Formica countertops and backsplashes were extremely popular in kitchens and bathrooms from the 1950s through the 1980s. Made of plastic laminate adhered to particle board or plywood, Formica offered an affordable, durable, and easy-to-clean alternative to traditional countertop materials like ceramic tile, granite, and solid surface.
However, over time, Formica countertops can become dated, damaged, or otherwise in need of replacement. Removing existing Formica countertops and backsplash tile during a kitchen or bath remodel can be straightforward with the right tools and techniques. Here, we’ll walk through the complete process of how to remove Formica countertops and backsplash tile from start to finish.
Gather Materials and Tools
Removing Formica countertops and backsplashes requires just a few materials and tools:
- Safety gear – gloves, safety glasses, dust mask
- Pry bar
- Flat bar or putty knife
- Circular saw or jigsaw
- Utility knife
- Trash bags
Make sure to assemble all necessary tools before beginning demo work. Have trash bags on hand to collect debris as you work.
Start by removing everything from the countertops and clearing the surrounding area. Take out items from drawers and cabinets within the countertop workspace. Remove small appliances, cookware, and anything else sitting on the countertops. Have a vacuum ready to collect any dust and debris kicked up during demo.
Completely clearing the countertops allows for easy access during the entire Formica removal process. Trying to work around objects can slow progress and make the work more difficult.
Disconnect Sink and Faucet
If the existing Formica countertop has an integrated sink, the sink and faucet plumbing connections will need to be disconnected before countertop removal.
Turn off the shut-off valves supplying water to the faucet, then disconnect the supply lines from the faucet. Unscrew the drain pipe from the sink drain and P-trap underneath. Detach any clips, screws or nuts holding the sink basin and faucet in place.
Removing sinks and faucets prevents damage to the plumbing during countertop removal. The sinks can be reused, sold, donated or discarded as desired.
Cut Any Caulk or Sealant
Formica countertops are often sealed around the edges with clear silicone caulk. The caulk helps prevent water and debris from getting underneath and between the countertop and walls.
Use a utility knife to cut through any existing caulk beads, sealant or adhesive around the edges and seams of the Formica countertop. Cutting the caulk first makes prying up the Formica easier without ripped chunks.
Loosen Countertop from Wall
With the countertop edges freed from caulk and sealant, it’s time to start loosening the Formica from the walls.
Insert a pry bar between the countertop and wall. Gently pry the countertop edge upwards and away from the wall while tapping a hammer against the underside. Apply steady force, working your way around the entire perimeter.
Be careful not to damage the surrounding walls or cabinetry. Prying too aggressively can gouge and tear wall material. Take your time and use multiple pry points to slowly work the countertop free.
Cut Countertop into Manageable Sections
Leaving Formica countertops in one whole piece isn’t recommended for removal. Large countertop sections can be very heavy and unwieldy.
Instead, use a circular saw to cut the Formica countertop into smaller, more manageable sections about 2-3 feet wide. Make cuts in areas over cabinet divides or between sink and stove sections. This makes carrying and disposing of the countertop pieces much easier.
Wear safety glasses and a dust mask when making cuts to minimize dust inhalation. Vacuum dust and debris often while cutting.
Cut Any Nails or Screws
Builders typically use nails or screws to secure Formica countertops to the underlying base cabinets. These fasteners need removing next.
Look underneath the countertop for any nails or screws driven up into the bottom. Use a flat bar or pry bar to gently lift the countertop edge and find all fasteners. Use a hammer or utility knife to cut through or pry out each nail or screw.
Removing fasteners prevents damaging cabinets when prying off countertops. Take time to locate and remove all nails and screws for clean countertop removal.
Pry Countertop Sections Off Cabinets
With fasteners removed and caulk cut, you can now pry up the Formica countertop pieces. Insert pry bars under each section and gently pry upwards.
Apply steady force at multiple points to slowly lift each section off the base cabinets. Don’t pry too aggressively in one spot to avoid cracking the countertop or damaging cabinets. If needed, cut remaining nails or tap underneath with a hammer.
Have an assistant help support and lift each countertop piece as you pry it free. Use caution lifting heavy sections overhead.
Remove Any Laminate Backsplash
Formica countertops often have a matching laminate backsplash adhered to the wall behind. This backsplash tile must be removed as well.
Use a putty knife or flat pry bar to gently lift an edge of the tile from the wall. Slowly work along prying the rest of the tile off. Take care not to gouge into the drywall behind the tile.
Cut through any caulk or adhesive beads along the top or sides with a utility knife first if needed. Remove all laminate backsplash pieces until only drywall remains.
With the Formica countertops and backsplash tile removed, take time to thoroughly clean the cabinets and walls. Vacuum up all loose debris, dust and crumbs.
