DIY Countertops with Solid Surface Material
· What’s Covered
· Tools Needed
· Gluing Two Pieces Together
· Finishing The Surface
Section 2: Fabricating a Counter Top
· What’s Covered?
· Templating/Sheet Layout
· Edge Build-Up
· Inside Corners Procedure
· Installing Sinks
· Solid Surface Undermount Sink
· Stainless Steel, Granite, or Porcelain Undermount Sink
· Installing Cook Tops
· Countertop Support and Installation
Section 3: Advanced Techniques
· Coved Backsplash
· Wall Applications
SECTION 1: CUTTING, GLUING, AND SEAMING SOLID SURFACE
· Where to Buy Solid Surface
· Tools Needed
WHERE TO BUY SOLID SURFACE
· SolidSurface.com, an online Internet store, offers a variety of solid surface products as well as auxiliary products needed to work with solid surface. They are one of the few places where solid surface can be purchased by anyone.
· They carry major brands. In their overstocked and clearance sections they have Corian, LG HiMacs, Avonite, and Meganite. In their remnant section they have all the previous brands plus Staron.
· They have a line of their own products called House Premium, and Select Grade. House Premium colors are available on a continuing basis and Select Grade, which is deeply discounted, is sold on a first come first served basis
· Sheets are usually 30” wide and 10ft or 12ft long and they carry many colors and brands. They also offer less than full sheet sizes for people with small project needs.
· The most popular sheet thicknesses is ½” (counter tops) for which they have hundreds of choices but they also have ¼” (shower walls), ¾”(bath vanity tops, and 1-1/4”(counter tops).
· They ship their products via UPS, FedEx, and by freight carrier from warehouses around the country
· Their service is superior with prompt shipping, excellent customer support, and low prices
The majority of solid surface projects can be completed using simple woodworking tools, such as a router, random orbit sander, circular saw, bar clamps, heat glue gun, adhesive dispensing gun and a straight edge/rip fence. Of course, there are many, more expensive, professional industry tools that can be used, but we’ve done our best to show you how to do it with the barebones standard ones. And here they are:
· Circular Saw w/ Carbide Blade – I personally used an 18-volt cordless Ryobi brand circular saw ½” for ¼” thick material and a corded 7-1/4” circular saw for ½” and thicker material. For both, a thin 24 tooth carbide tipped blade will work for rough cuts and a 40 tooth for smoother edges.
· Router – A router is typically used for cutting very straight seaming edges and for creating the final edge profile finish.
· Straight Edge – Choose a straight edge that is long enough to be clamped at each end to the material. (TIP: if you don’t have a standard straight edge, you can often use the most straight XXX wood at XXX that you can find)
· Hot Glue Gun – The hot glue gun is used in the seaming process.
· Adhesives, Dispensing Gun, & Tips – A color-matched adhesive is available for most materials to help hide the seam. The adhesive dispensing gun and tips are for applying glue to material surfaces to be joined. All of these can be found at http://solidsurface.com/adhesives/
· Random Orbit Sander & Abrasive Kits – Random orbit sanders, such as XXXXXX, are used for sanding the surfaces to the finish that is desired—flat through high gloss. You can find the appropriate abrasive kits for the finish you want at solidsurface.com.
Solid surface material is heavy so it is best to cut and shape it while it is stationary rather than trying to push it through a table saw. The following suggestions will help to accomplish the task.
· set up saw horses with a soft wooden top to them. That allows the saw to cut through the material and the top part of the wood on the sawhorse while the material remains in place
· make sure the saw horses are as level as possible
· adjust the saw depth of cut so the blade extends about 1/8” below material
· put on your safety glasses and make your cut
Mirror cutting for seaming 2 pieces
The edges to be joined are machined at the same time which provides a perfect fit where the seam is almost invisible even before the two pieces are glued together.
Use a 1/2″ shank double fluted bit. Securely clamp the two pieces to be seamed 1/4″ to 3/8” apart so they cannot move. Securely clamp a straight edge to one side so the router can cut down the middle of the opening in one continuous movement without stopping.
Straight Cut using a circular saw and router
Make a rough cut with the circular saw and leave about ¼” of material to be removed with a router as the finish straight cut.
