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Thread: How to replace cutting boards in kitchen island countertop?

  1. #1
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    How to replace cutting boards in kitchen island countertop?

    My I trying to improve my kitchen with tweaks rather than a complete redo (wife is against complete redo). One of our gripes is with the island that contains two cooktops (main and a grill unit). It is a white laminate on top of an MDF like substrate. The islandt has 2 glass "cutting boards" on either side of the main cooktop, embedded in the surface so they are essentially flat with the laminate. Cutouts exist in the laminate/mdf surface and aluminum frames fit down in the cutouts and hold the glass panels.

    There are 3 problems:
    1. the frames are not liquid proof, any boil over or water from using the cutting boards drips down into the drawers below.
    2. the frames act as a dirt trap making it very hard to clean the glass surface completely. The frames are about 3/32" proud of the glass and of the laminate, a nice little wall.
    3. the dirt/grease lines the edge of the frames and turns black which really stands out and makes for an unappealing site while preparing food. Very hard to clean it completely.

    I would like to remove the existing cutting boards and frames completely, and embed something new completely flush with the laminate (no aluminum frames) and that is water tight. I can add a new support structure below the mdf to hold my new "cutting boards". I doubt the existing cutouts were done with high precision since the aluminum frame hides any errors, but I can probably make a template and route and nice accurate opening.

    Question is what can I put in there. Would granite or some type of stone work? That would go nicely with the style of the house. How would I seal the gap between the cutout and the new embedded surface? It has to be water tight and look nice.

    Any ideas? Thanks

    James

  2. #2
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    Could you use Corian or a Corian-like product for your insert/cutting board? Don't know if your corners are square or rounded. If they're rounded, you might route a 3/32-1/8 groove around the edge and put an O-ring in it to seal out water, dirt, etc. Would take some pretty careful measuring to ensure a good fit.
    Just my 2 cents.

    Joe
    "When the horse is dead, GET OFF."

  3. #3
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    James
    How important is the "look" of the cutting boards.

    I would consider a few alternatives;
    1. A wood cutting board with the gaps filled with an epoxy ( either stick, or liquid )
    2. Fill the entire void space with an epoxy resin with a coloring that you both like.
    3.) Since it's already glass, which is kind of a hard surface for a cutting board. Find a nice tile that could be cut to fit the space left over, put it in place and epoxy grout it around the edges.
    Was this surface actually intended as a cutting surface, or was it a surface to place hot pots and pans? I only ask because glass is really hard. If it is for hot pots and pans removed from the burners, I'd bypass the epoxy alternatives and go to tile or granite.
    Just a few suggestions. I'm certain you'll get many more.
    "The first thing you need to know, will likely be the last thing you learn." (Unknown)

  4. #4
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    Why is it you want it to be flush? That really complicates things. If you had your new cutting boards overlap the countertop you could use nearly any material you wanted and you could easily remove it to clean or resurface it. You could even have different inserts for different purposes, wood for cutting, granite for ? Umm, I don't know - just good looks maybe? Sealing it also would be easy with a gasket around the perimeter of the opening.

    John

  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mike Cutler View Post
    James
    How important is the "look" of the cutting boards.

    I would consider a few alternatives;
    1. A wood cutting board with the gaps filled with an epoxy ( either stick, or liquid )
    2. Fill the entire void space with an epoxy resin with a coloring that you both like.
    3.) Since it's already glass, which is kind of a hard surface for a cutting board. Find a nice tile that could be cut to fit the space left over, put it in place and epoxy grout it around the edges.
    Was this surface actually intended as a cutting surface, or was it a surface to place hot pots and pans? I only ask because glass is really hard. If it is for hot pots and pans removed from the burners, I'd bypass the epoxy alternatives and go to tile or granite.
    Just a few suggestions. I'm certain you'll get many more.
    The "look" is certainly a motivator. The look of the grease/dirt collecting along the aluminum frame is very unpleasant.
    Because the surface is so hard, we seldom use them as cutting boards for fear of dulling our knives. Maybe they are for hot pots, but there is a 3rd identical one (with identical problems) to the left of the sink in a matching counter top along the wall.
    Would epoxy resin be hard enough if we did cut on it? Would it withstand heat if we moved pots over?
    Some kind of granite or tile is what I had in mind, but I worry about cutting/trimming it for a close fit to the cutout (even with the cutout cleaned up with a router) and then how to fill any gap. I fear something like epoxy would smear over the laminate and tile surfaces and would be impossible to remove before it dried.

