The Home Handy Person's Guide to Installing Corian-style Solid Surface Counter Tops
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The Home Handy Person's Guide to Installing Corian-style Solid Surface Counter Tops

Until relatively recently working with solid counter top material was thought to be beyond the competencies of the do-it-yourselfer but, with the recent emergence of companies like SolidSurface.Com, that has all changed. These companies provide everything you need in kit form. Now, installing beautiful solid counter tops would rate a 3 for difficulty on a scale of 1 to 10 for most DIYers. With careful planning and a little patience the do-it-yourselfer with average skills can successfully install solid surface counter tops. Many of you will have already read my article on working with plastic laminate ( Knowing how to construct your own custom counter top using plastic laminate is an important skill set for every handy person but there are also many advantages with working with built to order solid counter top surfaces too-especially if you’re doing a complete kitchen remodeling and installing all new cabinets. I will supply you with a complete list of resources, including SolidSurface.Com at the end of this article.

Laying out your project

As I have said many times in the past, planning what you plan to do is the first and most important step in starting any new project. Planning begins with taking very care measurements and then transferring those measurements to drawing that show exactly what you finished project will look like. The old rule of measuring twice and cutting once is especially important when working with solid counter tops because the company supplying the will design and build according to your specification. If you get the measurements wrong you will be stuck with counter tops that you can’t use and will have to reorder them and pay the full price again. The companies will replace a counter top for free if the mistake was theirs but not if the mistake was yours and some of these solid counter tops are very expensive. The typical cost of 90sf (Square Feet) of solid counter top is around $2,900 which roughly half of what it would cost you to have the same counter top installed by professionals.

Taking careful measurements is only the first step in the ordering process. The second step is transferring those measurements to graph paper so the designers can see how the measurements relate to one another. Describing the dimensions of an L-Shaped counter section is fine but working from a drawing is much easier for everyone. You know what they say about pictures, one picture is worth a thousand words. These suppliers are very thorough and exacting when they produce your counter top. They reinforce areas where sinks will drop in or where counter top cook tops will be mounted. They will even design and supply matching backsplashes to your specifications if you order them.

Installing the counter tops·

  • If you are installing the counter tops on existing cabinets, the project begins by removing the old counter tops and inspecting the physical condition of the base cabinets. Solid counter tops are heavy and the base cabinets must be in good condition. If they’re not in good condition, it would behoove you to replace them at this time. You have already invested almost $3,000 in the new counter tops so it would pay to invest another $1,500 to $2,000 in all new base cabinets.
  • If the base cabinets are in good physical condition, check them for level using a 4 foot level. If necessary, take them loose from wall and level them with shims. This can be labor intensive and tedious but it’s extremely important that the cabinets be level before installing the counter top and backsplash.
  • Solid counter tops are heavy and they do flex slightly so you may want to install additional support cleat across the top of the cabinets before installing the new top, especially in the areas where an under mount sink or built-in dishwasher is going.
  • Make sure that the cabinets are also level across their top and adjust as necessary
  •  If the counter top has more than a couple of inches overhang, install a piece of ¾” plywood first before installing the counter top. Plan ahead for this by ordering matching banding to be applied to the edge of the plywood after the counter top is in place.
  • Each sheet of solid counter top material should be cut to size and installed separately. Start with a section that has a support strip on one end. Very few walls are perfectly flat so you will probably have to scribe along the wall edge and contour with a belt sander to get a good fit. A small school compass makes a good tool for this process. Place the point against the wall while running the pencil along the rear edge of the top.

· TIP: Marking hard counter tops is much easier if you make the marks on 1” masking tape. The tape makes the marks easier to see which makes for more accurate cut

  • Make all trim to length cuts on the end opposite the end with the support strip
  • When you come to the section where the sink will be installed, trim the section as needed before cutting the opening for the sink.
  • Clamp the sink cutout template in place and cut around it using a router and straight bit. Repeat these steps when you come to the section for the drop in cook top.
  • With all the sections cut and fitted start securing them in place with silicone caulk. When you come to an edge that mates against another section clean it with denatured alcohol,
  • Using a hot glue gun secure four pieces of square scrap counter top material near the front and back edges of the sections mating together
  • Using the tinted epoxy and the special epoxy gun that comes with the counter top kit apply a generous coating of epoxy to both sides of the mating strip. Then use “C”-clamps to pull both sections tightly together.
  • Important: do not wipe off any epoxy that squeezes out because you will remove hardening agents from the epoxy extending it hardening time and causing the joints to become weaker. After the epoxy hardens completely you can sand off the squeeze out.
  • Use denatured alcohol to loosen the hot glue so you can remove the clamp blocks
  • Once the epoxy is thoroughly hardened and the clamp blocks removed sand all the joints using a belt sander. Begin the process with 100-grit sand paper and moving to 150-grit sandpaper. Finish the sanding process with 220-grit sandpaper.
  • Fill the exposed ends of the counter top with the special filler strips that came with the kit using the same two-part epoxy
  • Then sand the whole counter top with 220-griat paper. For a high gloss finish buff the top using a buffing bonnet on an orbital sander.
  • If you installed an under mount sink you will need to drill holes in the counter top at this point for the faucets
  • Using silicone install the backsplash against the wall. If the wall is uneven, wedge the backslash in place with short lengths of wood braced against the front lip of the upper cabinets








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Comments (6)

Good job as usual on this Factoid. I just want to put in my two cents as a former granite counter top installer: Granite is a better and more natural product. If it cost the same I would choose granite over solid surfacing. With a nice stainless steel under-mount sink...You will be pleased. Counter top trick of the trade that you didn't mention: Make a template! 1) Cut 1/4" Luan into three inch strips. 2) Use a hotmelt glue gun to make a "frame" the exact size of your counter tops -fabricate right from that. 3) Make notes and mark template for sink hole cut out.

That was an excellent suggestion about making a cutting template from Luan for the undermount sink. It was an omission on my part partly because many sinks now come with templates and partly because when you order a counter top kit and specify the sink and drop in cook top that you will be using they too supply the cutout template. I also agree with you about the granite counter tops and may do a Factoid on that material in the future, this Coriam factoid was requested by one of the administrators. Another type of counter top that I may cover in the future is concrete counter tops.

Can't wait for those next ones! I didn't explain myself correctly in that last comment. I was suggesting that they use the strips to template the entire counter top in order to use it to cut the granite (or solid surfacing) It IS better to just use the paper template that comes with the sink, just mark on the wood template to indicate the location. This is the most fool proof way. This is how we would do it before sawing into a $2000.00 slab of granite! I've done one Concrete counter top I have not been back to see how it held up after 4 years, but it looked great when it was done.

My folks paid a small fortune for a straight run solid surface top. This would have been great.

Thank you so much for the guide for solid surface countertops, it's very valuable

billy skaggs

I would like to learn more about seaming solid surface countertop (ssc) material. Could I use a product designed for granite seaming and the coloring agents for the different colors of ssc material. It seems like I could save money if I install ssc without buying a different seaming agent for each color of ssc. Your thoughts on this subject would be apreciated. Billy