When your dated, tired kitchen countertops are in need of a change, it seems like you have just two avenues: replacing your counters with new countertops or repairing your existing countertops.
Most homeowners would love to have all-new kitchen countertops. But the high cost of countertops is often enough to put off some homeowners from buying. Repairing your existing countertops by painting or re-surfacing them is inexpensive but at the cost of poor durability.
Instead, why not cover up those countertops with more countertop material? A small, niche industry makes granite or quartz countertop overlays that cover existing counters. A hard slab of granite, or quartz, including edges and backsplashes, goes on top of the existing countertop. These are variously called countertop overlays, granite counter units (GCUs), modular granite, or modular quartz, and they're great choices for primary homes, rental units, and investment properties alike. Read on for everything you should know about countertop overlays before you get one.
What Are Countertop Overlays?
Countertop overlays cover your existing countertop in the form of large, pre-cast slabs of granite or quartz countertop material.
Overlays are differentiated from countertop fixes such as Rustoleum's Countertop Transformations, a multi-stage liquid covering, or from thin, plastic adhesive sheets imprinted with an image of granite. Countertop overlays are true countertop material, just thinner.
As long as you have a strong, stable counter, you can lay the overlay slabs directly on top. You can also remove your existing counter and lay down a new base of plywood.
Countertop Overlay Features
- The countertop overlay thickness is about 13 mm.
- The countertop material is mold- and mildew-resistant.
- Most countertop overlays will have a front overhang or apron.
- Eased, beveled, rounded, and mitered (or straight) edges are commonly available.
- The rear of the countertop, or backsplash, can be built of the same countertop material.
- Orders are specially designed for the particular countertop; there are no stock overlay pieces.
- Besides being strong, the underlying base must be perfectly level. Overlay material is thin enough that it might be affected by base material variances.
- Overlays usually will work with undermount sinks and farmhouse sinks.
Most countertop overlays need to create a seam, or several, within the general installation. This is especially true where countertop turns are involved. Many types of L-shaped kitchens, for example, will have an L-shaped section of countertop.
Some experts advise against choosing what are often called wild colors if you want the seams to disappear. This is because the distinctive patterning on one side will not be matched on the other side of the seam. Generally, though, most technicians know how to expertly blend two adjacent slabs.
Pros and Cons of Countertop Overlays
- Countertop overlays install quickly, usually within one day.
- Overlays are less expensive than full-sized countertops because they are thinner.
- Allows you to have premium quartz countertops without the high price tag.
- Less expensive than sending your existing counters to the landfill since you must pay for disposal costs.
- Greener and more eco-friendly than landfilling old countertops.
- Some seams may be visible.
- Countertop overlays are only as good as the underlying countertop base. If the base is weak, the overlay cannot be installed.
- Few companies sell countertop overlays.
- Does not work well on uneven surfaces.
- Colors and styles are far less than with full-size countertop materials (currently, Caesarstone Transform has 12 colors).
Countertop Overlay Installation Process
The entire process, from first measurements to project completion, can take up to two weeks.
- First, take basic measurements of your countertop area with a tape measure.
- After contacting an authorized dealer, a representative visits your home to take precise measurements and to initiate the order.
- Another company representative may need to visit your home again to firm up the measurements and to generate an estimate of the project's cost.
- Off-site, fabricators cut and build the overlays to the specifications.
- Right before installation, all plumbing should be safely disconnected.
- The materials are delivered to your home. Technicians install the countertop overlays. This process usually takes one day.
Countertop Overlay Manufacturers
The countertop overlay industry is a volatile one. High-profile brands such as BuildDirect's Panda, Lazy Granite, Kitchen-in-a-Box, and EZ Granite have come and gone.
Caesarstone Transform is the most prominent company presently producing countertop overlays. Caesarstone Transform products are not available on the open retail market. Homeowners need to go through an authorized dealer. Caesarstone also requires that authorized technicians install its product.