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How to Install Countertops

If you want to make a big difference in the look of an outdated kitchen, bath, or craft room, replacing the countertops is a relatively quick and affordable way to freshen the look.

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There are several different countertop surfaces available -- solid surface, natural stone, wood, and more -- but replacing countertops with plastic laminate is a project that any DIYer can tackle. This countertop material is available in many designer look-alike finishes, so if you like the look of slate, you just might find a comparable plastic laminate. Prefer granite? You'll find that, too. In fact, plastic laminate is a kitchen countertop that's easy to live with and easy on the budget, too.

Plastic laminate countertops rank as the least expensive, making them a good choice for those on a tight budget. They are available in a wide range of colors and patterns with finishes like high gloss and matte, and surfaces such as smooth and textured.

Plastic laminates are made from layers of paper and plastic resin that are fused together under high heat and pressure. The thin laminate is then glued to a particleboard or plywood substrate to give it strength

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In addition to being inexpensive and readily available at most home centers, plastic laminate countertops are fairly easy to cut and install. Usually they come already cut to length, but holes for sinks and appliances can be made on site using a circular saw or sabre saw. To prevent chipping when cutting, apply a strip of masking tape to the area that will be cut and whenever possible, turn the countertop over and make cuts from the bottom.

Plastic laminate can be molded at the factory around the front edge and backsplash of the substrate in one continuous piece. Also known as "post-formed" countertops, the molded sections are cut to length and the corners mitered before delivery using a highly accurate circular saw.

When two pieces of plastic laminate countertop meet at right angles, the pieces are mitered by cutting each piece to a 45-degree angle, and slots are then cut into the bottom of the substrate. The pieces are aligned on the job site and joined together from underneath the countertop using special miter bolts.

Plastic laminate counters can also be custom-made to suit specific dimensions. Custom laminate countertops usually have a square front edge and come with a separate, detached backsplash. Applying contact cement to both the laminate and substrate forms custom laminate counters. Once the cement is dry, spacer stickers are placed on the substrate and the laminate is carefully positioned on it. The sticks are then removed and a roller is used to press the laminate and substrate together.

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