These are some of the tools and products we used for this project.
We went to our local sheet metal shop for the Stainless Steel Counter we used but it looks like there are other options too.
We used a single 4x8 ft piece of 5/8 inch plywood, but you could use smaller pieces and fit them together.
Liquid nails are great for anything you need to glue.
And do not forget the caulk gun.
Silicone Caulk - for around the sink.
For screwing down the plywood...
We used 2 inch drywall screws.
Mon Jan 23, 2012 12:08 pmJohn, Thanks so much! Sara, I would find a local sheet metal place and see what they say. Good luck!
When you remodel your kitchen there are so many different decisions to make: what shade or color for the cabinets, what type of backsplash, what floor, what type of countertop? Granite and marble counters have been all the rage these last couple of years, so those might be high on many people's list. More recent popular options such as Quartz or concrete might be also be something many consider. However, there is one material that is functional, nice looking and that can be very affordable if you do the work yourself, and that is stainless steel.
our final kitchen countertop
The secret here is to not go with a large store that would install the counters for you, but to do a bit of research and be willing to do some of the work yourself. If you go that route you can end up with gorgeous counters that also cost a fraction of many other options out there. When we first started to think about counters, we were set on butcherblock counters because we love the look of nice wood! However we quickly realized we didn't want to constantly be careful and on guard for waterspots, so then we turned our attention towards stainless steel.
the old Formica counters
First up we went to our local super store - Home Depot. They quoted us $150/square foot installed, which I guess isn't super expensive, but it was definitely more than we wanted to spend. We have a really small counter, only about 20 square feet, but for that price it would still have ended up costing about $3000.
Next up we checked our local sheet metal place and they gave us the much more reasonable quote of about $400 (about $20/square foot!). This price was for ordering and bending the steel to shape, that required we did some of the work ourselves. Happy to try our hand at a new project, we agreed and went to work.
First of all we needed to make a plywood model of our counter. The old counters were Formica laminate from the 40s, and we decided we would just leave them as is and simply install the plywood and stainless steel on top of that to make it easier. This would mean a counter that was raised about an inch or so, but we did not have an issue with that at all.
So, we carefully measured our counter and cut out a plywood sheet that fit perfectly. At this point we had to remove our sink so we could cut a hole out for that on the plywood.
Darren from our local sheet metal place told us to make the plywood model pretty snug, but to leave just a little leeway so the metal wouldn't be buckling. We tried to follow his advice, and once we had our plywood model we brought it to Darren so he could get to work doing his part.
Now he worked with a 20 gauge stainless steel sheet that he made to fit right on the plywood model with a hole cut out for the sink.
A few days later Darren came by both with our plywood and our new stainless steel counter which was covered by a protective film. We tried everything on: plywood first, then stainless steel and tada - it fit almost perfectly, we just had to do chisel out a small amount of wood to make it fit perfectly.
Now when we knew it fit right, we put some liquid nails on top of the old formica counter and then fitted the plywood on top.
To make sure it was properly secured, we also put some screws in.
Then we put some more liquid nails on top of the plywood and fitted the stainless steel on top of that.
We added some weights and clamps to the counter and let it set over night.
Once we had installed the counter, we could turn our attention towards installing our new top mount stainless steel sink.
That was a project in itself, that took a fair amount of time and tinkering to get right... Once installed we added some clear silicon on the edges to protect it against water.
Darren had made sure he made a pretty wide edge to cover the extra height of the plywood on top of the old counters, and I really love how that extra height adds a nice touch. The edge is tucked in a bit, so it isn't sharp at all.
We have received some questions regarding scratching - does the stainless steel scratch easily and are we happy with it now, a few months later? I must say, we couldn't be happier with the counter.
completed kitchen remodel
It is so great because it's not sensitive. You can bang it up pretty good, and it still looks great, you don't have to be concerned about water spots, you can put hot pans on it etc… We haven't had a problem with any major scratches at all; sure you get tiny scratches all the time, but over time those small scratches almost polishes the metal and makes it look even better.
I love this technique we used here and would love to try doing it again using copper - that is if we ever get the opportunity to remodel another kitchen! Overall though, I think choosing stainless steel was a great choice. It's a natural material, it's not fake, it's extremely durable and it turned out to be cheaper than any other options around, really!
