11 November 2011

Undermount sinks with laminate counters? Yes you can.

For as long as I've been part of the Kitchen and Bath Industry, I've believed the maxim that undermounting a sink with a laminate counter was impossible. But then last January I found myself the guest of Blanco at the trade show IMM in Cologne. It was at Blanco's booth that I saw this.

That is a porcelain kitchen sink that's been undermounted to a laminate counter. I'd never seen anything like it and it kind of blew my mind.

Here's a close up of the edge of that sink.

I chalked it up as just one more of those things that would never cross the Atlantic.

Then a couple of months ago at Cersaie in Bologna I saw this vanity by Duravit. Sure enough, that's another undermounted sink with a laminate counter.

Around the corner from that display was a cross section of one of these installations.


Well yesterday morning I was on Twitter as I'm wont to do and I started having a conversation with the Formica Corporation (@FormicaGroup) and two designers from England, Marion John (@Majjie) and Russ Buckley (@russrb).

The topic turned to undermounting sinks with laminate counters and I showed them those photos of the Duravit displays I'd seen in Italy. Then Formica posted this photo of an undermounted stainless sink in a counter laminated in their Calacatta Marble pattern from their 180fx Series.

After ten minutes of oooohs and ahhhhs and trying to figure out how on earth you could make a waterproof seal in an installation like that, Formica pulled out this video from Karran sinks.

Mystery solved.

Now, this won't work with just any sink and the labor involved will not make this an inexpensive option. However, should you find an installer willing to do this, you can now show him or her a video that explains how to do it. Thanks Formica and thanks Karran for making this information public.


  1. I'm a huge Formica Fan for the kitchen. This is great!

  2. Paul, when I started my laminate company in 2004 we were the first in Kansas City to install Karran sinks. We probably sold 40 over 7 years and not a single one came back. My builder was fantastic at it.

  3. Nancie: I'm pretty keen on the stuff too and this technique eliminates a big objection to it.

    James: I wonder why this hasn't taken off over here. The Germans and Italians were passionate about it when I was over there this year.

  4. Holy Frijoles! I didn’t know Blanco had an undermount sink for laminate, but I did know about Karran. I saw their sinks while I was at KBIS in Las Vegas in April of this year. I visited the Formica booth, then walked right across to Karran. I have since posted blogs on both companies. In fact I have said, and am actually telling the truth in saying so, that I drift off to sleep each night thinking about those Karran sinks. I have the skill level to install both laminate countertop and Karran sink, and given the substantial difference in price over anything else I might consider, it makes perfect sense to me for our kitchen remodeling. Tile is rather inexpensive too, but I absolutely will NOT use tile, as I am as tired as I can be of it in my kitchens.

    James, you might be just the guy for me to talk to. I’ve not installed the sink, but I am so totally hot to trot on it... Just want a little more information on the installation itself before I commit to it. James, am I right in saying that laminate countertop and Karran sink installed is considerably less than it would have cost your clients to have countertops from materials like granite and Silestone?

    Paul, I think the popularity of this really just revolves around getting the word out. I mean to do my bit on it, just because I believe in the product. I have long thought that Formica was a wonderful product. We married in 1976, and a year later we rented a townhouse with Formica countertops in the kitchen. We had it five years, and at the end of that time it still looked brand new. And now with the many products they’ve come out with since then, it’s a product that just makes ever more sense.

  5. Joe: That porcelain kitchen sink from Blanco isn't sold in North America unfortunately, but it's pretty slick never the less.

    When I was talking to Formica about this yesterday, they pointed out your blog posts to me. So word is getting out, albeit not fast enough if you ask me.

    If you attempt this yourself, I'd love to hear how you do.

  6. I saw the Karran at KBIS too and thought it was pretty cool. Thanks for sharing there are others. Now to get people to accept Laminate is not a "bad" thing but makes an excellent countertop and does not mean low-end.

    Love the Duravit sinks, those are exciting.

  7. Paul,

    Counter Seal is a Vancouver based company that's been doing this for quite a while now.  I wrote about them last year.  The finished product is excellent, but in my experience the cost often pushes clients into granite or quartz

  8. Lisa: With some of the new high definition patterns available in laminate, there's nothing low-end about the category. As a counter it wears better than solid surface.

    Arne: I've seen the laminate undermounts with solid surface rings, but these things are flush mounted. I think it makes for a more attractive finished product and there's a lot more flexibility so far as the laminate pattern's concerned. However it's done, this is a really cool way to deal with laminates.

