Countertops or New Appliances?

This article originally appeared on SFGate by Glenda Taylor.

Few remodeling projects modernize the feel of a house more than an updated kitchen. Shiny new appliances and new countertops are every cook’s dream but a little planning is in order to ensure professional results. With today’s new appliance styles and a variety of countertop materials from which to choose, installing the elements in the right order is essential.

The Kitchen Plan

Countertop design typically revolves around the new appliance specifications. If you’re going to install any specialty type of appliances, such as a range that is wider or narrower than the standard 30 inches, a drop-in cook top or an off-size refrigerator, you’ll need the appliance measurements first. If you're not revising the cabinet configuration, however, the new appliances should match the size of the existing appliances.

Countertop Considerations

The type of countertop you choose determines how it’s installed. When the existing countertop is flat laminate and in good condition, you can often install new laminate right on top. When you want a solid composite-type countertop, tile or a poured concrete top, the entire existing top must come off, revealing the cabinet bases. The new countertop base should be constructed to the specs required by the countertop manufacturer. For example, when you’re installing post-form countertops they rest directly on the cabinet base. Solid granite slabs might require a base layer of plywood, while a ceramic tile manufacturer might require concrete board as a base.

Appliances and Fixtures

The dishwasher inserts below the counter so it doesn’t alter the countertop configuration. The same holds true for a trash compactor and other under-counter appliances. If the refrigerator is a tight fit, you might have to adapt the edge of the countertop adjacent to the fridge so it doesn’t extend into the space allotted for the fridge. When you’re going with a new cabinet configuration, check local codes to determine the type of exhaust vent required for the cooktop and microwave. Cooktops with built-in vents directly behind the appliance might require adapting the countertop backsplash to fit.

Countertops Go On First

Before you can drop in a top range or slide in an under-counter dishwasher, the countertop must be in place. Using a paper template of the countertop configuration, including the placement of appliances and fixtures, like the sink, will help you spot problems before you install the countertop. In some type of countertops, like poured decorative concrete, framed block outs that represent the sink and range are constructed in advance. When measuring for block outs or cutouts, don’t measure the actual appliance, use the “rough in” measurements provided by the appliance, or sink, manufacturer. Countertop materials are generally expensive so the old carpenter adage, “measure twice,cut once” holds true.

Appliances: The Finishing Touch

Set and plumb the sink before installing the dishwasher, which depends on linking to the sink's water supply and drain lines. Don’t fret if your slide-in range, dishwasher or fridge looks out-of-whack at first. The legs below these appliances are individually adjustable so you can raise or lower each corner until the appliances are level and plumb.