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Part 5: Putting in the Countertops and Worksurfaces How to Put Together a Kitchen


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. Now you can yell, “We’ll see who’s bloody useless,” back into the living room. Also, sprinkle in DIY disaster staples 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.

Throw in a couple of industry jargon phrases like “the wall contours are misaligned, but I can get around that” to sound smart and impress your audience. 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.

Equipment for use

Although there is a vast choice of materials from which to choose, the most common type of worktop is laminate, which is what I’ll be covering in this piece. 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.

The equipment necessary to set up laminate countertops is listed below.

– circular saw – jigsaw
– Electric or manual planer
Square with Combination and Two Sawhorses
Straps with Clamps
– Miter Cut Work Surface Template
Straight Blade Router and Half-Inch Chuck
Tape for Masking, 50mm Wide
— Cohesive Silicone Sealant in Preferred Shade
In other words, a 10mm spanner
Countertop Fasteners
Varnish or PVA Adhesive (for cutouts) & a File
– Tape – Graphite – Compass
Contact Adhesive in a Tin
– Safety equipment (face mask, gloves, etc.)

To the mark!

The perfect installation of all worktops should result in a uniform overhang from the front edge of the cabinets. A 600mm workbench, for instance, needs a 40mm overhang from a 560mm cabinet. Perfection in this regard is not always feasible. Hence a variation of +/- 5mm is considered satisfactory. This article assumes a two-joined worktop is needed for a three-sided application.

You must first determine the orientation of the joints. 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 following step is to scribe the countertop to the desired height. If it is to be installed flush against a wall, the depth (front to back) must first be scribed. First, ensure the overhang is uniform along the whole wall length; if it is more than necessary because of variations in the wall’s size, don’t panic; this will be addressed later.

The ideal tool for scribing the countertop, in my experience, is an old-fashioned metal compass with a long, unimpeded point. You can get these from a decent stationery store, but I recommend raiding your kids’ pencil pouch instead. Masking tape is beneficial if your workbench 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 directly on the worktop.

Now that the countertop is in place with a flush overhang, you can scribe it by applying masking tape along the depth. Now, you need to extend the compasses’ pencil and point to the same width as the space between the desk and the wall, if any. To transfer this to the countertop, draw a parallel line with a pencil on the masking tape by running the compass along the border. A jigsaw will be needed to remove the imprint of the wall from the countertop unless the modification is so slight that a plane can be used instead.

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.

Work surface slicing

Use a jigsaw with a downstroke blade to make clean cuts on the countertop. This will ensure the laminate doesn’t chip or crack when cut.

After cutting along the marked line, peel off the masking tape, but the worktop against the same wall, and check the overhang to ensure consistency from one end to the other. The male side of the worktop miter is formed by the connecting worktop to this one; once again, cut this 50mm overlength, ensuring the worktop is in its appropriate location. For the last countertop, start over.

In this phase, appropriate technical jargon is helpful, especially the old DIY classic “The undulating wall finish was my biggest obstacle, but I’ve overcome it, darling, somehow” (accompanied by several puffs of exhaustion), and you can now relax and show off your complex achievement to the family. Hopefully, this will get you another cup of tea.

Splitting seams

Cutting the joints is the next step. Always start at the post-formed front edge of the worktop and work your way to the right. This is a crucial detail to remember, but it does mean turning the countertop upside down for some joints.

The left-hand worktop, which extends the entire length of the cabinets and meets the returning wall in a three-sided or u-shaped kitchen, will be our starting point. 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 find worktop templates in various widths, and they all come with comprehensive instructions. To cut a male or female miter, the provided location pins are inserted into the appropriate holes. Clamp securely to the workbench and set the nails for a female miter.

Before cutting into the top, you must equip your router with a collet of the appropriate size to serve as a guide in the worktop jig, often 30mm in diameter. 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.

Check that the overhang is correct before setting the work surface in place. Put a scrap of countertop over the counter’s storage units next to the wall on the other side. Lay the adjacent worktop over the top and offcut that has already been mitered. 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. The front edge of this top should line up with the miter’s beginning in the female joint simultaneously. The combination square is a valuable tool for double-checking this.

Run a pointed pencil along the edge of the female joint to make a mark on the reverse of this top. Also, make a note of where the jointing bolts for the countertop will go.

Take off this cap and make a mark 9 mm behind where the pencil was. The template will sit at this line if you set the placement pins to the male miter position. All the templates I’ve ever used have had a 9mm notch cut out for the router’s collet. Thus that’s the standard measurement. This guideline applies to any router cuts, including perfectly straight cuts made with an offcut in the same orientation as the desired cut.

Remove the underside male miter and make holes for the countertop bolts. Place this worktop, inspect the joint, and cut a female miter on it and a male miter on the adjacent top.

Sink and appliance inset assembly

Cut out the area for the sink or stove before sealing the seams. Before installing the faucets, set the sink upside down on the countertop where it will rest. Make a ring of pencil marks around it, remove the sink, and shift the spots inward by 10 mm. After each run, mark a line along the underside of the tops so they can be trimmed to size.

Remove the counter and prop it up on two workhorses to make cutting easier. Create a hole for the sink by drilling a 10mm hole 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.

However, you can avoid this problem by using waterproof sealant around the underside of the sink’s rim. Sometimes, this will come with the sink itself; if not, a bead of silicone sealant will do the trick.

First, cut notches in the countertop where the sink’s mounting clips will rest against the cabinets to install the sink. If the hooks are installed above a washing machine or dishwasher, there’s no need for this. Pull the clips closer together and remove any excess sealant. If there are any other countertop appliances, repeat these steps.

Embellishing with laminate

The laminate edges can be fastened to the ends of the work surfaces now that they have been trimmed to fit. Add 11 millimeters to the initial markings to get a 20-millimeter overhang. 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 edging of the countertop.

Once they are dry to the touch, apply them to the countertop to flush the laminate with the front edge. Gently file away the surplus until it is level with the countertop. A more significant overhang will appear on the underneath edge; this, too, must be filed down until the two surfaces are flush.

Repairing the Countertop

Reinstall the first two countertops on the cabinets and run a bead of silicone along the seam to seal it. Apply the silicone while holding the joint at an incline for the best results. We could use some help with this. Slowly take the covers down and peel off the sealant.

Now, tighten the worktop bolts from below, examining the joint for flushness from above at regular intervals. 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, put some sawdust across the joint, rub it in, and wipe any excess with a towel to remove the film of silicone left behind from the joint.


You have earned the applause that is about to rain down upon you, so puff out your chest, spout forth some final technical language, and relax. If you do this, you should congratulate yourself or find an admirer to do so.

We have a solution for those who break out in hives at the prospect of banging on their countertops. You may get a free estimate on kitchen worktops made of Corian, Quartz, or Silestone by visiting our kitchen worktops website. Putting in New Home Appliances

Tim Foley, Year: 2012

Tim Foley created the trusted online resource [http://www.kitchensfitted.co.uk] for the kitchen shopping community. 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 and 60 Minute Makeover (1&2) and Tonight with Trevor McDonald are among his television credits. “New Homes or Old” continues in Part 2.

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