding block will cure it into a straight line.

Set the blade depth deeper, make another pass to cut deeper into the countertop; or, use a jigsaw for that further cut.  When you’ve finished cutting through the countertop, remove the cut piece.

The belt sander or sanding block will give you a clean and crisp edge, free of chipping, to the Formica countertop.  Swerves during cutting will also disappear, and you’ll end up with a straight site line.  Make sure the sanding strokes are down, not up, so you don’t lift the laminate off the countertop or cause a chip.

Vacuum up the fine debris, and the job is done. It’s that fine debris is why you need safety glasses and face masks – – protect your eyes, and let the mask catch that fine debris in the air rather than breath it in.

How Do You Cut a Laminate Countertop for Backsplash

How Do You Cut a Laminate Countertop for Backsplash

Your kitchen should have a laminate backsplash with your laminate countertop for consistency’s sake and a uniform appearance.  Whether it’s just a few inches or a foot or two, a laminate backsplash gives an appropriate finish to your kitchen counters.

Usually, the backsplash will be cut before installation. You’ll follow the same process for its cutting as you did for the countertop itself.  But, if the laminate is already installed, you can cut it down in place. 

You’ll likely cause a bit of damage to the wall behind the backsplash, but that can be cleaned up and refinished afterwards.  Sanding any rough edges will make a straight edge for that final piece of trim at the top of the backsplash to finish off the installation.

If you follow these simple suggestions for cutting your Formica countertop without chipping the laminate, you’ll make the job easy to attack.  The finished product will serve you well and give your kitchen a clean and fresh look.  Whether it’s a new kitchen installation or a kitchen facelift, you’ll be pleased with the results.