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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I am renovating a small island in a commercial retail space. The island originally had sheetrock sheathing, but I want to replace it with 3/4" particleboard panels faced with Formica laminate. The island framing is pre-existing and consists of 1-5/8" steel studs. I've reinforced the frame with some 2 x 4 wood studs which I can use to attach the sheathing. I have access to the inside of the island through the top which is currently open, so I can screw through the studs from behind. Because of the outside dimensions of the island framing and a pre-existing stone counter that will go on top of the island, I cannot go thicker on the particleboard; I'm limited to 3/4" for the thickness of the sheathing.

I'm trying to determine the best way to attach the laminated particleboard to the frame without using adhesive. The reason for not using adhesive is because this island is directly behind the service counter in this shop and I'm concerned that the laminated sheathing could eventually get damaged (for example, by a powered wheelchair running into it). Therefore, I'd like to attach the laminated particleboard in such a way that, if necessary, it can be replaced in the future without demolishing the entire island.

This is not a large island. The longest dimension is 56" and the height of the island is 26".

I've come up with three possible ways of attaching the sheathing:

1. Screw directly from behind
429276

Pros: Simplest construction method.
Cons: Weakest joint since it relies solely on the screw threads in the particleboard to resist pull-out.


2. Screw from behind at an angle
429277

Pros: Stronger connection than Option 1.
Cons: Must set the drill angle and depth correctly to avoid piercing the laminated surface. Also, this still relies on the strength of the particleboard to resist pull-out.


3. Use tee nuts hidden behind the laminate
429278

Pros: Extremely strong connection; unlikely to ever fail.
Cons: The most time-consuming option. Requires routing the face of the particleboard to recess the tee nut below the surface of the panel so the laminate lays flush.


Which method would you recommend and why? I'm not sure if I really need the strength of option 3 since this sheathing is not really subject to any loads. Any other attachment options I'm overlooking?
 

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Would it be possible to use a Z bar, Z clip. This is similar to a French Cleat made out of aluminum which is much thinner. You will be able to just lift or slide off the panel to replace it. Z bars can be purchased at an aluminum distributer in very long lengths,18 feet, that you can cut to the dimension you need. Key hole hanging clips may also be something else to consider. Here is another method that does not require space at the top in order to lift the panel.

BeauClip Panel Mounting System Demo - YouTube
Aluminum Z Clips (Panel Clips) | Eagle Mouldings (eagle-aluminum.com)
 

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Without using an adhesive I would be inclined to glue a strip of wood to the laminate panel to the side of the stud and then screw that to the studs. Screws don't hold well into particle board. The Tee Nut would work good if you can manage to get them perfectly lined up. More often than not you could set the panel up against the studs and drill a hole through the unlaminated panel and the stud. Then take it down, insert the Tee Nuts and cover with laminate. Then when you go put it together the holes wouldn't line up anymore. A large panel like that would swell up from the contact cement applying the laminate.
 

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You might consider two other options: threaded inserts or inset screw blocks. Threaded inserts will provide greater holding strength, but has the disadvantage of having to be more precisely located in relation to a pre-drilled mounting screw hole in the 2x4s. You can use an hole saw or router to inset a hardwood screw block into the particle board in the areas of the mounting screws. If the screw block is large enough, mounting screw location will not be very critical.
However, I tend to agree with shoot sum and FrankC, option #1 will probably be OK particularly if you put in some "extra" screws. There are screws made that are especially cut to hold in particle board. They are usually very sharp and coarse threaded. You will have the best results with this if you pre-drill the screw holes in the 2x4 supports so that the screws pass through them with no "bite". This will allow the screw to "pull" the particle board tight to the frame and you will be able to feel when the screw is tight in the particle board without over spinning it.
 

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If you can mount from the back side it's easiest. When I'm doing bars with panels these re are usually plywood it from to be covered by commercial decorative panels. We wil, use one of several panel type clips , sometimes specified by the architect.

Yes you will have to think on this one and yes , I have been so pissed off I had to walk away a few times. As any times as I've done it, some days you go brain dead. Especially when you thought you only had half a Saturday to work and it turns into all day long..
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
Thanks to all for the feedback so far.

My two major concerns with option #1 are:
  1. Because this is a framed wall (and not a piece of precision cabinetry), the tolerances are not tight. So to ensure I don't penetrate the laminated surface, I have to err on the side of the screws being shorter rather than longer. This means the screw's bite into the particleboard will likely be no more than 1/2". That's only ~3/8" when you deduct the length of the point of the screw.
  2. Even with care being taken to not over-penetrate, it's possible that the screw may cause the particleboard to bulge a bit which would telegraph through the laminate.
I had an idea for another option...

