Laminates are thin, durable sheets of hard material. They have a plastic formula that will resist wear and tear for many years and come in almost every imaginable color and pattern. Laminate applied to a particleboard countertop is waterproof and provides a kitchen with a workspace that is attractive and functional. Laminate installation is done it two steps, countertop installation followed by laminate gluing.
After the base cabinets are installed, cut particleboard 1 inch bigger than the top of the base cabinet. For example, if a cabinet measures 22 by 36 inches, cut the particleboard 23 by 37 inches. The idea is for the particleboard to overhang the cabinet all the way around the perimeter by 1/2 inch. For a cabinet against the wall, the particleboard should only be cut 1/2 inch wider than the cabinet instead of 1 inch, to provide the 1/2-inch overhang in front. To cut particleboard this big, you should use a table saw. It's acceptable to use a circular saw to cut the particleboard to length, but it's vital that the cuts are made square and straight. Plywood can also be substituted for particleboard, but it's more expensive, and offers no real advantage.
Position the particleboard on top of the cabinet. Make sure that it overhangs the cabinet on all four sides equally. If the cabinet is against the wall, butt the particleboard against the wall. Nail the particleboard to the top of the cabinet. Use 1 1/2-inch nails spaced about 3 inches apart. Hammer it down by hand around the perimeter of the cabinet. Make sure that all the nails heads are sunk slightly below the surface of the particleboard. You should see a slight divot where the nail head is.
Use a table saw or a handeld cutting tool to cut the laminate to width. On a freestanding cabinet, it should overhang the particleboard by at least 1/2 inch all the way around. For example, if the particleboard measures 24 by 36 inches, the laminate should be cut 25 by 37 inches. Cut slowly to prevent chipping. For best results, lay a piece of masking tape along the cutting line. Cut right through the center of the tape to keep the laminate from chipping.
Place the laminate upside down across two sawhorses. Using a small brush, paint the back of the laminate and the top of the particleboard with contact cement. Wait until the cement on both surfaces dries to the touch. Carefully place the laminate on top of the particleboard. Start at one end and lay it down carefully, as the laminate will bond instantly when it touches the countertop. When the laminate is in place, use a rubber mallet to tap around the perimeter to bond the laminate permanently to the particleboard.
Install a flush-cutting bit into a router or a handheld rotary tool with router attachment. Place the router or tool upright at one corner. Turn it on and gently ease the tool over so that the bit cuts into the edge of the laminate. When the bit touches the side of the particleboard, begin pulling the tool along the edge of the particleboard, trimming the edge of the laminate off flush with the particleboard. Trim the laminate off around the perimeter or wherever it overhangs the particleboard. Sand the edge of the laminate lightly with a piece of 180-grit sandpaper.