You’ll never take your kitchen and bathroom countertops for granite again
Upgrading your home’s kitchen and bathroom countertops to granite can level up the aesthetics and functionality of your space. Learning how to install granite countertops can help cut costs, but be sure you’re up to the challenge of an advanced DIY. Granite slabs are extremely heavy—we’re talking several hundred pounds—and granite dust can get into every nook and cranny of your home. This guide covers the basics for installing granite countertops, including picking the right type of granite and caring for it.
Why Should I Consider Installing Granite Countertops?
The many benefits of granite countertops make this material a smart choice for home renovations. Granite is scratch- and burn-resistant, making it an ideal surface for the most high-traffic areas of your home (like the bathroom and kitchen). It’s also moisture-resistant and oh-so-stylish—so it’ll protect your surfaces from water damage and look good while doing it.
How Much Does It Cost to Install Granite Countertops?
All of these benefits come at a cost, though. The cost of granite countertops can be relatively expensive, ranging from $2,000 to $4,500 or $40 to $60 per square foot for a slab. Add the cost of hiring a local granite countertop contractor on top of that, and you’re looking at spending several thousands of dollars.
How to Prep for Granite Countertop Installation
There are a few essential tasks to complete before installing granite countertops, from figuring out how much you’re willing to spend to finding a slab that fits your price range.
Set a Budget and Choose a Vendor
Before you begin your search for a new granite countertop, find out exactly how much you want to spend. Granite prices vary by type, quality, and size, but having a budget beforehand will help you avoid options that aren’t a fit and get right to the ones you can afford.
In general, higher-quality granite costs more than mid- and low-quality options. The finish on a piece of granite can also impact the price. While a basic polish won’t cost extra, you can expect to pay $10 to $20 more per square foot for polished granite and $15 to $25 more per square foot for leather granite. And the more square footage you get, the more your final bill will be.
Once you have an idea of your price range, contact a granite company or browse their websites to find a fit for you.
Select Your Granite Type
Granite may come in almost countless colors, but there are only three main types in general. Find out more about the pros and cons of each one below.
Just like it sounds, polished granite is a smooth version of the stone with a reflective shine that brings out the colors and designs in the stone. It can also highlight imperfections and spills, which may not be the best option for households with small children who might be rough on surfaces or frequently leave crumbs behind. “Even though polished stone like granite seems to be water and stain proof, it is not,” says Bob Tschudi, Angi Expert Review Board member and a Raleigh, NC-based general contractor.
Slightly less shiny than its polished counterpart, honed granite is more muted and produces a matte appearance, which can dull the look of bold colors and intricate patterns. It’s also more porous than polished granite, making it even more susceptible to staining. Fortunately, this non-reflective finish hides imperfections better, so you’re less likely to notice any staining.
Diamond-tipped brushes can create a leather finish that looks and feels like leather. It’s considered to have the best qualities of honed and polished finishes since it’s less porous than the honed option but hides messes better than polished finishes.
Gather the Right Tools
Aside from a few low-cost extras, you only need the most basic tools and supplies to get the job done. Here’s everything you might need.
Angle grinder with a diamond blade
Personal protective equipment
Once you have all your tools and supplies together, you’ll also want to make sure your space is set up for the construction ahead. Detach your faucet and any other plumbing that might get in the way. While you’re at it, shut off the water in your space so no leaks occur.
Remove appliances like dishwashers, ovens, and anything else that could get damaged during installation. Finally, lay a drop cloth on the ground and over any elements of your space that you can’t easily move. For example, hang a cover over your upper cabinets with painter’s tape to ensure they aren’t scratched by any flying debris.
Installing Granite Countertops
You’ve ordered your granite, gathered your tools, and prepared your space—round up some friends and family for help with heavy lifting and you’re ready to get started. Here’s how to install granite countertops from start to finish.
Plan and Measure Your Countertops
Whether you’re looking for a small slab for your bathroom or a large piece for your kitchen, start by accurately measuring the space where you’re installing the countertop. Measure from the wall to the front of your base cabinet (the cabinet where the countertop will sit) to get the depth, and then measure from side to side to get the length.
Use an oversized piece of cardboard to create a template of your countertop and trace the area, including the measurements for any sinks or stovetop cutouts. “Templating is a key step in getting stone to fit your space,” says Tschudi. “Stone has zero flexibility, and walls are rarely straight or plumb, so any slight curve of the wall has to be cut out of the stone.”
Bring this to the granite fabricator with your measurements. Since they will cut a piece of granite slab to your specifications, sometimes without ever stepping into your home, this will ensure the most accurate cut.
Reinforce and Level the Countertop
While granite can withstand scratches from knives and burns from pots and pans, it’s a little less sturdy when sitting on uneven base cabinets. To avoid unwanted damages and prevent your new countertop from collapsing, you’ll want to ensure the cabinets below are even, stable, and ready for the extra weight. In areas where the cabinets aren’t level, you’ll need to place shims under the base of the cabinet. Avoid placing shims between the granite and cabinet, as they can weaken over time and cause the granite to shift, increasing the chance that it will crack.
