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Galley countertop replacement

Jun 25, 2014
Jane Lothrop with the new countertop.

Jane Lothrop with the new countertop.

A live-aboard sailboat’s galley is the most-used area on the vessel. Having just completed a world circumnavigation with the previous owners, our Formica countertop and fittings were looking quite tired. Rather than replace the Formica — we considered it old school — we went with Corian.

This synthetic material is durable, available in an incredible array of colors and textures, and can be shaped with ordinary woodworking tools. We found a kitchen supply company that had a surplus white Corian piece that would easily cover our galley worktop, and at $20, we could not have been happier with the price.

First we removed the water tap and the foot pump spigot from our vessel’s existing countertop. Next off was the teak trim. Because it was all custom made, it was critical that we not destroy it in the process.

The trim was attached with screws concealed under teak plugs. To remove the plugs, I drilled a small hole in the center of each plug until I felt the drill bit touch the screw head. By inserting a screwdriver into the hole and backing out the screw, the teak plug was forced out, with no damage to the trim. Some gentle tapping with a putty knife and mallet loosened the trim for complete removal.

Harry Hungate drills out teak plugs.

The old sink had a flange above the countertop, and it was removed easily by taking off the brackets below it. After removing the old sink, we detached the old Formica countertop, which we used as a template for the new Corian countertop.

I cut the Corian to shape with a table saw and used a band saw and disc sander to round the corners. I allowed (added) an extra 1/16-inch for final fitting against the mating edge of the countertop, as no construction is ever exactly square. A few thin wooden wedges placed between the Corian and the galley counter frame were required to level it with the mating surface.

With the new countertop temporarily in place, the next step was to measure for the new sink. It was larger than the old sink and had a concealed flange, so it was critical that it be located with sufficient room to install the faucet and spigot. It also had to clear the supports for the galley counter.

With the cutout for the new sink marked, the Corian blank was cut using a saber saw. A wood rasp and sanding block removed the saw marks and a router with a bull nose bit was then used to round the upper edges of the cutout. This was the only part of the job that required some skill, as a router in a beginner’s hands can do damage very quickly. After making a few trial runs on scrap Corian, I used a ball-bearing bull nose router bit to make the final cut. If you are not skilled with a router, get someone who is to do this task, or use a sanding block to round the edges. I trimmed up the cutout to make a handy cutting board.

Edges rounded with router.

New sink fittings.

A general purpose marine adhesive/sealant such as 3M or Sikaflex can be used to bond the new sink to the Corian countertop and to the galley cabinet. We used white 3M 4200 applied with a cartridge gun.

After the adhesive cured, the teak trim — newly sanded and varnished — was carefully fitted into place and bonded to the Corian with the marine adhesive. Blue masking tape was used to make cleanup much easier. The screws and teak plugs were replaced and final coats of varnish were applied. (When replacing teak plugs, use only a drop or two of white glue on the plug to make future removal possible. Mix teak sawdust with some white glue to fill any voids around the plugs. A new faucet mixer assembly was installed, along with a soap dispenser as an added bonus — this turned out to be a very valuable feature in a heavy seaway.

Weighting Corian until adhesive sets.

Overall, the project took two weeks (we had to wait for the arrival of the new sink). The total cost was about $350, most of which was the sink at $190.

Corian is quite durable and is easily cleaned. However, it is easily scratched. Before selecting Corian, have a look at the newer quartz composite countertop material. It is much harder to cut and shape, so you might need some assistance, but is also much more durable and virtually scratch-proof.

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Harry Hungate and his wife, Jane Lothrop, completed a 15-year west-about world circumnavigation in 2012 aboard Cormorant, their Corbin 39 cutter. They now live ashore in Jacksonville, Fla.

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