Replacing your countertops while keeping the existing backsplash is certainly possible, but it does require some careful planning and execution. Here is a comprehensive guide on how to replace countertops and leave the backsplash intact.
The countertop and backsplash are integral parts of any kitchen. Over time, countertops can become worn, damaged, or simply out of style. Replacing the countertop is one way to update the look and function of your kitchen without undergoing a full remodel.
Leaving the existing backsplash in place while replacing the countertop has its advantages. The main benefit is cost savings, as you avoid having to remove and replace the backsplash tile or other material. It also allows you to refresh the countertops without disrupting the entire visual flow of the kitchen.
However, great care must be taken during the countertop replacement process to ensure the backsplash remains undamaged. With proper planning and precision, it is certainly possible to end up with a brand new countertop and a perfectly intact backsplash.
Planning Your Countertop Replacement
Before starting any countertop replacement project with an existing backsplash, careful planning is required. Here are some key steps to take:
- Choose the right countertop: Select a replacement countertop that is the same thickness as your existing one, or made adjustable to match. This will ensure it fits flush against the backsplash.
- Measure precisely: Take very accurate measurements of your existing countertop and backsplash placement. This will allow for precision cutting of the new top.
- Account for overhang: Make sure to account for the front and side overhangs when measuring for the new countertop. A tight fit is key.
- Examine seams: Look at where your existing countertop meets walls, backsplash, and other surfaces. This will indicate where caulk lines or other seam treatments will need to be replaced.
- Plan backsplash protection: Pad and mask off the backsplash as much as possible to prevent damage when removing the old countertop.
- Consider edge details: If your existing countertop has built-up or detailed edges, select a replacement style that will provide adequate coverage.
- Choose install method: Decide if you want your new countertop professionally fabricated and installed or want to do it as a DIY project.
Proper planning like this will go a long way towards a successful countertop replacement that preserves the backsplash.
Removing the Old Countertop
Once you have thoroughly planned for the project, the next step is safely removing the existing countertop without damaging the backsplash. Here are some tips:
- Remove any items from the countertop and clear the area of obstructions.
- With a utility knife, cut through any caulk seam where the countertop meets the backsplash.
- Using a pry bar, carefully start to lift the countertop away from the backsplash. Take care not to pry too aggressively.
- Make relief cuts in the countertop if needed, using a circular saw with the depth set appropriately. This will allow the top to break apart more easily.
- Use a hammer and chisel to break the countertop into pieces for removal if necessary.
- Protect the backsplash from damage by padding it with towels or cardboard as you work.
- Thoroughly clean the backsplash of any old caulk, adhesive, or other residue once the top is fully removed.
Going slowly and being careful at this stage will ensure the backsplash remains intact for the new countertop installation.
Installing the New Countertop
The safe removal of your old countertop now allows you to install the new one against the existing backsplash. Follow these tips for proper installation:
- Set the new countertop in place and check that it fits correctly against the backsplash with proper front/side overhangs.
- Make any necessary adjustments to the countertop or backsplash area to ensure a good fit.
- Apply a small bead of adhesive or silicone caulk where the countertop will meet the backsplash.
- Carefully lower the countertop into position, aligning it precisely where it meets the backsplash.
- Apply clamps or braces to hold the countertop tightly against the backsplash as the adhesive cures.
- Make sure the countertop is level and securely supported underneath by cabinets.
- Clean away any adhesive squeeze-out and re-apply the seam treatments or caulk lines.
- If needed, cut holes for the sink or other appliances based on existing cut-outs or measurements.
- Follow manufacturer’s recommendations for curing times before using the new countertop.
Taking it slowly and checking fitment will result in a smooth installation with no backsplash damage.
Tips and Considerations
Here are some additional tips to bear in mind for this project:
- For stone countertops, use silicone adhesive instead of thicker construction adhesives.
- Any spacer strips or support boards used should be removed after adhesive cure time.
- Match your caulk color to the grout color of the backsplash.
- Use painter’s tape along the backsplash edge for better caulk lines.
- Take detailed photos at each step to refer back to later if needed.
- The total height of new countertop plus backsplash should equal the original.
- Any special edges or built-up details should be duplicated on the new top.
- Extra protection for the backsplash is better than too little – avoid impacts.
Keeping these tips in mind will help guarantee a successful countertop installation that does not harm the backsplash.
Here are answers to some frequently asked questions about replacing countertops and preserving the backsplash:
Is this a DIY-friendly project?
Yes, replacing a countertop while keeping the backsplash is definitely a project a skilled DIYer can tackle, especially with proper planning and care. Using a prefabricated countertop and silicone adhesive simplifies installation.
What about removing backsplash first, then putting it back?
Removing and reinstalling tile or other backsplash materials may seem simpler, but risks breaking tiles or having a difficult time getting pieces to realign properly. Leaving it in place avoids these issues.
Does new caulk between countertop and backsplash look seamless?
With a careful caulking job matching the original grout color, the new caulk line will be barely noticeable. It is a small compromise for saving the labor of a backsplash demolition and reinstallation.
Can you swap out just sections or do the entire run?
It is best to replace the entire continuous surface, as trying to match heights and seams between old and new sections would be very challenging. Full runs also allow the countertop to properly support itself.
Should wall paint be refreshed too?
With the backsplash left in place, repainting walls is not strictly necessary. However, it is a good opportunity to refresh wall paint color since the counters are being updated.
Does new countertop require different maintenance?
Be sure to follow manufacturer maintenance instructions for the new countertop material. They may require different cleansers, sealing treatments, or scrubbing techniques than the old.
Replacing kitchen or bathroom countertops while retaining the existing backsplash is an intermediate DIY project that can completely transform the space. With thoughtful planning, precise execution, and protection of the backsplash material during removal and installation, it is certainly possible to end up with a fresh new countertop seamlessly installed against the original backsplash. Paying close attention to details like cleanly cutting caulk lines and maintaining proper heights allows for a successful project that avoids a full kitchen or bath gut job. Follow the steps covered here and you can confidently replace your countertops and keep that backsplash you love intact.