What to Consider Before Installing Laminate Countertops

Learn everything you need to know about laminate countertops, including installation considerations, maintenance tips, and average prices.

Made from plastic and particleboard, laminate is a great imitator, which means that you can get the look of just about every other countertop material for a less expensive price tag. Solids in every color, realistic wood grains, and stone look-alikes are the most popular laminate finishes, but there are also brushed metals, textures, patterns, and customizable options. Plus, today's laminate is far more durable than those of the past, and installation can be a DIY project for handy homeowners thanks to its lightweight material. Below, learn the pros and cons of laminate countertops, plus the average price of this budget-friendly kitchen material.

slate blue cabinets in kitchen with orange accents
Adam Albright

Laminate Counter Styles and Performance

An eased (squared) or bullnose (rounded) edge are common edge finishes for laminate surfaces, but fancier treatments, such as beveling, ogee, and waterfall edges, let you match your countertop style to your kitchen. If you don't like the color change that occurs at points where laminate pieces are joined, there is a solid-core alternative available. It's more expensive, but it also allows you to layer colors for contrast and shape the edges for a decorative effect.

Laminate comes in several grades. Like other materials, the higher the grade, the better the performance. With care, laminate countertops can easily last 10-15 years. The top layer of laminate, plastic melamine, is virtually impenetrable, making laminate countertops ideal for the wear and tear of everyday cooking. However, laminate can chip and scratch—even worse, it scorches. Accidentally set a hot pan on your laminate countertop and you'll have to think about replacing it or learn to live with an unsightly blemish. A few patterned and textured laminates camouflage minor scratches and spots, but lighter laminates can fade and yellow.

Price of Laminate Countertops

Laminate is one of the least expensive countertop materials and sometimes three to four times less expensive than other popular surfaces. This is reason enough to consider laminate for an affordable update. One of the best features of laminate is that you can mix and match to your heart's content—without breaking your budget. Laminate starts at $20 a linear foot; higher grades cost as much as $40-$60 a linear foot.

modern wooden kitchen cabinets and shelves
Laura Moss

Laminate Countertop Installation

Comfortable with a jigsaw and router? Then laminating a countertop will be easy for you. The trickiest part of this DIY project is that laminate is sticky—once stuck, it's stuck for good. To install laminate countertops, you'll need to measure and cut the material to size, attach the laminate to your substrate with adhesive, and roll out air bubbles with a laminate roller. Finish installation by routing and filing the edges.

When blemishes, scratches, or scorches appear on laminate countertops, the surface can be replaced without any major demolition. Unlike other countertop materials, you can simply apply laminate over existing laminate. If the underlying laminate is textured, apply a filler that smoothes the surface before adhering the top piece to the countertop.

How to Clean Laminate Countertops

Cleaning laminate is simple and doesn't require any special products. For daily cleaning, use a mild detergent. A nonabrasive cleaner can also be used for stubborn spills. Skip any abrasive scrubbing tools, like steel wool, and use a toothbrush to clean any seams or edges. Because of its impenetrable surface, laminate does not harbor bacteria. You can even find laminates with built-in antibacterial protection.

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