How to Cut Laminate Sheeting

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Most pieces of laminate sheeting will not come in the exact size that you need. Learning how to cut the laminate sheeting to the right size can help complete your project.

Here are the methods we recommend:

  • For small, simple cuts: Score and Snap
  • For thick sheets: Use a power saw
  • For multiple pieces: Make a rough cut
  • For inlays and joints: Make seam cuts

Below we go through each method.

The Score and Snap Method for Small Cuts

When the laminate sheeting is thin and you only need to use a few small cuts to make it the right size, then the score and snap method is the best option. If you plan to just make a few cuts, a utility knife may be enough to do this, along with a drywall square rather than a saw. The steps to use for this includes:

Kitchen with laminate countertop
  1. Clamp the straight edge: Lay the laminate sheeting on a flat work surface Mark the line you want to cut and then place the straight edge on so it is just slightly on the line. Clamp it to the work surface to avoid movement.
  2. Score the cut line: Make about 10 scratches using the scoring knife with the straight edge as a guide. You want to be halfway through the thickness of your laminate. You want the groove to be even throughout.
  3. Snap the laminate: Take the laminate out of the clamp and rotate so the cut line is right on the edge of the work surface. Hold down one side and then do a downward movement to snap the laminate piece at the line.
  4. Sand the cut: If you notice that the line is not even, you can sand it a bit to make it fit better.

If you only need to work on a small part of laminate sheeting, this method is often one of the best. It uses minimal tools and does not take too long to work with. You can do this with a few laminate pieces to make the work easier too.

Using a Power Saw for Thick Laminate Sheets

It is also possible to work with a power saw when the laminate sheets are thick. Thinner pieces may work with the score and snap, but this will not work with thick sheets of laminate. A power saw can cut right through it for you in no time.

Here are the various saws you can use, depending on what you have and your requirements:

You will need to use a dry erase marker to help mark your cut. Then you can add a strip of painter’s tape from the edge to edge along the line that you would like to cut. This is an important step because it will make sure that you do not chip into the finished surface. If you forget, you may notice some small imperfections that can ruin the whole look.

Once that is in place, there are a few steps that you can use to get the best results from using the table saw. These include:

  1. Cut off the excess: Your first step is to cut off all the extra length. You can line up the saw with the cut line and cut the laminate sheet so it is down to size.
  2. Cut the width: With the sheet of laminate ready, it is time to cut it to the desired width. Try to do this to save as much of the laminate as possible in case you want to use it later.

You should wear the right protection when using the power saw to make sure that it does not cause damage to you. The power saw could send small pieces through the air and if you do not wear protection, you can risk harming your eyes. Even for a small piece of laminate, it is better to be safe than to risk getting hurt.

Making a Rough Cut for Multiple Pieces

When you need to cut many sheets of laminate of different sizes, you can do a rough cut on them. This helps to get them all down to approximately the right size.  You can then use a power saw or another tool to help cut them to the exact size when you are done.

You can work on making a rough cut too. To do this, measure all of the panels that you would like to apply the laminate over to. Then sketch out the laminate sheet so it is on the paper and draw in the pieces that you are hoping to cut from that single sheet.

This may not end up evenly but save some of the extra in case you need it for later. It is best to draw out the pieces so they are half an inch bigger in all directions than you need.

Then place all of the identical pieces next to one another, allowing all of the pieces that are close in size to share edges too. It is better to cut some a bit larger if needed to limit how many cuts you would need to do.

Now you can set up the table saw to the width of your largest block piece. You should cut the panel so it goes widthwise to make it easier to handle. Set the blade to about an inch. If you do it more than this, it is going to increase the chipping of the piece and will not work. Some of the things to remember when cutting the laminate with the table saw include:

Table saw
  1. Place the laminate sheet: Make sure that the end is firmly against the fence of the table saw to get an even cut.
  2. Move the sheet: You need to keep the sheet moving at a steady pace to make sure that you do not ruin any of the edges. Keep the leading edge even with the rest of the sheet.
  3. Make the remaining cuts: Do this a little bit at a time. You want to work the piece into smaller blocks, cutting apart the individual pieces as they get done. You will do this from the largest to the smallest pieces until you are done.

Always remember to turn off the saw if you notice any difficulties of doing the cut at all. You can just press on the stop switch to make this happen. You do not want to force anything with the sheet or you may tear up the laminate and not get it to work the way that you want.

Seam Cuts for Inlays and Joints

Another option that you can use is to make a seam cut to handle any of the joints and inlays that you need to add to the countertops. This will be a little bit different than the other options, but it will not be too difficult to work with.

To start, you may notice that the cut edges that will butt up with one another. You may need to install a bit to make this work. Choose the depth so that the bearing is going to ride on the edge, getting it to be ¾ of an inch thick at the most.

When you are ready for this, you can use some of the following steps:

  1. Measure and mark the laminate: This is where you will want the seam to be. Take some time to mark it well and double check that it will be right before you start.
  2. Use the C clamps: This is useful to hold onto the piece of laminate that you want to use and make sure that it does not move around. Align it with the seam line that you drew.
  3. Turn on the Router: With the router on, you can run it going from left to right, having the bearing belt against the face of your straightedge. You can make the router move steadily to get the cut done in one motion.
  4. Repeat: You will then be able to repeat the process on the other side as well to get a straight seam each time.

Trimming the Edges

As you work on cutting the laminate, you may need to trim some of the edges. You may want to trim the edges after you glue it down to make sure that the edges end up exactly how you want them for the counters or any other piece that you want to add the laminate to.

A dremel that has a routing bit for laminate is one of the best choices. When choosing a bit, make sure that it has a bearing on the end. This will make it easier for you to follow the contours of the countertop, no matter which direction it chooses to go on.

The tool needs to be operated so that the leading edge of the bit is able to bite into the material. On the outside this means that you will need to move the tool in a counterclockwise direction. When you are trying to do edges around holes for example, it may mean that you need to go clockwise instead.

A good dremel has a multitude of uses, such as cutting metal and acrylic. This is a good tool to invest in for future projects.

Summary

These are some of the most common methods to use for cutting into the laminate and making it the right size that you need. You may also want to use other tools like a power saw or even masking tape to help you cut the line the way that you would like. A plywood cutting blade is a good option to avoid chipping, or a metal-cutting blade is good if you need to cut a curve that is like a jigsaw.

Many homeowners find that cutting into laminate is something that they need to do. Most of the stock pieces of laminate are not going to be the exact size that you need, which means you need to make some adjustments to get it to work. With some of these cutting methods and some care and attention, you will be able to get the stock piece of laminate to fit your needs.

An expert at home repair, remodel, and DIY projects for nearly 40 years. His first experience came in completely restoring an antique home. Completely redone from the inside out, and restored to its original form, the home is a featured design by renowned Southern California Architect Cliff May, considered to be the father of the California Ranch Home. Now Dennis spends his time on fine woodworking projects and tool comparisons.