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Kitchen Work XIX: Beginning the Counters

June 9, 2010

Once the first base cabinets were in place and fastened to the walls, it was time to start in on the counter.

The first step was to put buildup strips on top of the cabinets.  The kitchen counters that you can buy at Home Depot, or Lowe’s appear, once installed to be 1 1/2 inches thick.  But they are in fact made out of 3/4 inch thick particle board with an extra 3/4 inch lip in the front.  This means that in order for the counter to rest stable- and level-ly on the cabinets, you have to attach 3/4 inch buildup strips on the tops of the cabinets.

Attempt #1 at buildup strips.

So I did that and then moved on to dry fitting the counters.  This is when I learned 2 things.  First, my build up strips were not the correct thickness; they would work alright to begin fitting the counters on, but would need to be replaced.  Second, you don’t need a buildup strip on the front of the cabinets because the built-in lip on the counters fulfills that function.  I went ahead and cut the counters down a bit…

Cutting the counters roughly to length.

…so that they would actually fit into the space…

That pesky conduit no longer gets in the way.

…and then took them off to replace the buildup strips.

I took a quick swipe at the bottom of the counter with my tape measure then headed for the Lowe’s, this time on a run.  I got myself a 1/4 sheet of plywood (which I can just tuck under my arm fairly comfortably–at least as far as plywood goes) and a nice belt sander for shaping the edge of the counters.  (Thanks Mom and Dad and Katie, your birthday gifts made it so I could get a nice, well reviewed belt sander that will be useful long after the house is done instead of the cheapo-est one they had there.)  So I headed for home with the plywood under one arm and the sander under the other.  And let me tell you that was a long walk.  My arms were dead tired by the time I got home, but I did make it.

So, I set about hooking the counter together for scribing to the wall.  First, I had to cut access holes in the top of the corner cabinet (which ironically is the only cabinet that has a top on it, and is the only cabinet through which I needed access to the counter).

Access holes to reach the counter's miter bolts.

Once that was done I got to hook two pieces of counter together…

Counter all bolted together.

…replace the buildup strips, and shove it into place.

Counter top roughly in place.

Which is when I discovered that my buildup strips were still too thick.  I measured again, more carefully this time, and discovered that I actually only needed 5/8 inch thick strips, not 3/4 inch.  So, I hopped on my bike and back to the Lowe’s I went.  This time I ended up with particle board, not plywood, but I did bring it over to the counters and physically check it against their backs before I purchased it.  I haven’t got them in place yet, but hopefully the third time really is the charm.

Next up will be scribing the counters to the walls, cutting them to length, and finishing the ends.

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