Mom’s Kitchen — This Project Just Got Much Bigger

If you’re a DIYer who does house remodeling, you are very familiar with this phenomenon that occurs almost every time with a project taking longer than originally intended and costing more than the original estimate.

Well, my mom’s kitchen is no exception.

This was supposed to be pretty easy — just the cabinet makeover, painting the walls, and painting the grout on the floor and backsplash to make it lighter. Oh, and she also wanted a new sink and faucet. No problem, right?

So the plan was for me to remove the sink and faucet the day before the plumber was scheduled to install the new sink and faucet. The reason I was doing this instead of the plumber is because her laminate countertop has a seam in the laminate right in front of the sink. Over the years, water has seeped into the seam and caused the particle board beneath to swell. (Why is particle board the standard base for laminate countertops? I’ve never understood that.)

swollen particle board underneath laminate countertop material

I wanted to remove the sink, scrape the particle board to make it flat again, and re-adhere the laminate before the plumber came. That was the plan, and it sounded so easy.

The reality? Well, the sink was almost impossible to remove. I’ve never seen a sink that is adhered so strongly to a countertop as this one was. My niece and I tried everything — trying to cut the caulk with utility knives, and then lying on our backs on the floor and pushing up on the sink as hard as we could with our legs. The sink didn’t even budge.

So my brother had the idea of using a car jack. I cut a piece of 2″ x 6″ lumber to fit between the car jack and the sink, and then I started raising the jack a tiny bit at a time as we continued to cut and scrape the caulk. It seemed to be working for a while, but then things started going sideways. Long story short, by the time the sink was completely free, the laminate had broken and crumbled in many areas.

broken laminate around sink

We tried the new sink in hope that it was maybe just a bit wider than the old sink and would cover those broken areas on the front and right side. If it did, I was confident I could repair the broken areas on the back enough so that they wouldn’t be visible. After all, only about 3/4″ of the countertop shows back there when the sink is installed.

Needless to say, the new sink didn’t cover those areas.

I tried to come up with other solutions to keep this budget makeover in budget. But we finally decided that the only real option is new countertops.

We’re still going to keep this as low cost as possible. My mom really likes laminate, so that’s what we’re sticking with. We’re going to day to pick out new laminate, and as soon as the new laminate sheets are delivered, we’ll make new countertops.

I won’t say that I’m not a bit nervous about it. After all, I’ve only ever used laminate one other time, and that was on my studio work tables.

large DIY workroom craft table -- two tables that can be clamped together to form one huge table - 7

My mom helped me put that laminate on, so I feel pretty confident that we can do this. Before I made those work tables, I watched lots of YouTube videos about making laminate kitchen countertops from scratch, and it seems pretty straightforward.

I think after it’s all said and done, my mom will be glad that we replaced her 17-year-old laminate countertops with bright, shiny, new laminate. I’m excited about it, too!

If you’ve made and installed laminate countertops from scratch, and have any tips you think we should know before we tackle that project, let me know!



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  1. My first husband and his dad built us new laminate countertops once (a decade ago in a house I haven’t live in for almost that long). I supervised. It was easy enough — certainly something you and your mom can handle.

    We used a prefinished beveled edge (matching the color/print of the tops) on the fronts. I wasn’t completely thrilled with how that looked, but we might do a better job on a second try.

  2. Wonderful that you are doing this for and even better, with your mother. Enjoy every minute….maybe not of the project, but of her.

  3. Before installing the new sink in the opening, smear some silicone on the exposed edge of the laminate (in the opening). This would prevent moisture penetrating the particle board.

    1. Make life easier; you are in a time restraint, right?

      You could order pre-made countertops, put the seams anywhere except near the sink.

      Often quartz-type countertops cost no more than laminate, Andy you can have an under mounted sink, which is the best thing since sliced bread!

      I love counter tops that do not have that awkward 4” ridge along the back wall. With good grouting/caulking they are just as waterproof as the ones with the ridge.

  4. I have Wilson Art countertops from Home Depot. They are about 10 years old but still look new. Mine have a granite look to them. HD made them with the rolled edge and just brought them out and dropped them in the opening. Of coarse they came out and got the measurements first.

    1. You don’t think you could up sell her to quartz? At least take a look lol! Can’t hurt. (Yes I’m the devil 👿 on the shoulder!)

  5. We looked at laminate when we remodeled and cost was the same as granite from several different sources! Shocked the heck out of me. Went with the granite, but then I wasn’t doing the install.

