Cut a Laminate Countertop for a Sink
When you’re building or remodeling a kitchen, you can save time and money by using a ready-made laminate countertop. These tops, which generally have an integral backsplash and wraparound front edge, are durable and easy to find at home centers and lumberyards. Even if you have a laminate top custom-fabricated or you make it yourself, you can still use the sink-cutting methods described here.
Many sinks come with a layout template that makes marking the cut easy; you just trace the template with a pencil and cut out the hole with a jigsaw. If you don’t have a template, trace around the sink rim with a pencil, and then adjust the line inward to get the proper fit. On dark tops like this one, I make the layout marks on light-colored masking tape so they’re easier to see.
I cut most of the opening with a jigsaw equipped with a laminate-cutting blade. These blades cut on the downstroke to prevent chipping. If the countertop has an integral backsplash, there’s usually not enough room for a jigsaw when making the rear cut (adjacent to the backsplash). I make this cut with an oscillating multitool.
After making the rear cut, I attach a cleat to the cutout with a single screw. The cleat supports the cutout in place to prevent the countertop from breaking as the cut is finished. I use one screw so I can rotate the cleat out of the blade’s path while cutting.
To make less mess, you might be tempted to cut the top outdoors or in your shop and then move the prepared top to the sink base. I generally don’t do this because with a large hole in the center, it’s very easy to break the countertop while moving it.
1. Center the sink. Use a combination square lined up between the cabinet doors to establish the side-to-side location of the sink. Make sure the front cut won’t hit the cabinet rail below.
2. Trace the line. Trace the template or the sink rim as the starting point for layout lines. A layer of tape helps you see the pencil lines.
3. Move the line inward. Without a template, the layout line must be moved inward so it will be covered by the sink rim. The margins vary by sink, but the minimum is about 1/4 in. Make a mark at both ends of all four sides.
4. Connect the dots. Use a straightedge to connect the marks that correspond with the actual cutline. Connect the corners at an angle for an easier cut and better sink support.
5. Double-check the layout. Confirm that the cuts will be covered fully by the sink rim, then cross out the original lines to prevent cutting on the wrong line.
6. Drill the corners. Drill the insides of every corner with a 3⁄8-in. spade bit. Make sure the holes are fully within the lines that mark the actual sink cutout.
7. Cut the back. Because of the backsplash, there’s generally not enough room to cut the back side with a jigsaw. Instead, use a fine-tooth blade in an oscillating multitool.
8. Attach a cleat. To prevent the top from breaking as you finish the cut, secure a cleat to the top. A single screw in the center allows you to rotate the cleat out of the way while cutting.
9. Finish up with a jigsaw. Use a jigsaw with a reverse-cutting blade to finish the sink cutout. Maintain downward pressure to keep the saw from bouncing as it cuts.
10. Test the fit. After checking that the sink fits inside the cutout, clean all dust from the countertop, run a bead of silicone sealant around the rim, and install the clips that secure the sink.
Make the cut
To prevent damaging the laminate countertop, use a reverse-cutting jigsaw blade. These blades have teeth that cut on the downstroke instead of the upstroke. Go slowly, and apply steady downward pressure so that the saw doesn’t bounce while cutting.
There’s often not enough room to fit a jigsaw between the back of the sink and the backsplash. In these instances, use a fine-tooth blade in an oscillating multitool. Make the cut in several passes so you don’t overheat the blade, which slows cutting and dulls the teeth.
Photos: Patrick McCombe, except product photos by Dan Thornton