    Previous reply mentioned an o-ring. That would help with sealing against leaks, but these surfaces are like 15"x18" rectangles and I've not seen o-rings in that size.

    James

  6. #6
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    James

    If you're going to take pots and pans from the cooktop to the surface, than the commercially available epoxies are probably not what you are looking for. There are high silica content epoxies used for thermal barrier insulation, but I've never seen them for sale.
    You wouldn't cut the tile/marble/granite to match the counter. You would cut the counter with a router to match the shape of the tile. Be creative. . Don't even begin to limit yourself to a tile store, or a Home Depot/lowes. There are some beautiful handcrafted tiles that would add a lot. Too expensive for most of us to do a large project, but using one or two is certainly doable. Look at Motarwi Tile on the web. Also look at California Tile. Incredible stuff!
    If you go Granite, or Marble, the selection is limitless. You are only looking for a remnant piece, so virtually every stone cutter will have piles of remnants to look through. Typically the cost is a per sq/ft. number. The slab piece has already been sold so whatever they make off the remnant is profit.
    Don't be afraid of epoxy. It's really not as messy as everyone makes it out to be. An epoxy grout would be very easy to apply as a border trim in your situation. Even a "normal" grout line once sealed would work just fine too.

    Me personally. I'd be looking to do a free flowing, non geometric, intarsia type of effect. But then I tend to color outside the lines anyway.
    Last edited by Mike Cutler; 07-07-2012 at 10:49 AM.
    "The first thing you need to know, will likely be the last thing you learn." (Unknown)

  7. #7
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    I'd say that there's no way to do what you propose. Even if you can get the new insert flush with the rest of the counter, the seam is going to be very visible, and is still likely to collect debris. Instead, you should consider re-covering the entire island with formica. I'm guessing about your island, but if the guesses are correct, this won't be too difficult, and the results will be much better than just plugging the cutting board holes.

    My guess is that the top of the island was orginally covered by a single sheet of formica, and holes were cut into it for the inserts and the cooktops. My guess is that this top sheet formica goes uninterrupted all the way to all of the edges of the counter, where it terminates in a simple small bevel.

    If these guesses are correct, here's what I'd do. First remove the cooktops. Disconnect the electricity underneath, disconnect the clamps that hold them to the counter, and set aside. Remove the inserts. Plug the insert holes. You only need to get the plug to be mechanically sound. You can have small gaps around the edges. Probably you can screw cleats to the underside of the existing substrate, and drop into the hole a plug that's made up of a piece of substrate sheet plus shims underneath that are the thickness of the formica. You can even sand the top of the plug and the top of the existing formica to get everthing flush. Then contact-cement down a new piece of formica to cover the entire island top. Use a flush-trim router bit to cut out the cooktop holes. Trim the outside edge of the counter with a formica-trim bit. It is like a flush-trim bit, but it bevels the edge a bit. Replace and reconnect the cooktops.

    Most good lumberyards can order formica for you. Some of the big box stores will too -- most notably Lowes. Look at their web site for formica colors and prices.
    Last edited by Jamie Buxton; 07-07-2012 at 11:06 AM.

  8. #8
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    Jamie:
    Most of what you guess is correct. I've already replaced the original two cooktops as they died of old age (were original to the kitchen as is the counter top--35 years old). One cutcout was a little too small for the new grill (easy fix), the other was a little too big (harder fix but thankfully the lip of the new cooktop still covered the original cutout). The problem is that there is a wrap around wall counter top with the same laminate coverings as well as a built in desk. I did manage to find a close match for the walnut laminate on the cabinets when I redid one wall's worth to make room for a larger refrigerator. At that time I also tried to match the counter top's white laminate with no luck. I really don't want to recover everything at this time.

  9. #9
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    Hi John:
    The original cooktop was the old style ring electric burners and rotating knobs and a chromed vent cover for a downdraft. It was a nightmare to clean with so many obstacles. We do a lot of frying (bad for the health, I know), so grease splatters are a problem. The new cooktop is an induction with the touch controls. While above the laminate a bit, the cooktop itself is a flush surface--so easy to clean compared to the original. That is the motivation for making the cutting board/pan cooling surfaces/whatever they are, flush to the laminate. A sponge will just wipe over everything for easy cleaning. The two inserts are only about 2 inches from the cooktop and they do get splatters and boil over water reaches them easily.
    James

  10. #10
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    James, FYI, you can buy O-ring material by the foot and glue the ends together to form an O-ring of whatever size you want. McMaster Carr is one source.

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