Looking to learn how to install granite countertops? You came to the right place!
In this comprehensive how-to guide, I’m going to break everything down for you step by step.
I’ve done my best to take all the guesswork out of this and to make it the most helpful guide available on the topic.
Full disclosure, this guide is over 3,000 words – so go ahead and bookmark it if you can’t read it all in one sitting.
All that said, let’s begin!
Here’s how to install granite countertops step-by-step.
Tools Needed For This Project
1 – Cardboard or kraft paper
2 – 0.75 inch plywood
3 – Circular saw
4 – Screws
5 – Granite slabs
6 – Whiteout pen
7 – Caulk adhesive
8 – Caulking gun
9 – Wet grinder wheel
10 – Waterproofing membrane
11 – Safety goggles
12 – Safety mask
13 – Measuring tape
Got all of that? Perfect. Time for the first step…
1 – Measuring and Planning for Your Countertop Installation
When it comes to installing granite countertops, the first step is to design and measure your cabinets for your countertop installation. Taking these measurements ensures that the granite slab you purchase will fit perfectly on your countertops. This obvious, but crucial, step prevents you from wasting a ton of money on granite slabs that don’t fit. Several steps are involved in the planning and measuring phase of your project. Here they are…
A – Use Cardboard or Kraft Paper to Create a Template
Grab your kraft paper or cardboard. Lay it out on top of your cabinets. After laying the cardboard, trace the countertop and cut away excess paper. Now you have your template.
Mark the location of your sink and all other holes, dips, and bends. Be as careful and accurate as possible. Take your time on this, it requires precision to avoid making measurement errors.
Although it takes a lot of time up front, the more accurate your measurements are, the more money you’ll save later on when ordering the granite for your countertop.
B – Deciding the Size of Your Overhang
Next, you’ll need to decide the type and size of overhang your prefer for your countertop. The typical size of a granite overhang is 1.5 inches, about 3.8 centimeters.
It’s important to note that any overhang longer than 3.8 centimeters will require reinforcement with steel braces for support.
C – Recording Measurements
After making your template and deciding on your overhang, it’s time to record your measurements on a piece of paper. Again, I can’t stress how crucial it is to be precise since these measurements are what will be used to make the very granite you plan to install on your countertop. Getting the wrong measurements will give you huge slabs of unusable and costly granite.
Also include the measurements of your planned overhangs. Be sure to repeat this process at least once to guarantee your success.
Now that you have your template and measurements all ready to go, you’re ready for the next step.
2 – Choosing the Type of Granite Slab
Whether you’re an experienced DIY guru or a total newbie, choosing the type of granite slab for your kitchen countertop is an important step that can’t be overlooked. Some of the things to consider are color, patina, and the style of slab veins. Try to find granite slabs that match your kitchen cabinets, table, and flooring.
Some people prefer to mix styles by having their island look totally different than their countertops. This looks great too, and it all comes down to personal choice.
If you’re having trouble finding existing slabs that you like, you can order custom slabs from a granite fabricator. Doing this lets you specify the design you want, the color, and even custom shapes.
Lastly, it’s always a good idea to get a second opinion. What you think looks amazing might look totally out of place to a friend or family member.
You’re going to want an objective friend or family member to tell you what they think of the granite slabs you plan on getting long before you actually purchase them, especially if you ever plan on selling your house.
Need some help choosing granite slabs? Here are four useful tips to help you select the best slabs of granite for your countertops.
A – Matching the Colors
Consider how this particular slab of granite you are looking at now will look in your kitchen. Try to see if it matches the finish on your cabinets, the floor, the furniture, and overall color scheme. Some people want their countertops to match the paint on their walls while others want the color to be similar to their floors but not the walls.
Other folks want the color of their granite slabs to stand out as an accent piece and deliberately choose to have it not match anything in their kitchen. The idea here is to make the countertops look lively, inviting, and the main focal point of the kitchen.
B – Consider the Room Lighting
The type of lighting in a room significantly determines how the countertops look and glow. It is essential to do some research on what kind of lighting can match well with a particular granite type.
For example, bright lighting in your kitchen can create a cozy look when combined with deep blue or dark black granite slabs. If the room is dark, you might want to think about choosing brighter granite slabs with white specks, gold, or silver that reflect light and add beauty.
