Well, the wall units are up, the base units are fitted and you’re probably stood there, tools at the ready and chomping at the bit to fit your new worktops. You can now shout back into the living room, “We’ll see who’s bloody useless”. Then throughout the day, throw in a couple of those old DIY-disaster favourites; “Rome wasn’t built in a day y’know” and “when you’re a perfectionist it takes a bit longer than usual”.
It’s also useful to add a couple of technical terms that no one else will understand but will make you look good – as in “The wall contours are misaligned but I can get around that”. These may have the desired effect and allow you to regain some semblance of respect from your family – either way you have my sympathies and I hope that by reading this next article your troubles will soon be over.
The tools to use
Worktops are available in a variety of materials but for this article I shall be concentrating on the installation of laminate tops as they are the most widely used. For materials such as, Ceramic, Quartz, Solid Surfaces and Stainless Steel that are fitted by specialists, this will be a useful reference, as templating is required for them all and many of the rules for the fitting of laminate tops will be appropriate.
- Circular saw
- Plane or Electric planer
- Combination Square
- 2 Saw Horses
- Worktop Template (for Mitres)
- ½ inch Router and straight blade
- Masking Tape 50mm wide
- Silicone Sealant of a best match colour
- 10mm spanner
- Worktop bolts
- Varnish or PVA Adhesive (for cut-outs)
- Tin of contact adhesive
- Protective wear (goggles, dust mask etc)
It is important to maintain an even overhang from the front edge of the cabinets and this is the target to aim for in the correct fitting of all worktops. As an example, a 600mm worktop should overhang a 560mm cabinet by 40mm. It may not always be possible to achieve perfection in this respect and + or – 5mm is acceptable. For the purpose of this article I will assume a three-sided application that requires two worktop joints is required.
Decide first which way the joints should run. Remember at this stage to avoid joint proximity to a sink wherever possible. Each worktop should be cut 50mm oversize and, when taking into account the 20mm overhang required at the end of the cabinets, you should add 70mm to overall cabinet length.
Ensuring an even overhang
Next task is to scribe the worktop to fit the elevation to which it is to be installed. You must first scribe the depth (front to back) if fitted up against a wall. Remember first to check you have an even overhang along its length and if at this stage if the overhang is greater than what is required due to unevenness along the wall length, don’t worry, this will be dealt with next.
To scribe the worktop, I find that a compass gives the best results, particularly the older type metal one with a long unobstructed point. You may purchase them at a good stationers but I find they are best acquired from your children’s pencil case. Masking tape will prove invaluable if your worktop is a dark colour but I apply it every time now regardless of the shade as I find that when cutting along a pencil line applied directly to the work top, the sawdust given off by the jigsaw tends to remove the line.
So the worktop is in place with an even overhang and you have applied masking tape along the depth to be scribed. You must now open up the compasses pencil and point to match the widest gap between the worktop and wall. Transfer this to the worktop by running the compass along the wall keeping it parallel thus leaving a pencil line on the masking tape. You are now left with the shape of the wall transferred to the worktop and this should be cut with a jigsaw unless it is so minimal that a plane will suffice.
Of course all the above can be disregarded if your walls are fairly straight and flush but in my experience this is a rarity and your own judgement will tell you whether the gap left is acceptable or not. My own yardstick for a wall to worktop maximum gap would be no greater than 3mm.
Cutting the worktops
To cut the worktop with a jigsaw uses a downstroke blade. This will prevent any unsightly spelches of the laminate whilst cutting.
After cutting along the line, remove the masking tape, butt the worktop up to the same wall, ensure the overhang is even along its length and repeat the process along the back edge. The connecting worktop to this one will form the male side of the worktop mitre and, again cutting this 50mm overlength, repeat the above process making sure the worktop is in its relevant position. Repeat the process again for the final worktop.
You can now take a well-deserved break – call the family in to view your complex achievement – appropriate technical jargon at this stage is useful, especially the old DIY classic “the undulating wall finish was my biggest obstacle but I’ve overcome it darling, somehow” (accompany this with several puffs of exhaustion). This should win you a second cuppa.
Now it’s time to cut the joints and this must always be carried out in a left to right motion commencing at the postformed front edge of the worktop. This will render turning the worktop upside down for certain joints but it is an extremely important point to remember.
