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How to Install a Countertop (page 1 of 3)

Learn how to fit, cut and install a new countertop, and how to join two countertops together.
Excerpted from Do It Yourself Home Improvement

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Installing a countertop is reasonably straightforward. However, joining two lengths of material to take a countertop around a corner requires more care, since the joint needs to be perfect to create a continuous, flat finish. The best joints can be achieved if you use the right techniques, and make good use of factory-cut straight edges. Joining a countertop material with square edges is easier than if the front edge has been finished with a curved profile.

Scribe to Fit

Any deviations in the wall surface will cause gaps along the back edge of the countertop. In these situations, the best finish is achieved by scribing the countertop to fit the wall. Consider that you will lose some countertop depth, so if the gaps are large, buy a wider countertop and trim it as described below.

Position the countertop with the back edge touching the wall and the front edge overhanging the cabinets by the same distance along the run (Image 1).

Measure the largest gap between the countertop and the wall and cut a small scribing block of wood the same width (Image 2).

Hold a pencil at one side of the block as you run the other end along the wall (Image 3). This will provide a guide line for trimming.

Use a jigsaw to cut along the line (Image 4). You may need to use a sander or plane where a small amount of material needs to be removed.

Reposition the countertop and check that you have a good fit between wall and countertop, and a consistent overhang at the front (Image 5).

Cut to Length

For a straight run, the countertop needs to be cut to the right length, including an overhang of about 1 inch (25 mm) at each end. Handsaws or power saws can be used. Make sure you use an appropriate blade. For a laminate countertop, place masking tape over the cutting line to help prevent any splintering of the laminate surface.

Draw a pencil line across the countertop where you want to cut it, and cover the line with masking tape (Image 1).

Clamp a straight edge to the countertop along the guide line (a metal ruler is ideal). Using a utility knife, score down the line through the masking tape (Image 2).

Carefully saw through the scored line using a panel saw (Image 3). Make sure the countertop is well supported on both sides of the cut.

Remove the remaining masking tape. Use a block plane to smooth the cut end of the countertop (Image 4).

Trim the Width

If you have a wider counter than you need, you can trim it at the same time as scribing it to fit. With the counter positioned on top of the base units, work out the width of material that needs to be removed to leave you with your desired overhang. Subtract the width of the largest gap at the back of the countertop from the trimming amount and cut a scribing block of this length. Use the block in the same way described above.

Deciding on what size of overhang is required at the front of the units is a matter of personal taste. Some people prefer a finish fairly flush with the drawer fronts, other people prefer a larger overhang. The standard overhang is 1 1/2 inches (38 mm). Cut through the countertop using the method shown left.

Turning a Corner

If you want your countertop to turn a corner, you will need to join two lengths. Options for joining are limited by the material the countertop is made from, and whether its profile is square or rounded. Once a joint has been cut, it is essential that it is held tightly in position. Mending plates can be installed across the joint on the underside of the counter, or a biscuit joiner will create an exceptionally strong joint.

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Excerpted from Do It Yourself Home Improvement

© Dorling Kindersley Limited 2009