How to Install Plastic
Tool and Material Checklist
Plastic laminate of proper type, Contact cement,
Fine-toothed hand saw, Wooden mallet, Paint brush, Roller,
Power sander, Work gloves, Steel square, Router with
special grooving disk, Sanding block, Straightedge,
Utility knife, Hand cleaner, Fine-toothed backsaw, Power
saw, Fine-toothed blade for power saw, File, Sandpaper.
1. Preparing the Surface for Laminate Plastic:
Laminated plastics are available in many colors, patterns
and designs. They can be used for counter tops, table tops
and many other surfacing applications. Such sheets are
available in dull of gloss finish. Laminated plastic is
made from layers of paper which are first impregnated with
resin and then bonded together under pressure and high
This forms the resin and paper into a rigid sheet.
Laminated plastic sheets of 1/16" thickness are usually
recommended for a flat surface which will be used as a
work area. Laminated plastic of 1/32" thickness can be
used on vertical surfaces.
The surface where plastic laminate is to be applied should
be thoroughly sanded and cleaned. Any paint or varnish
should be removed before the laminated plastic is applied.
Plywood and chipboard make ideal bases for plastic
laminates. It is usually wise to attach an inexpensive
backing laminate to the base before the finish laminate is
applied. This backing laminate helps prevent moisture
absorbtion which might cause the base board to warp.
2. Cutting Laminated Plastic:
Plastic laminate material can be cut with a regular
circular power saber saw. However, a fine-tooth blade,
recommended for the cutting of such plastic laminates,
should always be used. Unless you are doing a big job, it
is usually best to cut plastic laminate with a fine-tooth
backsaw or a utility knife. Whether you use a knife, a
hand saw or a power saw, always cut at a low angle on the
decorated side of the laminated sheet. Important: Always
cut the sheets of laminated plastic slightly oversize to
allow for trimming.
Special laminate cutting blades are available for cutting
laminated plastic with utility knives. A straight edge or
a steel square can be used to guide the knife for a smooth
and even cut. After the sheet of laminated plastic has
been scored with the utility knife, it can be snappedon
the scored line by lifting the shorter end and applying a
slight amount of pressure.
Laminated plastic sheets can also be cut with a fine-tooth
hand saw. The type of cutting tool used will depend on how
big a job you are undertaking . As a rule a utility knife
or a fine-tooth backsaw is the most desirable cutting
3. Applying Laminated Plastics:
Laminated plastics should normally be applied with contact
cement. Epoxy adhesives can be used but contact cements
are generally recommended. Use coarse sandpaper to roughen
the surface to be covered. Clean away the residue left by
sandings by brushing with a light brush or by blowing away
with compressed air.
Brush the contact cement onto the counter surface after it
is sanded. Also apply a smooth and even layer of contact
cement to the back of the clean laminate sheet which is to
be applied to the cemented area. Let both surfaces dry for
approximately 15 minutes before attempting to install the
Extreme care must be used when laying the sheets after
contact cement is applied. Remember, 50% to 75% of the
bonding strength of contact cement is present in the first
contact. This means the pieces which are to be glued
together must be accurately positioned before the glued
areas touch each other.
Although one coat of cement on both the surface to be
covered and the back of the laminated sheet is usually
adequate for flat surface application, it may be necessary
to apply 2 to 3 coats of contact cement for the trim
strips along the counter edges.
A regular paint brush can normally be used for applying
the normally be used for applying the contact cement to
both the back of the laminated sheet and the flat
surfaces. However, in some cases a hand-made paddle of
wood may be more desirable for spreading the cement.
After the 15 minute drying period, you are ready to place
the laminated sheets into position. However, you must keep
the laminated sheet and the cemented base apart until they
are correctly positioned. On narrow strips this can
usually be done by laying small strips of wood or a piece
of wrapping paper, figure, between the two cemented pieces
until they are properly positioned. A stiff piece of paper
will not adhere to the dried cement and can be moved along
the surface to keep the cemented back of the laminated
sheet and the cemented base apart during the positioning
When laying a large sheet of laminated plastic, it may be
necessary to use large sheets or paper rather than small
strips. Again, the paper will not adhere to the dried
cement. The paper can be laid into position and then
removed after the sheet is in the proper position on the
cemented surfaces. When applying laminated sheets to
vertical surfaces, you can usually position the glued
sheets without the use of wooden strips or heavy wrapping
4. Finishing off the Job:
When the laminated sheet is in the correct position, the
paper or wood strips can be removed and the two cemented
pieces bonded together. A roller can be used to apply
pressure to the newly laid sheets of laminated plastic.
Roll the entire surface thoroughly to eliminate any air
pockets and to be sure the plastic sheet is firmly
attached to the surface at all points.
If it is necessary to make a seam, a clean joint can be
made by overlapping the two sheets by approximately 3/4".
Cut completely through the thickness of both sheets at
this point of overlap. Lift and remove the waste strip
underneath the cut and the two sheets will align
perfectly. A wooden block and mallet can also be used to
assure good adhesion at all points on the newly laid
surface. Work from the center of the job toward the edge
to work out any air bubbles that might be hidden
In some cases you may want to use special metal or plastic
moldings to finish off the edges of the plastic laminate
installation. In other cases you may want to use thin
edging strips of the same material to create a neat edge.
When using the same laminate material for edging, apply
two coats of cement to the edges and let dry thoroughly.
Now apply 1 coat of cement to the back of the laminated
Place the edge strip into position carefully using the
fingers to align the sheets along the top edge as they are
applied. It is usually best to start applying pressure to
the edge strips in the center of each strip. Work in both
directions from the center on long spans. Short spans can
be worked from one end to the other.
A fine-toothed backsaw can be used for shaping the edging
strips where it is necessary to trim away surplus material
or to cut portions of the strip at the end. Run your hand
along the edge stripping. The stripping should be slightly
wider than the edge it covers. however, this extra width
should be at the bottom. Obviously it will have to be
perfectly aligned at the top.
Allow the edge trim to dry approximately 30 minutes. Then
touch off the edges with a file which is set at a 45
degree angle to avoid any danger of chipping the laminate
with the teeth of the file. When using metal strips for
finish work, it may be necessary to use a router, to cut a
groove for certain types of trim materials. Special bits
are available for routing work of this type.
Any surplus contact cement should be removed with a
special solvent. If such a solvent is not available, nail
polish remover can be used.