Ready to remodel your kitchen? You may find yourself wanting to cut into existing or new countertops to bring your vision to life. Regardless of whether you're cutting into countertops that are already mounted, take a moment to learn how to cut Formica countertops without chipping for best results.
You only have one chance to achieve a clean and accurate cut on your countertop, so it's important to take your time and prepare to do it right. Rushing the process could cause the countertop material to chip or "tear out." If you have access to extra countertop materials, consider making a test cut following a recommended method to ensure you don't run into any trouble when making the "real" cut.
Why Do Laminate Countertops Chip?
Laminate countertops have two distinct components: a plastic finish and a thick particle board or wood base layer. If you cut straight through a laminate countertop without taking specific precautions, the saw blade will tear away chunks of the laminate layer as it cuts.
To combat this tearing effect, be sure to use a saw blade designed specifically for cutting laminate or particle board. These steel blades have many small and sharp teeth for cleaner cuts. Two other tricks that will help prevent the laminate layer from tearing include adding masking tape over the cutting line on the laminate side and making an initial scoring cut.
Take Proper Safety Precautions
Before you get started cutting Formica countertops, familiarize yourself with the necessary safety protocols. Any time you use a power saw, you run the risk of inhaling fine particles, getting debris in your eyes or coming into contact with the blade. Following safety measures can protect your health.
Wear eye and respiratory protection before powering up the saw. Use a push stick to protect your hands when using a table saw. Make sure the power is off before adjusting the blade on any saw. If at any point you do not feel like you can complete the project safely, stop and call a professional for assistance.
How to Cut Formica Countertops Without Chipping
When working with unmounted Formica countertops, start by placing the counter laminate side up on your saw horses. Measure the length of your cut at the top and bottom of your counter. Then, connect the marks with a strip of thick masking tape, which will protect the laminate from tears. The tape will tear instead of the laminate.
Flip the countertop over to expose the wooden underside and make your measurements again. This time, instead of connecting the marks with tape, draw a straight line between them using a pencil and a square tool. Whether you're cutting with a table saw or a circular saw, use a blade designed for laminate products and adjust or create a "fence" to allow you to make a straight cut with your tool.
For best results, make a score cut on both sides of the countertop. Set the blade height to barely touch the material, make the cut and flip the countertop over to repeat this score cut on the other side. Finally, adjust the blade to the proper height for a through cut and complete this final cut. Remove any leftover tape and admire your clean cut!
Cutting a Laminate Countertop With Jigsaw
You can cut into an existing mounted countertop with a jigsaw in order to create the hole for a sink. If you intend to install a drop-in sink, you don't need to worry as much about creating a chip-free edge, because the sink will hide any minor aesthetic issues. However, you can still make a clean cut by applying masking tape on top of the laminate where you'll make your cuts. Trace the sink template on top of the tape.
Next, create a brace using a scrap piece of plywood that is at least twice as long as the sink. Using a single screw, attach the middle of this piece of wood to the countertop in the middle of your outline. This will prevent the countertop from sagging and tearing as you cut.
Outfit the jigsaw with a blade designed for use with laminate or particle board. Then, use a drill with a spade or paddle bit to drill a starting hole for your countertop cutting jig. Cut around the outline, and then remove the remaining tape to reveal the clean edge.