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Steps for Resurfacing Kitchen Cabinets With Formica Laminate

October 14th, 2010 Leave a comment Go to comments

I have been in the resurfacing business for over thirty years. Your kitchen cabinets can look brand new again and have the same durability as the original Formica covering.


Re-laminating existing cupboards is much less expensive than replacing them with new ones. This article will instruct you on the basics of how to do-it-yourself (DYI).

Just before the recovering process starts, cover the surrounding furniture and seal off areas with light weight plastic. The kitchen area will need to have drop-cloths placed on the floor or protective paper taped in place. It’s a good idea to put cloths on the floor where the work path will be going in and out of the house.

DO NOT do any work without protecting the appliances. They should either be removed from the kitchen or covered with something. It is just not worth the expense of replacing a stove, refrigerator or dishwasher because of someone’s negligence. You are going to be working with hammers, screwdrivers, routers, drills and sanders. One slight-slip and you could dent or scratch a stove top or the face of the dishwasher.

Laminating over the old plastic mica is going to be a dusty job. There will be fine particles of dust in the air throughout the entire process. If you are planning on resurfacing the Formica cabinets yourself, wear a dust mask whenever necessary.

If you are ordering new doors, it is best to order exactly the same sizes that you have and use identical hinges as replacements. If you cannot find a perfect match for the hinges, make sure that the new ones have the same overlay. What this means is that the door overlays a certain distance from the inside of the cabinet when it is fully closed. If your present hinges have a one half inch (1-1/2″) overlay then your new ones must have that as well. This article will help you when figuring cabinet door sizes.

If you are resurfacing the existing Formica doors, you must cut the edges off of them. If you don’t, the door margins will be too tight when you add the additional 1/16″ of mica on the edges. You can complete this part of the kitchen remodel by running them through the table saw, cutting off just the edges of the plastic. If you have never done lamination work, review this article and video series on how to make plastic laminate cabinet doors.

Materials and Tools  Needed to do Formica Work:

  • Hammer
  • Belt Sander
  • Laminate J-Roller-The perfect tool…designed to apply pressure on the Formica while adhering the glued surfaces together.
  • Drill
  • Screwdriver
  • Block Sander
  • 40 Grit Sanding Belts
  • Laminate Trimmer/Router-Review this article to learn the proper direction of the router when cutting.
  • Flush-Trim Router Bit
  • Shop Vacuum
  • Rags
  • Colored Caulking
  • Contact Adhesive for Cabinets
  • Lacquer Thinner-Used to clean the excess contact glue off of the cupboard parts and it works as a great degreaser around the stove area.
  • Rags
  • Plastic Cut File
  • Tip Snips-Cutting plastic laminate to size.
  • Long Straight Edge-Good for making the initial cuts on the large Formica sheets.
  • Putty Knife
  • Laminate Slitter-Good for making thin cuts three inches wide and under.
  • Table Saw
  • Clamps-Combined with the straight edge, these will hold the plastic in place while cutting it with a router.
  • Speed Square-Works for making accurate lines on the mica that will be cut off using tin-snips.
  • Paper Cutter-Great tool for squaring off small laminate edges.
  • Diagonal Cutters-Used for snipping off the laminate where the router won’t reach.
  • Gulf Wax-This can be purchased from a grocery store. Whenever you are routing against a new piece of Formica

How to Resurface Kitchen Cabinets

Step One-Measure all of the Formica pieces that you will need. Make a list and cut them, in order from largest-to-smallest, out of your plastic laminate sheets. You can use your table saw, tin-snips, router with the straight edge or laminate slitter to make the cuts, whatever works best for what you are cutting. IMPORTANT…the pieces must be cut oversize, then routed off flush with the cupboard’s face-frames.

Step Two-Remove all of the contents of the kitchen cupboards. EVERYTHING must be taken out! There are going to be router chips flying everywhere. You cannot clean and vacuum up the mess from around things left in the cabinets.

Step Three-Take the doors off using either the drill with the correct bit or with the screwdriver. If you have European hinges, they may be clip-hinges. You can tell by looking at the back of the straight-arm. If there’s a small lever/tab, lift up or push down on it to release the hinge from the plate. Remove all of the drawers at this time as well.

Step Four-Sand all surfaces with the belt sander and block sander using the forty (40) grit sandpaper. Wipe the areas down with lacquer thinner that are going to be resurfaced with Formica laminate.

Step Five-Start gluing the new Formica pieces onto the kitchen cupboards. Do the toe bases first, the upper cabinet bottoms next, all of the finished ends and then laminate all of the face-frame sections. Refer to this video/article if you need to know how to file Formica. Resurface the kitchen cupboard doors. Clean all of the contact adhesive off of everything with the lacquer thinner solvent.

Step Six-Install the new hinges on the doors and hang them on the cupboards. Attach the decorative drawer fronts to the drawers. Adjust the cabinet doors and drawer faces into “perfect” alignment. After they are in place, drill the cupboard doors and drawer faces for handles or knobs and install them.

As you are resurfacing the kitchen base and upper wall cupboards, try to keep the areas as clean as possible by using the shop vacuum often. Once you have completed all of the above steps, thoroughly clean your kitchen and leave the doors and windows open long enough to air the house out really well.



Just as a side note, it’s a good idea to plan on eating out for a couple of days while the resurfacing project is under way. Your kitchen is going to be off limits for a while….so figure a few nights out on the town into your budget. The re-lamination process usually takes three days for a professional to complete an average sized kitchen-having about twenty three linear feet of cabinets. If this is a do-it-yourself kitchen recovering project, you had better figure four days. If you are planning on recovering the cupboards with real wood veneer, figure in some extra time.

Categories: Cabinet Resurfacing
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