Assuming the configuration is a three sided or u-shaped kitchen we will start with the left hand worktop that runs full cabinet length up to the returning wall. This worktop will have a female mitre cut into it in order to accept the male mitre of the connecting worktop. All the references to male and female might be a little confusing but they are so called for reasons that may become apparent once cut, and if this still remains confusing ask mummy or daddy!
Worktop templates are now widely available for various worktop widths and are supplied with detailed instructions for use. Location pins are provided and these are placed in the relevant holes for the cutting of male or female mitres. Set the pins for a female mitre, place template on the face edge and clamp firmly to the worktop.
A relevant sized collet for use as a guide in the worktop jig, usually 30mm diameter, must be fitted to your router before cutting into the top. Set the router to approximately cut 10mm depth for each pass and allow the router to cut into the top without forcing the machine.
Once complete you must now cut the worktop bolts in a relevant and accessible position on the underside of the worktop. The template for the bolts is again located with pins on the worktop jig. Set the depth to accept the bolts and using two cuts router out the worktop.
Now place the work surface in position checking the overhang is correct. Place an offcut of worktop on top of the cabinets of the adjoining worktop close to the opposite wall. Position the adjoining worktop to lay over the already mitred top and the offcut. As this top will be 30/40mm above the cabinet, depending on what size top you are fitting, use a combination square to make sure the overhang from the cabinets is still correct. Ensure at the same time that the front edge of this top aligns with the start of the mitre in the female joint. This can be checked again with the combination square.
Using a sharp pencil mark the underside of this top by running the pencil along the edge of the female joint. At the same time mark the position of the worktop jointing bolts.
Remove this top and mark a line 9mm behind the pencil line. This line marks where the template will sit once the location pins are set to the male mitre position. The 9mm measurement is the allowance for the collet once the router is placed within the template and is standard with all templates I have experience of. This rule must be applied for every cut when using a router even straight cuts using a straight line offcut as a template.
Cut the male mitre, this time on the underside, and cut out for the worktop bolts. Position this worktop in place making sure the joint looks good and then repeat the process of cutting a female mitre on this top and a male mitre on the last adjoining top.
Fitting sink and inset appliances into your worktops
Before sealing the joints you should cut out any inset appliances such as the sink or hob. Place the tops in their position and prior to fitting the taps, place the sink upside down in position on the top. Mark around it with a pencil, remove the sink and mark a new line 10mm in from the sink edge. At the same time mark a line along the underside of the tops at the end of each run in order to cut the worktops to length.
Remove the worktop and place it temporarily on two workhorses for ease of cutting. Drill a 10mm hole just inside the cutting line and cut out for the sink. Apply varnish or PVA adhesive with a brush to the exposed edges. This will protect the edges against water ingress should thisoccur .
To prevent this however, you will need to apply the waterproof seal around the underside edge of the sink. This may be pre-installed or supplied with the sink but if it is not, you should apply a bead of silicone sealant in its place.
Now you should fit the sink into the worktop, chiselling out for the fixing clips that will be sitting directly on the cabinets. Should the clips be located over a dishwasher or washing machine this will not be necessary. Tighten the clips and wipe away any excess sealant. Repeat this process for any further appliances fitted into the worktop.
Applying laminate worktop edging
You can now take the opportunity to fix the laminate edges to the worktop ends but first they must be cut to size. To the marks made earlier add 11mm for a 20mm overhang. You may require a greater overhang, if so, deduct your choice by 9mm and add this measurement to the line. Remember to transfer this measurement to the face side for the right hand worktop in order to maintain the left to right router rule. Apply contact adhesive to the cut end and to the edging which should be supplied with the worktop.
Allow them to become touch dry then apply to the worktop ensuring that the laminate just stands proud of the face edge. Using a file at a slight upward angle, gently remove excess until flush with the worktop. The underside edge will have a greater overhang and this also needs removing with a file until flush.
Fixing your worktop
Place the first two worktops back in position on top of the cabinets and apply a bead of silicone between the joint. To do this successfully, raise the joint at an angle and apply the silicone. This will probably require an extra hand. Gently lower the tops and remove the excess sealant.
Now, from the underside, fit the worktop bolts and tighten up while at intervals checking the joint remains flush from above. When the joint is pulled together remove the excess silicone and gently tap the worktop flush with a hammer using a scrap piece of wood.
Finally, to remove the film of silicone left across the joint, apply some sawdust across the joint, rub it in and remove the excess with a cloth.
Now it’s time to expand that chest, utter some final technical rhetoric and sit back and revel in those well-deserved plaudits that you’ll surely be showered with.
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