Quartz countertops are a popular option among many commercial projects like offices suites and breakrooms designs and among industrial designers and builders, since these part-natural, part-artificial countertops can be made to mimic virtually any natural stone, are highly durable, and are easier to cut, shape, and handle than natural materials like granite.
Quartz countertops are comprised of a combination of natural quartz powder/particulate, resin, pigments, and other fillers, though the primary ingredient is the quartz. Once formed and set using a process of heating, quartz is sturdy, durable against moisture, naturally resistant to the accumulation of bacteria, and easy to clean much like stainless steel countertops.
Unlike natural stone, quartz is not prone to cracking or splintering under impact and is relatively easy to cut to size/shape to fit the exact specifications of an office, kitchen, lab, classroom, etc. If you are up to the challenge of installing your own quartz countertops, it can be done, but you’ll need to be aware of a few key factors that will impact the success of your DIY installation.
First and foremost, be aware that quartz is heavy, typically weighing between 18-25 lbs per square foot of material. Most quartz slabs are produced at around 50 square feet, meaning that a single slab could weigh up to 1,200 pounds.
In addition to the weight factor, there are several other technical and safety considerations to be made before you decide to install your own quartz countertops, which is what you’ll learn here in this article. At OnePointe Solutions, we are dedicated to helping our customers design, build, and install the best and most practical furniture solutions for their commercial and industrial facilities by providing professional services and advice to clients wanting to be more hands-on with their installations.
Here, we’ve created a basic breakdown of how to install quartz countertops with tools and materials you can find at your local hardware store.
Tools for Installing Quartz Countertops
The first step to successfully installing any countertop or piece of furniture is to gather all of your tools. While all the tools and equipment you’ll need to install your own quartz countertops can be purchased from large hardware stores, many of these tools are difficult to use and recommended only for experienced professionals.
In particular, the cutting and rotary tools needed to achieve beautiful, precise, smooth countertops can be extremely aggressive, and should only be used with caution and by individuals with a good understanding of the techniques required. Here’s everything you’ll need:
Quartz is an extremely hard mineral, coming in at a 7 on the Mohs Hardness Scale, which rates diamond the highest at 10, and talc (the ingredient used in many powder makeup products) the lowest at 1. Because quartz possesses immense strength, the tools needed to make smooth, accurate cuts are considered relatively ‘heavy duty’ and often include diamond blades.
Some basic cutting tools used to cut quartz countertops include:
- Fixed circular saw
- Plunge circular saw/wet saw
- Diamond circular blades
- Grinder wheel/rotary stone cutter
- Grinder diamond drum attachment
Unlike some other materials that require more intensive sanding to achieve smooth cuts, when cut properly using the right tools, quartz typically requires only minor smoothing/polishing. To smooth the edges of quartz countertops and to remove jagged edges that occur during cutting, you will need:
- Grinder wheel/rotary stone cutter
- Grinder polishing attachment
- Polishing oil/Polish
In addition to the specialty tools used to cut and polish quartz, you will need some basic tools and materials that may already be sitting around your workshop. Here are the other materials you’ll need:
- Cutting guide rail
- Eye protection
- Marking tool
- Measuring tape
- Painter’s tape
- Silicone adhesive/caulk
- Speed square
- Templates (cutouts)
- Wood shims
Safety When Cutting Quartz
Working with power tools can be dangerous in any scenario, but when working with hard materials like quartz, taking careful precautions to prevent injury is especially important. In addition to the general hazards of cutting hard materials, the process of installing quartz countertops has its hazards related to the nature of the material.
Designed to not crack or split under the pressure of cutting, flying pieces when cutting quartz are rare, but it is nevertheless important to be aware of dust and flying particulate. Here are some basic safety precautions to take when cutting quartz countertops:
- Cut in a well-ventilated open area to prevent quartz dust from getting into other machinery, coating walls, or being breathed by other personnel not wearing protective gear. Unless you are working in a workshop with industrial ventilation designed to handle quartz dust, it is best to cut quartz countertops outside to maximize airflow
- Use a wet saw to minimize the spread of dust and to create smoother cuts. Wet saws incorporate a constant flow of water to suppress plumes of dust, simultaneously protecting both the blade of your saw and the material. Remember, using a wet saw won’t eliminate all the dust, so be sure to wear proper protective equipment even when wet cutting
- Wear protective eyewear to keep dust and small pieces of quartz from damaging your eyes. Wearing protective glasses or goggles will also help you to have good visibility while cutting
- Wear a mask or other respiratory protection to keep dust from entering your lungs and respiratory system. Super-fine quartz dust can easily be breathed in without protection and could do serious damage
- Use heavy-duty supports to secure your quartz slabs before attempting to make any cuts. Quartz is heavy relative to materials like solid surface and could cause serious injury if a slab were to fall onto a foot or arm. Additionally, while quartz is durable, it may not be able to withstand being dropped onto its full weight. Heavy-duty supports designed to hold heavy materials should always be used
- Work with a spotter when cutting quartz to ensure no falling pieces put you at risk of injury. A spotter and/or other members of staff can help you to secure your quartz slab, check all corners for placement, hold pieces to prevent slipping, and provide an extra set of eyes
- Clean up quartz dust as soon as possible. Fine particles of quartz dust have sharp, jagged edges that can tear up the lungs, so cleaning up immediately after cutting is essential to protect anyone from accidental inhalation.
How To Cut Quartz
Similar in hardness to granite or marble, cutting quartz isn’t like cutting wood or plastic, requiring more patience, heavier-duty tools, and more advanced techniques. When done properly, quartz cuts smooth and evenly with little chance of cracking or chipping, and you can create beautifully smooth straight and curved edges.