C – Compare Several Slabs Before Purchase
If one is unable to choose their preferred color or style of the slab, it is better to visit a hardware store and compare the different colors and styles they have available. Comparing allows one to identify the perfect slab that matches your decor. Also, this gives you the opportunity to touch the granite and assess the overall quality of one particular slab over another.
D – Consider Your Budget
My last tip for choosing your granite slabs is to consider your budget and never spend about it. Granite slabs come in different styles, colors, and quality – and all that comes at different price points.
You’ll have to pay a little more for granite slabs with exquisite colors, flawless veins, and quality. Also, depending on the rareness of the color, the price could be higher, so make sure to look at prices before getting your heart set on slabs that will fall outside your budget.
After you chose the style and color of your granite slabs, it’s time to order them!
3 – Ordering Granite Slabs
There are many ways to buy granite slabs for your countertops. Here are my two favorites.
A – Visit a Hardware Store
Remember that template you made and all those measurements you took? Bring them with you to several hardware stores, and check out their selection of granite slabs.
Look to see if they have your preferred color and slab style. Compare the quality of each slab they have, their cost, and evaluate whether they would work well in your kitchen. Comparing and analyzing the various types of slabs being sold locally allows you to get a sense for the look and feel of the countertops.
Before purchasing, it’s a good idea to test the quality of the granite. The first one you might want to do involves testing the granite for porosity. To do this, place a few drops of water on the slab for 10 minutes. If the granite slab absorbs the water, it means that the granite quality is pretty low and might not be the best choice.
If you already purchased the slabs and have them in your possession, you might want to do an acidity test. For this one, place a lemon wedge on the granite for a whole night and remove it in the morning. If patches appear, then the granite is relatively low quality and you might need to do more to maintain it (or even try to return it if possible).
B – Search for Granite Dealers Online
The simplest and most straightforward way to purchase granite slabs is to search for granite dealers online. The Internet allows you to compare prices, quality, and reputation of sellers quickly with just a few clicks. To establish the quality of granite that a dealer will deliver, you’ll want to read through the customer reviews for each dealer and give them a call. This option is easiest, but you lose out on the opportunity to touch and actually see the slab in person.
Also, consider the delivery process when choosing an online supplier. Some suppliers will take forever to get you their product while others will be quite quick about it. Similarly, some will ensure that it arrives in tact and ready for installation while others will take no responsibility whatsoever for the state your granite slabs come in.
Ideally, only buy from a company that has a warranty policy in place for damaged goods, and speak with someone at the company on the phone before making your purchase.
Most importantly, unless you plan on cutting the granite yourself, be sure to have your fabricator or granite supplier do it for you. Just give them a copy of your countertop template and measurements, and they’ll cut the sinkhole along with everything else you need.
4 – Reinforce the Countertop
Now the real fun begins!
The fourth step of the process involves reinforcing your countertops to prepare them for the installation of your newly purchased granite slabs. To do this, you need to reinforce your countertop. When your cabinet countertops are reinforced, they become far more durable and can last a great deal longer.
If you’re using 3cm granite, skip to step five. Reinforcing the countertop with plywood is not necessary for your granite. To find out why, check out this article where I discussed the matter in great detail.
However, if you’re using 2cm granite, keep reading because this step is 100% necessary for you.
A – Cutting the Plywood
For 2cm granite, we need to reinforce our countertops with 0.75 inch plywood. Once you have your plywood, lay it out on top of your countertops.
Then, put the countertop template you made earlier on top of the plywood. Mark out on the plywood where your sinkhole is, all of your edges, and any other cuts that you identified when originally measuring all of the countertops. After double checking the measurements, remove your template and begin cutting the plywood.
My favorite tool for cutting plywood is a circular saw, which is pretty easy to use for trimming plywood and cutting the sinkhole and edges.
When trimming your plywood, don’t forget about your overhang measurements. They too need to be covered by the reinforced plywood.
B – Attach the Reinforcing Plywood to the Countertop
After the plywood is trimmed to match your countertop template, it’s time to attach the plywood to the countertops by drilling screws through the cabinets. Position the plywood perfectly on your countertop and make sure it’s level.
Then, use an electrical drill to affix the plywood to your cabinets. Make sure to space your screws 8-10 inches apart. This ensures an incredibly stable reinforcement.