  9. Okay, sorry for the delay in getting back!

    Paul: I do not know why it is so slow in picking up. My guess is that manufacturers are intimidated by the idea. There is NO margin for error on these things. Just plan on ruining the first attempt.

    Joseph: We did not have that video when we started. That video is exactly what we did but much of it we had to learn on the fly. They did not even recommend the 'bondo' way when we first started. Originally we were expected to complete the laminate top THEN flip it over and cut the PB out from the bottom then mount the sink. We never tried it because we were convinced you would get a ridge on the top side.

    We never did try it with the stainless steel sink. That must be a very new option. We always did it with the Solid Surface sink they offered. With that sink you could use a vibrating sander to flush the inside of the sink. With the video above you are talking about some serious filing skills to avoid hurting the sink.

  10. Joseph, we charged about $510.00 total for the sink. Most of the time it was less expensive than a stone top.

    I always warned my customers that if they dropped anything against the sink/laminate joint and chipped the laminate the only solution would be to cut out the Karran sink and install a normal drop in as a replacement.

    We did a pretty large dental office a few years ago using the smaller sinks Karran sells. It went over quite well. They liked being able to just wipe the counter tops right into the sinks. I think we put in a dozen or so sinks for them. It looked REALLY nice.

  11. There are a number of points that  prevent this type of installation becoming popular here in the UK.

    Sure, it's possible to achieve and if the skills of the installer match the requirements for aesthetics and long term durability the process necessitates, then I'm sure there'd be a few takers.

    Before consideration however, clients would consider cost, effectiveness and the comparison with alternative surfaces that are capable of withstanding the damage that water ingress could do if this process wasn't undertaken absolutely to the letter.

    Secondly, laminate surfaces in the UK are sold pre laminated and aside from  perhaps a few independent cabinet makers, the market is overwhelmingly in favour of the preformed laminate surface.

    Thirdly, there is the question of guarantees. Would a laminate worktop manufacturer maintain their guarantees for installations of this type? I doubt they would but as I say, the remodel example is far more prevalent over the Atlantic than it is on this side of the water.

    My final point is to draw comparison with the labour intestive process required to make a surface that will resemble weetabix if water were to find a way through over time, to the comfort of knowing the same damage cannot occur with surfaces that cannot be damaged by water.

    Sure, it's a method that can be utilised but in my opinion it's not the best judgement a homeowner can make for the most used component of any kitchen project if longevity, durability and resilience are the factors uppermost in their mind when making that decision.

    Worktops or countertops are subjected to a far greater percentage of work in the kitchen than any other component and as such they remain the most important choice for homeowners. 

    Laminate Worktops/countertops are a great and more affordable option if fitted with prevention of long term damage in mind and the cost savings can be substantial over granite, quartz and solid surfaces but the method shown here would, I'm sure, negate that advantage.

    @tim_foley1 (twitter)

  12. Tim: Thanks for weighing in and thanks for the follow on Twitter. Getting to know designers in the UK this year has been an education I never knew I needed, so thanks.

    Here's what I know about this laminate technique. The Germans I spoke with about it at IMM this year were adamant that it works and that it lasts, and they use an installation method that's nearly identical to the method shown in the video I included with this post. With that said, I have no first hand experience with it.

    However, the manufacturer that produced that video, Karran, has a host of support materials available on their website. The fist is a description of the sinks they're manufacturing for this type of installation specifically: http://www.karran.com/images/pdf/Brochure%20-%20Karran%20Edge%202011.pdf

    The sinks in question have a resin edge bonded to the steel. That resin with melt and bond with the adhesive used in one of these installations. Laminate itself is more or less water proof. The problem with laminates is water getting into the joints. If you can keep water out of the joints then you're home free.

    Here's Karran's illustrated guide to one of these installations: http://www.karran.com/images/pdf/Install%20Guide%20-%20Karran%20Edge%20Sinks%202010.pdf

    Karran seems to be so confident in this technique that there's a 25-year warranty when these sinks are installed according to their instructions. http://www.karran.com/images/pdf/Care%20Guide%20and%20Warranty%20-%20Stainless%20Steel%20Sinks.pdf

    I appreciate your reservations because believe me I share them. In the US, both Formica and WilsonArt are starting to back this technique and that tells me that it works.

    This technique deserves further investigation and study (and a healthy dose of skepticism), but try as I might, I have yet to hear a negative review of it. And trust me, I am as skeptical a man as you're likely to find.