Here are some basic tips for making different types of cuts to install your solid surface countertops:
Most standard countertops are rectangular with straight edges, so for most applications, you will only need to make straight cuts. Depending on the size of your quartz slab, you may need to use either a stationary circular saw or a manual plunge saw to maneuver more easily.
If not using a mounted/stationary saw, consider using a cutting guide rail to avoid making mistakes. Here is the basic process of making a straight cut through quartz:
- Using a straight edge ruler and a marking tool, carefully mark where you intend to cut. Remember: measure once, cut twice
- Stabilize your slab and place a guide rail using clamps if using a plunge saw. Double-check your placement with a speed square and level
- Attach a diamond saw blade to your saw of choice. If possible, use a continuous blade since gaps can create uneven cuts in quartz. Set your saw to cut the appropriate depth
- Starting a few inches from the edge, plunge your circular saw into the quartz on the cut-line, then push firmly forward once you cut through to the other side. If using a wet saw, start your water now
- Cut through to the end and allow the saw to turn off and stop entirely before lifting the blade
- Polish the rough cut edge using a grinder outfitted with a polishing attachment and oil
Curved cuts are the most technically difficult type of cut, especially since tools like jig-saws cannot be used on quartz. To make curved cuts in quartz countertops, you first will need to make a series of straight cuts before refining the edge with a grinding router.
Curved cuts may be needed to create more elegant, sophisticated countertop edges or cutouts to accommodate round sinks/appliances. Here are the basics of making a curved cut in quartz:
- Using a template and a marking tool, carefully mark where you intend to cut
- Stabilize your slab. Double-check placement with a level
- Using painter’s tape, tape along the line of the curve
- Attach a diamond saw blade to a wet-saw and set to cut the appropriate depth
- Beginning on the edge of the slab, make a straight cut ½ an inch from the edge of the curve until you have removed a piece. Continue making small straight cuts ½ an inch from the tape until you have removed all excess material
- Attach a diamond grinder drum to your grinder and choose where you want to begin. Using careful pressure, grind off the corners and sharp edges created by the straight cuts, and grind the edge down as close to the tape as possible
- Polish the rough curved edge using the grinder outfitted with a polishing attachment and oil
Standard cuts are made from one edge to the other, splitting a slab of quartz into multiple pieces. Cutouts are made by removing a small piece within the surface of the quartz table to accommodate a drop-in sink or other appliances.
Cutouts create a negative space and do not involve cutting across the entire piece of quartz. Here’s the basics of creating a cutout:
- Using a template of your sink (or other appliance) and a marking tool, mark where you intend to cut
- Stabilize and level your slab
- Using painter’s tape, tape along the outside of the lines of the template, leaving the inside blank
- Attach a diamond blade to your wet saw and choose a place to begin – not at the edge of the cut
- Start the saw and carefully plunge the blade down into the material, lining up the back of your blade with the back edge of the template
- Carefully push forward as you would with a standard straight cut, then stop when you reach the opposite taped edge. Wait for the saw to stop completely before removing it, then repeat steps 5 & 6 with the other sides of the cutout
- Polish and refine the inner edge using a grinder outfitted with a polishing attachment and oil
Installing Quartz: Step-by-Step
If you are feeling confident about cutting your own quartz countertops, and have gathered all the tools you will need, you are ready to start the process of installation. Depending on the layout and needs of your facility, the exact details of your install will be a little different than our instructions here, but we encourage you to use this as a guide to get you started.
Follow these basic steps to install your quartz countertops:
1. Prepare the Area
Quartz countertops are installed using a silicone adhesive, which can stick to and damage the surface of other materials. Before you begin to install your countertops, protect the edges of your counter-bases with painter’s tape. Any silicone overflow will stick to the tape instead of your counters/drawers, making cleanup super easy.
Additionally, now is the time to double-check that your counters are level, re-measure everything, and be sure that you have all structural elements under control. Once you adhere your quartz countertops to the base, you’ll find it very difficult to make adjustments.
2. Cut the Quartz
Once you know that your area is prepared, you can turn your attention to the quartz. In a well-ventilated area (ideally outside) make all cuts needed to get the slab to size and to accommodate accessories like sinks and plumbing.
3. Dry-Fit Countertops
Before you apply adhesive, dry-fit your countertops to make sure you have cut them correctly and that everything fits. Check all edges, including any that should be fitted to a wall to ensure they are flush and level. After this step, remove the slab and set it aside.
4. Apply Silicone Adhesive
Moving carefully and swiftly, apply a silicone adhesive to the base of your counters. Use enough to ensure proper surface area and adhesion, but not so much that you will have a major overflow. If the silicone does overflow, remove it from areas that have not previously been covered with tape immediately.
5. Secure Counter
Once your countertop is placed and glued, it is time to secure it with hand-clamps to prevent movement while drying. Be sure not to shift your countertops in the process of securing them, and only use enough pressure to keep them in place, not so much that all the adhesive squeezes out.
Apply silicone caulk to any gaps or seams as necessary, allowing all silicone to dry for at least 24 hours before washing or applying pressure. To remove dust and grime created during the installation process, wash the surface of your quartz countertops with warm soapy water and buff dry with a microfiber cloth or soft towel.
Buy Custom Quartz Countertops with No Hassle
If the idea of installing your own quartz countertops sounds daunting, or you simply don’t have the time or tools to accomplish the task, hiring a professional to do the work instead can give you even better results. Our install team specializes in installing custom countertops along with building and designing furniture for clients in a wide range of industries.
Among the many services and products we offer, customers can also choose from numerous countertop options for your industrial, commerical, laboratory needs. Choose size, shape, configuration, special features and colors, and everything else to create a fully custom option that will perfectly fit your needs. So if redesigning an office space or wanting to add a touch elegance to an industrial project, quartz countertops may just be th option for you.