Kitchen countertops consist of several different layers of construction. Regardless of what material the surface is constructed from--tile, laminate or concrete--the underlayment (layers below the surface) must be solid and strong to support the weight above and waterproof to prevent any water from seeping into the wood surfaces below. Installing underlayment is a moderately difficult task, but depending on the size of the project, it can be done in one day or less.
Tools and Materials
Tools and materials necessary for installing underlayment include a circular saw and a jig saw for cutting the material, a screw gun and galvanized screws for attaching the underlayment, caulk gun and construction adhesive for attaching the products, 3/4-inch plywood (exterior grade) and 2-by-2 wood strips for countertop edging. Other basic tools include a tape measure, chalkline, square and pencils. You may also want to purchase a tool belt, which will hold your tools and allow for easy access to them. You will also need backer board for tile installation and felt paper for concrete installation.
For laminate installation, you will need to install double sheets of 3/4-inch plywood. Install one sheet directly to the tops of the cabinets using construction adhesive and screws. Distribute adhesive on top of the prior piece and lay another sheet on top and attach with screws. You won't need to worry about waterproofing because laminate sheets are already waterproof.
For concrete countertops, you will need only to install one sheet of 3/4-inch plywood. Attach in the same way as above by applying adhesive and screws. Attach the 2-by-2 stripping around the bottom outside edges of the countertops. Pay attention to the screw lengths and make sure that they are not longer than the thickness of the countertop plywood and stripping. Using galvanized staples, attach felt paper to the top of the plywood, followed by diamond mesh. The felt paper will waterproof the wood and the diamond mesh will strengthen the concrete.
For tile countertops, you will need to install double plywood just as in the first section. Attach the surfaces together using the same method but without the 2-by-2 stripping--you won't need the stripping because the doubled sheets will provide the necessary 1-1/2-inch countertop edge. Use a backer board such as hardibacker or durarock for the layer on top of the plywood(1/4-inch). Lay a bead of construction adhesive down, install the backer board and attach with screws. The backer board will offer protection from water, as well as strength for the tile.
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