Can You Install an Undermount Sink Under a Laminate Countertop?

A Franke USA Large Single Bowl Stainless Steel Undermount Kitchen Sink. Imagine this sink installed in a laminate countertop!
A Franke USA Large Single Bowl Stainless Steel Undermount Kitchen Sink. Imagine this sink installed in a laminate countertop! | Source

Introduction

Undermount sinks leave a countertop's surface smooth and unobstructed by the rims of a traditional drop-in sink. Their popularity increased as homeowners enjoyed the ease of wiping a countertop's surface clean without the worry of pushing food and liquids into the crack beneath the sink's rim. With undermount sinks, the sink disappears beneath the countertop and the entire area around the sink looks and feels streamlined and sanitary. Traditional installations of undermount sinks were once exclusive to granite, stone and solid-composite countertops, such as solid surface, but surprisingly undermount sink installation exists for laminate countertops.

Why Yesterday's "No"

Installing an undermount sink beneath its cut-out in a laminate countertop seemed inconceivable just because the cut through the countertop left the underlying plywood exposed through the cut's thickness and exposed to the constant use of water from the sink. Beyond the aesthetics, cutting through the laminate countertop and leaving the cut edges exposed above the sink shortens the life of the countertop. Wood absorbs water, and over time, water would alter the countertop's appearance, causing it to warp, rot and/or breed mold and mildew.

Undermount Sink with Trim

The fabrication of a laminate countertop outfitted with an undermount sink takes into consideration the moisture concern by installing a waterproof barrier along the edges of the countertop's sink cut-out. One approach makes the standard cut in the laminate countertop to fit the sink, fits and secures the sink to the underside of the countertop with waterproof adhesive, caulking and the required bolts and brackets to make a tight seal between the sink and the countertop. The exposed cut-out edges are then finished with a waterproof trim, typically in a coordinating solid color.

An Innovative Approach

A streamlined approach to installing an undermount sink to a laminate countertop brings the sink right up to the lip of the countertop's laminate layer, keeping the cut edges below the sink's edge. From the looks of this type of installation, the sink presents as a sleek, curious and neat insert.

But in this approach, the sink's installation to the countertop occurs before the laminate layer's installation, in the factory. Cut the countertop to fit the undermount sink, turn it over, apply the waterproof bonding compound to the rim of the sink and insert the sink into the cut-out. Bolt the sink to the underside of the cabinet, turn the ensemble over and install the sheet of laminate over the top.

The sink, at this stage, is hidden behind the laminate, and this is when the craftsman comes with a router to cut out the sink's opening, exact to the sink's edge. He then finishes the edges of the laminate as he would do along any other edge, and the results make laminate an exciting, yet affordable alternative to expensive stone for a countertop with an undermount sink.

Concerns

Affordable alternatives to the authentic often come with a price in the long run. Although combining laminate countertops with undermount sinks are not as popular as with stone countertops, several concerns come to mind when selecting this option.

Cracks in the laminate or seams that lose their adhesion -- around the sink or anywhere along the countertop, immediately exposes the wood sublayer to air and moisture, which shortens the countertop's life. Water seeping along the underside of the countertop since the lip of the sink sits below the countertop raises another concern. As with any adhesive compound, the potential for breakdown of its adhesiveness over time exists, and when it happens, water will follow.

The weight of the sink -- empty and full -- raises another concern as an undermount attached to wood that expands, contracts and gives under pressure must easier than stone. Support reinforcement wood strips around the perimeter of the sink and carried across to adjoining base cabinetry distributes the sink's weight and lessens the strain on the wood that otherwise would not exist if the lip of the sink overlapped the top of the countertop.

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