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Learn from the first-hand experiences of others.

Slide background

Learn from the first-hand experiences of others.

Slide background

Learn from the first-hand experiences of others.

Slide background

Learn from the first-hand experiences of others.


person found Curt's experience helpful.

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When my wife and I bought our home more than 10 years ago, we weren’t thrilled with the looks of our kitchen countertop. It was a light blue plastic that looked OK, but even then, it was a bit stained and fraying around the edges. Procrastination sometimes has an inertia of its own, but when it comes to home improvement projects, one thing frequently leads to another, and inertia is replaced by action.

Think About Interface

That "one thing" in our case was our carpeting project. After we had the living and dining area around the kitchen recarpeted, we decided it was time to finally replace our kitchen countertop. It would have been sensible to do the countertop replacement first, but sometimes action overtakes common sense. In the end, everyone was careful not to ding up our new carpet, so there was no harm done.

Choosing the Material

We went shopping for our countertop at a local home improvement store. We chose quartz rather than granite, marble, or a composite. My research convinced me that quartz was the best choice. It has the look of real stone but does not require all the maintenance. It costs about the same per square foot as granite. In making your own decision, take advantage of the available online resources and guides.

The Process Will Be Disruptive

As the saying goes, nothing worth doing is easy. We decided that replacing our countertop was worth doing, but although the project went smoothly, it was far from easy. Get ready to be inconvenienced and have your kitchen torn apart.

You need to clear the decks for the project. We have an electric stove, so we didn’t have to worry about gas connections. Our refrigerator, on the other hand, has a copper pipe that feeds water to the ice maker. I had to turn off the master water valve because I could not find any way to isolate the water feed to the fridge. So if you don’t want to do without water, save moving the refrigerator until just before the rip-out phase.

The Job is Multi-Phased

We decided to pay a bit extra and let the sales rep at the home improvement store set everything up. Since the rep probably got a commission on the job, we could have saved money if we had gone straight to the company that manufactures and subcontracts the process.

After you choose your material and sign the contract, the project generally unfolds in the following sequence:

1. Measuring - Our subcontractor used a laser device and a laptop computer. His software produced a precise mapping of the countertop area.

2. Disconnecting the sink and plumbing - A plumber removed the sink and disconnected the dishwasher drain.

Note: You have a decision to make here: if your sink is aging, consider purchasing a new one. It will add another $200 to $300 to your project. If you want the sink recessed below the surface of the countertop, plan on paying more for material preparations.

3. Removing the stove and refrigerator before the rip-out team arrives. This is why we should have waited to do the carpeting job until afterward. However, we placed a plastic covering over the dining room carpet and scooted the stove and refrigerator into the corner.

4. Ripping out the old countertop - This was a one-man job and didn’t take long. Our problem was that we allowed this phase of the job to occur on a Friday. We had to rough it on Saturday and Sunday without a kitchen.

5. Installing the new countertop pieces - Two men arrived on Monday with the precut countertop material. They did the job quickly and efficiently, and the pieces fit together perfectly. The only cutting they had to do was for the sink. They put the sink back in place but did not reconnect the plumbing.

6. Returning the refrigerator and the stove to the kitchen -I offered to buy the installers lunch in return for moving the stove and fridge back to the kitchen. They were happy to do the extra five minutes of work.

7. Reconnecting the sink and dishwasher plumbing - Another plumber arrived the next day and replaced all the piping beneath the sink. We were back in business!

What We Would Have Done Differently

All things considered, here are some things we would have done differently:

• We would have scheduled our home improvement projects more logically and done the carpeting last.

• We would have taken more control of the subcontractor sequence and scheduled the rip-out for a Wednesday or a Monday.

• Had we known the scope of the work, we could have cut out the middle man at the home improvement store and probably saved about $500.

Advice To Those Considering Countertop Work

One countertop option is to have the sink recessed below the surface. That means you need to purchase a new sink. If you want to salvage your old sink (like we did), it will have to be mounted with its rim over the new countertop surface. We chose that option and saved the cost of a new sink plus about $250 on the cost of the material.
Finally, if you are considering including your bathrooms in the job, your costs for materials, new sinks, and labor go up proportionally. We decided to procrastinate on that and maybe do a future bathroom renovation project — if we ever get around to it. After all that disruption, inertia has, thankfully, returned.

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