Affordable Way to Replace a Desk/Table Top?
January 29, 2021 10:42 AM   Subscribe

I have a cute metal desk frame with an 18x36 laminated particle board top. Unfortunately, the top has some water damage, so I'd like to replace it. Where can I find a cool and creative solution that costs around $50?

It'd be fun to get something like this terrazzo-esque Ikea top, but it's not available in the size I need. I checked my local cut-to-size plastics shop, but a piece of marine board this size at a half inch thickness would run $85. Their colored acrylic or PVC would be in my budget, but it's not thick enough to make a good table top. I thought about layering some terrazzo-styled floor vinyl over a wood top, but that feels complicated and I'm not sure if the vinyl would make a good work surface. Any other cool ideas? I'd like the final surface to be smooth and easy to clean.
posted by redsparkler to Home & Garden (17 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Terrazzo contact paper
posted by Iris Gambol at 10:47 AM on January 29 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: I like the idea of contact paper, but I'm also wary of its durability on a work surface! Would love to hear if anyone has had firsthand experience with a particular brand under similar conditions. Will probably be using this desk for mostly laptop work, but may also draw or write on it.
posted by redsparkler at 10:52 AM on January 29

Do you *have* to replace it? Can you cover it up with a "dekspad"? Those PU leather thing, or giant mousepad?

If it's just surface damage, you can either polish it off (either "magic eraser" or actual sander, maybe oxy-clean (tm) and a little bleach plus a sealant?

Or just contact-wallpaper over it with fake woodgrain or similar.
posted by kschang at 10:53 AM on January 29

Response by poster: (There is considerable chipping on one corner that has bitten into the particle board, and the entire edge of the laminate has bubbled up, so replacing the entire surface does feel like the best move.)
posted by redsparkler at 10:56 AM on January 29

A cheap door is what I used to use as table top. I don't know the current cost but it makes a good size flat surface
posted by anadem at 11:01 AM on January 29

Post on freecycle for a piece of finish plywood, or scout free stuff on craigslist for something cool. My temporary desk is a nice bit of finish plywood atop 2 bedside tables, plywood was free already finished.
Get the acrylic you like, and put it on top of the damaged particle board or a piece of plywood or masonite.
Glass companies will cut glass to size.
Get tile, tile the stained particle board.
Feel crafty? or know somebody who is? Use the particle board as a base, and top with concrete. Will weigh a ton.
ReStore has tons of cool stuff, possibly granite, that can be cut to size.
My kitchen counters are solid pine live-edge slab; you should be able to find off-cuts for not too much. Mine were expensive to install; the wood itself was 300 for 2 72"x 30" piece, or something like that. Finish with Danish oil or similar. They get dinged and stained but I love it a lot.
Glue actual leather to the top.
posted by theora55 at 11:01 AM on January 29

My desk top is an Ikea countertop, cut to the right length.

They have a bunch of laminate options that are less expensive... not quite as fun as the top you linked but easier to get the right length as long as the standard counter depth works for you.
posted by dazedandconfused at 11:16 AM on January 29 [1 favorite]

You can get a used door at a Habitat for Humanity and hack that to the correct size. I can't imagine that would run more than $50.
posted by jabes at 11:18 AM on January 29 [2 favorites]

Ikea sells one in black ($18) or white for under $10: Linnmon but it is a little bigger at 39 3/8x23 5/8. Is the size flexible?
posted by soelo at 11:49 AM on January 29

How about a combo of wood + contact paper + a cut-to-size clear acrylic sheet you put over the top to keep the contact paper from peeling?
posted by music for skeletons at 12:00 PM on January 29 [2 favorites]

So I am sitting at my desk which is made up of two tabletops, one that might be that Linnmon exactly - the dimensions match and it is white. It is at least 10 years old and has enough chips that I can see the particle board underneath. The other tabletop is brown-black from Ikea but it was in the as-is section and used to be the side of a wardrobe or something. I bought it the same year as the other table, and it has seen the same type of use but has very little wear and no chips. It is solid wood, though only about 3/4 inch thick.

The as-is section is great for finding things that can be made into tabletops and you will end up saving a lot of money. Other hardware stores may have something similar if you are comfortable going in person.
posted by soelo at 12:02 PM on January 29

lowes and home depot have precut 2 x 4 finish plywood. at lowes the panel saw is often out of order, at home depot it usually works, pick one out and have them cut it to size for you? or .. yeah, ikea as-is as soelo said.
posted by elgee at 12:11 PM on January 29 [1 favorite]

Smooth the surface/repair any chips the best that you can (you can use Bondo to fill any voids), give it a coat of paint, then get creative with some epoxy.
posted by mezzanayne at 12:12 PM on January 29

You could probably cut your tabletop out of this. Someone with a tablesaw could give it nice clean edges. You can get stick on edging to hide the raw edges.
posted by H21 at 12:16 PM on January 29

Home improvement Borgs (Home Depot, Lowes, Home Hardware etc.) will cut sheet goods to size (they say roughly to size but IME the panel saws they use are generally within a 1/4" which is plenty for your purpose). They also sell plywood in 24" x 48" sizes for pretty cheap. You could get them to cut one 1/2-3/4" thick down to your desired size and then apply Peel and Stick vinyl tiles of your desired pattern.

Note that these are different than backsplash "tiles". They are full thickness vinyl tiles. Some are imprinted with a texture and others aren't and obviously you'll be wanting the smooth variety. Installation is easy and forgiving.

The tile material is very durable being designed to be walked on. It also has subtle give which gives it a bit of the feel of a leather top desk. They can be cut to size with a knife. Normally I don't recommend peel and stick tiles for flooring but for a desk they'll be fine.

Also if it was me I'd cover the exposed edges with iron on melamine edging. You cut/trim it with a sharp knife and then use a regular clothes iron to stick it to the edge. It'll be sharp after cutting so hit the edges with a 150 grit sand paper.


Those premade counter tops are great. You can cut them pretty easily with a jig saw and smooth finish blade. They are also available without the back splashes. There are many more patterns available than what they have on the shelf that can be ordered.
posted by Mitheral at 12:21 PM on January 29 [2 favorites]

If you have a local ikea that could be pandemic safe to go to they have a returns section that at least at mine has lots of big flat surfaces. It's all the undamaged pieces of returns or floor models. I always find some cool stuff in that area of mine.
posted by dstopps at 2:06 PM on January 29

I recently bought an IKEA bathroom countertop to put on top of something else to use as a kitchen island. It comes in several sizes but is more expensive than you’re looking for. I will say that as somebody who has several regular-issue shitty IKEA desktops around my place, this is 1000 times sturdier and nicer.
posted by Bella Donna at 3:41 PM on January 29 [1 favorite]

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