Hi everyone! The last few weeks of blogs have detoured us from our kitchen renovation. I am happy to say we are back on schedule. Today’s topic? The amazing, versatile plastic laminate countertop. Don’t hate…laminate!
I think laminate countertops are the poor person’s quartz. What I mean by that is that laminate countertop is durable, it comes in a ton of colors & patterns, there is no maintenance, it’s inexpensive and it looks great. Different from quartz, it’s more susceptible heat, like from hot pots being set directly on the countertop, and it’s easier to get water damage if you don’t seal the edges. So what is it exactly? It is really plastic?
Well… yes and no. Plastic laminate countertops are made up of a few layers. Particle board (base layer), paper with the pattern/color printed on it (middle layer), and a resin that is heat sealed to the paper (top layer) after the paper has been dunked in resin. I am sure there are a bunch more technical steps, but you get the idea.
Plastic laminate is an awesome affordable option for people like Ben and I and our Phase 1 kitchen renovation. This type of countertop is super DIY friendly. You have to do some prep work to get it ordered but it’s easy to install.
There were a few selections that needed to be made: Color/pattern, edge profile, and backsplash. The great thing about laminate is that because it’s part printed paper the options are endless. That is also the problem. There are infinite manufacturers, colors, patterns, even textures. Formica and Wilsonart are two big manufacturers that I like. They even have designer collaborations. Check out the Jonathan Adler collection. It’s awesome.
Ben and I thought long and hard about what color/pattern we thought would look good. We already had white cabinets and we wanted something clean, modern, and easily wipeable. We were super jaded after having to vacuum our tile countertops. Soooo…texture was out. We liked the look of a medium grey quartz and decided to keep it simple and go with a no pattern, flat grey. We chose Formica Citadel. Most home improvement stores sell laminate so we got some free samples and laid them flat against the cabinets so we could see how the grey would look as a countertop. We also picked a standard edge to keep costs down. You can do fancy edges but our house is modern and their standard edge profile worked for us. You can purchase laminate with an integrated backsplash too. Ben and I think we are going to do tile or something cool so we went without an integrated backsplash.
One way we saved money was to measure the countertop ourselves. We mapped out the kitchen and noted which edges would need to have a finished front/side edge. We may have gone a little overboard. As Architects we couldn’t resist the chance to make a computer drawing of the counters. We nerd out on stuff like this. The standard depth is 25 ½” +/- so we measured the back walls of where the countertop would go and indicated the depth of the peninsula. One thing we were able to do is create a spot for some stools with an extended peninsula overhang. We also added some extra countertop by our stove so we could get a cart to hide under the counter and gain more prep space.
We also indicated where the sink cut out should be located and the size. We picked out a sleek, deep stainless steel sink from IKEA. I looked around at a bunch of home stores and IKEA had the best deal for a modern, really deep sink. We went with a one hole faucet with the faucet and sprayer combined. Sometimes those are separate. You could also add a soap dispenser as well. More on the faucet hole later…
We ordered the countertop from our local big box home improvement store and it took about 3 weeks for them to manufacture it and schedule a delivery.
Now this is where it all went wrong. Sometimes the universe reminds you that a kitchen renovation can’t go smoothly all of the time. Even though we did everything right, everything went soooo wrong. The countertop was delivered and the sink cut out was too big! Arg! Phewy. Wahh Wahh. We had to wait another 3 weeks for a new piece with the sink hole cut to the correct size.
So now the installation. It’s super easy. You need a wrench, a person with long arms (me) and some sealant. Oh and your trusty Shop Vac. Clean and vacuum all of the nooks and crannies that will be covered up with the new countertop. We then set all of the countertops on their respective cabinets. We pushed them into place and squared them off.
We thought it would be a good idea to drill the faucet hole before setting the final location of the countertop. Be warned! This is a BAD IDEA, especially if you have a window centered above your sink. When we tightened the countertop the center moved a tad and now are faucet hole is off center and the goose neck faucet doesn’t line up with the center of the window. That is a no go backzies too. Once you drill a hole it’s done. HUGE BUMMER. It’s not really noticeable unless you are looking for it but it still bugs me. So wait until the countertops are installed BEFORE drilling the faucet hole.
Next step. Put a bunch of sealant at the 45 degree corner edges. This is where you will need two people. One to push the countertops together, the other once to take the threaded rod (it comes with the countertop) and cinch it together with a wrench. This is where the long arms come in. If you have some tight corners it helps to be able to reach around in tight spots.
We did this for both corners and secured the underside of the counter to the back of the base cabinets using our trusty friend the nail gun. We also added some L brackets under the overhangs for some additional support.
Done and done. Now for the sink. Just like everything else from IKEA the directions were pretty easy. We added a fat layer of sealant to the underside of the edges of the sink, set it in the countertop, and secured the gravity based clips. Besides my neck being really tired from looking up from the underside of the sink and having some of the clips pop out a few times, the sink was relatively painless. Once the sink hole was the correct size that is…..
There is always something during a renovation that brings you back to reality and makes you realize you aren’t a superstar DIYer no matter how many HGTV shows you watch. For me this was the faucet install. We already drilled a hole a tad off center. I threaded the faucet through the hole and hooked it up the same way the previous faucet was hooked up. I even remembered to turn off the water before doing all of this. I took before pictures to remind myself of how things were hooked up. When I turned the water on…nothing. Where was the water? I looked around, messed with the on and off valves. I couldn’t figure it out. Well the dummy that I am didn’t realize that the new faucet handle pivots multiple ways. Forward and backward for hot and cold. Hint.. that doesn’t make the water come out. Side to side for on and off! Duhhhh. Water! Yes! Success! Nothing like being reminded that we are all just humans.
We also installed a garbage disposal. There are way too many good youtube videos of how to do this. I watched all of them. It was pretty easy since we were replacing an existing one. I also replaced the plumbing. I did it very scientifically too. I took a picture of the before sink and went to the kitchen plumbing section of Home Depot and bought every pipe that looked like it would work. I pieced it together and I felt like a plumbing Goddess! No leaks! Rockstar!
I am really proud of us for doing this countertop. We are awesome and it looks great. I keep posting a reminder of the before pic so no one forgets. Now we have a beautiful countertop that doesn’t need to be vacuumed! It’s the little things in life that matter. There were a few bumps along the way but it looks great now!