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Installing a Self-Rimming Sink in a Postform Laminate Countertop

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You guys know I like to talk, and further, I feel that most how-to writing can be restrictive. I try to communicate tips and lessons learned. Home Improvement can be challenging, and as with everything in life, we can be defined by how we confront and overcome challenges.

Most of the pieces you will find here, while I hope are informative, focus usually on the human element – the “home” in home improvement. That said, I wanted to post on a recent project >> Installing a Self-Rimming Sink in a Postform Laminate Countertop.

Postform Laminate Countertops are always an affordable option

We are still working on converting the original kitchen in our house to a laundry room. We (my wife and I) had decided early on that we were going to keep the built-in cabinets that were in place there. While spartan, for the most part they were usable. A new paint job dressed them up nicely enough. We needed a new counter though. And in order to avoid a dissertation on counter options, let me simply say we quickly decided on postform laminate. These durable surfaces are perfect for areas such as laundry rooms, and fit nicely into any budget.

The total material cost for this counter job was approximately $110. And the counter itself, was easy enough to install — including the time to cut in and install the sink, it took me about 6 hours.

Installing a self-rimming sink in a postform laminate countertop

I decided against taking space here to walk you through the process of installing this type of counter. There are many good tutorials online. Most basic carpentry books also provide excellent coverage on this task. It is fairly easy to cut and install a postform laminate countertop. (But I do always wonder why they aren’t called “pre-form”.)

Instead, I have decided to walk you through the more daunting task of cutting the sink hole in the once installed counter. Note: for the sake of efficiency, I have chosen to group photos in threes and will make comments on each block immediately above them.

1. Planning and Purchasing

While some say the hardest part of a job is starting, for me it’s not an option, either I do it or it doesn’t get done. With a skillful cut and a handful of shims the counter went in easy enough. My wife and met at Home Depot one Friday with the primary purpose of purchasing a sink. Luckily, that day we passed the marked-down aisle. As you can see below, we found this beautiful double-basin sink at a 75% discount. The lesson here: ALWAYS CHECK THE CLEARANCE AISLE AT THE HOME CENTER.

To start the install, I need to know where the sink is going. I found the center point of both the sink base cabinet and the window sill immediately above it. I do this by halfing the distance and drawing short hash marks at both ends.

2. Use the Template provided to Cut the Sink

Sink manufacturers supply an actual size template for the needed cut out. Use it. While instructions call for the installer (you) to trace or script the cutout line, I decide instead to tape it down firmly. I had a little indecision about where I should set the template front to back. I decided ultimately that I wanted a little space at the back lip, and that I needed to make sure that the front edge of the bowl would just clear the front edge of the cabinet frame.

With the template lined up with center lines from above, I drilled 1/2″ starter holes around the perimeter of the cut out line. I followed behind with a jig saw loaded with a down-cutting laminate blade. With a steady hand and moving deliberately, I gave myself a pretty good rough cut.

3. Fine Tune the opening using a Belt Sander (or a Laminate Trimmer)

I try to make sure, and I wish I had a second set of hands sometimes, that the waste would not fall into the new opening. This would damage the surface of the counter. To prevent this, I propped a piece of scrap lumber up under the opening to catch the cut as it was being completed.

To get a finished edge on the opening, I used a Sharpie to straighten the edges. I then used my belt sander loaded with 100 grit sandpaper, and worked up to the outside edge of the Sharpie line. The belt sander is the perfect tool for shaping a laminated surface.

4. Install the Faucet before Installing the Sink (if this is sensible)

As per the manufacturer’s instructions, and/or on the recommendation you would hear from a familiar plumber, assemble as much as possible before installing the sink.

Notice the picture below how I swiveled the large pull-out kitchen faucet around on itself. This balanced the faucet very nicely while I tightened it up from below with two hands.

I chose in this case — with a heavy cast iron, double-basin sink — to leave out the strainers at this phase; the drain holes made great hand holds that I could use to grab and lift the sink up into place.

