One major component in a kitchen facelift is the countertop. The most typical countertop material found in modern kitchens is plastic laminate, and though it is very durable, it can become faded, burned, chipped, or delaminated. Some damage can be repaired, but there comes a time when the only option is replacement.

Plastic laminate is economical, easy to maintain, and resists moisture superbly. Hundreds of colors and patterns are available. Alternative countertop materials include solid wood, ceramic tile, Corian and stone. Kitchen design centers can provide information about durability, ease of maintenance, availability, cost, and other variables.

Polished granite is also a popular choice for kitchen countertops due to its high durability and aesthetic qualities. In building and for countertops, the term “granite” is often applied to all igneous rocks with large crystals, and not specifically to those with a granitic composition.

To take out the old countertop, the sink must be disconnected and removed. Be sure the water shut-off valves are closed and the circuit breaker is tripped for the garbage disposal. Locate and remove any screws or brackets holding the top to the base cabinets. The sink hole is a good spot to cut the countertop in two. This will greatly facilitate removal. If there is a tile backsplash it will probably have to be removed to get the old countertop out and the new one in. If you can leave it, be careful not to chip any tiles. It is possible to install new Formica over old. The sink must be lifted out and the old surface thoroughly sanded and cleaned to prepare it for the contact cement. The cement is applied to the top of the old and the underside of the new Formica, which has been precut to fit, with the outside edges and the edges of the sink opening left slightly larger to be trimmed with a router after installation. The counter edge can be lined with an oak strip, sanded and oil-finished. Working with contact cement is extremely difficult. You get only one chance to make a perfect fit – it grabs instantly and allows for no adjustment. If you decide to follow this option, leave it to a professional.

Following are additional tips for countertops (based on National Kitchen & Bath Association recommendations):

  • A work area should have at least 36″ of continuous countertop.
  • At least one work area should be next to the sink.
  • There should be at least 9” of countertop on one side of the cooktop, 15″ minimum on the other side.
  • There should be at least 15″ of counter space next to or across from (no more than 48″ away) the refrigerator
  • Natural stone, such as marble, granite or slate, are costly and can take two weeks or more to fabricate. You can reduce the cost by using stone for an island top, and laminate on the other countertops.
  • Laminates come in a nearly endless range of colors and patterns, in widths from 18-60″. Wood or solid surface edging can provide a custom look, with an additional cost of between $40-$80 per five-foot run of countertop.
  • Solid surfacing offers durability, seamless construction, and an increasing variety of color and pattern. The cost is significantly higher than laminate, and this material is fabricated and installed by the distributor.

As always, consult a professional, when planning your countertop upgrade. Search our local directory and get competing quotes to ensure you get all of your questions answered and you get the best pricing available. For contractors specializing in countertops, just find your city below and get your project started today!

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