How to install kitchen countertops

We are remodeling our 1992 kitchen and finally getting rid of the white laminate countertops.  While we are DIY kind of people, I was not so sure I was ready to take on the task of installing the expensive granite.  After some research, it seems we can do this in 4 easy steps.  Whether you are doing it yourself or hiring the work out, check out these few simple rules so you are an informed consumer.

  1. Order Countertops – If you are installing the countertops yourself, you need to find a do-it-yourself granite countertop provider.  If you choose to go with a fabricator, they will commonly do their own measurements and installation to insure exact fitting.  It is crucial to be precise with measurements and don’t forget that granite requires ¾” plywood laid on top of the cabinets to support the granite.  It also provides enough clearance for edging to clear the drawers and doors.  You will also want to note how much you want your countertops to hang over the face of the cabinets.  Depending on style or finished edge, the overhang is typically 1”- 11/2”.   Allow at least 3-4 weeks for delivery.
  2. Demolition & Prep – If you will be using any of the existing appliances or sink, make a template before removing.  Remove all screws, mounting brackets, or retaining clips.  Use a utility knife to cut away caulk where the countertop meets the backsplash.  To prep the cabinets, attach the plywood to the frame of the cabinets with screws.  First drill pilot holes to keep from splitting the face frame.  Granite slabs can weigh more than 200 pounds so you can use a template of the actual measurement of the countertop to dry fit because walls may not be perfectly square.  If you need to scribe a slab, use a circular saw with a dry-cut segmented diamond blade.
  3. Cut Sink Hole & Join Seams– Set the granite in place for the sink counter and trace the sink opening onto the plywood.  Use a jigsaw to cut the sink hole and make it about 1/8” larger than the line you drew.  Drop in sink.  If you will have seams, it is time to level.  Use 1 ¼” screws to adjust the height of the slab from underneath to raise and lower the countertop.  Use a level to fine tune.
  4. Glue Granite & Seams – Lift the granite and put half-dollar dollops of silicone around the perimeter of the cabinets.  Place a bead of caulk around and on top of sink rim and lower the granite slab gently back down.  Tape any seams with blue masking tape.  To fill the seams mix polyester-based resin and small amount of color, trying to match the granite.  Mix a few different colors to blend the seams with a putty knife checking the color against the stone.  Add a hardener (3% hardener – 97% resin) and mix only a workable amount because you only have 5 minutes to apply.  Dab in a neutral color base-coat and smooth as you go.  Apply a lighter color here and there and then the darkest color last.  When done, pull off the masking tape so it doesn’t dry on the tape.  After 30 minutes, smooth out with a seam stone using slow firm pressure in small circles.
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