429304

I could drill and countersink holes in the particleboard for flat head screws and glue the screws into the holes with construction adhesive (e.g., Loctite PL Premium). Then I could apply some wood filler over the top of the screw before applying the laminate. This would give the strength of the tee nut option, but with a much simpler construction technique. And I don't have to worry about screw penetration issues.
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
More often than not you could set the panel up against the studs and drill a hole through the unlaminated panel and the stud. Then take it down, insert the Tee Nuts and cover with laminate. Then when you go put it together the holes wouldn't line up anymore. A large panel like that would swell up from the contact cement applying the laminate.
I'll be using solvent-based (not water-based) contact cement for the laminate. So I don't think there will be much swelling of the particleboard. Even if there were enough swelling to cause the screws to no longer align with the clearance holes in the studs, I could just slightly enlarge the clearance holes.
 

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Your comment #8 would work, but you will need to be concerned about the bolt rotating as you try to tighten the nut. It would work better if you countersunk some carriage bolts and use the special washers that work like T-nuts:
Torque washer
Then make the hole in the 2x4 oversize so that location of the bolt is not quite so critical.
You could also use the T-nut idea, but with a piece of threaded rod and a nut and washer rather than a bolt. With that, however, you will need to use caution that you don't crank the threaded rod into the laminate as you tighten the nut. Some permanent thread lock might work.
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 · (Edited)
Your comment #8 would work, but you will need to be concerned about the bolt rotating as you try to tighten the nut.
Since this is not a load-bearing application, the nuts don't have to be overly tightened. The construction adhesive would be more than strong enough to resist the torque of tightening the nuts snuggly. In the unlikely event it became difficult to remove the nuts in the future, I could put double nuts on the ends of the screws. The double nuts could be held with a wrench to counter the torque of removing the stubborn nut.

Then make the hole in the 2x4 oversize so that location of the bolt is not quite so critical."
My plan was to drill and countersink the particleboard on my drill press. Then I would use a portable drill guide in the field to drill through the panel holes into the studs. This should make the holes fairly concentric and perpendicular to the face of the panel. I could enlarge the holes in the stud as necessary to ease installation and get the proper fit.
 

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I'll be using solvent-based (not water-based) contact cement for the laminate. So I don't think there will be much swelling of the particleboard. Even if there were enough swelling to cause the screws to no longer align with the clearance holes in the studs, I could just slightly enlarge the clearance holes.
You would be surprised how much a large panel shrinks after being laminated. We always use a solvent based contact and sprayed it. If you did use a lot of clearance in the studs it would probably be alright.
 

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I'm curious: are the laminate and panel acclimated together prior to assembly?
Yes, both the particle board and laminate were in the shop for days to a weeks before they were laminated. They were roughly 5'x 12' and were used as wall panels in an airport terminal. The particleboard would shrink enough it would always have to be at least re-filed. Occasionally we would have to use the bevel trimmer on it.
 

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I've encountered one time were the particle shrunk after lamination. These were countertop for residential. After the problem occurred the manufacturer payed up for previous and replacement coss...

They can shrink a bit, but not enough to be repaired on bank, hospital, hotel or reception area walls. A counter top count get a bit catchy as the contact adhesive vents off and cures.

I have only worked in one acclimated cabinet shop and it waonly for 2 weeks, otherwise no, residential or commercial..
 

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Without using an adhesive I would be inclined to glue a strip of wood to the laminate panel to the side of the stud and then screw that to the studs. Screws don't hold well into particle board. The Tee Nut would work good if you can manage to get them perfectly lined up. More often than not you could set the panel up against the studs and drill a hole through the unlaminated panel and the stud. Then take it down, insert the Tee Nuts and cover with laminate. Then when you go put it together the holes wouldn't line up anymore. A large panel like that would swell up from the contact cement applying the laminate.
I disagree that the partical board will swell up from contact cement. 90+% of laminate topped kitchen and bathroom counter tops are built with a partical board substrate. And the laminate is secured with contact cement. I've installed and demolished more countertops than I can remember.
If you don't have experience don't just guess you know what your talking about. It can send someone off on a wrong direction when they ask for help. Plus it leaves you open to ridicule.
 

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Why not glue and screw some attachment blocks to the bottom of the top. Then screw those blocks horizontally to the frame. You build the blocks so control thickness eliminating your concern about varying thickness.
 

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I disagree that the partical board will swell up from contact cement. 90+% of laminate topped kitchen and bathroom counter tops are built with a partical board substrate. And the laminate is secured with contact cement. I've installed and demolished more countertops than I can remember.
If you don't have experience don't just guess you know what your talking about. It can send someone off on a wrong direction when they ask for help. Plus it leaves you open to ridicule.
I have a great deal of experience with laminate. I was shop foreman at a commercial millwork shop where that is all they did is laminate cabinets and millwork. We would lay around 6000 sq. ft. of laminate a week. It's not uncommon at all to have to come back and re-file even something as small as cabinet doors because of shrinkage.
 
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