Invisible Laminate Seaming

Advice on getting a visually acceptable seam in laminate. February 29, 2012

I have to build a front desk for a restaurant and the front has a slight radius and measures 68" total. It needs to be laminated with the grain run vertical and due to the 4' or 5' material widths there needs to be a seam, or maybe two. I see three options and don't really like any…

1 - 4'/5' center piece with two 10"/5" sides
2 - 3 equal pieces
3 - The left side is 1' off a wall, so I thought maybe run a 5' sheet starting on the right and then try to hide the small piece and seam closer to the wall.

How would you handle this situation?

Forum Responses
(Laminate and Solid Surface Forum)
From contributor J:
I think it could look fine as three panels, but I'd probably do something more like 19.5" - 29" - 19.5" (roughly 2-3-2). If you want an unbroken surface, you could laminate a substrate from flexible plywood, then veneer.

From contributor T:
One seam right in the middle. If you know how to seam laminate you will never see it. Make sure you clean the seam before you stick it or you will get the black line from the contact.

From contributor B:
Design a quirk where you want the seam. Use alum channel or create a reveal.

From contributor T:
Just learn to seam laminate and you will never see it.

From the original questioner:
Our seams are held to pretty high standards. I don't claim to be the best, but we're pretty damn good… But not all just disappear, no matter how tight and smooth, especially the face grain type laminate where you can see the change in flow from one piece to the next. Saying one seam in the middle will disappear if you know what you are doing is really going out on a limb. On the other hand I've worked with some laminate where the seams hid themselves due to the consistent vertical pattern. Even poor seams with no filler or caulk were hard to see from two feet away unless you knew they were there. And even if it looks great when it's done in the shop, regardless of the tightness of the seam, things move with time and climate changes, so I try not to put seams where, if they do open a little, they'll be unsightly - like right in the middle.

So far I'm leaning to contributor J's first method of 2-3-2, but I'm not really getting your second method of achieving an unbroken surface.

I've used contributor B's method before of making the seam part of the design, but I can't get away with that this time, as adding breaking into the relatively small piece will change the look completely from what I built that my client wants me to replicate (the one he saw was 18' wide, so seams were unavoidable and spacing wasn't an issue due to the size).

From contributor O:
One way to hide a laminate seam with multiple segments is to leave the laminate on one segment a little proud and the laminate on the adjoining segment a little short. When you assemble, the laminate sort of locks together. The two problems with this approach I have encountered are: the two segments have to be in perfect alignment, and you have to baby the segment with the proud laminate so as not to chip it. When it works it works well, though. You could also field seam it. I would do anything but have the seam in the middle.

From contributor J:
I missed that it was a laminate job. I had wood veneer on the brain.

From contributor R:
If there is an architect involved I would make a point of showing the seaming detail and location very clearly on my submittal drawing. If no architect, I would make sure that the end user or whoever is writing the check approves my plan.

From contributor B:
Remember that laminate is a wood based product and does move with changes in humidity, more so across the width than the length. No matter how good your seam this part of the equation is difficult to control. Even if you seam it perfect doesn't mean it will stay that way. From the Formica class I seem to remember .5% in length and .6% across the width, dry to 100% saturated.