Tiles are decorative, functional replacement for damaged laminate

Dear James:

I have an attractive laminate kitchen countertop which is only one year old. My daughter burned two small spots on it that look bad. Is there a way to repair this type of countertop myself?

– Paul P.


Dear Paul:

Plastic laminate countertops are attractive and very durable, except for one thing: high heat. If your daughter placed a very hot pan on the countertop, the glossy surface can be permanently damaged. You can attempt to polish it with some automobile body polishing compound, but it will likely never look new again.

The best way to correct the burned spot problem, without replacing the entire countertop, is to place tile in place of these damaged spots. The tile will actually be inlaid into the countertop so it is flush with the surface. By choosing the proper color and pattern of tile, it can add a decorative touch to your kitchen.

Another advantage of using tile is it resists heat. This will be a place for you daughter to place hot items on the countertop if she has to. Select tile with a matte surface finish. This will provide attractive contrast with the glossy laminate countertop surface and the matte finish will not show scratches as glossy tile often will.

If you are pretty handy with tools, select tiles designed to be laid with a narrow grout line between each piece. This will look more professional, but any alignment errors will be quite apparent. If this is your first time using a router and laying tile, use a wider grout line which is more forgiving for errors.

Before cutting into the countertop, place the tile on it over the burned spots. Try several patterns until you find one you like. If they are very small spots, you may be able to use the tile in a line or border pattern over a larger area of the countertop.

Use a router with as small a bit as you can find and rout the tile recess slightly deeper than the tile thickness. The small bit will create reasonably sharp corners without the risk of cracking the laminate. In order for the tile to be flush with the countertop surface when the job is complete, you must have some extra depth for the tile adhesive.

Once you have the area for the tile routed out, coat the routed area with several coats of urethane to seal it. You want to make sure no moisture penetrates the tile grout through to the particleboard below. It is not designed to handle constant dampness and may begin to swell.

If you have routed out large or long areas, it may have weakened the countertop. It may be wise to reinforce those areas with a piece of particleboard glued underneath the existing particleboard base. You should have easy access to it through the cabinets beneath the countertop.

Use a large piece particleboard which overlaps the routed area by six inches. One of the best adhesives to use for this application is Gorilla Glue (www.gorillaglue.com). After you apply it and press the two pieces of particleboard together, Gorilla Glue foams slightly as it sets to fill any gaps.•

Send your questions to Here’s How, 6906 Royalgreen Dr., Cincinnati, OH 45244 or visit www.dulley.com. The opinions expressed in this column are those of the author.

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