Handy tip: for cutting the edge of a surface for later seaming ONLY USE the mirror cutting method as described above—unless you have a $30000 panel saw or CNC machine
Create a square base for your router that replaces the one that came with the router. A scrap of solid surface works very well. Cut the square base so as to position the router bit so it cuts 4 inches from one edge and when turned around it will cut 3-15/16” from the bit. Having two dimensions for the base means you can make a cut against a rip fence and make a second cut of a slight bit more by turning the router around. This means you do not have to move and reposition the guide fence in order to remove an additional small amount of material. Use a double fluted ½” router bit and move the router from left to right at a moderate even feed speed without stopping.
Handy tip: apply a dusting of corn starch to the surface and straight edge to allow the router to slide smoothly.
Making curved cuts
A template and a router are used for curved cuts. A saber saw can be used for the rough shape but not the final cut because it will leave a rough edge where stress cracks can begin. Use a template for all inside and outside corner cuts.
· Create a template from wood or a solid surface scrap. Make size adjustments keeping in mind how you will guide the router against the template
· Select router bit and bushing
· Cut around template
GLUING TWO PIECES TOGETHER
· Make and heat glue clamping blocks that are about 1”x2” onto the 2 pieces to be glued.
· lay down one or two, 2” wide strips of plastic tape under the area of the glue seam for protection from glue drip through
· do a test positioning of the sheets so they will mate correctly and then separate them by about 1/2” in preparation for adding adhesive
· always squirt/purge a small amount of material from a new cartridge before adding the mixing tip to be certain that both parts of the adhesive flow. After tip is attached squeeze a bit more through the tip and then start applying to surfaces to be bonded. After you are done, leave the tip in place with the material set up in the tip.
· Apply adhesive in 2 passes, one pass on each of the mating surfaces. This will eliminate “soft spots”. If there is a place on the first pass where the adhesive was not mixed correctly, then the second pass will not have that happen in the same location and the catalyst will mix enough to cause hardening..
· apply bar clamps to the blocks and tighten. DO NOT OVER TIGHTEN as it will cause a weak joint –
· Sand the underside of the seam in preparation for adding the seam plate. The plate is solid surface of the same color or a scrap of a lighter color. The seam plate is a 4″ wide piece with a 45 degree angle cut on both sides to minimize the starting of a crack. Cover it with adhesive and apply over the seam with some pressure.
· Finish the seam by trimming the adhesive build-up by using a router on skis. A ski router has 2 strips of solid surface glued to the router plate and you lower the bit so it is just above the surface and then you can route away the buildup. Or if you do not have the router on skis, then sand the seam and feather either side out about six inches using 120 grit abrasive. Next sand out to about 12 inches using 180 grit and then sand the seam area to blend into the final finish. [Photo 8: Sand Away Seam Over Flow]
· The seam will be either inconspicuous or more likely will disappear all together. The bead of adhesive on the edge of the sheet is where the seam is located.
FINISHING THE SURFACE
Finishes range from matte to satin to degrees of polished. The procedures are pretty much the same no matter the finish. You sand starting with 280 grit abrasive discs on a random orbit sander. The difference in the procedures is how fine the final grit is which will dictate the finish sheen. A glossy polish finish requires the final step of compound and buffing pad.
· Use abrasives with 120 grit and 180 grit to remove heavy scratches and return the surface to one similar to the flat finish provided by the manufacturer.
· Matte finish—for light colors use 280 grit and Maroon Scuffbrite pad. For dark colors use 280 grit, 4oo grit and Maroon Scuffbrite pad.
· Satin finish—use 280 grit, 400 grit and Gray Scuffbrite pad.
· Polish finish—the degree of gloss appearance will depend in part on the material color and composition. Use 280 grit, 400 grit, 600 grit and White Scuffbrite pad for a moderate sheen polish and then for a higher sheen use the Green High Polish compound and the Buffrite wool pad.
· Surface maintenance procedures are dependent on the type of damage. Cuts and scratches can be sanded out with 120 grit and then 180 which will approximate the finish of the original piece. Then use the procedures above to match the final finish.
SECTION 2: FABRICATING A COUNTER TOP
· Templating/Sheet Layout
· Edge Build up
· Inside Corners
· Outside Corners
· Installing Sinks
o Solid surface undermount
o Stainless, porcelain under mount
· Installing Range Tops
Making the counter tops fit the cabinet layout and constructing them to be durable are the goals of this discussion.
