Stainless steel worktops can be fitted seamlessly into almost any kitchen environment. Looking sleek and contemporary in a modern loft apartment, or robust and timeless in a traditional farmhouse, stainless steel has a chameleon like quality that allows it to bring out the best of any kitchen design.
Stainless steel is the most robust and easy to look after counter top material, requiring little or no maintenance. It’s tough enough to take the regular knock and bumps of a busy kitchen, and the only material capable of taking hot pans direct from the oven. There is a reason why professional kitchens only use steel worktops as they ensure a lifetime of service.
Unlike many worktop materials, stainless worktops are incredibly easy to install providing a few basic steps are taken, with no cutting or adjustment required. The majority of stainless steel worktops are bespoke and made to order, so providing the initial dimensions taken prior to manufacture were correct, the finished work surfaces should slot snugly in place.
We have teamed up with DSM Industrial Engineering LTD, suppliers of high quality bespoke stainless steel fabrications, to bring you the key points to be aware of before you attempt to install your stainless steel worktops:
Even before you consider installing your worktops, indeed, even before you place your order, make sure you have taken accurate dimensions for the sizes you require – remember it is better to measure twice and cut once, than the other way around.
This is easiest done by producing a sketch of the worktop run, and then using a laser measure or tape measure (with assistance to ensure the tape is taught) to calculate the dimensions.
Never take dimensions at floor level, always at the actual height the worktops will be installed at – you will be surprised by how a wall can vary at different heights.
Always allow a small tolerance on your measured dimensions, where worktops are to be installed between walls or other items – any remaining gaps can be filled with metal finish silicon sealant.
Stainless steel is a very strong and robust material, but it will scratch if other sharp or metal objects are dragged across it, so never place tools on the work surfaces unless they are covered with dust sheets or cardboard etc.
Scratches can’t be polished out on site, and normally require the worktop to be returned to the factory for re-polishing. This can be costly, so it is a better option to take the necessary precautions and protect the surfaces during installation of the complete kitchen.
Stainless steel worktops are usually bonded to a moisture resistant MDF sub-frame on the underside in order to strengthen the worktop further whilst also providing a substrate to screw into during installation.
This results in the finished tops often being very heavy – for example a simple 2000mm x 600mm worktop can weigh upwards of 40kg. If the worktop is longer, contains bowls, and has an additional layer of MR MDF, this weight can start heading towards 100kg.
Precautions therefore need to be taken to ensure the tops can be lifted into place safely without causing injury. Many hands make light work, so ensure there are enough people available to help lift the worktops into position, and ensure that proper manual handling procedures are observed.
Bending on long/thin profile worktops:
Whilst stainless steel is a very strong material, it can flex and bend. On very long worktops, particularly those with very thin edge profiles, precautions should be taken to prevent the worktop bending in the middle, or around any potentially weaker areas such as around hob-cut-outs.
If the top is allowed to bend too far it can result in a permanent crease or dimple in the work surface which cannot be removed, so it is worth taking extra care with longer and thinner stainless worktops.
As we have said, if the above precautions are taken into account, stainless steel worktops are very easy to install, following this simple process:
1. Position and unwrap – move the wrapped worktop into position, the correct way around, in front of the base units the worktop is to be mounted on and then remove all of the outer wrapping.
2. Packing – if the worktop is completely filled with MDF to its full thickness (this will apply if you have ordered this or if the worktop has a thinner edge profile), then this step can be skipped.
More commonly, however, the worktop will have a single layer of MDF to its underside resulting in a cavity to the underside of the worktop (e.g. if the worktop front edge is 40mm, only 20mm of that may be filled on the inside).
In this latter case, you may want to pack the worktop up higher than it would naturally sit on the base units. This will depend on how much you want the front edge of the worktop to overlap the top of the base units. For example, if the worktop front edge is 40mm, and only 20mm of that is filled with an MDF sub-frame, the worktop will overhang the base units by around 20mm. If you only want this to be 5mm, you need at add 15mm of packing material.
Once you have determined the approximate thickness of the packing required, this can be added to the top of the base units at the intended fixing points and secured in place. Any sheet material can be used for packing, but wood is most commonly used.
3. Mounting – Carefully lift the worktop into position onto the base units, taking into account the precautions mentioned above.
4. Levelling – Check with a spirit level that the worktop is level (place the level carefully to avoid scratching). If the worktop requires additional packing to level it, or to raise it further, this can be inserted at the fixing points.
5. Fixing – once the worktop is level, and you are happy that it is correctly positioned, simply screw up through the fixing points into the worktop sub-frame. Ensure that you use screws of the correct length as screwing through the sub-frame and hitting the stainless steel may push the steel up and dent it from the underside which will be visible from the top.
6. Seal joints – seal any joints to walls or adjacent work surfaces with silicon sealant to make them watertight. For aesthetic reasons, it is best to utilise a metal finish sealant, rather than clear or white, and this will render the join much less visible.
7. Clean down – Once the silicon has set, simply wash the stainless steel with warm, mild soapy water, rinse and dry with a clean cloth. Remember to cover the work surface to protect the polished finish if further works in the kitchen are still to be completed.
As you can see, these installation steps are very straight forward, and the average stainless countertop can be installed in around half an hour. Always consult a specialist if you are apprehensive about installing your worktop as it pays to be cautious.