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Solid surface materials are ideal for kitchen and bath countertops because they are impervious to water and most other liquids, difficult to stain and easy to wipe and keep clean. And because they are solid all the way through, scratches can be rubbed out with an abrasive cleaner or sanded away.
Solid surfacing is also relatively easy to fabricate with the same cutting, routing and finishing tools used for woodworking. Homeowners without the skills or tools needed for this work can save some expense by having a fabricator take the measurements, build the countertop in the shop and deliver it for DIY installation.
This countertop started out as a sheet of solid surface material 1/2" thick, 3' wide and 12' long. The fabricator first cuts the sheet to fit the layout dimensions. Countertops with ells or angles, like this U-shaped top, are usually fabricated in sections for easier transport and jointed during the actual installation.
Solid surfacing is a dense, heavy material. Even though this top was built and delivered in manageable sections, the separate pieces required several people to carry and set them in place.
To create a wide, finished counter edge, long strips ripped from the original sheet are stacked and glued below the edge using an epoxy colored to match the countertop material.
After the glue dries, a finished profile is routed along the edge. Sanding with progressively finer sandpaper results in a smooth, uniform, blemish-free surface.
Seams and corner joints are created the same way. After the sections are placed, the fabricator completes the countertop by gluing the pieces together.
The epoxy sets up quickly, and as soon as it dries the seams can be sanded smooth. Because the epoxy is identical in color, the finished joints are invisible –the only way to locate a seam is to look on the back side of the countertop.
If an undermount sink is installed in the countertop, a sink made from the same material is typically used and the process is the same. After the correct-size hole is cut through the top, the sink is glued and clamped in position from below and a finished edge is routed with a rounding over bit (Image 1).
Next, a template for the drop-in range is positioned on the countertop. The dimensions are transferred to the top and a drill/driver is used to bore pilot holes within the scribed lines (Image 2).
To prevent the cutout from falling through the opening before the cut is completed, have a helper hold it or place a plywood cleat across the template lines and attach it to the waste section with screws. Then, use a jig saw or router to cut the opening (Image 3).
Cutting and sanding solid surfacing creates plenty of dust. Because this work has to be done in the home, use a shop vacuum to follow the tool as it works. This will capture most of the dust and shavings. A plastic curtain draped and taped over doors and other room openings also helps to contain dust.
The heavy countertop does not require much attachment to remain in place, but to prevent movement or shifting it is secured to the cabinets with silicone adhesive caulk. A few well-placed dollops of silicone also hold the backsplash permanently in place (Image 4).
After the installation is complete, use a solid surface polish to clean and treat the new countertop.