You can replace laminate counter tops yourself with the right tools.

How to Recover a Countertop Using Sheet Laminate

by Maria Magher

Laminate countertops are durable, inexpensive and come in a variety of colors. However, they are prone to scratches, stains and fading, which you may not always be able to repair. You can recover the countertop using laminate sheets rather than having to replace the whole counter itself -- there are now even designs that closely resemble granite and other more expensive materials. Recovering the countertop can be a moderately challenging job, but with the right tools and the right instruction, you can do it yourself, saving yourself a lot of money.

Decide if you want to remove the old laminate or if you want to place the new laminate on top of it.

Rough up the surface of the old laminate with an orbital sander, removing any varnish or shine to install the sheet laminate on top of the old.

Wedge a putty knife into the seam of the old laminate if you choose to remove it, then spray some lacquer thinner in the space, loosening the glue. Continue working your way down the length of the countertop in this manner.

Measure the length and width of the countertop. Add a few inches on each end to account for any errors in measurement or placement.

Mark the measurements on your laminate sheeting using a pencil. Lay masking tape along side the line, helping to make the line more visible and helping to reduce the risk of chipping when you cut the laminate.

Cut the laminate sheet to size with a circular saw set with a fine-tooth blade.

Apply a layer of contact cement to the countertop and to the back of your laminate sheet. Allow the contact cement to become tacky before you attempt to install the laminate sheet.

Place 1/2-inch wooden dowels or wood shims on the countertop, perpendicular to the wall and hanging over the edge of the counter. The dowels should be placed about 12 inches apart, though the measurement does not have to be precise.

Place your laminate sheet cement-side down on top of the dowels and push it flush to the wall. The dowels help you put the laminate sheet in place without it adhering to the countertop in the wrong place.

Begin removing the dowels and pushing the laminate sheet onto the countertop. Remove one dowel at a time, and use a hand roller to press the laminate to the countertop for good contact and no air bubbles.

Press the entire surface of the laminate after it has been applied down the length of the countertop with a hand roller. This ensures the bond and get out any remaining air bubbles.

Trim the excess laminate with a router with a flush trim bit. Use a file to round off and smooth the edges.

Items you will need

  • Laminate sheeting
  • Tape measure
  • Masking tape
  • Orbital sander
  • Lacquer thinner
  • Putty knife
  • Circular saw or jig saw
  • Fine-tooth blade
  • Router
  • Flush trim bit
  • File
  • Contact cement
  • Wooden dowels
  • Drop cloth
  • Hand roller


  • Remove your sink and any trim before you begin.
  • Place a drop cloth on the ground before you begin to protect your work area.
  • Use a shop vac to make clean up quick and easy.
  • Put the laminate in the room 24 hours before you begin your project to allow it to acclimate to the conditions in the room.


  • Always wear safety goggles and gloves when working with power tools.
  • Don't allow the laminate to touch the countertop until it is perfectly in place. The cement bonds quickly and makes it hard to move.

About the Author

Maria Magher has been working as a professional writer since 2001. She has worked as an ESL teacher, a freshman composition teacher and an education reporter, writing for regional newspapers and online publications. She has written about parenting for Pampers and other websites. She has a Master's degree in English and creative writing.

Photo Credits

  • Digital Vision./Digital Vision/Getty Images