Use a damp rag with all-purpose cleaner to wipe down cabinet surfaces. Remove any old caulk residue, grease or grime. Start fresh with clean surfaces before installing new countertops.
Proper cleanup makes way for a smooth countertop installation. Address any wall or cabinet repairs needed at this point too.
Dispose of Debris
The final step is disposing of the old Formica pieces safely. Load sections into trash bags or haul away to a dumpster.
Most standard curbside pickup services will not take countertop debris. Contact your local waste disposal company for Formica disposal options, or consider renting a dumpster to haul it away.
Never dump Formica pieces illegally. Safely transport all debris to an approved disposal site. Recycle material when possible.
Hiring a Professional
Removing Formica countertops and backsplash tile is labor-intensive. For large kitchens or bathrooms, or if unsure of how to proceed, consider hiring a professional demolition contractor to remove the Formica for you.
An experienced demolition pro can speed up the process with commercial tools and skills. They can also properly haul away debris for recycling or disposal.
Get upfront estimates from demolition contractors before any work begins. Ensure they have liability insurance. Removing Formica requires safety gear and precaution – an expert can prevent injuries or property damage.
Install the New Countertop
Once old countertops are removed, new ones can be installed. Consult a countertop pro for material suggestions and installation expertise tailored to your space.
Popular modern countertop options like quartz and granite are long-lasting and add beauty. Or, opt for eco-friendly materials like concrete, wood, or recycled glass and paper composite.
Upgrading from dated Formica to stylish new countertops transforms the look and enjoyment of any kitchen or bath. With the old removed, get ready to start fresh!
Step-by-Step Process for Removing Formica Countertops
Removing existing Formica countertops is an important first step during kitchen or bathroom renovations. Taking time to properly remove Formica prevents damaging cabinets or walls and minimizes safety risks.
Follow this comprehensive step-by-step walkthrough for safe, effective Formica countertop removal:
Wear gloves, safety goggles, closed-toe shoes, long sleeves and a dust mask when removing Formica. Demo work with tools and heavy materials can pose hazards. Prioritize safety throughout the entire process.
Clear any items off countertops and the surrounding floor space. Remove objects from nearby cabinets and drawers that could hinder work or get damaged.
Turn Off Water Supply
Locate shut-off valves for any sinks in the Formica countertop and turn off the water supply. Disconnect drain pipes and supply lines. Removing sinks prevents damage during removal.
Also shut off power to outlets integrated into the countertop area. Prevent shocks or electrical shorts from exposed wires during demolition.
Slice Any Caulk Seals
Use a sharp utility knife to cut any caulk, sealant or adhesive beads along the edges or seams of the Formica countertop. Cutting caulk first allows prying up the countertop cleanly.
Lift Edges Off Walls
Insert a pry bar about 1/2 inch in between the countertop edge and wall. Gently pry upwards while tapping the underside of countertop with a hammer to vibrate it loose.
Work your way around the entire perimeter, lifting a small section at a time until the whole countertop edge releases from the walls.
Look underneath for any nails, screws, brackets or other fasteners holding the Formica countertop to the cabinets. Use a pry bar or flat bar to lift the countertop edge and locate all fasteners.
Use a hammer, utility knife or pry bar to remove all fasteners so the countertop detaches completely from cabinets.
Cut Countertop into Sections
Use a circular saw to cut the Formica countertop into manageable 2-3 feet wide sections. Cuts should be made in areas over cabinet divides or between sinks, stoves, etc.
Smaller sections are safer and easier to maneuver than one large countertop piece during removal and disposal.
Pry Sections Free
With fasteners removed, insert pry bars under each section of countertop. Apply steady upward force in multiple spots to pry each section off the cabinet base.
Lift slowly and carefully to prevent cracking the Formica or damaging cabinets during removal. Have someone assist with lifting heavy sections.
Use a putty knife or pry bar to detach any laminate backsplash pieces from the walls. Lift edges slowly and control removal to avoid drywall damage behind the tile.
Also remove any remaining caulk globs, grease or debris to leave surfaces clean for new countertop installation.
Transport Debris Safely
Load Formica sections carefully into trash bags or haul away to dumpsters. Renting a dumpster helps facilitate large disposal jobs. Never illegally dump construction debris.
Wear protective gear when handling debris to avoid cuts or exposure to dust and chemicals from formica adhesives.
Smooth New Installation
With the old Formica removed safely and surfaces prepped, new countertops can be installed. Seek professional guidance to select quality materials and proper installation techniques.
Follow essential steps carefully throughout the entire removal process. Proper Formica removal allows for a smooth, effective countertop replacement.
Common Questions About Removing Formica
Removing old Formica countertops often brings up many questions for DIYers and renovators. Here are answers to some of the most common inquiries:
How difficult is it to remove Formica countertops?
