Granite countertops are a huge draw for so many homeowners because of their beauty and durability. These advantages also come at a price for this gorgeous natural stone. This fact has led many do-it-yourselfers to consider how to install granite countertops themselves! While this is not a task for the novice weekend warrior, it is entirely doable with all the right tools, and by carefully following prescribed steps to ensure that your beautiful granite counters are installed securely and safely.
Again, this is not a project for a home improvement newbie. But before the how of how to install granite countertops can be tackled, you must be sure to have all the tools and materials needed to get the job done right. The tools list alone is proof of the minimum equipment, knowledge, and experience to get this install done right! Luckily, there are so many “handy” folks out there—if you’re not a seasoned DIYer, surely you have a friend or family member who is and will help you.
The tools needed for such a job include:
a grinder, a dry-cut segmented diamond blade, a jigsaw, a regular size level, a 6-foot level, a 2-foot level, a screwdriver, a carpenter’s square, a pencil, a utility knife, at least two sawhorses, a drill, a spade bit, a vix bit, a granite cutter, a circular saw, a caulk gun, a buffer, rags, and a dust mask. But we’re not done yet; other needed materials are kraft paper, duct tape, polyester-based resin, toothpicks, 2×4 boards, masking tape, cardboard, screws, ¾” plywood that will coordinate with you countertop area, a buffing pad, a mixing plate, your sink, and your granite countertop components. Those lists can be dizzying; but those tools and materials are vital for ensuring that you install your granite countertops so they’ll function properly and safely.
Now that you have your granite chosen and your tools and materials gathered, you are ready to learn how to install granite countertops in your kitchen!
The first major task involves measuring your countertop area and cutting your ¾” plywood sheets to sit atop those areas under the granite. This step is huge because the plywood will support the heavy granite as it sits on your cabinets, providing you with gorgeous counter space. The importance of carefully and accurately measuring your intended countertop area cannot be understated. Be sure to take into account that overhang that you wish for your counters to have—this is typically 1 to 1.5 inches, but will be more if you’re creating an island eating area. Most of all, you want to be sure to consider the bull-nose edge of the granite when measuring so that there is enough room for the bull-nose edge to clear the drawers and doors of your cabinetry. Once your measuring is done, you’ll draw out this area with pencil onto your plywood sheets and then carefully cut those sheets with your jigsaw.
Once all your cutting is complete, then attach the plywood to the cabinets with the screws by drilling a pilot hole so that you avoid splitting the wood. Your next task is to prep your granite slabs for installation. Remember that these slabs are heavy—often weighing more than 200 pounds each! Keep in mind with all that weight comes some potential for the granite to be brittle, so handle those pieces very carefully. Before you go laying granite though, you want to use that kraft paper or other sturdy material to create a template of your countertops. This will help you determine if you have any wall space that is not perfectly square—and these are so much easier to move around than granite slabs at this point in the process. The templates will allow you to mark where on the granite there may be any imperfections in the walls, allowing you to then go back and scribe (or slightly reshape) those places on your granite so that the slabs sit flush against your walls. If you need to scribe a slab to fit, apply duct tape to the base of the saw to protect the granite, and then use your circular saw with a dry-cut segmented diamond blade. After scribing, retest the pieces that are cut, and be cautious with long, thin pieces that could snap.
This next major installation task involves your sink area. Temporarily place the granite for the counter with your sink, trace the exact line around the opening for the sink onto the plywood below the granite, then remove that granite slab so you can cut you’re the hole for your sink. This is where your spade bit will come in handy, as you’ll use it to make the pilot hole in that plywood (to get you started) and then your jigsaw to cut around the sink outline you traced. Then your sink is ready to drop into place; and you can then replace your granite.
Joining the granite seams in the next major step. Use your level to ensure uniformity. Then adjust the height of your screws as needed for any height adjustments you may require to ensure your counters are level. (At this point, your kitchen is looking more and more like a kitchen!)
Now that you know your granite slabs will be level, the next big step (with help) is to lift each slab and apply your caulk in half-dollar dollops every 6 to 12 inches around the perimeter of the cabinets. Also place a bead of caulk around the rim of your sink; then apply a second bead of caulk to serve as the waterproof gap between your sink and counters.
Lastly, you’re going to color your polyester-based resin to match your granite color before you begin gluing the granite seams. Once you have the colors matched, begin dabbing the resin into the seams, smoothing those seams as you go. After you’ve give the resin about 30 minutes to dry, you’ll go back with a seam stone and, using a slow and steady speed and firm pressure, keep the stone moving in small circles to smooth the dried resin seam. You’ll be able to feel when it’s smooth. At last, all your careful planning, measuring, and hard work have paid off—your gorgeous granite is now part of your kitchen.