Discover the Secret to Building a Stunning Countertop Frame

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Last updated: April 19, 2023

Kitchen countertops are now available in numerous exciting colors, textures, sizes, and shapes, giving homeowners more options. Different countertop materials have also become popular, including laminate, cultured marble, wood, ceramic tiles, marble tiles, granite slabs, and sheet metal.

But just like how each finish material varies, the specific type of framing they need also differs. If you want to discover the secret to building a stunning countertop frame, let me share a few things you should know and remember to guarantee the best results out of your project.

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Building a stunning countertop frame

Most countertop settings use standard wood, specifically a ¾-inch exterior-grade plywood. Since most counters are wet surfaces, exterior-grade plywood is recommended because it is imbued with special preservatives and glues to ensure it can endure moisture when using the sink.

This ¾ inch plywood will act as the base material that works with different finish materials for countertops. You can also cut it down to size using a table saw or circular saw.

Reveal and overhang

Depending on your chosen finish material, you must flush off the countertop frame at a distance similar to the cabinet face. It’s common for countertops to feature an overhang that is often approximately 1 ½ inches. However, other homeowners extend it up to 2 inches.

However, my friend who has a butcher block countertop told me you can also flush out the underlayment framing with the cabinet base’s face. This way, the front of his counter is flushed out with the drawers and doors of the cabinets after he installed the finish material. But of course, it’s still a matter of preference, so it’s still up to you.

Double layers

During my search to build a frame for a countertop, I also discovered that it’s often required to build the structure of the countertop base to make room for particular kinds of finish materials. An excellent example is a granite tile countertop with a bullnose trim layer that runs along the countertop’s face.

The double layer of ¾ inch material combined with the granite’s thickness and the ½ inch cement board required for installation will reveal over 2 inches. I also learned that you should cut down the granite strips and use these as face pieces covering the edge.

Sink cutouts

When framing your countertop, sink cutouts are also necessary, and you got two choices here. First, you can cut it out after you install the plywood, and the second is to cut it out as you measure things before the installation.

Some installers often wait a while, especially when doing double-layer installations. It’s easier to wait until you have screwed and glued the two plywood layers together and mounted them. This way, you will only be cutting once instead of cutting the pieces separately. I suggest using a jigsaw to cut out sinks according to the individual sinks’ dimensions.

stylish interior of modern kitchen without kitchen cabinets

How to build a countertop without cabinets

A countertop built without cabinets is called a freestanding countertop and is often used as shelves or breakfast bars. I have a few tips to share in creating this particular type of countertop.

Measure and mark the spot for the countertop with a pencil and yardstick

  • I use my stud finder to locate every stud in the area.
  • Make sure you use the pencil and yardstick to mark the height for installation of the L-brackets to the studs.
  • Line up the yardstick with the brackets’ height marks to check the alignment.
  • You can also place the level tool on your yardstick to confirm the level.

Use 3/8-inch diameter lag screws to mount every bracket to a stud

  • Place the countertop on top of the L-brackets, then use the level to check the horizontal alignment before the permanent installation.
  • Remember that support brackets must never extend over 4 inches from the countertop’s front.

Apply a bead of adhesive on the horizontal flange for every bracket

  • Make sure that the countertop is pressed firmly on the horizontal flanges.
  • Wait for 24 hours for the adhesive to dry.

Can you use 2×4 for countertops

Yes, you can use 2×4 for your countertop. A kitchen counter’s surface can be made from almost anything, including a countertop made from glazed and baked clay tiles to Formica glued to a pre-shaped particle board piece.

However, the base and wall are usually made from a 2×4 cabinet frame. Meanwhile, the bulk of the counter used as the counter area will also hold a kitchen cabinet row made out of 2×4 wood.

countertop frame and installation base of custom kitchen cabinets

How thick should plywood be for countertops

On average, the plywood sheets that I use for the backer on my countertops have a thickness of ¾ inch. This thickness can already offer sufficient support for most types of finish materials. You can use this as a standalone product or finish-type plywood if it features a laminate finish that can be finished or painted. Once again, it’s still a matter of preference.

But let me iterate that just like my tips above on building a frame for a countertop, this is only a guideline and not a reference. Remember that different finish materials also have additional requirements. However, I find that a thickness of ¾ inch meets most of the stringent requirements out there.

What can I use for countertop build strips

Countertop build strips, or build-up, are those hidden wood strips that give your laminated countertop the visual illusion of a thickness of 1 ½ inches. If you bought a prefabricated countertop, its underside would reveal that the laminate is glued to a board with a thickness of ¾ inch. It is typical for most countertops.

While installing these countertops, you must attach build-up wood pieces to the base cabinets’ upper part below. Countertop build strips are often ¾ inch wood strips attached to the cabinet tops with screws. Many manufacturers include these build0-up strips with their prefabricated countertops. However, I sometimes make them myself from scrap pine or plywood.

But let me tell you that while countertop build strips support your countertop at some key points, this is not their primary function or purpose. Countertops are made from thick material for a short run. This is why heavy bracing might no longer support daily uses and common countertop appliances.

The primary function of these build strips is to offer clearance for the countertops’ overhanging edge so you can open your cabinet drawers easily. Countertop build strips are usually optional for finished or rounded e nd pieces that manufacturers provide. But this will only occur if the countertop’s entire end is exposed.

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