How to Cut Laminate Countertops

If you're installing a new appliance in the kitchen or remodeling, you may need to cut off the edge of a laminate countertop or make a hole to drop in a sink. Unlike stone, metal or pure wood, laminate has a thin top coat that can chip off during cutting, revealing the unsightly particle board underneath.

To prevent chipping, follow these special precautions.

Making a Straight Cut Across the Counter's Edge

  1. Place several strips of masking tape over the top of the counter. This will prevent surface scratches as the circular saw pushes along.

  2. Load the carbide-tipped, thin-kerf blade into the circular saw.

  3. Fasten the rip fence to the saw so that it is perpendicular to the blade. This ensures that the cut follows the edge of the counter exactly.

  4. Set the depth of the saw blade so that its deepest point extends about 1/8th of an inch below the surface of the countertop.

  5. As you cut, push the saw forward slowly.

  6. After removing the edge, hold the belt sander parallel to the side of the countertop. Make sure that the belt is moving down towards the surface; otherwise, there is a risk of pulling up and chipping off the laminate coating.

Cutting a Hole For a Drop-in Sink

  1. Using the pencil, trace out where the planned hole will go on the counter surface.

  2. If the hole has curved corners, mark where each end of the quarter-circle begins. This will effectively divide the hole into two pairs of parallel lines and four quarter-circle arcs.

  3. Measure the location of the hole in relation to the entire surface.

  4. Use these measurements to trace the same hole on the underside of the counter.

  5. Determine the radius of the quarter-circle arcs. See "Tips" for easy ways to do this.

  6. Multiply the radius by two to decide which size paddle/spade drill bit to use. If it is between sizes, round down.

  7. Drill a hole into each corner of the laminate surface with the paddle bit to cut the arcs properly.

  8. Turn the countertop over and use the jigsaw to cut along the straight lines you drew on earlier. Even though most of the laminate material is wooden, use a jigsaw blade designed for metal, i.e. fine-toothed.

  9. If sanding is needed to smooth out imperfect lines, make sure that the belt sander is running down toward the surface.

  10. Tip

    To determine the radius of the quarter-circle arcs, measure the distance between the points on either side of the arc where the straight lines start, i.e. that you marked in Step 2. Divide this number by 1.4 and round to the nearest 1/16th of an inch.