"U" shaped countertop project

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N2audio
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"U" shaped countertop project

Post by N2audio » Fri Dec 30, 2016 9:44 am

Hello, I am in the beginning stages of research for a countertop replacement project.
I clicked and measured my way through Home Depot's cost estimator and at ~$1400 I have suddenly been motivated to do this on my own.

I really don't know where to start or what questions to ask so I'll just show you what I'm working with and see how many obstacles can be identified.
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Obviously, I can find a multitude of "how-to" videos, and overall, nothing seems like a huge road block besides simply time and tediousness.
With the sheer size of the thing I am concerned with how to sequence and/or segment it to keep the assembly process as simple as possible.

Thanks in advance for any help.

Justin

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A. Spruce
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Re: "U" shaped countertop project

Post by A. Spruce » Fri Dec 30, 2016 10:40 am

Assuming you're going with Formica as your surface, the hardest part will be creating perfect 45* joints at the corners of the U, other than that, pretty simple process to make a Formica top. You can get away with square joints, which will use less material, but not look quite as professional as 45* joints will.

First off, I'd suggest looking at how the prefab tops are made, this will give you a bit of an idea of the material to use and what direction you need to go. You will not be able to bend the formica, so you'll be making the counter and backsplash in two pieces.

How to cut Formica, on a table saw you cut it face up, with a circular saw you cut it face down. You want the teeth of the blade to cut into the face and pass out the back, this gives you a clean cut with no chipping. You'll also need a router and a laminate flush trimming bit to fit the Formica to your substrate.

You will use contact cement to join the Formica and substrate. The great thing here is that no clamping will be required, but you will want help laying the large pieces of Formica in place over the glue. Cut it larger than the substrate and trim it flush with a router. You will also want to install your nosing, the front edge of the counter first, then lay on the top. You will repeat this process to make the backsplash which will be fitted independently of the counter top during the install. You could attach the backsplash first, but this will make installation a bit more tricky.

You will have three pieces of counter that will need to be joined, use glue in the joint and hold it together with joint clamps, which you'll find anywhere that sells prefab counter tops.
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N2audio
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Re: "U" shaped countertop project

Post by N2audio » Fri Dec 30, 2016 11:08 am

Thx A.

Yes, a laminate top, Formica etc. The existing seams in the laminate are 90's at the CL of the oven and CL of the sink.
I have a router, circ saw, and a 10" (cheap) table saw. I figured I may want to procure a staple/brad gun to attach the backing boards. I can borrow a compressor and HF's staplers are cheap.

What base material do you suggest? I've seen plywood, particle board, mdf.

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Re: "U" shaped countertop project

Post by A. Spruce » Fri Dec 30, 2016 12:13 pm

The seam at the oven is fine, though, I'd think about moving the seam at the sink over to the corner because a seam at a water source is not such a good idea, also, the sink clamps can distort joints around the sink which makes for unsightliness and a place for water to get in and destroy the substrate.

As long as you can cut straight lines with the tablesaw, that is all that matters. Do yourself a favor and get a really good blade for it because a really good blade can make up for a whole lot of cheap, crappy saw. Same goes for the circular saw.

Not sure what backing boards you're referring to If you're referring to the strip along the leading edge to widen the edge, yes, you can nail/staple these, but be careful, it's extremely easy to break the strip you're nailing. You're better off to use wood glue and clamps to get it into place, then predrill and hand nail the strip in place. The nails are only to hold things together until the glue dries, so they're not overly necessary. You'll want to wait for the glue to dry before you start applying Formica anyway.

I DO NOT recommend HF tools of any kind, they are too poorly made and sloppy, resulting in the inability to control where the fastener is being driven. While you might think that holding the gun perfectly steady and true will drive a fastener straight, HF guns are notorious for hooking them right out the side of whatever you're working on, and generally in the direction of wherever your fingers happen to be. A better suggestion is to look on Craigslist for a good used name brand, such as Senco, Paslode, Hitachi, even Rigid (Home Depot brand ) is a step up from the garbage at HF.