Wed Jan 25, 2012 2:41 am
Name: Concord Carpenter | Comment: Great job guys
Thu Jan 26, 2012 8:52 am
Name: Marj | Comment: ohmy! THOSE are beautiful. I have been in such a quandary about remodeling my kitchen. It's presently tiled which I love very much. I do not like the look of granite. Your work is so beautiful, especially when integrated with the dark butcher block. I do need to know whether they can shape a strange "L " piece for me....
Thu Jan 26, 2012 9:59 amThanks Concord Carpenter & Marj! I would be curious too how easy an L piece would be to make!
Thu Jan 26, 2012 12:21 pm
Name: David | Comment: Looks great! One tip I learned about cleaning stainless steel is that WD-40 works very well.
Sun Jan 29, 2012 2:36 pm
Name: BeckynRobin | Comment: LOVE! LOVE! The stainless steel look. You guys did a great job. We want to do the same thing. Our kitchen is L shaped . Hope to find a sheel metal place soon. Got any ideas where I start searching 1st.
Sun Jan 29, 2012 3:02 pmWe found our sheet metal shop by the way of a local flooring and counter store. They sometimes used this shop when they needed some specific work done like a stainless steel backsplash for their customers. So if you have a local store nearby that works with tile / flooring / counters etc... then that might be a good place to start.
Mon Feb 06, 2012 5:55 pm
Name: Andy W | Comment: Great job on your countertops! Way to be resourceful and spend the time to search out a local shop to fabricate these for you. One tip for anyone thinking of doing this, try www.thebluebook.com it's a contractor listing service. You can search for sheetmetal or stainless steel and see if there is anyone in your area. As always make sure to ask alot of questions and if you keep striking out see if they have any referrals of local people that my be able to help you out.
Tue Feb 07, 2012 6:15 am
Name: Holly | Comment: I love it! Can you come do my kitchen now too? :)
Tue Feb 07, 2012 7:45 am
Name: Greg | Comment: Thanks so much for posting this! We've been trying to get the exact same thing done for the past 8 months, but our contractor moves slow. Might be time to take things into our own hands!
Tue Feb 07, 2012 7:51 am
Name: Jessica Snell | Comment: Hi, followed over from Retro Renovation! We have a 20s Craftsman bungalow with original stainless steel counter tops surrounding our sink - I love them. They have aged beautifully, the scratches are barely noticeable. I use Barkeeper's Friend to scrub them down every once in a while, which works great. I'd been wanting to cover our other counter area (laminate added in the 70s) with stainless steel to match, but had no idea how to go about it cost effectively. Thank you for posting this great how-to!
Tue Feb 07, 2012 9:45 amHolly, Sure I'll be right over!
Greg, Try it out on your own, sure our kitchen is small, but this is not THAT difficult to accomplish!
Jessica, That's what I love about stainless steel, you really can't destroy it. Thanks for the tip!
Wed Feb 08, 2012 3:55 am
Name: N. | Comment: I love this! We also have a laminate countertop in our 70s ranch that I've been stumped as to how to re-do. I too have had my heart set on a butcher block countertop, but I know it's not practical for our growing family or lifestyle. I think this stainless steel countertop could be the answer to our dilemma! Thank you!!
Wed Feb 08, 2012 6:50 pm
Name: Renee | Comment: This is awesome! I am dividing my home and creating an effeciency apt. It is good I enjoy working with my hands and tools, since I have a very tight budget for this project. I have considered many surfaces for the countertop, but was frustrated because as a rental unit- it MUST be nearly bullet proof.... that is when I thought of steel today. Now, 'here' are the answers I needed. Thanks so much... "I" can do this!!!!!! You are my heros!
Wed Mar 07, 2012 5:22 am
Name: Laura Comment: I skipped the DIY part and found a sheet metal fabricator (easy to find on Craigslist, my guy specialized in fabricating countertops for restaurants it turned out) to make and install the whole countertop. He made a 10foot run of stainless countertop for under my cooktop. It turned out great. Paid him cash and cost a FRACTION of the Cambria that was installed in the rest of the kitchen. It's been in almost a year, and has held up great, it's getting that "patina" you see reataurant countertops have from geting used. But they can always be periodically buffed if you want to maintain that sleek polished look.
Wed Mar 07, 2012 6:19 am
Name: Elizabeth@themustardceiling URL: http: Comment: Terrific solution for countertops! I love the look of stainless steel in the kitchen. This may be the perfect solution for our Airstream renovation. We just did a 1950's kitchen remodel too. We had to get rid of the Formica and built wooden countertops out of solid wood doors from Habitat.