5. Install the Sink Strainers and apply 100% Silicone

Now with the sink set in the counter cutout, I installed strainers (no garbage disposal in the laundry) into both drain holes. This procedure can be found in many plumbing books. I regret buying budget strainers for this job; they bent slightly when I was cranking the lock ring up into place from underneath. Installing strainers after the sink is in, while it requires some flexibility, is not super difficult. This is especially true if you have access to an assistant.

Because self-rimming cast iron sinks are heavy (I did supply additional blocking for support underneath the counter), they do not require clips to hold them in place. The manufacturer, in this case Kohler, recommends finishing with a 100% silicone caulk. Once cured, the caulk glues the sink in place. This subject could be a dissertation in itself — I installed a fat bead of caulk and finished/smoothed it with a wet finger. Hopefully the pictures below show this.

6. Caulking behind the Sink is Important & Final Plumbing Connections

With the sink eyeballed and set perfectly in place, the caulking underway, I finished the caulking on the back lip of sink with a squeeze tube of silicone (the matching equivalent to the one loaded into a caulk gun can always be found). Getting a good bead of caulk at the back of the sink is of the utmost importance, because it is, of course, the most likely point of entry for water.

Final connections on the plumbing undersink can be made once the caulk has cured. I usually give caulk 24 hours to set up before attempting this. Note: For me, on this day, I did hook up the plumbing prior to applying the caulk; however, these pics are not included here, because 1. I feel that they might be a little too tangential and 2. they were not really that good.


Bonus Coverage: Installing an End Cap on a Postform Laminate Counter

As a guy who tries always to the account for the “what if”, I saved the installation of the end cap until after I was absolutely satisfied with the installation of the sink. This procedure, while not necessarily difficult, may require the practice of patience.

Note: Instructions for this task can be found right on the back of the end cap packaging.

1. Pre-glued End Caps are applied with a household Iron

A matching End Cap product is sold. It contains the required fill blocking and two (left and right) pre-molded end profiles designed to match the laminate. These end caps are have a form of contact cement applied to their backs, and are attached to the counter using a clothes iron.

To start, I usually attach the end cap to the counter with a single piece of masking tape. I do this so the cap doesn’t slip as I apply the hot iron to it.

Run the iron over every nanometer of the surface, moving deliberately. Don’t linger in any one spot for too long; keep the iron moving. I usually give this surface the iron for two minutes or more. This allows the glue to melt. I come behind quickly with a damn cloth or a sponge. This cools the surface and allows the glue to harden and bond.

As hopefully you can see with the picture at right here, the end cap is sized just larger than the counter itself. The end cap must be shaped to finalize the install.

2. Shape the cap using a File and a Sanding Block (pretend you are waxing a surfboard)

— As a general rule, I tend to overprotect surfaces. Before I began the finish work on the cap, I made sure to tape off at the top of the counter as to minimize the possibility of scraping on the top of the counter. Shaping an end cap can be a slow and meticulous process. While tried using power tools for this task, I still see the file (and its partner the sanding block) as the safest and most craftsmen-like option for this job.

I usually alternate between the file and one or two grits of sandpaper. I’m happier when I am putting a slight bevel on the top edge of the cap. This seems to give it a better finish. I included an additional picture below, the one at right, which includes some products and tools that you may not associate with this job. As you are filing and sanding, glue residue may accumulate where the end cap contacts the counter.

While your finger nail can typical do a pretty good job of cleaning this up, following behind with a straight razor, and some quick evaporating cleaner, like rubbing alcohol, can help this process along. The Sharpie is included in this picture below; because it is perfect when discrete touch ups are needed on a laminated counter. Check out Sharpie’s palette when you get a chance and plan ahead, because chances are you’ll find a color that will work well with your surface.

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To see more of this finished project, see the article – Our Budget Laundry Room, Powder Room and Office Remodel.

More Moxie (Related Links):

Installing a post form countertop: http://www.easy2diy.com/cm/easy/diy_ht_3d_index.asp?page_id=35743498

Essential tool of the trades — the Sharpie! The Sharpie Shop on Amazon.

Installing a kitchen sink strainer: http://www.askthebuilder.com/Kitchen_Sink_Strainer_Video.shtml

While postform counters are great diy projects, there are actually many more options in laminates available. Here is a great overview: http://www.doityourself.com/stry/laminatecomeback

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