  13. Well, OK.

    I am not, by any stretch of the imagination, an expert in this field, but I mean to give it a shot anyway. I am convinced that Karran Edge Sinks will work as promised. I have done quite a bit of research into the subject, because as I said in one of my blogs on the subject, I honestly drift off to sleep every night fantasizing about this sink in our kitchen.

    We have a kitchen that is appallingly bad, and next year, God willing, I mean to finally build and install a kitchen for us. I have the skills I will need to make all the cabinetry. I can also build and install Formica countertops, because they’re frankly not that difficult to work with. It’s just working with contact cement and so forth. But once I got into it I was surprised at how easy it is to work with.

    I also know that seams around the sink are not regarded as a particularly good idea, for fear of water getting into them. If that should happen, it will ruin the substrate, and the countertop will have to be replaced, as there is no way of simply repairing the damage. But as one person who does this for a living pointed out, replacing a laminate countertop is considerably cheaper than replacing a granite countertop that has gotten badly chipped because of some fool. How often does either have to be done? How careful are you with the surface? My wife and I lived with Formica countertops for five years, and at the end of that time (we’d moved into a brand new townhouse), they still looked brand new. Every counter surface made has Dos and Don’ts. One simply follows the rules.

    So, that just leaves us with the sinks. That long ago kitchen of ours had a drop-in sink because that was what was done in those days. The cat who installed it ran a bead of silicone around it to seal it to prevent the water from seeping under the sink edge and into the particleboard substrate. How often do leaks occur at that point? No doubt, if we really fished for them, we would find a horror story or two, but every one of them would have the same bottom line: an incorrectly installed sink.

    These sinks have an edge all around that is ¾” wide, I believe. Water will not penetrate this edge, but you could have water seeping under the edge and into the particleboard area. But I don’t see how it would get there. When the sink is installed, one uses epoxy glue in this area only. All the rest of the countertop uses the familiar contact cement, but not the sink area. That’s epoxy because that glue is waterproof.

    Because I am so apprehensive about this, I went to a site called Woodweb, which is a site for professional cabinetmakers. They have forums, and several of them were devoted to this very subject. One guy said he had relied on the Woodweb for years for information, and now he had a chance to give back, as he was familiar with these sinks. He said he’d installed 300 of them, and only one had failed. The one that failed did so because the faucet had not been installed properly, and it had leaked into the substrate, so even that one, he pointed out, was not really a failure of the sink.

    I’m just one little blogger with one little blog site, so I’m pretty sure I’m not going to start a revolution here. Even so, I mean to learn what I need to know to install this sink. I think it’s the greatest thing since sliced bread. I recently blogged on the subject and used the same picture on the Calacatta Marble Formica. I mean, look at this! What is there about this kind of installation that makes one say, “cheap stuff?” I say it looks like a million bucks. But it’s something I can install for less than a thousand for the countertop and as James points out, $500 or so for the sink. Works for me!

  14. Based on the staggering amount of search traffic this post is generating, there's a huge amount of interest in this undermounting technique Joe. When you take a stab at it yourself I'll be curious to see how you do.

  15. A couple other notes.

    1. Using laminate bevel edging with high def laminate and a Karran under mount sink you can easily fool the casual eye.

    2. We always put a bucket of glue on top of our sinks and let it sit over night to help bonding of laminate to the sink rim. Squeeze out of solid surface adhesive is critical to a good seal.

  16. James, what kind of glue? How do you prevent the squeeze out from adhering to the sink?

  17. Hi All. Great comments on our sinks, thank you. A quick note on the edge of the laminate chipping. We cannot seem to chip it, as hard as we try. Take a look at www.youtube.com/karransink101. Watch "Pressure Testing The Edge Rim". I am not the strongest guy on the block but I could not chip the laminate. This test was on our stainless steel version called Edge but our acrylic sinks perform identically in this respect.

  18. Mark: Thanks for weighing in here and thank you for making the information about this technique as available as you have. Based on the amount of attention this post has garnered, you guys are definitely onto something. Please keep in touch and keep me posted on any new developments or news your company has in the future. You can always reach me at p.anater@gmail.com. Thanks again!

  19. Love the design, We can help in designing 3D laminated components into your product line, qualifying suitable vendors for outsourcing, bringing manufacturing in house, or just need a little help with problems in your press room, Formella CSI is here to help @FormellaCSI Look forward to contacting with you

  20. Please don't use my comments section as a vehicle to advertise your business. If you want to contribute to the conversation you're voice is always welcome. However, if you want to sell your services you'll have to take out an ad.


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