How To Cut Countertops

Average: 5 (1 vote)

As our remodel job progresses, this weekend I tackled installing our new laminate countertops.  This wasn’t a big job, but it was one I had never done before so the anxiety level was elevated.  You know – the old fear-of-failure mechanisms kicked in and I tried to over analyze everything.  So with a moderate level of planning and a go-for-it attitude, you can do it too.  Here’s how I did it…

TOOLS - Here’s what you’ll need to get this job done.

  • Tape measure
  • 2’ metal square or Speed Square
  •  Clamps
  • Circular saw
  • 2x4 wood
  • 3” or 4” wide masking tape
  • Saw Horses or something to rest the count on for cutting

saw fenceMEASURE - I cannot stress this enough.  Measure once; twice; and three times before you do any cutting.  This does not mean simply getting the length right.  Check for whether your walls are not square and plumb versus the cabinets.  I did not do this well enough and had to do extra trimming later on.

SETUP - Getting your countertop prepped and ready for cutting was the most work.  The actual cutting was like 20 seconds, but without the proper setup it would have been much harder.  On the finished side of your countertop (at the cut line) you will need to apply the masking tape across the whole length of the line to be cut.  This is to protect the laminate from chipping as you cut.

Now flip the counter top over on your saw houses.  Make sure you place some towels over the horses so the finished surface of the counter is protected.  You will be working and cutting from the back side from here on.  Assuming you have correct measurements, mark your cut line using a pencil on the backside of the counter.  Make sure your line is straight and square to the edges by using the steel square.  Mark all the way across the counter including up and across the backsplash.

speed square setupNow you need to use a 2x4 to create a guide fence for your circular saw.  Maybe I should say you MUST do this.  Otherwise your cut will never be straight (or square).  Set your circular saw on the counter with the blade resting directly on the cut line.  You will want to raise the blade high enough so the saw’s base plate rests flat on the counter.  Now slide the 2x4 up against your saw’s base plate and clamp it in place using large C clamps.  Be careful to put cardboard or something between the clamp and the finished surface to avoid scratches.  

Essentially you are clamping the 2x4 at whatever offset exists between your blade and the base plate or shoe.  For my saw this was 1-1/4”.  Next you need to take a short (3”) piece of 2x4 and clamp it in place on the backsplash “leg”.  This will allow you to make one continuous cut across the width of the counter and then simply turn your saw downward and cut through the backsplash too.  The key here is to make sure both 2x4’s are square and properly aligned to ensure a clean cut.

counter fence saw guideCUTTING - Now is the time to double check everything.  Your measurements; the 2x4 fence offset; your clamps tightened up.  Make sure to lower your saw blade to the proper depth to cut all the way through.  Resting your saw against the 2x4 fence begin cutting from the front edge of the counter and cut towards the backsplash.  As you cut you will need to have a helper hold up the cut off side of the counter so it doesn’t snap off (or use more saw horses).  The trick to making a clean straight cut is to trust your fence and keep a steady hand with your saw.  As you reach the backsplash (which is now pointed downwards – remember you’re cutting from the back side), you simply pivot your saw 90 degrees and continue cutting downward while using the small 2x4 fence as your guide.

laminate counter cut

Note – I used a 7-1/4” circular saw with a 40 tooth carbide blade.  I believe anything less than this is too coarse and may promote chipping of the laminate.

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