C – Add a Waterproof Membrane
After drilling and screwing the reinforcing plywood to your countertops, you need to add a waterproof membrane to the top of the cabinets. This prevents water and moisture from penetrating the plywood, which could cause it to swell. Waterproofing the plywood ensures the longevity of the countertop.
A waterproof membrane is a thick layer of watertight material that is laid on the surface to prevent internal damage to the plywood. You can buy it online or at your local hardware store.
To add it to your plywood, use a small paint roller to coat the reinforcing plywood with it. A layer should be applied to the entire countertop and left to stay for at least 12 hours to dry.
After waterproofing all of your countertops, it’s now time to cut and fix the granite slabs.
5 – Cutting and Fitting the Granite Slabs
After reinforcing the cabinet countertops and waterproofing them, it’s time to cut and fit your granite slabs. This is the moment of truth. If all your measurements lined up perfectly, then this step should be a breeze (assuming you have enough people to carefully carry and place the incredibly heavy slabs of granite onto your countertops).
Even if you had your granite supplier or fabricator cut the appropriate sinkhole, you might still need to touch things up a bit.
Below is my step by step process to touch-up cutting along with instructions to perfectly fit and place your granite slabs.
A – Make Sure the Granite Fits
After confirming the granite slabs are what you ordered and aren’t damaged, be sure to have at least two other people help you properly carry and position the granite on the countertop to see if it fits well.
Be extremely careful, your granite can break or crack if you don’t carry it carefully. Always carry your granite vertically, never horizontally. To transport the slabs, put them on edge in an A-frame rack. If you don’t have one, you can either buy one or make a basic A-frame rack with some 2x4s.
After you carefully placed all the slabs of granite on the countertops, gently slide them into place.
B – Mark Any Cuts That Need to be Made
Take note of any cutting adjustments that need to be make. Cuts that you might need to make can include tweaks to your sinkhole or specially-shaped edges that require additional work.
To do this, lay your countertop template on the dry-laid granite slabs and use painter’s tape or a whiteout pen to mark the edges and holes you’ll need to make for the slabs to fit perfectly on your countertop.
C – Cut the Edges and Make Adjustments
The best tool for cutting granite slabs is a wet handheld circular saw. It helps minimize the amount of dust created when cutting the dry slabs.
You’ll need to position the saw outside the lines drawn and gently drag it across the slabs until your desired adjustment is made. Cutting outside the line leaves some space for grinding down and smoothing the edges after the slabs have been installed.
It should go without saying, but just in case: use protective tools like gloves, goggles, and a face mask whenever cutting your granite slabs.
D – Affixing the Granite Slabs
After cutting the edges and completing any needed sinkhole adjustments, it’s time to affix the granite slabs to the countertops.
For this part, you’ll need a caulk gun and latex caulk. Use your caulk gun to apply the latex caulk to the countertop and underside of the granite as well as the edges by the wall. After affixing all of the granite slabs, let them dry for at least 12 hours.
Now that the granite is securely affixed to your countertops, it’s time to move on to the next step.
E – Smoothing and Installing the Sink
The penultimate step to installing granite countertops is smoothing all the edges and cuts. The best tool for this is a wet electric grinding wheel to avoid dust and excess friction, which could cause damage. When the grinding wheel is turned on, it should be positioned next to the edge of the countertop that needs smoothing.
To smooth the granite, gently drag the grinding wheel back and forth along the edges until one is satisfied with the smoothness achieved. The advantage of using a wet electric grinding wheel is that it can be used to smooth round edges on the countertop. To monitor the edge’s smoothness, run a wet cloth over the edges and then repeat the smoothing process until you’re satisfied with the results.
Lastly, you need to install your sink. After making sure that it fits, apply caulk adhesive around the perimeter of the sinkhole as well as under the sink where it hangs inside the cabinet. Affix the sink in the sinkhole and give the caulk adhesive time to dry. In about 12 hours, your brand new granite countertops will be ready for use.
To recap, I listed all the tools you’ll need to complete the job, broke it down into 5 digestible steps (which all had a few sub-steps), and explained everything you’ll need to do from start to finish to install granite countertops. I even through in some helpful tips on how to transport your granite slabs.
At the end of the day, installing granite countertops is an amazing way to improve the value of your home, make your kitchen look even more beautiful, and it’s also an awesome DIY project if you’re up for the challenge.
After reading this detailed how-to guide, you should know everything needed to go out there and do it yourself.
Wishing you tons of success in installing your new granite countertops!