Your Guide to Selecting and Installing Corian Countertops
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Your Guide to Selecting and Installing Corian Countertops

Corian is a brand of solid surface countertops that was developed by the industrial powerhouse DuPont.  As such it is the original and best available solid surface countertop you can buy.  It represents the best choice in several areas, some of which include sanitation, ease of use and maintenance, ease of installation, and design options.  Corian can be built for you in hundreds of colors with any style of edge you can imagine (bullnose, for example) and is extremely versatile.  Corian is microscopically much tighter than granite and can be easily disinfected for safe food preparation.  It is easily repaired even in the worst case scenario (such as burns or cracks).  It never needs to sealed like granite or concrete and lasts much longer than veneers.  It really is an amazing material.

Corian tops will usually be built from templates that have been made from the layout of your installed cabinets.  It is standard procedure for them to be built up to 1/4" too large in the rear (and sometimes on one side depending on the layout) so that they can be scribed to fit with close tolerances.  The primary tools you will need are an angle grinder with a very rough (60 grit) sandpaper wheel and a tube of clear silicone with a caulk gun.  The dripless models are particularly handy.  I recommend keeping a tube of paintable white latex caulk on hand for the finish work.

You'll want to start with the smallest top first.  You'll find that an assistant with particularly overdeveloped muscles may be handy to keep on standby for this task.  Divert his attention with snacks and soda until such time as you can bark orders for help in lifting these heavy things.

If the tops have a large edge on the finished side (like a 2" bullnose) you'll need to check them to make sure you don't need to screw strips of buildup material to the top rear edges of the cabinets, ensuring your Corian tops are level front to rear.  It's not a bad idea, while you have the tape in your hand, to also grab the level and double check the work of the cabinet installer.  Check to be sure your tops have been built to the correct size for the cabinet layout and that the base cabinets are level.  Check the height of the backsplash as well.  This is especially important for Corian tops with coved full-height splash.  I'm going to assume for the sake of this article that the Corian tops you're installing are not enormous and therefore do not require you to perform a field seam operation.  If you need this information please respond with a comment and I will cover this advanced topic.

Once you're sure your tops will fit their respective cabinets and will sit level on them, you can dry fit them.  Lay them on carefully by resting the front edge against the face frame of the cabinets and then carefully lowering the back edge down until it rests on them.  Check for gaps.  Push the top tight to the rear wall or rear and side wall.  If you're installing a top with walls on three sides, start with one side of the front edge resting on the face frame and then lower the high rear corner gently into the nook.  If it touches the wall before it's all the way down, pull it out and ease that corner with your grinder.  It doesn't have to be pretty because you'll be grinding on a part of the top that will never be seen.  Repeat this method until you're sure the top will go down without causing a strain in your relationship with the painter, who will have to fix your gashes in the sheetrock.

Scribe the rear and/or side edges by 1) making sure the top is pushed as far into place rearward as possible, and 2) holding a pencil at the edge of the countertop at the point of the largest gap, resting that hand against the wall, and keeping steady, drawing a line on the countertop.  This method is easily mastered with practice.  What it does is replicate the undulations in the wall onto the countertop so that you can remove material accordingly, ensuring your tops fit with a caulkable (1/16") gap.  Be careful to steady the countertop sufficiently so that you can use two hands on the grinder, and go slowly.  You can remove material but you cannot put it back (easily).

Once you're sure you have a good tight fit, pull the top off the cabinets and set it aside.  If it's a smaller top, just leave your assistant holding it for you while you go on to the next step.  Be sure to ask him for a match or something.  With your tube of clear silicone, place a quarter-sized dollop of silicone on the back top edge of every cabinet.  Corners should get a blob as well, and you'll want to do the same on the front edge as well.  I would place a blob of silicone no more frequently than every 24".  If these ever need to be removed or uninstalled, any more silicone than this will evoke profanity from the demo crew.  Be sure to push the tops tight to the back and/or side wall so that your nicely scribed edge has as small a gap as possible.

Repeat this method for all tops.  Installation is actually very easy once the initial foray into the unknown has been accomplished.  Once all your tops are installed, grab your tube of paintable latex caulk.  I recommend the Benjamin Moore caulk; it can be applied and then painted in two hours without shrinking or cracking.  It's worth paying a buck or two more to get the job done right.  Clip off the tip of the tubewith a razor knife to make as small an opening as possible (about 1/16").  Apply from corner to corner without stopping.  Lay off the caulk by wiping it with your finger.  Great results are obtained shielding your finger with a wetted and thoroughly wringed old cotton t-shirt remnant.  This allows you to keep your finger clean and provides a place for the excess caulk to be wiped.  Touch up the line and any dings with paint.

If you have any tops with large overhangs (12" or more) that would typically be installed as a bar or on an island, you'll need to reinforce the overhand with steel.  What I have used in the past are 1/2" thick by 1 1/2" wide solid steel bars or 1" squared hollow steel tubes.  It depends upon the installation and the height of the finished edge.  If your tops have a large finished edge you may have up to 1 1/2" of freedom to work with in regard to the thickness of your steel.  The basic principle you're working with here is that of the cantilever.  The steel provides support from the edge of the Corian back past the face frame or finished edge of the cabinet.  To do this, the steel needs to cantilever past the edge of the cabinets toward their interiors.  I would silicone my steel onto the bottom side of the tops at about 16" or 24" on center before installing them on the cabinets.  This is plenty of support.

I hope this covers the high points of the proper installation of Corian tops.  I hope this article helps you with any particular questions you may have about the method to the madness.  With any luck, you'll be enjoying your Corian tops in no time, bragging about how awesome and amazing you are, because you installed them yourself.  And you know what?  You deserve that attention!  Just be sure to pay off that assistant with more chips and soda.

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Comments (3)
corian countertops

Great article. Corian is still one of the easiest products to work with.

We didn't try with the corian, but when renewing our kitchen will do apply the instructions on solid surface countertops installation .. but still thank you for the article

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