Laminate countertops with integrated backsplashes have become increasingly popular in recent years. The backsplash is often molded together with the countertop for a seamless look. However, there may come a time when you wish to remove or replace the backsplash on your laminate countertop. So an important question arises – can you cut the backsplash off a laminate countertop?
An Overview of Laminate Countertops
Laminate, also known as plastic laminate, refers to the melamine resin coating that is fused to the substrate of manufactured countertops. It provides a durable, hygienic surface that resists stains, impact, heat, and scratches.
Laminate countertops are an affordable countertop option made from laminated synthetic materials fused to a plywood or particle board core. The laminate is bonded to the core material under high heat and pressure, making it quite durable.
Here are some key advantages of laminate countertops:
- Affordable – Laminate counters are inexpensive compared to natural stone, solid surface, or wood countertops.
- Durable – The laminate coating is highly resistant to scratches, stains, heat, and impact. It does not easily peel or chip.
- Easy to Clean – Laminate surfaces can be easily cleaned with mild soap and water. No sealing or polishing required.
- Wide Range of Colors/Patterns – Laminates come in unlimited options from solids to unique patterns.
- Integrated Backsplashes – Many laminate countertops have a backsplash formed of the same material for a seamless look.
While laminate isn’t as indestructible as granite or quartz, it remains a budget-friendly and low-maintenance option for kitchens and baths. The laminate backsplash prevents spills and stains from seeping under the countertop edge.
Can You Remove the Backsplash from a Laminate Countertop?
The backsplash on a laminate countertop is often molded together with the countertop surface for a smooth, unbroken appearance. So can you actually cut off the backsplash from the rest of the laminate counter?
The short answer is yes, it is possible to remove the backsplash portion from a laminate countertop with some careful cutting. However, it depends on the exact construction and installation method of your existing laminate counter.
Here are the key factors that determine if the backsplash can be cut off:
- Countertop Installation – If the countertop is drop-in style that sits on top of the cabinet base, removing the backsplash is easier. With undermount installation secured to a substrate, the backsplash cannot be simply cut off.
- Backsplash Attachment – If the backsplash is a separate glued-on piece, it can be cleanly cut off. If it is molded together with the countertop, removing it becomes trickier but still possible.
- Edge Treatment – If the countertop has a built-up edge where the backsplash meets the counter, this seam can be cut. If the materials are truly molded into one smooth surface, the separation may be more difficult.
- Joints – Any grooves, seams, or joints between the backsplash and countertop make separation simpler. Their absence means the components may be fused.
- Material Composition – 100% plastic laminate backsplashes can be cut off more easily than those reinforced with other materials for support.
With the right tools and techniques, most laminate countertop backsplashes can be removed. But if not done properly, the countertop edge can end up damaged.
Step-by-Step Process for Cutting Off a Laminate Backsplash
Here is a step-by-step guide to safely and effectively remove the backsplash from your laminate countertop:
1. Inspect the Backsplash Seam
Carefully examine the joint where the backsplash meets the countertop surface. Look for any indication that it is a separate piece glued on and not fully fused. If you see a groove, edge build up, caulking lines, or any evidence of a seam, it can likely be cut. Also note the thickness and reinforcement of the backsplash itself.
2. Protect the Surrounding Areas
Cover the countertop surface around the backsplash with painter’s tape and rosin paper to prevent damage from cutting debris. Also, tape off walls, backslash, and back of cabinets.
3. Score Along the Seam
Use a sharp utility knife to score the caulk line or joint between the countertop deck and backsplash. Make several passes with the blade to penetrate the laminate coating. This helps guide the cutting tool later on.
4. Cut Along the Seam
Use a tool like a laminate shear, jigsaw, oscillating saw, or circular saw to cut along the scored seam line, separating the backsplash from the main counter. Make the cut in several gradual passes, taking care not to chip the countertop edge. The saw blade should be fine-toothed.
5. Remove the Backsplash
Once fully cut through, pry and lift off the separated laminate backsplash piece. Use a putty knife to help detach any remaining caulk or adhesive.
6. Smooth and Clean Edge
File the cut edge of the countertop deck to smooth out any roughness from cutting. Then clean thoroughly to remove all debris and dust.
7. Seal the Exposed Edge
Apply a bead of silicone caulk along the cut edge to seal it. Let it fully cure before use. You can also use laminate edge banding for extra protection and a decorative finish.
And that’s it! With the proper tools and care, you can cut off the laminate backsplash from your countertop successfully. Just be very careful during cutting to avoid damaging the counter.
