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The Pros and Cons of the Different Types of DIY Kitchen Countertops

The most universally enjoyed room in the home is also the priciest to remodel. But if you're willing to DIY a kitchen countertop, you can entertain even the most expensive materials.

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Photo: Studio Jaki Photography. From: WAKE + LOOM.

Which Materials Can I DIY?

The short answer is: a bunch. We evaluated popular countertop materials and found that most are awaiting your talents in one way or another. We will take them one by one, assessing which materials are most promising for the DIY approach and estimating what you might save. First, let's look at what's involved in the project. Any kitchen countertop replacement involves a lot of work:

  • -Disconnecting and reconnecting the plumbing
  • -Removing the old countertop and sink
  • -Leveling cabinetry and adding supports
  • -Measuring and fabricating the new countertop
  • -Installing the new countertop
  • -Installing the sink and other fixtures and appliances
  • -Caulking, sealing and patching
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Photo: Jalynn Baker

Where Are the Savings?

If you aren't doing these tasks, you're paying someone to take them on. The fabrication part we mentioned includes cutting or fashioning the new top, making accurate cutouts for sinks and appliances and accommodating other fixtures and kitchen obstacles. Additionally, this can also involve cutting specialty edges and corners — like bullnose, bevel or cove cuts — as well as staining, sealing or polishing.

Fabrication and installation are often where you can save the most money. That said, the other jobs can amount to more than $1,000 in labor costs — or cost savings if you grab your pipe wrench and level.

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Photo: Robert Peterson; Rustic White Photography. From: Tiffany Brooks.


Wood countertops have excellent DIY potential. They are a beautiful and natural option that can add warmth to any room. A vast range of wood species, food-safe stains and finish options make it a suitable choice for many design styles. Eco-friendly possibilities include reclaimed wood and bamboo (which is actually a grass).

- Material can be inexpensive.
- It's relatively lightweight.
- No specialty tools are required, though a router and orbital sander are handy.

- Preparing and treating wood is messy.
- Staining and sealing make this project a couple-week gig.

Difficulty level: fabrication: intermediate; installation: beginner/intermediate
Cost installed: $25-$200 per square foot
DIY savings: 50 percent or more

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Photo: Mark Woods. From: SHED Architecture & Design.


This category of countertop includes stainless steel, copper, zinc and other metals in a variety of textures and finish options. Metal countertops are stylish, sanitary and generally super-expensive. But you can save a lot if you do part of the work yourself and instead of using solid metal, use metal tops that have a foundation of plywood or hardwood that is then wrapped in metal sheeting of a particular gauge. Wrapping requires patience and a lot of glue, but you can save on fabrication and still benefit from a professional touch if you measure and fabricate the wood base, then take that to a metal fabricator for the wrapping part. The availability of an affordable fabricator nearby will likely determine your route.

- Mistakes aren't the end of the world because the material is readily available and the cost can be low (stainless is the least expensive).
- Countertops are relatively lightweight and easy to manage.
- Fancy finishes may take a while, but otherwise, metal makes for a fast fabrication and installation.

- Metal sheeting is soft, particularly copper, so easy to damage if you're fabricating yourself.

Difficulty level: fabrication: intermediate/advanced; installation: beginner/intermediate
Cost installed: $75-$175 per square foot
DIY savings: 50 percent or more

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