Fun with Formica (Replacing Damaged Laminate)

laminate finished
This project is a little trickier than the last ones.

I have decided to replace some of the damaged laminate on my husband’s desk drawer with Formica (The same desk used for Add a Little Sparkle).
laminate damage small
The laminate has started chipping off quite a lot in a number of places so the first thing to do is to remove the damaged laminate. This drawer has been laminated in panels, so I am only going to replace the damaged sections.
laminate drawer front small
There are a couple of ways of removing the damaged laminate. It is possible to chip it off with a stanley knife, sliding the blade under the laminate. This way is tricky though and it would be very easy to slip and hurt yourself! The easiest way is with a heat gun.
heat gun
Now I know that not everyone has a heat gun knocking about their house, but they are useful and you can pick one up for around £10. Hold it reasonably close to the area you want to remove but be very careful not to burn yourself! If you are removing wood laminate it will probably scorch and blacken. This is fine for the area you are removing, just be careful not to point it at areas you are keeping! A few seconds will do and then the laminate should be easy to remove. Bear in mind the laminate will be hot too, so lift the pieces off with a knife.
removed laminate small
I removed this piece without the heat gun, just with a stanley knife, hence the uneven result. This will need sanding down before I can continue.
laminate sanded small
I just needed the surface to be flat and even, so a course sandpaper/glasspaper was perfect.

Now that the surface has been prepped the exciting bit can start; choosing the replacement laminate! The lovely people of Formica will send out 10 A5 samples for free, if you go on their website you can see their range and choose samples of the ones you like. I got over-enthused by this and ordered 3 lots, so I now have loads to choose from!
formica rainbow
I chose a light pink, I’m sure my husband won’t mind…
laminate drawing round small
The next thing I did was line up one edge of the formica where it will meet the existing laminate, then draw around the edge of the drawer on the wrong side of the formica.
laminate pencil small
Now formica is a funny thing to work with, it seems tough and sturdy, but the edges are prone to chipping if you are not careful. I have found the best way to cut it if you don’t have a laminate trimmer (I don’t), is just with a good pair of large scissors. Cut slowly and carefully around your pencil line.
laminate cut out small
Next comes the gluing. Surprisingly PVA is the glue of choice for this.
Before gluing make sure you have a damp cloth to hand.
laminate glue small   laminate glue1 small
Put an even layer on both of the surfaces and press them together, making sure the formica is lined up correctly.
laminate sticking small
Don’t panic when the glue squidges out of the edges, this just means you’ve put plenty on!
laminate wiping small
Wipe off the excess glue with your damp cloth.

In order to keep the formica in place while the glue dries, and to make sure it is stuck down well I will clamp it in place.
laminate clamped small
I have used 3 small G clamps and a piece of scrap wood. I can still get to all the edges of my formica to wipe away the glue.
laminate glue edges small
The glue will continue to seep out of the edges for quite some time so keep checking and wiping it away.

Allow to dry for at least 5 hours. I would recommend leaving it overnight.

When the glue was dry I unclamped it all. As I had got my formica size and shape from drawing round the edge of the drawer my formica was still a couple mm too big. It is better if you can get it to exactly the right size before gluing as it is tricky to trim it without chipping it.

I am sanding mine down to size with my dremel. A dremel is an amazing thing to have for lots of jobs. If you don’t have one this could be done carefully with a file or sandpaper.
laminate dremel
Next I peeled off the protective film.
laminate film
And neatened up the edges with a needle file. This needs to be done really, really carefully as the formica is even more prone to chipping now that the film has been removed.
laminate needle file
The finished result.
laminate done

I did the same with the other piece I am replacing, except this time I used the heat gun to remove the existing laminate.


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