Wed Mar 07, 2012 11:21 am
Name: Hope URL: http://www.thethriftyqueenspeaks.com Comment: I love, love, love your stainless steel countertops!! So great and so inexpensive. Way to go!!
Wed Mar 07, 2012 7:40 pm
Name: Jennifer Comment: Gorgeous! Thanks for sharing this budget-friendly idea!
Thu Mar 08, 2012 9:03 amElizabeth, countertops made from solid wood doors from Habitat sounds beyond amazing. I'm going to have to check that out!
Sat Mar 10, 2012 1:26 pm
Name: Ramsey Comment: I wonder how easy it would be dent the surface? if a heavy cup fell from the top of a cabinet would it dent?
Sat Mar 10, 2012 6:44 pmThe stainless steel is flat on top of the plywood. There are no air pockets and we used a good quality plywood + high grade stainless steel. So no, I don't think it would dent. You probably would have to use a hammer to dent it! So to reduce the possibilities of dents: don't go cheap - use good plywood, good stainless steel and do a good job with adhesive etc... Although, if you did get a dent, would it really be the end of the world?
Tue Mar 13, 2012 7:06 pm
Name: Heather Comment: I love your blog and updated kitchen! We just bought a 1940s post-war home and are planning so do some work to the kitchen, this is a perfect idea! Thanks for sharing!
Sun Apr 01, 2012 5:24 pm
Name: Nancy Comment: We've done this with 3 kitchens on our farm, working with local sheet metal fabricators each time. They had no problem welding the L shapes. You can find sheet metal fabricators by searching for welders, machine shops, or fabricators.
Light olive oil spray works well for cleaning the counters (MUCH less toxic than WD40, which is a very toxic product that you don't want near food!).
The counters hold up well and look gorgeous.
Tue Apr 03, 2012 11:34 pm
Name: Mild Steel Sheet URL: http://www.metal-supplies.com/12201/17653.html Comment: Thankyou so much for sharing this information.
Wed Apr 11, 2012 5:32 am
Name: Abby Comment: I loved what you did so much, we decided to go with stainless for our farm house kitchen renovations! The countertops and island top are being fabricated as I write this, hopefully finished in the next few days.. Quick question, exactly which type of liquid nails did you use? Having trouble picking out the correct one. Any help you could offer would be appreciated!
Thu May 31, 2012 11:11 am
Name: Kristy Swain URL: www.hypheninteriors.com Comment: How inventive. I love it when people come up with more cost effective solutions!!
Thu May 31, 2012 11:21 am
Name: Tisha Comment: Another nice thing is that you re-used the Formica as a base and it wasn't tossed in a landfill. This is such a great idea and your kitchen looks fabulous.
Thu May 31, 2012 11:32 am
Name: jaime Comment: Your kitchen looks fabulous! What a great job and a super idea for a lower-cost renovation that, by the way, looks like a million bucks!
Thu May 31, 2012 11:34 am
Name: Katie URL: www.everyday-pretty.com Comment: This is so cool! I never thought about stainless steel but it looks great!
Thu May 31, 2012 11:37 am
Name: tanni Comment: How would you do this with an undermount sink? Any ideas guys?
Thu May 31, 2012 11:53 amThanks for all this great feedback! @Tisha: I know, I also love that we were able to reuse the old countertops as a base! @tanni: I don't really know how you would do this with an undermount sink. I've seen pictures of gorgeous stainless steel counters with undermount sinks, however I bet those were a lot more expensive. If you want to do this yourself like we did, then it would be a lot easier to get an topmount sink... But maybe someone else has an idea?
Thu May 31, 2012 11:54 am
Name: Emily E. Comment: Ventured over here from Young House Love. I love the idea of SS counters but I wonder about keeping it clean. We have stainless appliances that always have marks, smudges, etc on them..partially because we have a four year old boy! Do you find that the counters are easy to keep smudge free?
Thu May 31, 2012 3:00 pm
Name: Jennifer Comment: @tanni - you can have an undermount sink (or top mount too, I think) integrated into the stainless steel counter, so it's totally seamless. I'd ask the fabricator how it works and how much extra it would cost. You would just take the sink to the fabricator with the template and they fuse it together before they deliver it.