Another option is to create a sturdy, plywood base that will go between the granite and the cabinets. This will take some of the load off the cabinets and ensure an even surface. Here’s how to do it:
Lay a piece of plywood (cut to the same measurements as your template) on top of your countertop and flush against the wall.
Mark the parts that need to be trimmed and use a circular saw to trim and cut out the hole for the sink. Drill screws through the cabinet to attach the plywood.
Add waterproofing membrane to the entire surface, and let it dry overnight before installing the granite.
Transporting Your Granite Countertop
Once the fabricator has finished cutting your granite, they will deliver the finished piece to your home, or you will need to pick it up. If you’re transporting the countertop yourself, ensure the slab stays vertical to ensure it isn’t scratched or damaged during the journey.
Before moving the granite, cover the edges with painter’s tape to prevent scratches. If you’re moving it in a truck, make sure you’ve got supports in place to prevent it from shifting en route. Using a two-by-four A-frame bracket for moving granite will offer the best protection.
You’ll also want to bring a few extra sets of hands. Granite can be much heavier than it looks—a 6-foot slab can weigh up to 400 pounds—and dropping it can be dangerous. Not only can it damage the stone, but also whatever it lands on (like unsuspecting toes).
Fit and Install the Granite Countertop
Once your granite is safely home and everyone has breathed a sigh of relief, place it on top of the base cabinet to make sure it fits. Giving extra support to areas where the granite has been cut (for the granite sink or stove cutouts), lay the slab on top of the base cabinets to ensure everything aligns. If it doesn’t fit, you’ll need to make adjustments to the granite or the wall.
Cutting the Wall
If you’re dealing with drywall, making modifications to get your granite countertop to fit might be as easy as using your utility knife to score the area (or create a series of small cuts to remove the drywall). If your wall is a harder material like brick, you’ll likely need to modify the granite instead.
Cutting the Granite
If you have to modify the granite, use a pencil to mark the countertop area that needs cutting. Carefully remove the granite from the cabinets, put on your protective gear, and use the dry-cut diamond blade on the electric grinder to shave down the granite to the correct size. Cut the granite outside if possible since stone dust gets everywhere and is extremely difficult to clean.
Dry fit the slab again to make sure you’ve removed enough of the granite. If not, you’ll need to repeat the process until you do. If you’re not comfortable with cutting into the granite, you can hire a pro who modifies granite counters.
Attach the Countertop
The good news is attaching the granite to the countertops is almost the easiest part of the process. The weight of the granite does most of the work; use your caulk gun to run a line of caulk where the countertop and cabinets meet.
Clean and Seal the Countertop
It’s time to clean the granite countertops before applying the sealer. Wipe off any dust or debris in circular motions using a clean microfiber cloth.
Once your surface is clean, you can begin sealing the granite. Make sure you’re using a sealing product that’s specifically for granite. Check the product specifications on the bottle or manufacturer’s website to find out.
When ready to start, lightly shake the sealer and spray it evenly over your surface. Let that set for a few minutes, then apply a second layer. Take care to cover every inch of granite. Let that sit for 30 minutes, then use a microfiber cloth to wash off any excess and let it dry completely.
Test the seal by splashing a few drops of water on the counter. If the sealer repels the water, your countertop is suitably sealed. If not, apply one more layer of sealer and let it dry again.
Tips for Taking Care of Granite Countertops
Though granite is definitely more durable than other types of countertop materials, it still needs regular care to look its best through the years. Here’s everything you should and shouldn’t do after installation.
1. Use a Stone Cleaner With a Neutral pH for Deep Cleanings
All-purpose sprays with harsh chemicals can wear damage, cause staining, and shorten the lifespan of granite countertops. Avoid anything too acidic or basic, like bleach or lemon juice. Instead, look for a granite stone cleaner, and use it once a week when wiping down counters.
2. Wipe Down Daily With Hot Water and Dish Soap
If your granite countertops are in high-traffic areas, you’ll need to wipe them down daily. Fortunately, you don’t need to whip out the heavy-duty cleaner for this day-to-day chore. Instead, just use a gentle sponge or cloth, a drop or two of dish soap, and a bit of warm water.
3. Avoid Abrasive Cleaning Tools
Because granite can get scratched relatively easily, keep anything abrasive far away from this material. Instead, rely on soft cleaning tools, like sponges and cloths, to get this surface in tip-top shape.
4. Clean Up Spills Right Away
Even a properly sealed granite countertop will become stained if spills linger. “We advise clients to immediately wipe up spills, whether it’s a strong color—like coffee or wine—or even a wet bathing suit that’s been sitting on the counter for hours. These will all stain your granite countertop,” says Tschudi.
DIY Granite Countertop Installation vs. Hiring a Pro
If you’re up to the challenge, you can install your granite countertops yourself. A local stone counter pro will charge $35 to $85 per hour on average for installation, and installing a granite countertop can take up to 20 hours, so you can save a lot by doing this project yourself. However, you must be certain you can accomplish this project safely. It’s worth repeating that granite slabs can weigh several hundred pounds, granite dust can get into every surface imaginable in your home, and fixing a DIY gone wrong can end up costing you more in the future.