Making a Raised Bar Formica Counter
There are several methods that I am going to explore with you for making a raised bar area out of Formica for your kitchen countertop. Fabricating solid and sturdy high breakfast bar plastic laminate tops, without cheater supports underneath, are my specialty. Let’s first start with a couple of brief discussions concerning overhangs and wall heights before we explore various fabrication possibilities
- Tip: Consider how you will finish the bottom-side of the countertop. Some fabricators use mica and other recommend painting it.
What’s the standard overhang for a raised bar top?
Generally, anywhere between ten to twelve inches is sufficient for the area of the top that overhangs the high stub frame wall. These are standard parameters in the cabinet design and manufacturing industry.
How high should the stub wall be for a raised kitchen countertop?
The height that framers typically make this 2” x 4” thick wall is 401/2” from the floor to the top of the wall. If there’s going to be tile installed on the floor it is good to allow an additional ¼” in height. Therefore, the size would be 40 3/4” high.
With a 1 ½” thick counter, the finished height of the plastic laminate top should be 42” inches.
How do you make a template for an angled bar countertop?
The easiest and most accurate way to template for an angled counter top is to pre-cut the actual counter pieces to the desired depth and fit them on the job. Your counter is going to be 1 ½” thick but only template with ¾” thick boards. You will cut and add the 2nd layer of board in the shop after you have created your pattern. Once you have the correct angles cut on the particle board or plywood, make notes on them so that when you get the top back into the shop you can assemble the loose pieces together accurately. Here’s a good article about making a template for cabinets going on angled walls.
- Tip: Remember to allow for the thickness of the back splash when you are designing the width of the breakfast bar counter top. You should also allow for an overhang on the ends of the wall as well.
Next assemble the counter
When you assemble your angled, straight or L-shaped top make sure that you alternate the seams. In other words, the top ¾” thick layer should have the seams running in an opposite direction from the bottom layer. You do not want the seams being the same on the top and bottom because there would be no strength.
Your Formica counter is going to be a solid 1 ½” thick. So if it is 18” deep, your top piece is 18” and so is the bottom piece. After you screw or staple the pieces together cut the desired radiuses on the corners. The standard size is about six inches.
Covering the bar with plastic laminate
The only areas that get covered with Formica on a bar top prior to its installation are the edges. The top mica pieces must be cut over size and sent loose with the countertop onto the job. You guessed it; the breakfast bar counter will be laminated after it gets screwed down to the top of the stub wall.
Installing a Raised Breakfast Bar Formica Counter
Installation should be after the lower counters have been fastened into place. We usually send the back splashes loose, leaving them oversized, so they can be cut exactly to fit between the upper and lower tops after they have been installed.
Set the countertop on the wall and get it into place with the proper overhangs. Mark the locations of where the screws will be placed to hold it fast to the wall. Move the counter a little out of place to drill the 3/16” wide holes that the securing screws will go into, and then counter sink them.
Set the piece back into the proper position. Level the counter by placing shims underneath on the overhang side. You can screw the top down as you go along, all the while making adjustments by tightening and loosening them to get the bar counter to be perfectly level.
Once it is secured solid, laminate the top of the plywood or particleboard with the loose piece or pieces of counter Formica that you pre-cut in the shop. Roll it, route it, file and remove the contact glue.
Depending upon the design another way of fabricating this unit is to create what is called a blind plate that gets screwed to the top of the wall and then the countertop lips over it. This works well if there is a wood edge counter top or beveled mica edge application.
There are various methods used for making raised breakfast bar countertops, out of Formica. Some fabricators actually butt the backsplash to the counter and then laminate the top afterwards. This eliminates the overhang on the kitchen base cabinet side and creates a flush appearance where the top meets the backsplash. If this is the case the splash gets notched where the top overhangs the wall. Some people prefer laminating the counter in the shop and installing supports underneath, on the wall where the 12” bar overhang is, to secure it to. Fabricating your own kitchen cabinetry counters is both challenging and rewarding. Have fun!