Fitting and leveling a countertop has several aspects to it and can vary according to the material that your countertop is made from. However, as a rule of thumb: First, make sure that the cabinets, framework or brackets on to which the counter top will sit are all the same height and level.
Second, if your countertop isn’t one continuous piece of material – pay special attention to any joints in the countertop.
Thirdly, if you’re fitting a tiled countertop, or one with several joints in it, make sure all the pieces are the same thickness. So, bearing these basic points in mind here’s some tips for fitting and keeping level a new counter top.
Check Flatness of Continuous Sheets
Before fitting a sheet of countertop check to see that the upper surface is in itself flat and level. A pre-manufactured laminate countertop will almost certainly be perfectly flat and level.
Stone and synthetic stone tops may vary in how flat the surface is according to the material used. A slate top will, of course, cleave perfectly to produce a flat surface; whereas other materials like marble or granite will need polishing to achieve a truly flat surface.
If you’ve made your own countertop out of wood check very carefully that the upper surface is perfectly flat and level. When sanding surfaces smooth it’s all too easy to leave irregularities that, especially in the case of small troughs, although invisible to the naked eye can allow liquids and spillages to collect in them.
Fitting and Leveling Continuous Sheet Counters
Fitting a single sheet of continuous countertop is quite straightforward. Before lifting the countertop into position check that the all of the structures to which it will sit on are perfectly level along their whole width and length. You should use a long spirit level that is capable of spanning at least two of the countertop resting points at a time; if it can sit on more than two at a time – so much the better.
You could alternatively use one of the newer laser level devices, but most folk still prefer using the old builder’s style levels. If the structures you’re going to rest the countertop on weren’t themselves fitted level, see if there are any screw adjustments at the bottom of them. If not, and you still need to level them off, see if you can insert some shims instead.
When you’re satisfied the countertop supports are level, having cut the countertop to the required length and width, place it on the supports. Before fixing it in place lay your spirit level along and across it at several points to check that it is level.
After you are satisfied that the top is level you can secure it into place with some screws, applying equal pressure to each screw, then re-check that the countertop is still level.
Leveling Tile Countertops
Using the same steps as above make sure that the cabinet frames and brackets etc are all at the same level, secure sheets of 15mm plywood or MDF to them. If possible use one continuous sheet to avoid any irregularities in levelness at the joints.
Next, on top of this deck, fit and smooth down a moisture-resistant paper such as roofing felt. On top of this, using metal cap strip, create a box following the edges of the sheet.
Be sure to keep checking with your long spirit level that the tops of the metal cap strip are level. Into this box you then pour screed which has two purposes. One, of course, is to act as a substrate for the tiles to be fitted onto and secondly; using a screed you can buy one that will also act as a leveling compound.
Keep passing a screed board over the screed until you’re satisfied its level, you can then start to fit the tiles themselves. It is essential at this point that you constantly check each individual tile is sitting level both along its length, width and diagonally – as you fit them.
You should also pay attention to checking that groups of tiles are level along and across the countertop. Some DIY enthusiasts might want to try using the new cementitious panels, which are nailed to the deck and become the substrate for the tiles. However, you should be aware that these can be difficult to keep level over a large area, are relatively quite expensive and are usually only used by highly experienced tilers.