Step 2: Cut the laminate

cut the laminate with a trim router
Photo: Kolin Smith
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Carefully unroll the laminate and lay it on a flat surface, faceup. Add 1 inch to the length and width of the counter and mark these dimensions on the face. Clamp the sheet to a straight length of lumber at each mark. Line the marks up with the edge of the lumber.

Using a trim router fitted with a laminate-cutting bit, cut the sheet along the mark. Use the lumber as a guide for the router bit. Always cut laminate good side facing up.

Mark out the side strips—2½ inches wide and an inch longer than the sides—from the remaining pieces. Cut these strips with the keep piece off the lumber. Project the cutline ½ inch past the edge (to account for the router bit's width).

TOH Tip: When using a router, cut from left to right as you face the edge (and the tool is upright), to keep the bit from pulling.
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      Okay, people, give us a little room to work here. Because we'd like to fold the laundry without having the delicates drop off the dryer into the dust bunnies, and we sure could use a place to lay out the parts of those "some assembly required" projects. Please, we beg of you, give us a proper countertop.

      We're not holding out for granite—save that for the dream kitchen. All we really need is some smooth, clean laminate, a surface that can serve its purpose simply and with style. Laminate is inexpensive, comes in hundreds of designs (some to mimic that out-of-the-budget granite), and when glued onto particleboard makes a rather convenient work surface. As This Old House technical editor Mark Powers shows on the following pages, it's easy to turn a disorganized garage, mudroom, or shed into a multifunctional workroom in one quick weekend. With that kind of setup, we'd really be able to spread out and get something done.

      Crystalline Dune laminate, about $3 per square foot, WilsonArt.

      Cabinets from Omega Cabinetry, through Jilco Window Corp.

    Shopping List

    1. LAMINATE
    Order at home centers or through kitchen designers (allow two weeks for delivery). Laminates range from about $2 to $5 per square foot, but they come in 4-by-8- or 5-by-12-foot sheets. Because you want as few seams as possible, choose a size that will yield the longest uninterrupted pieces, taking into account not only the surface of the counter but the sides and backsplash as well.

    2. 3/4-INCH PARTICLEBOARD
    to form the substrate to which you adhere the laminate. A 4-by-8-foot sheet should be wide enough to create all the pieces needed for one standard 25-inch-deep countertop section and backsplash, up to 8 feet long.

    3. WATER-RESISTANT WOOD GLUE
    to glue together pieces of the substrate. Look for PVA wood glues rated Type II. 4. PRIMER
    to protect the particleboard from moisture.

    5. NEOPRENE CONTACT CEMENT
    Look for a water-based or low-VOC product rather than a solvent-based one, which will dry faster but can only be used in a well-ventilated area. One gallon will cover about 250 to 300 square feet.

    6. 3/4-INCH DOWELS
    to hold the laminate off the particleboard before adhesion. Plan on one 3-foot-long dowel for every 12 inches of countertop. Clean scrap wood will also work.

    7. CLEAR LATEX CAULK
    to seal and waterproof seams between two countertop pieces and to seal edges where the countertop meets a wall.

    8. 11/4-INCH and 15/8-INCH DECK SCREWS
    to assemble the substrate and to attach the countertop to the cabinets.