Part Five: Putting in the Countertops and Worksurfaces

Now that the wall and base cabinets are in place, you’re presumably standing there, tools in hand, eager to install the new work surfaces. There is no longer any need to hold back from yelling, “We’ll see who’s bloody useless,” back into the living room. Then, sprinkle in DIY catastrophe clichés like “Rome wasn’t built in a day, y’know,” and “When you’re a perfectionist, it takes a bit longer than usual” throughout the day.

Adding technical jargon that no one else will understand but will make you appear suitable (such as “The wall contours are misaligned, but I can get around that”) is also helpful. You have my sympathy, and I hope that by reading the following essay, your problems will soon be ended. These may have the desired impact and help you to reclaim some form of respect from your family.

The means available

There are many options for worktop materials, but since laminate is so popular, I’ll focus on that here. Templating is necessary for all of these materials, and many of the guidelines for installing laminate tops will be applicable, so this will be a helpful reference for professionals installing materials like granite, corian, and stainless steel.

Take a look at these laminate top installation necessities:

– circular saw – jigsaw
– Electric or manual planer
Two Saw Horses in a Square
To clamp; to enclose
– Miter Cut Work Surface Template
Straight Blade Router and Half-Inch Chuck
50mm Wide Masking Tape
— Cohesive Silicone Sealant in Preferred Shade
Spanner, 10mm
Countertop Fasteners
Varnish or PVA Adhesive (for cutouts) and a File
Supplies: Tape, Pencil, and a Compass
– Contact Adhesive in a Tin
– Eye and face protection (shields, masks, etc.)

Try harder!

All worktops should be fitted correctly to have a uniform overhang from the front edge of the cabinets. A 600mm workbench, for instance, needs a 40mm overhang from a 560mm cabinet. Achieving absolute precision in this area is likely impossible. Therefore a variation of +/- 5mm is considered acceptable. This article assumes a two-joined worktop is needed for a three-sided application.

The direction of the joints is the first thing to decide. At this point, it is essential to remember to keep your joints as far away from the sink as possible. Either countertop must be overcut by 50 mm, and the length of the cabinets must be extended by 70 mm to accommodate the 20 mm overhang needed at either end.

Keeping the overhang uniform

The next step is to scribe the countertop to fit precisely into the desired installation spot. If you want to do something flush against a wall, you’ll need to write its depth (front to back). First, ensure the overhang is uniform along the whole length of the wall; if it is more than necessary because of variations in the wall’s size, don’t panic; this will be addressed later.

When scribing the countertop, I find that an old-fashioned metal compass with a long, unobstructed point works best. You can discover them in the pencil case of your kid or at a nice station. Masking tape is handy if your countertop is dark in color, but I use it every time since I’ve found that the sawdust produced by a jigsaw often erases a pencil line drawn on a dark surface.

Now that the countertop is in place with a uniform overhang and masking tape has been laid along the depth to be scribed, you may begin the scribing process. Open the compasses so the pencil and paint cover the widest gap between the countertop and the wall. Move it to the tabletop by drawing a pencil line on the masking tape as you move the compass along the border in a parallel fashion. The transferred wall shape on the work surface now has to be cut using a jigsaw unless it is so slight that a plane would do.

You can ignore the advice above if your walls are straight and flush. Still, in my experience, this is relatively uncommon, and only you can decide if the resulting space is acceptable. A gap of more than 3 millimeters between a wall and a work surface is unacceptable.

Modifying the Countertop

Use a downstroke blade on the jigsaw to cut through the countertop. This will keep the laminate from chipping or peeling during the cutting process.

Cutting along the marked line is followed by removing the masking tape, butting the worktop up against the same wall, checking that the overhang is uniform along its length, and cutting along the back edge. The male side of the worktop miter is formed by the connecting worktop to this one; once again, cut this 50mm overlength, making the worktop in its proper location. For the last countertop, start over.

Feel free to take a breather and show off your hard work to the rest of the family by saying something like, “The undulating wall finish was my biggest obstacle, but I’ve overcome it, darling, somehow” (accompanied by several puffs of exhaustion) or some other appropriate piece of technical jargon. To get another cup of tea, you should say this.

Separating Muscles

Cutting the joints should always be done from left to right, beginning at the post-formed front edge of the work surface. This is a crucial detail to remember, but it does mean turning the countertop upside down for some joints.

Assuming the room is triangular or “u” shaped, we will install the left-hand worktop from the end of the cabinets to the opposite wall. To accommodate the male miter of the adjoining worktop, a female miter will be cut into this one. The many references to men and women in this text may be puzzling initially, but their true meanings will become clear once the paper is sliced.