Formica removal requires some demolition skills and strength, but the process is pretty straightforward with standard tools. Cutting countertops into sections and removing all nails/screws first allows prying off pieces safely.
Can I reuse removed Formica countertops somewhere else?
It’s generally not recommended to reuse removed Formica. Once taken out, the laminate finish and edges usually get damaged. Reinstalling old Formica seldom looks good. Disposal is usually best.
What tools do I need to remove Formica countertops?
A pry bar, hammer, circular saw, utility knife, flat bar, vacuum and safety gear like goggles and gloves comprise the essential Formica removal toolkit. Simple hand and power tools make the job manageable.
Should I remove the sink before or after taking off the countertop?
It’s best to disconnect and remove sinks from Formica countertops first before attempting to pry off countertop pieces. Removing sinks prevents damage to plumbing connections.
How heavy are Formica countertops to remove?
An average 8 ft. laminate countertop weighs 100-140 lbs. Cut into 2-3 ft. sections, each piece weighs approx. 35-50 lbs. Remove sections carefully with help lifting to avoid injury or dropping.
Can I put new countertops directly over old Formica?
Installing new countertops over Formica is not advised. The uneven surface underneath prevents proper installation and risks trapping moisture underneath. Always remove Formica first.
Is it safe to remove Formica myself or should I hire a pro?
DIY removal is safe if you use caution and proper tools. For large kitchens, it may be worth hiring a demolition pro to remove old countertop quickly and haul away debris for you.
What do I do with old Formica pieces after removal?
Check for recycling options, but most Formica ends up in landfills. Seek proper disposal methods rather than dumping debris illegally. Safely transport Formica to avoid cuts from sharp laminate edges.
Tips for Removing Formica Countertops Successfully
Removing Formica countertops without damaging cabinets or walls requires patience and the right approach. Follow these tips to ensure safe, effective removal:
- Work slowly and lift gently when prying. Rushing can cause cracks and damage.
- Cut countertops into smaller sections approximately 2 ft. to 3 ft. wide for easier handling.
- Locate all fasteners underneath and remove completely before lifting countertop pieces.
- Wear heavy work gloves to protect hands from sharp Formica edges and hardware.
- Disconnect sinks and plumbing completely before attempting countertop removal.
- Cut any caulk beads around edges using a sharp utility knife before prying up.
- Remove laminate backsplash tiles carefully to avoid gouging into drywall behind.
- Plan proper debris disposal before starting demo. Safety remove and recycle when possible.
- Photograph the existing layout before removal to assist with new countertop measurements.
- Open windows and use dust collection tools like shop vacuums to control dust.
- Inspect walls and cabinets after removal. Address any needed repairs before new install.
- Consider hiring a professional removal service for large or complex Formica demolition jobs.
Alternatives to Formica Countertops
Formica once dominated kitchen and bathroom countertops due to its low cost and durability. Today, many alternative countertop materials provide better aesthetics, sustainability, and ease of installation. Consider these popular modern options:
Made from crushed quartz blended with polymer resins, quartz counters offer scratch resistance and intricate patterning resembling natural stone. Quartz withstands heat, stains, and everyday wear and tear.
Today’s laminates like Wilsonart® and Formica® brand provide extensive colors, patterns, and realistic wood looks. Affordable, durable and easy to clean.
Solid Surface Countertops
Integrated material like Corian® resists burns, scratches and stains. Can be fabricated seamlessly with integrated sinks. More cost effective than natural stone.
Butcher Block Countertops
Wood options like butcher block add warmth. Requires regular sealing but ages beautifully. Sustainable and available in many wood species.
Gorgeous stone with unique veining in white, gray, black, and other hues. Must be sealed to prevent etching or stains but adds upscale appeal.
Poured and shaped onsite, concrete counters are highly durable and heat resistant. Stains easily but improves with age. Can be dyed, stamped or etched.
Recycled Glass Countertops
Sustainable option made from crushed recycled glass and binder materials. Shimmering surface embedded with glass pieces comes in many color blends.
Ceramic, porcelain or stone tiles make attractive and affordable countertops. Provides easy DIY installation but requires careful grout sealing.
Moving past Formica opens up many possibilities. Consult an experienced countertop installation company to review options and get quotes tailored for your kitchen or bath space and budget.
While removing old Formica countertops does require some demolition work, the process can be managed by DIYers with proper tools and safety precautions. Carefully prying up countertop pieces after removing all fasteners prevents cabinet damage.
Cutting countertops into smaller sections speeds removal and makes debris disposal more manageable. Always wear gloves and goggles during demo and dispose of Formica properly.
Hiring a professional provides added assistance for more complex jobs or hauling away heavy debris. With unsightly Formica removed, new modern countertop materials can transform the look of any kitchen or bath.