How to Remove Formica Laminate

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Formica brand plastic laminate has been popular for several decades. The most common installation methods are the vacuum press, used in large commercial furniture factories, and contact cement, used on most carpenter-installed plastic laminates. Removing plastic laminate can be difficult and time-consuming. In the case of kitchen countertops, complete replacement is typically the easiest and best solution. If the piece in question cannot be replaced, or money to replace it is not in your budget, most laminates can be removed.

Things You'll Need

  • Acetone
  • Chisel
  • Paint scraper
  • Belt sander
  • Lift up the edge of the laminate slightly, using a chisel, utility knife or other sharp-bladed tool. Slide the tool along the edge of the laminate to loosen as much of the edge as possible to make for easy removal.

  • Apply acetone under the edge of the plastic laminate with a plastic squirt bottle, such as those used for wood glue. Allow the acetone to sit on the contact cement under the laminate for at least a minute to soften the cement. Slide a wide paint scraper under the laminate as far back as possible, loosening the laminate. Work along the edge of the laminate, adding acetone, then lifting with the scraper.

  • Work along all edges of the laminate, adding acetone and lifting all edges of the plastic. Continue working until the piece of laminate is completely loose. Lift the laminate from its place and set it aside to prevent the cement from re-adhering as the acetone dries.

  • Apply more acetone to the substrate to soften the remaining contact cement. Scrape as much of the contact cement from the surface as possible, using the paint scraper. Allow the surface to dry to the touch.

  • Remove the remaining cement from the surface of the substrate, using a belt sander with an 80-grit belt. Continue sanding until no contact cement remains visible. Avoid tipping the sander to prevent digging into the surface.

  • Remove laminate pieces until all faces of the Formica have been removed. Allow the acetone to dry completely before attempting to apply new laminate or doing other work to the surface.

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References

  • "Making Plastic Laminate Countertops;" Herrick Kimball; Taunton Press; 1996
  • "Work Surfaces and Countertops;" Lisa Stockwell; Sunset Books; 2005
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