You’ll never take your bathroom and kitchen countertops for granite again after this home renovation project
Difficulty: 4/5 Big project; big rewards.
Time to complete: A weekend
Kitchen and bathrooms with granite countertops are stain resistant, burn resistant, and scratch resistant—which makes them perfect for the hustle and bustle of kitchens and bathrooms where metal pots and pans or a hastily placed curly iron could do serious damage. Upgrading your home’s kitchen and bathroom countertops to granite can make a major difference in both the way your home looks and the functionality of your space.
All of those benefits come at a cost, though. Granite countertops can be expensive, costing $2,000 to $4,500, or $15 to $140 per square foot to purchase. Add the cost of hiring a local granite countertop contractor on top of that, and you’re looking at several thousands of dollars.
If you’re looking to cut costs, or you want to up your DIY game, you can install your granite countertops yourself. Just be sure you are up to the challenge of an advanced DIY. Granite slabs are extremely heavy (several hundred pounds), granite dust can get into every nook and cranny of your home, and incorrect installation can cost you more in repairs down the road.
What You’ll Need:
Angle grinder with a diamond blade
7 Steps to Install Granite Countertops
1. Measure Your Space
Whether you’re looking for a small slab for your bathroom or a large piece for your kitchen, start by getting an accurate measurement of 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), and then again from side-to-side.
Use an oversized piece of cardboard to create a template of your countertop and trace the area, including the measurements for any sinks or stove tops that will need to be cut out.
Bring this to the granite fabricator with your measurements. Since they will cut a piece of granite slab to your exact specifications, sometimes without ever having stepped into your home, this will ensure the most accurate cut.
2. Choose Your Granite Slab
Now you get to do the fun part: the shopping. While you’ll have your pick of a variety of colors—granite comes in hundreds of colors and unique variations—you’ll only have three main finishes to choose from.
Just like it sounds, polished granite is a smooth version of the rock that has been buffed to a reflective shine. While this finish brings out the colors and designs in the stone better than some others, 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.
Slightly less shiny than its polished counterpart, honed granite is more muted, which can dull the look of bold colors and intricate patterns. However, this slightly less reflective finish can hide more imperfections.
A leather finish is achieved by using diamond-tipped brushes to create both the look and feel of leather. It’s considered to have the best qualities of honed and polished finishes, since it is less porous than the honed option but hides messes better than polished finishes.
3. 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 it comes to sitting on uneven base cabinets. Before installing your new granite countertop, you’ll want to use a level to ensure that all of the base cabinets are even. In areas where they aren’t, you’ll need to place shims under 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.
4. Bring Your Granite Home
Once the fabricator has finished with the cuts, they will either deliver the finished piece to your home, or you will need to pick it up. If you’re transporting the countertop yourself, you’ll need to make sure the slab stays vertical. 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.
You’ll also want to bring a few extra sets of hands. Granite can be a lot 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).
5. Dry Fit The Slab
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 sink or stove cutouts), lay the slab on top of the base cabinets to make sure everything aligns. If it doesn’t fit, you’ll need to make adjustments to either 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 made of a harder material like brick, you’ll likely need to modify the granite instead.
Cutting the Granite
Using a pencil, mark the area of the countertop that needs to be cut. 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.
6. Attach the Countertop
The good news is that 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 your cabinets meet.
7. Clean and Seal the Countertop
After your countertop is installed, it’s time to clean the granite before applying the sealer. Wipe off any dust or debris in circular motions using a clean microfiber cloth. It will need to sit for 24 hours to create a seal. Then you can install any sinks, appliances, or backsplashes, and enjoy all your hard work.