These days, you can buy worktop templates online, and they come in a wide range of widths with clear instructions on how to use them. Location pins are provided and inserted into the appropriate holes to cut male or female miters. Clamp securely to the workbench and set the nails for a female miter.

To make accurate cuts through the top, you must equip your router with a collet of the proper size (often 30mm in diameter) for use in the worktop jig. Allow the router to cut into the top without applying too much pressure and at a depth of around 10 mm per pass.

Next, locate the bolts for the worktop and cut them where they will be most valuable and easy to access. The pins on the worktop jig are used to find the bolt template again. In two passes, router out the top to a depth sufficient to accommodate the bolts.

After ensuring the proper overhang, set the work surface in place. Mount a scrap of countertop on the counter’s upper cabinets perpendicular to the wall. Place the adjacent worktop to lie over the mitered top and the offcut. Use a combination square to verify that the overhang from the cabinets is still accurate, as this top will be 30–40 mm above the cabinet, depending on the size canopy you are fitting. At the same time, check that the front edge of this top meets the miter’s beginning in the female joint. The combination square is a valuable tool for double-checking this.

Trace the edge of the female joint with a fine pencil to identify the reverse of this top. Also, make a note of where the jointing bolts for the countertop will go.

Take the cover off and make a mark 9mm behind where the pencil was. Once the location pins are moved into the male miter position, the template can be placed at this line. The 9mm dimension is the usual allowance for the collet after the router is positioned inside the template, and my experience has shown that this is true across the board. This guideline applies to router cuts, even those made with a straight line offcut as a template.

Make a male miter cutout for the countertop bolts, this time on the bottom. Position this worktop, inspect the joint and cut a female and male miter on the adjacent top.

Sink and appliance inset assembly

Any built-ins, such as sink or stove, must be ripped out before the seams can be sealed. The sink should be installed upside down on the top before installing faucets. Make a ring of pencil marks around it, remove the sink, and shift the spots inward by 10 mm. Make a cut line along the underside of the tops at the end of each run.

Remove the counter and prop it up on two workhorses to make cutting easier. Cut out the sink by drilling a hole 10 mm in diameter directly inside the cutting line. Brush on some varnish or PVA adhesive to the cut ends. This will prevent water from seeping around the edges if that happens.

Applying the waterproof coating over the underside edge of the sink will prevent this, though. This may already be installed or included with the sink; if not, a bead of silicone sealant can be used instead.

First, cut notches in the countertop where the sink’s mounting clips will rest against the cabinets to install the sink. This won’t be essential if the hooks are mounted over a washing machine or dishwasher. Pull the clamps closer together and remove any surplus sealant. If there are any other countertop appliances, repeat these steps.

Putting on laminate trim

The laminate ends of the work surfaces can now be attached after being trimmed to fit. You can get a 20mm overhang by adding 11mm to your earlier markings. If you want a longer overhang, subtract 9mm from the number you pick and add it to the line. Keep the left-to-right router rule in mind by transferring this measurement to the facing side of the right-hand worktop. Use contact adhesive on the trimmed edge and the trim that came with the countertop.

Once dry, place them on the countertop so the laminate protrudes slightly beyond the front border. Lightly removing extra until flush with the work surface using a file held at a slight upward angle. Filing the excess on the underside edge is also necessary until it is flush.

Repairing the Countertop

Apply a bead of silicone between the connection of the first two worktops and the cabinets. Apply the silicone while holding the joint at an incline for the best results. It looks like we’ll need some help with this. Put the tops down gently and scrape off the sealant.

Now, tighten the worktop bolts from below while periodically inspecting the junction from above to ensure it remains flush. When the seam is squeezed tight, wipe away any excess silicone and use a hammer and scrap of wood to tap the work surface flush.

Finally, spread some sawdust across the joint, rub it in, and remove the excess with a cloth to remove the film of silicone left across the joint.


Now is the time to puff out your chest, deliver any closing technical rhetoric you may have, and relax in the glow of the accolades you so richly deserve. If you succeed, you should congratulate yourself or find an admirer to do so.

If banging on your countertops gives you hives, we have a solution. Visit our kitchen worktops website for a free online estimate on Corian, Quartz, or Silestone Worktops. Setting up Home Cooking Appliances

Tim Foley, Year: 2012, established research and information resource for the kitchen buyer, was founded by Tim Foley. T Foley Interiors serves commercial and residential customers in the UK and Ireland, specializing in installing Corian and Quartz surfaces. Project Consultant for Granada ITV shows like “Better Homes,” “60 Minute Makeover” (seasons 1&2), and “Tonight with Trevor McDonald,” among others. “New Homes or Old” continues in Part 2.

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