How to Install Granite Countertops
In this project, expert stone masons Derek Stearns and Dean Marsico use a system of granite pieces to simulate the look of slab granite
Remove the old grill from the site and then lay down the template (Image 1). The template is included in the kit and is a footprint for the base unit. Place the template in position and walk around it to be sure there is space where appliances will open. This also allows you to clearly mark where gas, water, or electrical services need to go. Here, a hole has been cut for the gas line (Image 2). Once the template is set exactly in place, trace it with a pencil (Image 3). You'll need to dig down 6 inches for the footing.
If you have to cut through the stone pavers first, use a grinder with a diamond blade to score an outline (Image 1). After removing the pavers in the center area, cut a deeper line (Image 2) and separate the pieces by tapping them with a stone hammer. To make sure that your cuts and footing are accurate, set the template down again. Recess the line about a 1/4-inch inside the template, so that the stones will sit directly on the pavers and the footing will not show. Next, dig the footing about 6 inches deep. Be very careful using your equipment around the gas line and other utilities. You might need to set up a form to make sure your footing is square when it dries. It may be helpful to use some pieces of wood to make the form and add stakes and old pavers to hold it in place.
You may opt to rent a cement truck to mix the concrete instead of mixing by hand, which can be very time consuming on a job this size. A cement truck also ensures that you will get a consistent mix. Before you pour the concrete, make sure to shield gas lines, etc. by surrounding them with a plastic bucket or similar protection. Pour your concrete evenly into the footing (Image 1) using a trowel or rake. Then place pieces of rebar into the top for extra strength and support (Image 2). Let the footing set overnight.
Once the footing is dry, pull the forms and the protective cover from the gas line. Set the template down one last time to make sure your footing is on target. With a pencil, retrace the template to give you a starting point for the stonework. Stage your area so the stones you need are on hand to be set in place. Each piece is coded with a number and a letter that corresponds to that piece on the CAD plan (Image 1). The plan shows where each stone is to be located in the project. Follow the chart and bring over the first course of stone to your work area (Image 2). It is recommended that you dry lay the first row of stones to make sure everything lines up correctly (Image 3). The stones are designed to have a dry set look. Measure any openings for appliances.
For the mortar, mix 1-3/4 buckets of mason sand and 1 bucket of mortar. These proportions will make a stickier, stronger batch of mortar for these smaller joints and heavy stones. Use a perforated hoe to mix it dry and then add enough water to get it to the consistency of sticky peanut butter. The first row of stones is cut flat on the bottom and is ready to set on the footing with just 1/4 inch of mortar under them. Start from a corner and build around the unit. While the mortar is wet, stones can be adjusted to ensure the edges are straight and everything lines up with the template. Because the stones are cut so precisely, there's no mortar between the joints. Once the first row is set, parge the corners from the inside and all joints in between the stone.
A cement block structure is built up inside the stone veneer for additional support. This demonstration uses four inch cement blocks. These blocks will be covered up by the stonework and countertop, so they don't have to be pretty. Set the block with mortar up to the level of the first course of stone.
The first stone to be set on second course is the one at the lowest point. Work from the middle out. The stones fit like pieces of a puzzle (Image 1). Follow the CAD plan and set the all the stones in the second course. Only a bit of mortar is needed between stones. Once you set a stone, you can use shims to keep the stone securely in place as you work. For added strength, parge the stones from the back with mortar (Image 2). Once the mortar begins to set up, rake out the excess with your jointer so that it is not visible between the stones (Image 3). These stones are cut and designed for the dry stacked look. While you're setting the second course, continue to build up the internal structure (Image 4). Set the cement blocks up to the level of the stones. This part of the cement block structure does not have to be level. However, you don't want to be too sloppy, as the topmost layer has to be exactly level to support the countertops.
The stones of the top course have a straight edge onto which the countertops will be set. Set these stones in the same way as the previous course, following the CAD plan. Once they are in place, check that they are level. Since the kit comes precisely pre-cut, once the top row is set, the finished edge is done also. Build up the cement block to the height of the final course of stone and check that it is level. You are ready to set the countertops.
This demonstration uses bluestone countertops. You can choose from a variety of stones and styles for your own kit. Use a chisel and stone hammer to carefully chip the edges (Image 1). You don't want to take off big chunks, just chips to give it a hand-finished look. Dry set the bluestone pieces on top of the veneer work (Image 2) and set them in place with shims. Once all the countertop pieces are in place, make sure they are level. Using a four foot level, start checking the level at the highest end of the countertops and work your way down. Use shims as needed to adjust the level and keep the stones in place (Image 3). With your countertops in place, use a silicone adhesive to set them. Caulk liberally between the counter and the veneer stone (Image 4). As you come across the shims under the countertop, you can score the shim with a knife and snap it off, or you can wait until the caulk is dry and pull the shims out. It may take 5-6 tubes of adhesive for this job. Let it dry overnight to cure completely.
The last step is to install the appliances and connect the utilities. The veneer stone and countertops are measured and cut so that the openings match up perfectly with your appliances. No cutting is required. Slide the grill and refrigerator into place and you are ready to start grilling.