As for substrate, prefab tops are made from particle board because it's cheap, fairly lightweight, and sound, meaning it has no voids in it, unlike plywood that can and does have voids that can affect the rigidity of the top. MDF I would not recommend because it is worse than particle board when it comes to soaking up moisture, it is much heavier, and it doesn't take well to holding fasteners. Particle board would be my choice.
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Re: "U" shaped countertop project

Post by Shannon » Fri Dec 30, 2016 7:04 pm

Have you considered recovering the existing top? If the laminate itself is in good condition and secure you could rough its surface up with 60 grit sandpaper and a belt sander and install new laminate right over it. As for the 45 degree corner cuts Spruce is suggesting, I would not even consider that as a first time attempt , that is a very tricky procedure even for a true pro with the proper tools and experience.. I would again place the joints at the sink and stove area because there is less exposed area and it will be easier to work with.
Are there walls on the threes ides of this counter space as well? A picture of the actual room may be better for our viewing?
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Re: "U" shaped countertop project

Post by N2audio » Tue Jan 03, 2017 3:31 pm

Shannon wrote:Have you considered recovering the existing top? If the laminate itself is in good condition and secure you could rough its surface up with 60 grit sandpaper and a belt sander and install new laminate right over it.
I hadn't considered that. I would have guessed it would be difficult to get a good bond to a non-porous surface like that.
I wouldn't say the laminate is in GOOD condition, but I would think it's sound enough to do what you're describing. I had to make some amateur cabinet repairs a while back and cracked the laminate from below in two small spots (screw tips). I just used some wood filler to keep the surface smooth. These are ~3/8" defects.
As for the 45 degree corner cuts Spruce is suggesting, I would not even consider that as a first time attempt , that is a very tricky procedure even for a true pro with the proper tools and experience.. I would again place the joints at the sink and stove area because there is less exposed area and it will be easier to work with.
That's what I was thinking. I understand why the joint at the sink isn't ideal, but it's been fine for 20+ yrs.
Are there walls on the threes ides of this counter space as well? A picture of the actual room may be better for our viewing?
No. Two walls, one open space. The walls are along the fridge side and behind the sink. The left (oven) side is open to the dining room. The overhang behind the oven serves as a bar. I can get a pic up soon.

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Re: "U" shaped countertop project

Post by Shannon » Tue Jan 03, 2017 10:09 pm

Generally speaking a whole new top is best but a recover will work most times very well.
Since you have pretty good access and only walls on two sides either one will work in your case well.
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Re: "U" shaped countertop project

Post by A. Spruce » Tue Jan 03, 2017 11:04 pm

If you decide to overlay the existing top, make sure to sand the screw damaged areas to be perfectly flat, otherwise you'll have bumps in the new top. The other thing, if there's any water damage what-so-ever to the existing top (swollen anywhere ), replacement is the only way to go
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Re: "U" shaped countertop project

Post by N2audio » Thu Jan 05, 2017 2:53 pm

A. Spruce wrote:If you decide to overlay the existing top, make sure to sand the screw damaged areas to be perfectly flat, otherwise you'll have bumps in the new top.
:thumbup:
The other thing, if there's any water damage what-so-ever to the existing top (swollen anywhere ), replacement is the only way to go
I have never had any signs of or concerns with water intrusion or indication of the existing laminate coming unglued. There's no visible warping and the wood below the sink is sound.

I have one corner that is a radius. It seems adequately large, appx 6" (I have read that radii should be no less than 3"). Even so, in trying to stick to old laminate, is there cause for concern about adherence at the radius? Would it be worth trying to remove the old laminate on the edge and replacing it? Just recovering the top? Or is that a bad idea? Seems like there'd be a risk of damaging the particle board underneath.

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Re: "U" shaped countertop project

Post by A. Spruce » Thu Jan 05, 2017 3:14 pm

N2audio wrote:I have never had any signs of or concerns with water intrusion or indication of the existing laminate coming unglued. There's no visible warping and the wood below the sink is sound.
That's good. If there is water damage, there will be noticeable humps where the particle board is swollen under the laminate. This is primarily a problem around sinks, seams, and two-piece backsplashes. If everything is sound, then overlaying is perfectly acceptable.
I have one corner that is a radius. It seems adequately large, appx 6" (I have read that radii should be no less than 3"). Even so, in trying to stick to old laminate, is there cause for concern about adherence at the radius? Would it be worth trying to remove the old laminate on the edge and replacing it? Just recovering the top? Or is that a bad idea? Seems like there'd be a risk of damaging the particle board underneath.
That radius doesn't sound like it will be a problem, there's a fix if it is. I say purchase your new laminate and cut the strip you will need for the edge. Before you try to glue it, hand bend it in place and see how it does. You can also just bend a piece in your hand until it snaps, then you'll know exactly how tight a radius you can bend and the signs the laminate gives just before it snaps. If the radius is too tight, then cut that corner of the counter off at 45* to make it a square edge instead of rounded. Fitment will go the same as everywhere else, apply the edge strip first, route it flush at corners and top, then set the surface piece in place and edge route it. If you have to 45* the corner, put a backer block in your miter saw and cut the edge band to size to make the corner. Outside 90* corners just get overlapped, meaning install one side, flush cut, install second side and flush cut it to the first.
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Re: "U" shaped countertop project

