I’ve worked at Latitude for over 6 years and finally, my family and I decided to replace our laminate countertops with granite countertops. For a long time, we weren’t able to afford or take the time to upgrade our kitchen and bathrooms. But after almost 20 years of living in the same house, it was time. As with most home renovation projects, it started with one thing that we wanted to replace – the toilets (they were gross and the ceramic was yellow) – but became a large, all encompassing project. Our thought that was since we’re replacing the toilets, we should replace the bathtub and the sinks so they’d all be white. The bathtub and tiles also needed to go; they had mildew and were gross. Well, if we were changing the sinks, might as well change the countertops. If we were changing the bathroom countertops, we should change the kitchen countertops. Now we can’t have beautiful countertops and ugly cabinets, so we’ll paint them (when I say we, I meant me)! Plus, we wanted to do everything on a budget.
We saved a lot of money by painting the cabinets, removing the countertops ourselves and we purchased granite countertops from Latitude’s remnant material. The prices are marked down so much that essentially, you are only paying for the labour and even that had been discounted. Since I work at Latitude, I’ve been scoping out the remnants as jobs get cut. For the kitchen, I found a beautiful piece of Crema Bourdeaux and for the vanities I got Black Galaxy. I’m lucky because our kitchen is small and there are no seams. When looking for remnant granite and quartz for your kitchen countertops and there are seams, you must find pieces that are from the same lot or be able to get it from the same piece. Any time two pieces are seamed together they must come from the same block, piece or lot, so that when the pieces meet, the colours are matched as closely as possible.
I had a templator come in and template all the bathrooms and the kitchen. They come in with a digital plotter that is accurate within the millimetre. Of course I knew all this before they came to my house, but it was still impressive to see how the granite fits like a glove around the odd corners in the kitchen and in my mom’s bathroom.
cabinets before Kitchen & Bath DIY Reno
The night before the installation I removed all our countertops, disconnected the plumbing and installed shut-off valves. Removing the countertops was easy; disconnecting the plumbing and installing the shut off valves was a little trickier – considering that before this I didn’t even know where the main shut off for the water was in the house (I found it close to the water heater). Once you shut the water off, don’t disconnect the faucet right away. It’s a good idea to turn all the faucets on to drain any water that is caught in the pipes; even then, keep a bucket with you. I had a few unexpected “fountains”.
You will need 2 wrenches to detach the plumbing. I used compression shut-off valves and purchased them from the Home Depot. Not knowing what size I needed, I armed myself with a nut that I removed from the pipes and headed out to the Home Depot. There, I matched the nut that I removed to the nut that was on the bottom of the shut-off valve (the handle of the valve points down in the open position and a quarter turn up will stop the water).
To install the shut-off valves: I unscrewed the nut and removed the bearing from the bottom, placed the nut, then the bearing, then finally the actual shut-off valve on the pipe and screwed the nut on to the shut-off valve. It says to “not over-tighten” on the package but that doesn’t mean “finger” tighten; I learned that after another set of fountains when I tried to turn the main water back on. You will need to tighten with a wrench!
Detaching the sink for the piping was easy. So was detaching the laminate countertops from the wall and the cabinets. First thing you do to remove the countertops is to take a knife and score between the wall and the laminate backsplash. Next, unscrew everything that holds the countertop to the cabinets. The vanities and the countertops without the kitchen sink I was able to remove myself, but the kitchen countertop with the sink is easier to remove with help so that the top can be lifted straight up. Lifting it at an angle makes it harder for the Sink to disengage from the pipes. The same issue can occur when removing the bathroom countertops but because of the smaller size, you can lift it out straight up yourself.
I removed all the cabinet doors before the installation so that I could paint the cabinet frames before the installation but it is recommended that you keep the cabinet doors on so that the installers can ensure that the doors and drawers can open with the countertop on.
The installers were great!! First thing they did when they came into the house was lay down drop cloths! They have to keep their steel toe boots on for safety reasons, which is completely understandable. I don’t even want to think about how much it would hurt to drop a piece of granite on my toes. They inspected all the cabinets to make sure they were level (which they were). This is very important since an unlevel countertop can cause cracks and the seam to break in the future. The installers can shim it up a little bit but how much they can shim it will depend on the edge you choose (can’t shim ¾” and 1 ¼” edges since the shims will show). They check to make sure the sinks will fit in the cabinets.
If they don’t fit, they (the installers) will cut away at some of the cabinet supports (don’t worry, they wouldn’t cut any gables that would compromise the integrity of the cabinets). Then they brought in all the pieces and placed them on the cabinets for a dry fit and made any adjustments to the tops. The tops were then siliconed into place along with the sinks. Before the sinks were installed, I attached the faucets to the top (a great idea from Bob Gilson, the CFO of Latitude) since it would be really difficult to install them after the sink is in. I would have had to wedge myself in the cabinet and try to tighten and screw things in and knowing me, I’d probably get stuck and create a third fountain if I waited till the sinks were in.
The installers took a lot of care when they siliconed the wall and the countertops to prevent gaps where water could seep in. All in all, they did a beautiful job. I was very impressed! AND they cleaned and vacuumed after themselves, which I really appreciated.