Concise Guide for Granite Countertop Removal and Installation

There’s money to be saved in DIY countertop removal and installation, but only if it is done correctly. A mishandled job can mean additional expense if damages occur to granite slabs during the process.

This granite countertop removal and installation guide serves two purposes. First, if you are planning DIY kitchen remodeling, it provides you with an overview of the process. Secondly, if a contractor will be doing the work, you’ll have a clear idea of what is involved. This will help you discuss the work with contractors during the hiring process and while the work is progressing.

As you’re deciding whether or not to do the work yourself, take a look at our Granite Countertop Price Guide to see what kind of money you might save with DIY installation.

countertop installation

Removing Old Countertops, Sinks and Cabinetry

Kitchen demolition is where it starts, and anyone with basic experience with hand tools can do the work. The tools and supplies needed are:

  • Adjustable wrench
  • Screwdriver set or drill with screwdriver bits
  • Pry bar
  • Large towel or small bucket

Step 1: Turn off hot and cold water supplies.

Step 2: Disconnect the water supplies from the sink using the wrench. Place a towel or bucket to catch the water remaining in the lines.

Step 3: Disconnect the sink drain line.

Step 4: If not replacing the cabinets, take the drawers out first to keep dust and debris out of them.

Step 5: Remove the clips or fasteners holding the sink to the countertop, and remove the sink.

Step 6: Remove the fasteners holding the countertop to the base cabinets. If you’re replacing the cabinets too, you can be more aggressive with this step; if you’re keeping the cabinets, proceed with care and caution to prevent damage to the base cabinets. Once the fasteners are removed, lift the old countertop off of the cabinets. If the countertop is glued down, you’ll have to use a pry bar to remove it.

Step 7: If replacing the cabinets, remove the screws securing the base cabinets to the wall studs and floor. Lift and remove the detached cabinets.

That’s really all there is to it. Tackling this step yourself might reduce the labor part of your cabinet and countertop replacement costs by 10% to 20%.

Installing New Kitchen Countertops

Because of the precision leveling and fitting involved in installing granite countertops, you should have good DIY skills or leave the work to a professional. You certainly don’t want to make a large investment in countertops only to have them not fit properly or not be level.

Here are the basics of granite countertop installation.

Countertop installation tools and supplies needed include:

  • Level
  • Pencil
  • Grinder
  • Dry-cut diamond blade
  • Drill
  • Clamps
  • Sawhorses
  • Countertop glue
  • Fasteners
  • Mending plates and brackets with screws
  • Caulk gun
  • Silicone caulk
  • Resin seam kit
  • Craft paper
  • Goggles
  • Dust mask

This countertop installation guide assumes that base cabinets are in place and level, and that the countertop sections have been cut to fit at the factory.

If the base cabinets are not level, you’ll have to add shims between the cabinets and the countertop to create a level surface.

Here are the basic granite kitchen countertop installation steps:

Step 1: To form a foundation for the granite, ¾” plywood must first be attached to the base cabinets. Set the plywood pieces onto the cabinets without glue to check their fit and whether or not they sit level.

Step 2: If there are gaps between the plywood and the wall, you will need to trim the pieces. First, measure the largest gap. Cut a small block of wood the width of the widest gap. With the plywood in place, press the block of wood to the wall while moving it along the top of the counter. Hold a pencil against the other side, with the lead touching the plywood where the block of wood meets it. This will produce a line on the wood representing the variance in the wall. Finally, use a jigsaw to cut along the line you’ve created. This will produce a back edge on the plywood that fits snugly against the wall along the entire length.

Step 3: Glue the edges of the plywood pieces, and use one to three mending plates and screws to securely hold them together.

Step 4: Add shims between the base cabinets and the plywood where needed to produce a completely level surface.

Step 5: Secure the plywood foundation to the base cabinets with glue and screws in front and glue and mending brackets in the back. Having a helper to gently push down on the plywood while you’re attaching fasteners from beneath will be very helpful.

Step 6: If you had to trim the plywood pieces, you’ll need to trim the granite countertop pieces. Use the plywood surface to create a paper template out of 36” craft paper. Then, cover the area you’ll be trimming off the granite with duct tape. Next, fix the template to the granite. Use a circular saw with a dry-cut segmented diamond blade to trim the pieces. Obviously, the utmost care should be taken to protect yourself and the stone.

Step 7: Fit all of the trimmed granite pieces into place, and check them with a 6-foot level. Where the counters are not level, insert several screws from beneath through the plywood to raise the pieces. With the level in place, raise or lower the screws to completely level the surface.

Step 8: Glue the countertops down using silicone caulk. A bead around the perimeter of the cabinets with larger dollops every foot or so will be sufficient. Gently rest the countertop onto the base cabinets, and apply slight downward pressure.

Step 9: Fill the seams with polyester resin according to the instructions that come with it. Basically, you’ll want to tint the resin to match the countertop, apply it quickly, remove the excess and then smooth the epoxy with a seam stone.

Kitchen Countertop Installation FAQ

How much money can be saved with DIY countertop installation?

Countertop installation costs for granite range from about $8-$14. See our Kitchen Remodeling Cost Guide to see how these prices fit in with the total kitchen remodeling price estimates you’re likely to receive.

What skills are required for granite countertop installation?

Good skills with a range of hand and power tools are essential for successful countertop installation.

How much do the DIY tools cost?

Expect to spend $200 to $350 depending on the quality of the tools you select.

How long does it take to install a granite countertop?

Granite countertops can be installed in one to three days in most kitchens.

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