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How to Size and Finish a Countertop

Stock countertops are sold in 2-foot increments, so when you're installing a countertop, you'll probably have to cut off some excess. Because most situations call for cutting, post-formed countertops are generally manufactured without end caps, which you will need to apply.

The steps here lead you through the cutting process and show you how to apply endcaps:

  1. Place the countertop upside down on a pair of 2 x 4s on sawhorses.

    Be sure to extend the 2 x 4s under the entire countertop so that the cutoff is fully supported. You may want to clamp the countertop to the sawhorses for extra security; however, the weight of the countertop should be enough to keep it from moving.

  2. Measure the length of countertop that you need and mark a cutting line on the substrate.

    The easiest way to cut off any extra length of a post-formed countertop is with a circular saw and fine-tooth steel plywood blade. Don’t use a carbide-tipped blade — those blades have larger teeth, which increase your chances of chipping the laminate.

  3. Cut and clamp scraps of 1 x 4 to the backsplash and to the underside of the counter to guide your cuts.

    The distance between the guide and the cut line varies according to the saw and blade that you use. Measure the distance from the edge of the saw shoe (base) to the inside edge of the blade to determine proper spacing.

  4. Make your vertical cut through the backsplash first and then cut from the rear of the countertop toward the front.

    Support the cutoff end or have a helper hold it while you cut. Failure to do so will cause the piece to fall away before it’s completely cut and will break the laminate unevenly, ruining the countertop. If you have trouble finishing the cut with the circular saw, stop about 1 inch from the end and finish with a jigsaw or handsaw.

  5. Attach the provided wood strips to the bottom and back edges of the countertop with wood glue and brads, which the kit may also provide.

    These strips support the end cap because the substrate alone isn’t thick enough. Make sure that the strips are flush with the outer edge.

  6. Position the end cap on the cut end of the countertop and align the angle and corner with the contour of the countertop’s surface.

    If your countertop has an exposed end that doesn’t butt against a wall or into a corner, you need to finish it by applying a laminate end cap — a piece of the laminate surface that covers the exposed end of the countertop substrate.

  7. Maintain that alignment as you run a hot clothes iron over the end cap to activate the adhesive.

    Laminate end caps are designed to cover either left- or right-hand counter ends. Kits usually come with one of each. End caps are precut to fit the counter profile but oversized at the back edge to allow for a scribed fit, so you need to do some trimming with a hand file. End caps also come coated with heat-activated adhesive, which makes installation a snap.

  8. After the glue and end cap have cooled, file off excess material that extends past the backing strips. Also, lightly file the top edge so it isn’t quite as sharp.

    A hand file works best. Push the file simultaneously toward the countertop and along its length.

    Never remove excess by pulling the file — always push! Pulling breaks the glue bond, and the end cap will come off and may even break.

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