  6. i purchased Formica High Dimension countertops from Menards. I bought the cut to size slabs that they have in stock in the store. I cut to length with a jigsaw and sanded the edges well with a palm sander. The mitered corner was tough to line up, be sure to let the glue dry before moving it. Cut the end covering pieces of laminate to size prior to gluing them on. I’d definitely do it again.

    1. Sounds great! I wish we had Menards in Texas. We stumbled upon a brand new one in Hollister, Missouri several years ago and we were speechless. So. Many. Choices.

    2. I happen to like laminate countertops and Formica has some especially pretty options. We opted for a lower end of quartz for our kitchen purely keeping resale value in mind, but if not for that, we would have chosen laminate.

  7. I agree with the comment about using plywood. Second, is make countertops before install. Leave as many seams as possible as far away from the sink as you can. Lastly and probably most important, you both have this.
    Oh, be sure to purchase the right router bit for trimming. It can make all the difference in final look.

  8. I have used Ikea laminate countertops six different times with fantastic success!! They are dirt cheap and beyond easy peasy!! That is the fastest, cheapest route I have always taken. Another thing I like about their countertops is they have the choice of edges on each piece. One side is a rounded standard edge and the other is a more squared off modern edge….which is always my choice. Don’t know if you have an Ikea near you 🙂

    1. My brother in law uses mini blinds to place the laminate.he puts the glue on and then lines up the taken apart blinds on the counter. He uses a lot so theglue does not touch. When it is in perfect position he slides out the blind slats one at a time to lower and make contact. He’s a genius. Labor for laminate where I live made us go with granite. He lived too far away to do ours There are so many nice textures and colors now. If you can diy it’s a bargain

  9. More question than comment, and especially to those who gave their laminate experience. Is it possible to apply laminate over existing laminate or does it have to be over bare wood?

    1. Yes you can. The first time we encountered this was when a friend had workers install new over their old. Then my husband did the same for some other friends of ours years later. Make sure your laminate is not loose anywhere. Sand it all down good to give the glue something to adhere to. Cut the laminate with a circular saw and finish small areas with a router. Glue down with good contact cement. Make sure once the glue is ready to put the laminate down that you get it down in the right position the first time because it will stick fast.

    2. Kristi, you and your mom are such an inspiration! 👊👍🤗 Ive been following your blog about a week now and it is my favorite by far. I was forced to gut my 1982 brick home when the subfloor rotted out due to crawlspace issues and I’ve been so overwhelmed for 6 months. I’m on the last room in the house now and just didn’t think I was going to make it, but you’ve inspired me to keep plugging along. Thank you!

      I can’t cut a straight line so I could never install laminate. Your commenters are wonderful and you’ve received received great tips. I know it’ll look fantastic when it’s all completed! Love from Mobile, Alabama. 💛

    3. Hubby and I put tiles over old laminate! Went to HD and they just told us to make sure we sanded old laminate enough to be rough so it’d hold the glue tight to tile! Worked beautifully so I’d think new laminate over old would work the same way!

  10. Our custom cabinet maker either replaces the wall side of a particle wood countertop base with a real wood 1×2 or adds it. That way you can put in a tile backsplash instead of the formica backsplash block & do not have to worry about particle wood swelling. Our counters are 25 3/4″ deep. This is for gluing sheet formica not formed slabs.

  11. I used cabinet grade plywood for the base instead of plywood. Practice doing the edges on some scrap wood – most difficult part – router can burn the laminate – use a sharp blade in router, On my last trim section I used a metal file and did it by hand. All in all, it looked beautiful.

  12. Make sure whatever you use under the laminate is smooth as glass…any tiny ridges or imperfection WILL show through the laminate when you’re finished. I’ve had laminate installed over old laminate with great success. Seams are generally by the sink because they are small there and less noticeable. Seal and glue well, and there should be no problem with moisture getting through.

  13. Kristi, I would love to learn how to do laminate sheets to make a countertop. Can you do a tutorial on this process when you get to it at your mom’s?

    The kitchen will look awesome when you guys finish, and what fun memories with your mom you are making by working together.

  14. Well that’s the way it goes for sure! I quite like laminate myself. If I were paying for new counters I’d choose quartz, but most of the homes I’ve lived in have had laminate in unobtrusive colors/patterns and it’s always functioned and wiped up super well in my heavy use kitchens, never made me long for some other material for any reason besides a more luxe feel.