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Buying Guide: Choosing a Countertop

 
How to Choose the Countertop you need
The hub of your home's activity, the kitchen has to be both functional and aesthetically pleasing. Since the largest surface area is taken up by your countertops, it's important to choose a clean look that lightens your workload. The countertop of choice among industry professionals is between butcher block and stainless steel. This comprehensive guide weighs the benefits of each material and details how to install and maintain your new countertop.

Butcher Block Countertops
With an ultra-warm, rich appearance, butcher block countertops are as beautiful as they are useful. Originally used in butcher shops for cutting and chopping meats, the butcher block has evolved into a choice countertop material, while still retaining its beneficial food-prep qualities. Plus, butcher block tops are easy to maintain and naturally bacteria-resistant.

How to Install a Butcher Block Countertop:
  1. First, select appropriate size top for your space (you can cut for specific nooks or joints, but immediately finish cut edge with several coats of sealant).
    1. Choose 1-1/2" overhang for a standard countertop, or up to a foot for a breakfast bar.
    2. If overhang exceeds 8", a support bracket is necessary.
  2. Ensure that you have a stable surface on which to rest your countertop.
    1. For most cabinets, without tops, you will have to install blocking support.
      1. Using a handsaw, cut plywood to fit tightly within the width of the cabinet. Fit in place at the front of the cabinet and screw into pre-drilled pilot holes.

    2. Solid-top countertops need thin strips to raise the block enough for air to circulate underneath.
      1. Using a handsaw, cut strips of 1/4" plywood a few inches shorter than the depth of your cabinets. Lay 16-inches apart across tops, locking in place with kitchen and bath sealant.
  3. Fix the block to the cabinets below using flexible kitchen and bath sealant (never glue down!)
    1. Minimum fixing is required as self-weight, plumbing, etc. will hold down the piece
    2. On an open-topped cabinet, add a bead of kitchen and bath sealant along the edges of the cabinet. For a solid-topped cabinet, add a bead on sealant on each furring strip you created.
    3. Set the counter in place!
    4. Your butcher block will expand and contract during high/low humidity. Account for this by providing an enlarged hole where you screw the countertop in place, so that the top can shift slightly in changing climates without cracking or splitting.
    5. Tighten the block by screwing from under the cabinet into your enlarged holes.
  4. Oil the surface.
    1. Penetrating oil: If you wish to use your top as a cutting surface, penetrating oil is a must. Periodically re-finish to preserve beauty and durability. Remove cut marks after heavy usage by sanding the block and re-oiling.
    2. Varnique: This semi-gloss finish is virtually maintenance free and can stand up to most household cleaners. Immediately reseal any cuts into the finish to prevent the exposed wood from absorbing moisture.
Stainless Steel Countertops
A popular look in today's contemporary kitchens, stainless steel offers easy maintenance and a sleek look plus a superior work space for the serious cook. Non-porous, stainless is extremely sanitary as well as heat resistant.

How to Install a Stainless Steel Countertop:
  1. The first task is to choose a style of counter.
    1. Select your edging.
      1. A squared edge (standard) offers a clean look
      2. The no-drip raised edge is a better option for the constant cook, preventing spills from seeping onto the floor.
      3. A bull-nose edge offers a rounded surface, which provides added safety for homes with children.
    2. To backsplash or not to backsplash
      1. A flat top is easy to install and provides a clean look, while a 5-inch backsplash creates a neat seal behind your countertop. For a complete stainless look beneath cabinetry, opt for a taller 10-inch backsplash.
  2. Measure first
    1. Our stainless steel countertops are available in a variety of depths. Choose your depth based on how much overhang you prefer, and measure width.
    2. Sink or swim: Opt for a custom integrated kitchen sink for a completely finished look.
  3. Once your custom top arrives, stabilize countertop onto cabinet surface. If you have a partner, have him or her sit on top to prevent it from moving.
  4. Using 1-1/4" wood screws and a cordless screw gun, attach the table to the cabinet braces. (Make sure the screws are no longer than the depth of the table!)
  5. After installed, be sure to keep the table clean. Do not allow liquids to stand for prolonged periods.
  6. Clean with a stainless steel cleaner or a glass cleaner and paper towel; do not use an abrasive cleaner or bleach.

 
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