Post by Shannon » Thu Jan 05, 2017 6:21 pm

Ya that radius should be no problem for most laminate products
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Re: "U" shaped countertop project

Post by N2audio » Tue Jan 17, 2017 11:40 am

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Re: "U" shaped countertop project

Post by Shannon » Tue Jan 17, 2017 12:17 pm

these are the before pictures I assume?
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Re: "U" shaped countertop project

Post by N2audio » Tue Jan 17, 2017 3:13 pm

Yes.

Regarding the radius. Cutting it off to a 45 is an interesting idea. I don't think I would have a problem with the radius, but I would like to extend that edge of the counter top a couple inches because it barely covers the cabinet and I couldn't figure out a way to do that with the radius there.

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Re: "U" shaped countertop project

Post by A. Spruce » Tue Jan 17, 2017 3:54 pm

No, that radius will not cause you any problems to wrap as it is.

The issue I see with extending that section of the counter is supporting it and keeping it stable. If you were to cut the existing counter back half way across the cabinet that would be fine, but grafting onto the edge isn't going to hold up, certainly not without using counter clamps as we discussed earlier, but even then, any amount of weight on the extended edge is going to snap it off.
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Re: "U" shaped countertop project

Post by N2audio » Tue Jan 17, 2017 4:23 pm

I see what you're saying...but even if I only extended it ~1", glued and screwed?

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Re: "U" shaped countertop project

Post by A. Spruce » Tue Jan 17, 2017 4:40 pm

An inch would be ok, I'd question any more than that because of the leverage force.
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Re: "U" shaped countertop project

Post by Shannon » Tue Jan 17, 2017 5:42 pm

Ya ,a couple inches at the most if you can get it well screwed and glued to the existing edge. You may get a way with more but who knows for sure.
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Re: "U" shaped countertop project

Post by N2audio » Thu Jan 19, 2017 11:56 am

In regard to the joint where the counter top meets the wall.

I am planning to remove the tile and replace it with a more modern back splash. The countertop does not have any type of built in back splash.
What I'm thinking is once the tile's gone I could butt the laminate directly against the wall and run a small bead of caulk at that point. Then when the new backsplash is in place I can caulk again to guard against any leaks.
Maybe that's all wrong though. It just makes sense to this complete amateur.

Another question regarding the backsplash. I'm not sure what to expect when I knock the tile down. What sort of surface to I need to provide if I'm going to install an adhesive backsplash? On that same topic -- do I HAVE to remove the tile? I've heard of people going directly over tile.

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Re: "U" shaped countertop project

Post by A. Spruce » Thu Jan 19, 2017 2:46 pm

N2audio wrote:IWhat I'm thinking is once the tile's gone I could butt the laminate directly against the wall and run a small bead of caulk at that point. Then when the new backsplash is in place I can caulk again to guard against any leaks.
This will be perfectly acceptable.
Another question regarding the backsplash. I'm not sure what to expect when I knock the tile down. What sort of surface to I need to provide if I'm going to install an adhesive backsplash? On that same topic -- do I HAVE to remove the tile? I've heard of people going directly over tile.
I would not recommend overlaying the tile, you won't be able to finish off the exposed edge (left side of 2nd pic ). I would pull the tile, I would also build a backsplash, basically, take a piece of 3/4" particle board cut it to size, and wrap the face and exposed edges with laminate. Once you have the backsplash made, simply glue it to the wall with some construction adhesive. For this, as long as you don't destroy the wall removing the tile, you can simply install it over the area. If the wall gets destroyed, then you will need to repair the drywall before installing the backsplash.

How I normally do tile removals like this is to VERY CAREFULLY pop the outside tiles so as not to damage the wall, then do whatever it takes to remove the rest. With a few inches of sound drywall (from behind the perimeter tiles ) you can replace the damage without having to tape into the exposed portion of the wall, thus having to mess with matching texture and paint.
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Re: "U" shaped countertop project

Post by Shannon » Thu Jan 19, 2017 7:03 pm

If you are installing a adhesive stick on tile type back splash the walls have to pretty smooth. Removing those old tiles will almost always damage if not completely destroy the paper face of the drywall. so some patching will be required for sure.
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