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I'm renting and don't want to have to pay my landlord for an expensive countertop replacement, so I'd like to know how this can be fixed. Also, there is some potential replacement material hidden beside the stove and fridge. [EDIT: When I first posted this, I called it "laminate". Then considered maybe "Contact paper" aka "Peel and stick" countertop. I think the final determination is this is possibly just paint, see end of post.]

Here's the damaged areas, under the switch and the outlet. (Note, dishwasher is seen at bottom of image. Might be a factor.)

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Close up of switch damage.

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You can see that the laminate/plastic has bubbled away from the substrate. This runs to the left and right of the cracks.

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The outlet damage is similar. Water might have got in both places from the top, as it is exposed over both switch and outlet.

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Theory #2, as indicated in an answer below, this might be considered a design flaw (not our fault!), and the thin material might be getting warped due to steam/humidity. A good theory, since the dishwasher is just below it. You can see the upper-right corner of the dishwasher at the bottom of this first image.

EDIT: I think it's just paint? The same pattern is on the outlet

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Chipping on the front edge:

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View from under a corner:

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Final Update: So the maintenance man comes in, says no that's not water damage, it's just really cheap spray on, they all do that. Then pulled out his silicone caulk, laid down a bead, and wiped it with his finger.

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    That does not look like laminate - at least the laminate that comes in sheets that one glues in. Looks like cheap sticky-back plastic that is chipped, cracked or failing due to chemicals used for cleaning.
    – Solar Mike
    Apr 10, 2022 at 9:01
  • It's not at all clear what that material is but it's not laminate. Laminate may separate from the substrate its bonded to but what you're showing is way thinner than laminate. I'm with @SolarMike on this. To my eyes it appear to be contact paper or some similar adhesive-backed vinyl product. I doubt this is repairable.
    – jwh20
    Apr 10, 2022 at 9:59
  • Surely a mains socket that close to a sink is a violation of building regs.
    – Chenmunka
    Apr 10, 2022 at 11:24
  • Good chance that what they used for a base under that covering is damaged also. Water and electric devices do not play nice together, so would be a good to turn off the breaker for the outlet and switch and inspect/replace/move. Best choice is high resistance and a fire. Other choice can be a deadly shock.
    – crip659
    Apr 10, 2022 at 11:41
  • @SolarMike Thanks. Title changed to reflect this. Apr 10, 2022 at 12:54

1 Answer 1

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It's a design flaw, not actually your fault.
[Final damning analysis at the end.]

I've seen two types of that 'not-really-laminate', it's either a heat-bonded plastic or a really, really thin layer of actual mica. Neither is at all tolerant of water penetration. In that respect they're both like 'proper' mica laminate, but worse because they will both bubble badly.

If you have the plastic type, you can - if you get the sockets out of the way first - gently heat it & smooth it back into shape. You'd then have to glue & clamp it to try persuade it to stay that way. Then you can silicone it all to seal it.
If it's actually mica you'll never persuade it back into shape, it will just fracture, leaving you sticking bits of mica jigsaw back into place one at a time.

So no, it's never going to fit back perfectly - partly because it will not re-shape accurately & partly because the wood underneath is shot too. It may pass casual inspection.
As a friend of mine would say, "A blind man on a galloping horse would never notice it."

Alternatively, blame it on whoever put mains sockets through it in the first place. I would call that 'not to code' for distance to sink & height above worktop*, though that may depend on where you live.
I'd have put them above that splashback, not through it.
For them not to have sealed around the sockets was the second failure. I can imagine the fail would have started by water/condensation/steam penetrating from above the sockets, eventually causing damp below them.

Alternative two… find a new piece of matching splashback & this time seal it in properly in the first place. You said you have some potential spares - they'd be your cheapest option.

A late thought - whoever tightened in that socket pulled it back not only hard enough to bend the patress, but also bend the splashback, either before or after it was weakened by the water ingress. That could have caused a fail in the silicone before the visible trouble started, as the wood was slowly being pulled away from the sealant line.
That's going to make clamping it much more difficult, as your flat clamp isn't going to sit flush, & your new silicone seal is going to have a 'flood plain' in the middle. It makes replacement by far the best option now.
*and also on closer inspection because they left a gap at the top you could poke something into

After more comments, it was discovered this is actually a spray-paint speckle finish, right over the plugs. No tenant should accept any responsibility whatsoever for this type of bodge job not performing to expectation.

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    I'd still mount new sockets above the splashback, code or no code, just to stop it happening again. idk much about US sockets, but at a squeeze, you can slim down a UK socket to fit that smaller gap, because all the actual 'workings' will fit, you just trim the face-plate [patress]. All my kitchen sockets are additionally siliconed around the edges.
    – Tetsujin
    Apr 10, 2022 at 13:47
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    The heat is the first step, the clue & clamp is the second. The heat persuades it vaguely back into place, the glue & clamp then sets it up to remain there long-term. Be prepared to need two big ol' table or F clamps, some impact adhesive & some blocks to pad it out so the clamps can reach over that sill - all left in situ for the next 24 hours.
    – Tetsujin
    Apr 10, 2022 at 14:24
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    This is one of those 'squeeze & hope' jobs. It's never going to be a great finish, just a 'nobody will spot it, I hope' job. See my addition to the answer too. Your chances of clamping it were just reduced.
    – Tetsujin
    Apr 10, 2022 at 14:47
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    Good grief! That looks like the stuff they used to paint pub toilets with in the 70s. I'd be inclined to say it's time to give up & just lay the job firmly at the feet of the landlord. You cannot possibly be held responsible for water ingress on a spray-paint finish on such a complete & utter bodge job as that.
    – Tetsujin
    Apr 10, 2022 at 16:18
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    So the maintenance man comes in, says no that's not water damage, it's just really cheap spray on, they all do that. Then pulled out his silicone caulk, laid down a bead, and wiped it with his finger. Apr 16, 2022 at 18:44

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