Repairing Bubbles in a Laminate Countertop

You can fix a contact-cement adhesion problem with a hot iron. Also, here is some advice on contact cement application equipment. August 15, 2011

I got a call back today on a kitchen we installed a couple of weeks ago. We had put in a wood front laminate counter top that was about 14' long and it appears that the laminate had come unstuck in three or four places about the size of your hand. I've been doing these tops for 13 years and have done several hundred and I've never seen anything like it. It looks like it has a bubble of air under it. The only thing I could figure out was that I may have bought some bad glue.

When we left, one of my guys said that we laid that top across three carts and the middle one was taller. I did remember it had a slight crown in it, so when we screwed it down it might have put the laminate in a bind - so I don't know if thatís what it was or not. Any thoughts? We use the roll on cement (Wilsonart 500) and I have seen some shops roll a coat on the wood ,then the laminate, and then another coat on the wood. I've always done one coat on the laminate and then one on the wood. Just wondering if two coats on the wood is a standard thing with some of you guys? I've never had a problem like this before at all.

Forum Responses
(Cabinetmaking Forum)
From contributor H:
One coat, too much is as bad as too little. Switch to spray contact cement - it will stick better because it isn't smooth. The spray pattern leaves little bumps. A cheep pressure pot and gun is all that is needed.

From contributor G:
Is it possible they put a hot pan on the countertop which released the glue? Drill a hole in the bottom of the counter below the bubble. Use a clothes iron and heat the laminate above the bubble. Maybe put a piece of cloth between the iron and laminate to protect it. Good chance it will reactive the glue. Use a J roller to push the bubble down.

From contributor Y:
I second Contributor G's advice. Could it be that the adhesive wasn't dry enough and still had some solvent in it? That will cause bubbles. The non-flat way it was laid wasn't good either. Rolling on the contact may leave some areas with excess that will release its solvent slower.

From contributor P:
I think your guys did something incorrectly, typically the glue dried too long, in any case take a heat gun to it and roll it out with a metal roller - it should not be a problem.

From contributor M:
Definitely put a cloth between the iron and the laminate. Also, have a wet rag to wipe the area after ironing to cool and set the glue rapidly.

From the original questioner:
Thanks for the responses guys. It would tickle me to death to get away without having to change this top. Which is better to use - an iron or a heat gun? Contributor H - I am curious about spraying the glue. I almost switched over to the kind that comes in the propane tank once. I didn't because it just seemed like it would be a mess, glue everywhere? Do you have to clean the pot and gun after each use? Contributor G - I asked them that question. They said that the only thing that was sitting there was a coffee pot. Thanks for the tip on heating it and re-sticking it. I think it might work since I was able to rub part of it down without heating it.

From contributor P:
The canister type setup is expensive for glue the line. Yes you do have over spray with any spray setup. You have to setup some sort of spray booth, just a back stop using cardboard works fine. I think rolling is actually pretty efficient for bigger areas not so much when you need a fine spray. Whether you use a pressure pot or a canister you don't have to clean anything as it is not exposed the air. Regarding the coffee pot - that could do it and might be the source of the problem. I have seen a similar problem with an electric blanket on a laminate top. Either a heat gun or an iron - the heat gun is faster but you have to be careful not to blister the laminate, go by feel, by time, or Tempilaq.

From contributor H:
I tried the propane tank glue, didn't like it. It was messy and too expensive so I went back to standard spray grade and a pressure pot. Not a lot of mess but a little overspray. I put cardboard on the floor. Every few years we might clean the tank, it just sits there until needed. I bought a $25.00 pressure pot and a Binks gun 20 plus years ago, and itís still working. If you tried spraying you would never go back to the roller. It is that easy.

From the original questioner:
I think I will use the iron Contributor P and not take any chances with the heat gun. Contributor H - so if I understand correctly, after you spray glue on a top you just set it to the side with the remainder of the glue in the pot and gun and it doesn't dry up in the gun?

From contributor H:
Yes, it just sits there ready to work. I cleaned it a couple of years ago.

From contributor P:
One caveat when you take the pressure off of the pot - don't use the quick disconnect. Instead pull the relief valve and simultaneously zero the pressure to the pot and the gun using the regulator adjustments. This prevents the atomized glue from being forced through the gauges and gumming them up over time. Other than that this is the way to go short of a heated pump.

From contributor W:
I too cannot afford a canister set-up (although this is the most efficient way to spray glue) so I use the pot gun also. I've laid enough laminate to circle the globe several times and did not know this would work but it does. You might think the glue would set up but if the gun is closed well it will not. As a matter of fact I cleaned out that same gun and used it to spray pre-cat recently! Thank goodness for lacquer thinner.