What to Consider Before Removing a Laminate Backsplash
Before taking on this project, keep the following considerations in mind:
- It may compromise the water-resistance of the countertop edge, making it more prone to moisture damage unless you add edge banding.
- Cutting off the backsplash leaves an unfinished countertop edge that needs to be filed smooth and sealed.
- Removing an integrated backsplash means you need to install a new custom-cut backsplash tile.
- An undermount sink loses support without an adjoining backsplash and needs brackets for support.
- This is an irreversible change – you cannot glue the backsplash back on if you later change your mind.
- Any damage to the countertop deck during removal is difficult to repair on laminate.
Discuss the project with a countertop pro before beginning to determine if removing your existing laminate backsplash is the best option to achieve your kitchen or bath design goals.
FAQs About Cutting Off the Backsplash Section of a Laminate Countertop
Many homeowners have additional questions about removing the backsplash portion from their laminate countertop. Here are answers to some frequently asked questions:
Can I Simply Tear Off the Backsplash from the Laminate Counter?
No, you should never try tearing off the backsplash manually. The laminate coating will chip and peel, irreparably damaging your countertop. Always use specialized cutting tools to carefully detach the backsplash.
What Blade Should Be Used to Cut Laminate?
Use specialty laminate cutting blades, jigsaw blades with extra fine teeth, or a circular saw with 60-80 tooth carbide blade. The blade must be sharp enough to score rather than chip through the plastic laminate surface.
Is It Possible to Maintain a Seamless Look without the Backsplash?
Yes, you can install edge banding in matching or contrasting laminate around the cut countertop perimeter. This gives a built-up edge for a seamless appearance. Just make inside corners rounded for the edge banding to fit.
Can I Install a Tile Backsplash After Removing the Existing One?
Definitely. Just cut a piece of water-resistant marine board or cement board to size and adhere it to the wall as the new backsplash substrate before tiling. Use caulk to seal the seam between counter and tile.
What About Electrical Outlets on the Backsplash?
If you have electrical outlets on the existing backsplash, a qualified electrician needs to safely remove them before cutting, then reinstall them on the new backsplash. The wiring may need extending.
Is It Possible to Only Remove a Section of the Backsplash?
It is possible but not ideal. The joint between the new edge and remaining backsplash would be vulnerable to moisture damage. It is better to remove the entire backsplash for a uniform look and easier installation of the new backsplash.
Can I Use a Router or Dremel to Cut Off the Backsplash?
A laminate router bit or Dremel oscillating saw with fine-toothed blades can work. But they remove material slowly, increasing chances of slip-ups. A circular saw or jigsaw is quicker and reduces risks of damage to the laminate surface.
Signs It May Be Better to Replace the Entire Countertop
In some cases, removing just the backsplash attached to a laminate countertop yields less-than-ideal results. Here are signs it might be better to replace the entire countertop:
- The cut edge looks very rough and uneven after backsplash removal.
- Significant chipping or tearing of the laminate surface during backsplash separation.
- The saw blade has deeply scored the underlying particle board, compromising durability.
- Damage to the laminate countertop deck during the cutting process.
- Countertop is an outdated color or style and you want to remodel the kitchen anyway.
- Other parts of the existing countertop are damaged or deteriorated.
Unfortunately, localized repairs are not very effective on laminate countertops. The substrates are not meant to be cut apart and fused back together. Installing a new custom countertop may be the better solution for achieving your kitchen goals.
When to Consult a Countertop Professional
It is smart to discuss your laminate backsplash removal plans with a countertop pro before starting the process. They can inspect your existing counter, explain risks and limitations, and offer guidance. It is especially prudent to get professional help with:
- Undermount sinks – Removing the backsplash can compromise support.
- Tight spaces – Precise cutting is harder around walls, corners, and appliances.
- Seamless appearance – A contractor can ensure a smooth, finished look.
- New countertop installation – Hiring a pro ensures proper custom-cutting and seamless counter-to-backsplash transition.
While a DIY backsplash removal is technically possible, you may save yourself time, frustration, and potential damage by hiring a professional you can trust. Many laminate countertop companies offer affordable options to replace your existing countertop completely with an updated modern style.
Removing the backsplash from a laminate countertop is possible with the right tools, patience, and care. But this irreversible change comes with some risks of damaging the countertop deck. Assess the installation style and backsplash attachment method of your existing counter to determine if cutting off only the backsplash can achieve the look you want. In some cases, a full countertop replacement is the better solution. For best results and smooth execution, consult a countertop pro before undertaking this project. With their help, you can find the most strategic update for your kitchen or bathroom within your budget.