Templating is making a pattern of the existing layout of cabinets and making any additions that are desired. Strips of Luan wood or cardboard and a heat glue gun are the needed items.
Layout of sheets for seam location.
EDGE BUILD UP
Building up the edges provides the appearance of a thicker counter top and it is not difficult to accomplish.
· Cut edge 1”-2” wide strips from extra solid surface pieces to use as the dropped edge
· Sand lightly with 120 grit the sides that will receive adhesive a clean with denatured alcohol
· Dry fit the strips and attach guide blocks with hot melt adhesive gun. Apply adhesive and clamp with spring clamps about every 4 to 5 inches while making sure the adhesive runs out the front side
Handy tip: position the spring clamp jaws so that the lower jaw is further away from the front edge than the upper jaw is. This will cause the material to slide toward the backing blocks where it should be.
INSIDE CORNERS PROCEDURE
Inside corners should have a radius of ½” or larger. The larger the better from the standpoint of strength and crack prevention.
· Inside corner buildup considerations include surfacing the front edges and gluing blocks in the corner with enough adhesive that it squeezes out on all edges.
· Sand the surface and clamp inside corner template in place
· Rout the inside radius using a straight bit with a bearing at the top
INSTALLING A SOLID SURFACE UNDERMOUNT SINK
Having under mounting sinks is a good way to facilitate counter clean-up since the barrier around the sink is no longer there.
Karran brand solid surface sinks are a new and improved variety that resist cracking around the drain after many years. So much so they have a 50 year warranty.
· Turn the solid surface sheet upside down, position the bowl on the surface and use hot melt glue to fasten holding blocks around the sink for later positioning while gluing
· Drill a 1-1/4” pilot hole in line with the sink hole to use as a place to fasten a clamping all-thread rod to put pressure on the sink for gluing
· Scuff the under surface where the sink will sit with 80 grit sandpaper and scuff the top flange of the sink bowl as well, clean with denatured alcohol.
· Apply the adhesive, using the color adhesive that matches the solid surface color. Place the all-thread rod in place with wood blocks and tighten until the adhesive squeezes out all around inside and out. Allow to harden
· Turn the counter over and rout the material from within the bowl opening. Use 2 different router bits. The first is a ½” 2 flute straight bit with a large nylon bearing at the bottom to position the cutting edge back from sink. Next use a roundover bit with a bottom bearing that will cut a small amount from the edge of the sink including the adhesive that is protruding. Finally, sand the surface .
· Make sure the bevel angle of the roundover bit is suitable for the bevel angle of the sink
· Always make sure the bearing on the router bit is new or functioning perfectly or it may disintegrate and gouge the sink surface
INSTALLING A STAINLESS STEEL, GRANITE OR PORCELAIN UNDERMOUNT SINK
Stainless steel, granite and porcelain sinks are easier to under mount than solid surface and the procedures are very similar. Follow the steps above except:
· Rout the material from within the bowl unless you tape the part of the sink where the router bearing will run.
· And, instead of solid surface adhesive use silicone of the similar color to the top color
· Use metal mounting brackets that are glued to the underside of the top and clamp the bowl in place as the silicone is drying—no drilling or inserts required.
· The bowl opening in the top should be prepared using a template and a router prior to attaching the bowl. There are several configurations for the top overhang as can be seen in the figure
Cook tops get hot and the expansion and contraction of the solid surface can be an issue especially at the corners.
Handy tip: MAKE SURE that you DO NOT cut the opening too large for the cook top.
· The cut out opening should be a minimum of ¼” larger than the cook top and the opening must be cut with a router.
· All 4 corners should be reinforced with 5” square block that have beveled edges and the inside corners must be radiused minimum ¼”.
· Round the top and bottom edges of the cook top opening and the reinforcing blocks
· Tape the entire inside edge of the cook top opening with 9 mil heat r, eflective tape, use 2 layers in the corners and do not wrap the tape under the surface–see Figure 15 above.
COUNTER TOP SUPPORT AND INSTALLATION
All tops need support about every 12 inches and they should not be attached to the tops of the cabinets in a rigid fashion since the top needs to expand and contract