Thu May 31, 2012 7:48 pm
Name: A Collins Comment: WoW!
I lived with stainless steel counter tops in my condo for 18-years. The counter tops and my stainless cook top are the only things I miss since we moved into our new house.
I'm curious why your new stainless steel counters could not be attached directly to the old laminate counter tops. Was removing the old laminate so the stainless steel could be attached to the existing subsurface not an option and why? Raising my counter top height even an inch would be problematic. Otherwise, this is something I could do right away. Thanks for the great and affordable idea.
Thu May 31, 2012 8:04 pm@ A Collins, We didn't remove the old laminate mostly because it would be a hassle. Doing it this way was a lot easier. Plus we had to make a model of our counter and bring it to the sheet metal shop, and I don't know if I would want to bring a 66 year old laminate piece (if you could remove it one piece even) into the shop for a fitting.
Fri Jun 01, 2012 1:55 am
Name: Sona Jacob Comment: Wow! Came over from young house love. First visit here. This is a super idea! Congratulations!
Tue Jul 10, 2012 7:38 am
Name: Melanie Comment: Just heard back from a local metal shop in Milwaukee- over $1,000 for two small pieces 21"x42". No back splash or sink cut-out. just bent to form an edge on two sides. Guess you guys found a bargain!
Tue Jul 10, 2012 10:03 amMelanie, I'm curious, were you to provide the metal shop with two plywood models of your counters at this price estimate? Or did this price include for them to come to your home, take measurements and then create two steel pieces for you that fit perfectly? $1000 for two small pieces does seem awfully high, and I'm wondering if that's simply because the shop you dealt with charges more, or if there was more work involved on their part.
Fri Jul 13, 2012 4:43 pm
Name: Ali Seraj Comment: Hiya...
So obviously great job on the countertop. A few questions if you don't mind. What kind of plywood did you use and what thickness? And when you had the stainless steel top made, did they bend the edge down like this...
So that the bottome of the stainless lip was even with the bottom of the plywood? Or did they bend it like this
so the bottom lip of the stainless steal goes back and touches the cabinet its sitting on so you wouldn't be able to see the bottom of the plywood if you looked under.
Fri Jul 13, 2012 8:35 pmAli Seraj,
We used 5/8 inch plywood. Even before we provided the plywood we discussed with our local metal shop the type of corner bends and cutouts we wanted. He was very accommodating. So we went with the curled up design.
This way no one would cut their fingers. And it has been great and very smooth when you put your hands underneath. You cannot see any plywood.
Sat Jul 14, 2012 3:49 am
Name: sharon Comment: Its looks fabulous.. just wondering .. could it work if the original laminate counter has a rounded edge ?
Tue Jul 17, 2012 6:47 pm
Name: Melanie Comment: Hi again. No, that $1000 estimate was for me to bring them the plywood just like you describe in the blog and installing ourselves. I contacted two restaurant supply places after this quote came back. One place never responded and the other replied with a quote for $1800!!!! Again with me bringing them the plywood! What is wrong with these people?!
Tue Jul 17, 2012 7:13 pmMelanie,
Since you are having some trouble with your local sheet metal company we came up with an idea you could try. Because the two pieces of stainless steel you need are about 2' x 4', and they don't need any cutouts - just bends then you could try to buy the sheet metal yourself.
Here is a site I found with some info. This is the very first site I came across just to get an idea, we do not endorse this site:
24 inches x 48 inches - $189.89 ~ 20 gauge (0.032" - thickness)
So here you have it, two sheets of stainless steel for under $400. Before you buy this I would go down to the local high school and ask the shop teacher if they would help you bend it for their class. You have nothing to lose and you might have fun with this project.
Wed Jul 25, 2012 12:46 pm
Name: Sky URL: firstname.lastname@example.org Comment: Hi,
It looks like you applied the new plywood right over your old counter and the steel over that?
Sat Jul 28, 2012 8:54 amSky, That's right. We applied the new plywood right on top of the old counter and the steel on top of that.
Sun Aug 05, 2012 5:50 pm
Name: justine URL: email@example.com Comment: Our Kitchen is very similar to yours and I've looked and looked for a year for the "right" countertop...this is def it!! I love the stainless steel! The issue we have is our old countertop has a backsplash. How would you recommend dealing with that? I like the idea of going "over" the old formica but the backsplash may pose a problem. I like the clean look of no backsplash..any ideas? take the countertop off and remove the backsplash?
