How to Install a New Countertop in 7 Simple Steps

Ben Kissam
Written by Ben Kissam
Updated January 31, 2022
grey countertop in modern kitchen
Photo: Photographee.eu/ Adobe Stock

Measure twice, cut once, and don’t forget to turn the water off

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There’s nothing quite like the shine and polish of a brand new countertop—and for many homeowners, it’s a kitchen or bathroom upgrade worth making. Fresh surfaces plus a complimentary backsplash can breathe new life into areas around your home. If you’re looking for a budget-friendly option and wondering if new countertops can be installed DIY, the answer is yes, though the job is time-consuming and requires some tools. Learn how to install a new countertop in this 7-step DIY guide.

Difficulty: 4/5 Big project, big rewards

Time to complete: 1 to 2 days

Materials You’ll Need:

Tools

  • Jigsaw

  • Belt sander

  • Drill and drill bits

  • Hammer

  • Rubber mallet

  • Handsaw

  • Wrench

  • Screwdriver

  • Sandpaper

  • Tape measure

  • Level

Materials

  • Laminate countertops

  • Wood glue

  • Fastening bolts

  • Sealant

  • New backsplash (optional)

What You'll Need to Install New Countertops

Besides the list of materials above, you’ll need to check off a few more pre-project boxes before installing your new countertops. Here are additional planning items to consider:

  • Your new countertops budget

  • The countertops material you wish to install

  • The colors, textures, and patterns to find the right match

  • How your new countertops fit into an overall renovation

Popular materials include granite and other natural stone countertops, which a granite countertop installation company can do. However, composite material and laminate are popular and much easier (and lighter) to DIY install. Laminate countertops cost between $800 and $1,650 to install new, making them one of the most affordable options. 

Solid-surface or laminate countertops—like Formica countertops—are also easier to repair and maintain. They come in an array of countertop colors, patterns, and designs, making them truly a DIY-friendly option, in line with other materials such as reclaimed wood.

7 Steps to Install New Countertops

Assuming you’re taking the DIY route, here are the steps you’ll need to take to install your new countertops. 

1. Design and Cut Your New Countertop Template

Installing new countertops is definitely a measure-twice-cut-once-type of job. The most important (and time-consuming) first step for DIY installation is to take measurements, mark your materials, and cut the dimensions of your new laminate counters, as well as decide where appliances will go. Be sure also to account for the counter overhang, which is between three-fourths and 1 inch.

After cutting, secure your laminate countertop slab with clamps to a stable surface. Use masking tape or a pencil to measure your cut lines, then use your saw to cut as needed.  Finish by sanding the area with sandpaper or a file to smooth it out.

Note: Some premade templates may be available in home improvement stores online. If your space is a simple slab or a straightforward layout, cutting your countertops may be unnecessary, and you can order a standard prefab option.

2. Prepare the Countertop Area

bright kitchen with white countertop and grey cabinets
Photo: Photographee.eu/ Adobe Stock

Before installing your beautiful new countertops or even removing the old ones, some prep work is necessary.

You’ll need to:

  • Disconnect your water source to the kitchen or bathroom where you’re working

  • Remove appliances, such as the sink, range, and drain trap

  • Scrape away the caulking that holds your backsplash in place

  • Remove the old backsplash and any extra tiles

If you are reinstalling the same appliances later, put them somewhere safe. Also, make sure your screws and other installation materials stay organized nearby. 

3. Remove the Old Countertop

With the caulking gone along the wall that connected the backsplash, remove the corner bolts and screws that hold your old countertop in place. With the bolts and screws out, you should be able to slide the old countertop off in one piece. If your old counters were attached with silicone, you might need to run a warm, damp rag over the silicone to loosen it up, then use an abrasive scrubbing pad to help remove what's left.

Enlist the help of a friend or family member to lift your old counter and move it somewhere out of the way.

4. Dry Fit the New Countertop

Now to test your measuring work, place the new countertop you’ve already cut over the area. Check to see that it fits. Most importantly, your new countertops should fit snugly against the walls. You may need to use a belt sander to account for any minor dimension or cutting errors.

5. Secure Your New Countertop to the Cabinets

Once you’ve got the right fit, it’s time to secure your new countertops. Each manufacturer will recommend its specific process for attaching its products. For laminate countertops, there are two likely possibilities:

  1. You’ll have to apply caulk or manufacturer adhesive along the top edges of your cabinet where the new countertops meet. In this case, you may need to use shims (small pieces of wood) every 12 to 18 inches to hold your counter up slightly while the glue dries.

  2. Your laminate countertops peel-and-stick, and you only need to remove the barrier when installation time comes.

Let the adhesive dry for several hours, and then check your work. If there are any gaps or holes, add more caulk to those areas. Finally, if applicable, fasten your countertops to the cabinets with screws or bolts.

6. Reinstall Your Backsplash and Seal the Wall Joint

bright kitchen with white countertop and blue cabinets
Photo: Photographee.eu/ Adobe Stock

At this point, the only area still exposed should be the space between your wall and new countertops. The easiest way to do this is to draw one even line across the top with a caulk gun.  

If you need to spruce up the wall next to the new counter, consider installing tile for your backsplash—the possibilities are kind of endless. 

Before reinstalling appliances, let your backsplash and wall joint dry for at least four hours.

7. Reinstall Your Appliances

Finally, hook up the appliances you took out earlier. Once your sink is back in place, turn the water resource back on and check it.

DIY Countertop Installation vs. Hiring a Pro

That said, some instances may warrant hiring countertop installation specialists. For example, if you decide to install heavy materials like a granite slab or quartz countertops. Because these types of countertops are extremely heavy, they must be safely secured and supported by the cabinetry. A pro’s work will guarantee the job is done right and not lead to any costly mistakes.

Other circumstances that may dictate hiring a countertop specialist include:

  • If you’re renovating your entire kitchen or bathroom simultaneously

  • If your countertops have several cutout appliances spaces (e.g., sinks, dishwashers)

  • If you don’t have access to the right tools or know how to use them safely

Additional Questions

How do I measure my countertops’ surface?

The easiest way is to calculate the length in sections, using a tape measure to determine the length and width of each section. When it comes to an area with an appliance, remove the dimensions of each object as you work. Once you’ve done all sections, add the numbers together to get your final figure. 

How do I do the outside corners on my countertops?

Miter joints and butt joints are two popular methods for laminate countertops. Research the mirror cutting technique to help you get started. If this part of the task seems out of your wheelhouse, it might be worth hiring a contractor to do the job, so you get a tight fit with no gap.

Which natural stone countertops increase a home’s value?

Besides being heavy-duty and highly durable, natural stone countertops like granite can help add resale value to your home. Other stones like quartz and marble also boost a home's value.

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