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How to Install Countertops

Shannon Lee | Improvement Center Columnist | December 13, 2011

The sticker shock of that kitchen remodel can hurt, but if you can do some of the work on your own, you can cut down on the price of your investment. Much of the cost of a kitchen remodel is often invested in the countertops.

What to expect from countertop installation

Some countertops, such as granite or engineered stone, might require professional installation. Unusual types of countertops, such as glass or compressed paper, are often sold with installation included. In the case of a warranty, professional installation can help ensure you get the protection you deserve.

If you decide to handle countertop installation on your own, start with accurate measurements. Always measure from wall-to-wall, not from side-to-side of the current countertop. This measurement is one of the most important factors, so double-check, then check it again. Then shop around before you place your order to find the countertop material that is right for you.

When you're ready to install new countertops, start by disconnecting all plumbing under the sink. Be aware of any electrical wires that might be disturbed or damaged by moving the old countertop. Next, look at how the countertop is connected to your base cabinets. In many cases, the connection is made with clips or screws. Keep in mind that some countertop materials, such as natural stone, could require professional tools and muscle to remove.

Once the old countertop is gone, it's time to install the new one. Since each type of countertop material can have special instructions, always pay close attention to the manufacturer's details for installation. Take your time, ask a friend or two for help, and handle your new investment gently throughout the installation process.

Do new countertops offer a good return on investment?

They certainly can. According to Remodeling Magazine's annual Cost vs. Value Report, a mid-range kitchen remodel can offer a big boost to your home's resale value. The national average cost for a major kitchen remodel was $58,367 in 2010, and homeowners could expect to recoup up to 68.7 percent of the investment. A minor kitchen remodel can be even more cost-effective: the national average cost was $21,695 in 2010, and homeowners could recoup up to 72.8 percent.

If you are handy with home improvement projects, installing countertops yourself could save a great deal of money. However, keep in mind that a "skilled" DIY homeowner is someone who has plenty of experience with construction. If you have rarely worked with home improvement projects in the past, countertop installation is not the best place to start.