Sun Aug 05, 2012 8:34 pmJustine, we had an old linoleum backsplash as well. Here is how we removed it: Removing BacksplashIf yours looks like ours did, then you should be able to remove the backsplash and then just put the new counter on top of the old one. Good luck!
Thu Aug 09, 2012 1:04 pm
Name: Justine URL: justpixinc.com Comment: Well!! We did it! I went to a local steel fabricator shop..small one - about 2 miles from my house. He was very receptive and excited to be helping me with my project. Who knew!!! He does the same thing with copper as well! We have about the same size as you do but a cut where the stove is . The 2 pieces with the finishing all total $460.00 and he told me he understood if I wanted to go look elsewhere !! what? my new counter top in 20 guage SS for $460? I'm not going anywhere! I also added in the other countertop as I was going to use wood for that but feel the consistency will look better and he agreed! Thank you so much for the inspiration and helping us save a ton of money too! he suggested we take the old counter off and use two layers of the 5/8th. The friend that is helping us install it will help us with that. The only ? i have is he asked if i wanted it to be brushed but I felt to match the sink it should be regular stainless correct? I noticed above the sink you used. I'll check that out ! thanks again! I'd love to show you a before and after when we are done!
Thu Aug 09, 2012 2:45 pmHi Justine, That's great! I'm so happy you found inspiration from our project! I think we have regular stainless steel and not brushed. When looking at the counter, it doesn't seem completely polished, nor completely brushed - somewhere in between. It does match the sink in terms of finish perfectly so I would bet it's regular stainless steel. We'd love to see some before and after pictures when you're done! Good luck!
Thu Aug 09, 2012 5:23 pm
Name: Justine URL: justpixinc.com Comment: can you tell me what sink you purchased? i saw somewhere it was Elkay from Home Depot. Is that correct? do you have the model #? where can is send some pix ? the similarities are uncanny!
Fri Aug 10, 2012 9:01 amHi Justine, here is the sink we bought: Glacier Bay All-in-One Top Mount Stainless Steel 33x22x9 2-Hole Double Bowl Kitchen Sink
Fri Aug 24, 2012 6:32 am
Name: justine URL: www.justpixinc.com Comment: hi! so i went to the local sheet metal shop..ordered two countertops...$690...great right? yesterday I went in to see his progress and noticed a TON of scratches on the stainless steel...his explanation was that SS scratches and after time they will all blend in. I'm very disappointed. The SS he is using is 20 gauge but no "protective coating" on it like you had. Not sure how this story is going to end but I'm not installing scratched up SS!!
Fri Aug 24, 2012 9:03 amJustine, That's too bad about the scratches. When we ordered our counter it came with a protective plastic film. Are the scratches really deep or just on the surface? If they're fine scratches, then I wouldn't really care too much, since the counters are going to get a bit scratched up over time anyway. And, you could polish out most fine scratches with a stainless steel polish product. But if they're very deep, then I see why you are concerned. I hope it works out!
Mon Aug 27, 2012 6:42 pm
Name: Justine URL: Www.justpixinc.com Comment: i went to see the shop owner today .... after calling Darrin it was decided we would start over with brushed stainless Steel which is what you have and it will also match the new sink too...so in the end it all worked out and the price difference was only about 85.00 !! It will also have the protective coating on it and no scratches !!
Wed Aug 29, 2012 9:00 amJustine, that's great. I'm so glad it worked out!
Sat Sep 08, 2012 11:39 pm
Name: Ron Comment: Can the Stainless Steel be put directly on the Formica
Sun Sep 09, 2012 2:12 pmRon, yes you could. You could put it over anything hard and smooth and secure it with construction adhesive. The problem is that you would not have a plywood template to give the metal shop.
Thu Nov 22, 2012 9:43 am
Name: Echo Comment: In the granite installation business to which I am quite familiar with, we make a template using 1/4" luan (pronounced LOO-awn). It's very simular to paneling but smooth and doesn't chip or fray when cut. It is about half the cost per 4x8 sheet then plywood and much easier to use/manuever/cut. If you have the space to store it it could be used later in some other project. For instance, I have some to use as a back panel for a wood medicine cabinet I plan on building. Home improvement stores sell it but for a lot more then your local lumber yard. Don't forget to measure the thickness of your old countertops for the bent edge.