Practically any solid material can serve as a countertop. What works best in your kitchen depends on your taste and your budget.
The countertop is where much of the action in a kitchen takes place. It has to be strong enough to withstand considerable punishment over a long period of time. But a countertop also has a bearing on a kitchen’s look. Aesthetics count, too.
Fixing Damaged Countertops
Although countertop surfaces – plastic laminate, ceramic tile, or hardwood butcher block – are strong and durable, daily use and accidents eventually take their toll. But minor surface damage can often be repaired.
Quick repairs for minor damage: Scratches and gouges in laminate can
be hidden with matching plastic seam filler, available from countertop
fabricators. Broken or lifted edges can be re-glued. Stains on butcher
block can usually be scraped or sanded away.
With care, a cracked ceramic tile can be removed and replaced without
marring the surrounding tiles. Scrape away old grout around the edges of
the tile with a grout saw. For a damaged tile at the edge of the sink,
remove the sink and cut the new tile to fit.
Replacing a section of countertop: An extensively damaged laminate countertop can be cut out and replaced with an inset of heat-proof glass which is available as a kit from home-supply centers. Since the metal-rimmed glass inset requires that the countertop be cut through, check for braces or cross-pieces under the countertop before proceeding. Another option for patching the damaged section is to inlay ceramic tiles.
To install a tile inset, remove the damaged area using a router fitted with a 3/8-inch double-fluted bit. To determine the required depth of the cut, add ¼-inch for a plywood underlayment to the thickness of your tiles, then subtract 1/32 inch so that the tiles will sit slightly higher than the surface of the countertop.
TOOLS: Putty knife, steel scraper, orbital sander, saber saw with laminate blade, router, 3/8-inch double-fluted bit, C-clamp, electric drill with ¼-inch bit, ¼-inch masonry bit, utility knife with laminate blade, grout saw, pry bar, cold chisel, notched trowel.
MATERIALS: Plastic seam filler, ¼-inch plywood, silicone caulk, grout, silicone sealer, ceramic tiles, carpenter’s glue, epoxy-based or acrylic tile adhesive.
A QUICK FIX FOR COUNTERTOP SCRATCHES
Squeeze a small quantity of plastic seam filler onto a plastic plate, and work it with a clean putty knife until it begins to thicken.
Wipe the scratch with a cloth dipped in the solvent that comes with the filler, then press the paste into the scratch with the putty knife. Immediately wipe away excess filler with the cloth. If the filler shrinks as it hardens, wait an hour and repeat the process.
RESTORING A BLEMISHED BUTCHER BLOCK
Set the edge of a steel scraper against the butcher block at a 60 degree angle, beveled edge up and pull it across the blemished area.
If scraping fails, run an orbital electric sander with medium-grit sandpaper over an area slightly larger than the stain. Keep the sander moving to avoid grinding a depression into the surface.
Smooth the surface with fine-grit sandpaper, and apply vegetable oil or nontoxic finish.
RESTORING A BLEMISHED BUTCHER BLOCK
Replacing an old laminated countertop with a new one can make a quick an dramatic change in the appearance of your kitchen. Aside from cutting of an opening for the sink, the job consists mostly of simple steps – drilling holes, driving screws, hooking up the sink – and can usually be completed in a single day.
Critical measurements: The most important element in a smooth installation is the precise measurement of the existing countertop. Check your results carefully, and take them, along with a sketch of the counter layout, to the supplier, who will provide the replacement.
Choosing a style: Available in a wide variety of laminate colors and patterns, countertops also come in two styles: custom self-edge and postform. The difference lies in the treatment of the front edge and of the joint between the work surface and the backsplash, the short vertical surface that catches overflows and spills at the counter’s rear.
In a custom self-edge countertop, the work surface and the backsplash meet in a sharp 90-degree angle. The front edge is also perpendicular to the work surface. Custom self-edge is the style to choose if you wish to finish the edge with wood trim called bullnose.
A postform counter has a gently rounded front edge and backsplash joint, with the laminate curving smoothly over them. Whichever style of counter you choose, specify that the countertop ends be covered with laminate - even those that abut a wall or appliance. This will help ensure a neat job.
Taking the measurements:
First, measure the length of the countertop. For an L-shaped counter, hook the end of a tape measure over the backsplash and measure the length of each leg of the old countertop.
Check the distance from the back of the backsplash to the front edge. If the distance differs from the standard 25 inches, specify the actual measurement when ordering the replacement.