Fitting kitchen worktops is a job that most people can do as long as they have had a bit of experience with sawing straight and vertical lines through wood. The tricks are knowing how to measure up to cut difficult edges, where walls might not be at right angles, and cut-outs for pipes and other obstructions in the kitchen.
This article covers laminate worktops as they are the most widely used and easiest to install. Other harder materials should probably be fitted by professionals or very competent DIY-ers.
Cut the Worktops Roughly to Size
Plan the layout and decide where the joins for the corners are going to be. Try and avoid having any joins near the sink. The first job is to cut the various different sections of worktop down to size but leaving a good couple of inches at either end for accurate final trimming.
A circular saw will do this as long as you use a fine toothed blade. A jigsaw with a down-cutting wood blade will do the job just as well. Then level the kitchen units that you are going to mount the worktops onto, using a long spirit level.
Precision Measuring and Cutting
Offer the first piece of worktop up and set it on the cabinets. Where you are going to have to cut in the corner it to make it fit exactly, put a strip of wide masking tape down so that you can draw a line on it. Then take a large washer and place it on the worktop next to the wall. Put a pencil in the hole in the washer and draw along the wall. The washer will rotate and follow the pencil but keep it an even distance from the wall. This will transfer the line of the wall to the masking tape on the worktop.
Check the line with a long carpenter’s ruler or other straight edge to see if it is straight, even if it’s not at right angles. If it is, you can use a circular saw to cut the line but turn the worktop upside down while you cut and start at the worktop front edge. These tips will reduce damage to the visible laminate surface. If the line isn’t straight then use the same methods but use a jigsaw instead.
Dealing with Joints
There are two methods of joining kitchen worktops at corners. The first and simplest is to use a metal strip that is contoured to fit the front profile of the worktop. Cut this to length and screw it to the front of the worktop where the join is to be made. Cut the second piece of worktop that will meet it and butt it up against the metal strip. The two pieces can then be joined by a straight metal bracket underneath the worktop but leave that until all the pieces are properly cut and test fitted.
The second jointing method is more complicated but results in an almost invisible join rather than having a metal strip showing. You will need a router and a template that can be bought or hired, but that’s already put it outside the realm of basic DIY so we will not be covering it here.
Continue cutting the pieces of worktop, continually test fitting and checking as you go. An incorrect cut can be a disaster so the more you check the better the final result will be.
Fitting the Kitchen Sink
To make a hole for the sink, place it upside down on the worktop in the correct position and draw around it with a soft pencil. Then remove it and draw another line 10mm inside it which is your cutting line. Drill a hole in one corner with a 10mm drill bit (inside the cutting line!) then fit your jigsaw blade into the hole and cut the hole out.
As the line won’t be seen, it will be covered by the edge of the sink, you don’t have to worry too much about masking tape and damage to the worktop laminate. Test fit the sink and make further cuts if necessary.
Dealing with Obstructions
To cut around pipes or other obstructions use a jigsaw and a drill with large wood bits or hole saws. Cover the area with masking tape as before and mark up the shape to be cut.
You will often get a better looking finish if you drill a hole the same size as the pipe and then cut toward the hole from the edge with a jigsaw. Cutting the entire hole with a jigsaw is possible but is unlikely to give you a nice rounded profile.
Covering Cuts and Joins
Once it all fits into place neatly it’s time to prepare the worktops and attach them to the kitchen cabinets. In all the places where cut ends of worktop are visible, measure and cut pieces of laminate to glue to them. The laminate strips should come with the worktops and it can be cut with scissors or a sharp craft knife and fixed with contact adhesive, following the manufacturer’s instructions.
Where cuts can’t be covered with laminate, for example where slots have been cut for pipes, cover the whole cut area with PVA glue and allow to dry. There are also specialist sealing products that come in a range of colours to match most worktops, they can be spread over the more visible cut areas and will be less obvious than white PVA.
Final Worktop Fitting Final fitting of the worktops is a case of screwing them onto the kitchen cabinets using right-angled brackets. Fit them all finger tight and then go round tightening them once they’re all in place. Use wall brackets at the back of the worktops to bridge areas where there are no supporting cupboards such as dishwasher and washing machine cavities.
Fitting the sink is the last item. Put a bead of silicone sealant around the edge of the hole and lower the sink unit in. Fit it with the clamps provided with the sink which will draw the sink down and connect it firmly with the worktop. Take off excess sealant which has squeezed out with a wet rounded tool such as a wooden spoon handle.
Then take a step back, admire your work and put the kettle on for a well-deserved cup of tea.