We shopped solid surface countertops for our Sacramento kitchen remodeling project and it doesn't seem like a do-it-yourself job. The clerk at the home remodeling store said you can crack open a counter with a stress riser. Can you buy countertops with warranties against stress risers?
Brady J. ~ Sacramento, California
Hi Brady, The clerk at the home remodeling store was absolutely correct, working with solid surface countertops can be very difficult and is best left to installation contractors who have been professionally trained. Solid surface countertops have many good points and are very attractive, but there are many issues that must be taken into consideration when installing them to prevent future problems such as stress risers.
Very few types of countertops are DIY friendly, the possible exceptions being wood and tile tops. Most require years of experience and training to install properly and without cosmetic or structural problems. Most of my experience has been with granite countertops and the contractors I use have been doing fabrication and installations for a very long time, but even with all that experience they sometimes make mistakes that cause them to have to bring out a new piece of granite. As you can imagine that can be pretty expensive and something they can't afford to do very often and remain in business.
The same is true on a smaller scale in your kitchen with your solid surface countertops. While you may have a successful installation and never have a problem in the future with the tops, there is also a good chance that you might make a costly mistake and have to install new tops. One of the problems with stress risers is that they often don't develop until down the road and by then you have your sink and plumbing installed and all of your appliances in place.
If you decide to go ahead and use solid surface countertops and hire a kitchen contractor to fabricate and install them, check first to see what type of warranty they offer. Most of the major manufacturers of solid surface countertop materials have training programs for kitchen contractors to become certified in installing their particular product. For your countertop warranty to be honored by the manufacturer you may have to use an installer that has an installation certification from that manufacturer. Even then they are going to make sure that the stress risers weren't caused by something you did as a homeowner before they honor their warranty.
I recommend that you find a kitchen contractor around Sacramento, California that has experience in installing the type of solid surface countertops you are interested in and is certified to install them by the manufacturer. I would discuss the manufacturer's warranty and any warranty they offer in detail with them and also take a look at some prior installations they have done.