How To Cut A Formica Countertop That's Already Installed

Ossiana Tepfenhart
by Ossiana Tepfenhart
Cutting countertops is an important part of getting the perfect fit, but cutting a Formica countertop that’s already installed can be tricky. Luckily, it is possible to cut existing Formica countertops with common tools such as a metal file and circular saw. Whether it be preparing the surface or smoothing it out, let’s take a look at how you can cut Formica countertops that are already installed.

When you installed that countertop, you expected it to be there forever. And, so far, it was. Formica countertops are a remarkably sturdy type of countertop. Unfortunately, for one reason or another, you need to trim it down. The problem is that Formica countertops are hard to slice through once they’re added to your kitchen. So, how do you cut your Formica countertop if it’s already installed?

To cut a Formica countertop, you will need a circular saw and a metal file as well as a few other tools. You’re going to need extremely sharp blades, so it’s a good idea to either sharpen them or buy a new set before you attempt this. Carefully cut the laminate, and then use a metal file to file the edges. You’ll also want to smooth the edges with a belt sander.

Believe it or not, this is a fairly common issue in the DIY home improvement world. That means that there are solutions out there that make it possible for you to cut it without actually having to buy a new countertop. This guide will help you learn the ropes and understand what issues you may encounter.

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Why Is It Hard To Cut Formica Countertops?

Granite and marble countertops are known for being sturdy, but they also have a significant advantage. With the right tools, they can be relatively easy to cut. After all, they are solid stone and won’t be prone to chipping or breakage. This is one of the top reasons why contractors prefer to work with granite.

Formica countertops are not made out of stone. Rather, they’re laminate countertops. The problem with cutting through laminate surfaces is that there’s a chance that you could chip or wear out the laminate.

Laminate countertops are sheets of paper that are glued together, then topped with a resin finish. If you’re going to cut a laminate countertop that’s already been installed in your kitchen or bathroom, you’re going to need some strategy.

Can You Cut A Laminate Countertop Without Chipping The Resin?

Though it’s not easy by any means of the word, it can be done. Among DIY enthusiasts, the standard tool to cut a Formica countertop is a circular saw. That being said, you would need a guard and to place precautionary taping around the resin to avoid chipping.

We suggest getting a rip fence to work with your saw, plus some additional blades. You’re going to want extremely sharp blades for this project; otherwise, it can tear the laminate or make it too messy looking.

What Supplies Will You Need?

To do this, you’re going to need the following items:

  • A ruler
  • A circular saw
  • A rip guard
  • A belt sander or sanding block
  • A metal file
  • A Shop-Vac

How To Cut Your Formica Countertop

Once you have all the supplies ready, you should be prepared to start your cutting. Here’s how to do it:

  • Prep your area. Measure out the line that you will be cutting. You will be using your rip fence to make sure that the line stays steady. Also, it’s a good idea to measure two to three times to ensure accuracy. It’s better to measure too big than too small. So, if you aren’t sure, you can always add 1/4th of an inch more to your measurement and then deal with the excess later.
  • Adjust your saw blade depth down to 1/8th of an inch.  Your blade shouldn’t cut through the entire portion of your countertop. Rather, your goal here is to make it cut through the thickest portion of your Formica. If you’re going to be cutting off more than an inch of your counter, you can kick up the depth to 1/2 inch.
  • Cut your Formica countertop. Going slow and steady is essential here since chipping can happen if you go too steady. Don’t worry if you swerve slightly off your line, as you can fix this with a belt sander.
  • Continue to cut the countertop. To ensure you get a clean cut with the countertop removed, you may need to make a couple of other passes through it. You can either continue to use your circular blade, or you can use a jigsaw for this.
  • Remove the cut portions of your countertop. Just place them aside for the time being.
  • Take a belt sander or a sanding block, and smooth out the edges of the laminate. This helps give you the crisp, unchipped look of a well-cut countertop. It also can help correct issues that you may have had while cutting, such as swerves.
  • To finish off your cutting, use a metal file to get the edges close to the wall. When sanding down the edges, only use downward strokes. Upward strokes will lift the resin off the countertop, which can cause severe problems with your countertop’s surface.
  • Once that’s finished, use the Shop-Vac to clean up all the dust in your surrounding area. A regular vacuum will not be able to suck up all the fine debris. Throw out the cut portions of your countertop once cleaning is complete.

How Sharp Do Your Blades Have To Be?

It may be tempting to reuse old blades for your countertop cuts, but this isn’t a good idea. Dull blades do not pair well with laminate countertops and have a tendency of shredding the resin. This, in turn, makes it harder to file down your countertops during cleanup.

Your best bet is to start with a brand new blade. If you notice that your blade starts to snag, switch out the blade for a new one. This way, you’ll get the smooth cut you want and a lower chance of chipping. Trust us when we say that the new blades are worth it.

What Should I Do If I Chipped My Formica Countertop?

The first thing you should do is avoid panicking. With most chips, you can use a metal file to slough off the hard breaks and then use a sanding block to eliminate the more mild jags. That should be enough to handle everything and also give you the perfectly polished look you want.

Of course, if the chips are major (think over four inches in size), there may be a need to look into a full resin repair, or worse, a countertop replacement. This is a job for a professional. That’s why it may be best to leave this kind of operation to a handyman rather than try to do it on your own. Even if the risk is small, things can still happen.

When To Hire A Professional

Furthermore, of course, you always have the option to hire a professional. There are several reasons that you may do this, such as:

  • You aren’t comfortable operating a saw
  • It’s too difficult of a job for you to undertake alone and you don’t have any help available
  • You want to watch someone else do it first before you attempt it another time

If you’re ever uncomfortable or unsure how to operate any piece of equipment, it’s better to get someone to teach you or hire a professional to do the job until you’re able to learn what to do. Safety should always be at the forefront of your mind.

How Much Would It Cost To Have A Professional Cut My Laminate?

Lowes and Home Depot used to cut Formia countertop, but not anymore. What you can do is hire a carpenter to do the work for you. Since it’s not that big of a job, they may charge you a service fee. Or, you can opt to have them install it for you as well, which would be about one more hour in labor fees.

You can expect to pay between $85 and $200 to hire a contractor to cut your laminate and install it. Of course, the installation would cost between $140 and $200 depending on the job’s size and the person you hire.

Is This A Good DIY Project?

Though it’s possible to cut a Formica countertop that is already installed, it’s not something we advise everyone to do. This project is best left to people who have a decent amount of experience with a circular saw.

In many cases, it’s better to ask a professional to cut your countertop for you. This is especially true if the cuts you want to make aren’t going to be straight or if you need to remove portions of the countertop that will be exposed to people’s sights.

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Our Final Take

Formica countertops are great picks for your kitchen, but it can be tricky to get them cut. That’s why it’s best to hire a pro if you’re not accustomed to advanced cutting or DIY projects. If you are ready and willing to give cutting your countertop on your own a try, make sure to grab a high-quality circular saw with a good rip guard to help you guide your way.

Once the actual cutting is done, you’re going to need to smooth out the resin by filing it down. This can be done with a sanding block, a belt sander, or a rough metal file. When filing it, the best way to do it is to use continuous downward strokes since upward strokes can snag the resin. Aside from that, all you need to worry about is cleaning up the debris.

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Ossiana Tepfenhart
Ossiana Tepfenhart

Ossiana Tepfenhart is an expert writer, focusing on interior design and general home tips. Writing is her life, and it's what she does best. Her interests include art and real estate investments.

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