Plastic laminate sheets were popular back in the 1950s and '60s and are now back in vogue. You can use laminate sheeting to finish horizontal surfaces, like tables and counters. They also work well on wall panels and cabinet doors. They come in countless colors and patterns, with some even looking like stone or wood grain, and they are waterproof. You are sure to see them used in high-end furniture, restaurants and well-designed kitchens and bathrooms.
How to Use Laminate Sheeting
You'll first need to measure the surface you want to cover with laminate and order a sheet that is wider and longer. To cut out small pieces of laminate sheeting, you can use a drywall square to measure it and a utility knife. Mark out where you want to cut with a dry eraser, score it with the utility knife and then snap it. You'll want to use other tools for more significant cuts.
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Laminate sheets are approximately 1/16 inch thick but can be harder to cut than other materials. If you don't have a utility knife, you can try a pair of heavy-duty scissors instead. There are scissors for laminate sheeting; they look more like shears and make single, straight cuts. Other options are to use a circular saw, track saw or table saw; these options are excellent if you cut a lot of large pieces. Whatever method you choose, don the proper safety gear. Safety goggles, gloves and heavy shoes are recommended.
Installing Laminate Sheeting
Once you have cut your pieces, look at the surface you need to cover. If there are holes or cracks in the laminate, fill them with wood filler. Sand down the entire thing, remove the debris, clean it and let it dry. You can install cut laminate sheeting pieces with contact cement. It smells, though, so wear a safety mask. Use a foam paint roller to apply this to the back of the sheet and then to the surface you are covering.
Now, you should wait for 10 to 15 minutes until the cement no longer looks wet. For large, flat surfaces, like tables, place wooden dowels every 8 to 12 inches on top of the surface, positioning the laminate on top; the sheet will not stick to those. Move the dowels around until the sheet is precisely where it needs to be with some excess over the edges. Carefully slide out the middle dowel and press down the sheet there.
Finishing the Laminate Installation
Repeat this with the other dowels, working from the center out one side section at a time. Press from the middles toward the open sides to prevent air bubbles; if you leave air bubbles on the surface, they will be hard to get out later. When the whole surface is covered, take a J-roller and apply firm pressure over the entire sheet. These tools are excellent for when you use laminate sheeting because they apply smooth, uniform pressure that promotes strong adhesion.
You should expect to have a bit of excess laminate at the edges, and you can trim this with a trim router fitted with a straight trim bit or a roundover bit. Finally, use a file or a sanding block to smooth out the edges. With the proper equipment, this project shouldn't take you longer than an hour, and you will appreciate how well the laminate sheet resists stains, scrapes and scratches.