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How to Demolish a Kitchen Countertop and Install Backer Board

Remodeling a kitchen begins with removing an old kitchen countertop. Host Paul Wilson explains how to demolish an old kitchen countertop and install a cement backer board.

More in Kitchen

Step 1: Turn Off the Power

Turn off the power to the kitchen.

Step 2: Remove the Sink

Remove the electrical switch plates and loosen the electrical receptacles and switches, and detach the under-sink plumbing. Remove the existing sink.

Step 3: Remove the Countertop

Demolish and remove the existing countertop, which was Formica in this case. Remove all screws from underneath the countertop. Cut the construction adhesive and lift off the countertops.

Tip: Don't pry off the countertops because that might damage the cabinets underneath.

Step 4: Check the Cabinets

Check the cabinets to make sure they are level and square. Also check the walls to make sure they are straight.

A spirit level will show if the wall is straight and the counter is level (Image 1).

To tell if the cabinets meet at a 90-degree angle, put a carpenter's square at the apex of the two 90-degree corners (Image 2), and if the cabinets are flat against both sides of the square, the cabinets are square to one another.

Step 5: Move Cabinets Into a Perfect Square

Move and shim the cabinets into as perfect a square and as level as possible.

Step 6: Re-Fasten the Cabinets

Re-fasten any cabinets that are inadequately secure. This is especially important with backer board since the board and plywood follow any imperfections.

Step 7: Measure the Tile Areas

Measure the areas where tile will be placed to determine the amount of tile that will be needed.

How Much Tile Will You Need?

Take the length times the width of the backsplash and countertops.
Subtract the sink and window openings.
Add up the surface area of the glass-tile accents and subtract those.
This will give the square footage of both the ceramic and glass tiles.

Step 8: Prepare the Cabinetry and Drywall for Tile: Protect Surfaces

Protect uninvolved surfaces by covering them with plastic.

cover uninvolved surface with plastic

Step 9: Check Structural Integrity of the Cabinets

Check the structural integrity of the cabinets by pulling on them and checking for loose or inadequate fastening.

Step 10: Degrease the Walls

Degrease the walls with a household cleaner and sponge.

Step 11: Sand the Backsplash Drywall

Sand the drywall of the backsplash to facilitate a better tile and mastic bond.

sand drywall for better tile and mastic bond

Step 12: Use Backer Board

Any time there's tile in a wet area such as a kitchen, it's a good idea to use backer board, and a good one to use is a fiber-cement type.

use backerboard to tile in wet area like kitchen

Step 13: Measure the Cabinets

Measure the cabinets for the plywood deck, and use a steel measuring tape and chalk line to rip a 3/4" exterior-grade plywood sheet to fit the space.

Step 14: Make Small Cuts on the Plywood Base

With a circular saw make small cuts 6" to 8" on center all over the plywood base. This is also known as the dot-and-dash method, which will allow the plywood to expand and contract and will prevent the countertop from warping later.

Step 15: Attach the Plywood to the Cabinets

Attach the plywood on top of the cabinets with screws.

plywood attached to top of cabinets

Step 16: Fit the Backer Board Panels

Pre-cut and dry fit the backer board panels.

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