Counter Top Replacement

The whole story is kind of complex. The bottom line is that we have a counter-top issue in Red Ranger’s galley. A serious “Concern”. Or maybe Concern in bold.

There are two strategies available. (Three, if “Ignore It” is a strategy.)

  • Replace the counter top with a new counter top using new materials.
  • Skin the counter top with something that conceals the “concern.”

When we lived in Florida, we put a layer of composite particle board on the counter-top. It was super-easy to work with, because it was flexible. You could cut it and force-fit it into place. A little silicone and we were done in a day. Done. 

It was nice. For a year or two.

Now it’s looking a little icky. And we (by “we”, I mean “The Commodore”) saw kitchen countertops made from recycled materials.

“Ooooh,” was the command I was given. 

Start here: https://www.greenbuildingsupply.com/All-Products/Cabinets-Countertops-Countertops

Wow.  The Richlite recycled paper. Wow. Wow.

But. 

That requires dismantling the galley. The fiddles have to go. And then I have to figure out how to replace them. The countertop includes a cupboard with a lid in it. I’d have to figure out how to cut the countertop to put the hinged lid (with a nice frame) inside it.

That’s serious finish carpentry. Careful cutting. Proper tools. Several days to get it apart cleanly. A week or more to reassemble. 

Nope. Replacing the counter-top is a big-old nope.

And. The smallest piece of Richlite is immense. Fine for your terrestrial house. But way too big for the 36″×18″ space.

The Skin Alternative

Here’s what we did instead.

https://www.mscdirect.com/product/details/52421575

This is High Density Polyethylene (HDPE). It’s a cutting board. NSF-safe cutting board material. Suitable for food handling. It’s ¼″ thick. 

It sits on top of the old material nicely. It’s awkward to cut because it’s super flexible. You really need an assistant (or a table saw) to keep it from flopping around why you cut.

It sands (and files) like wood, leaving a million little plastic beads. Have a vacuum cleaner handy.

It doesn’t drill well at all. It catches the bit in a curlicue of plastic and the drill jams and wrenches.

The big holes have to be cut in phases. Cut for a few seconds. Pull the hole saw out and knock out the plastic that accumulates in the teeth. Cut for a few seconds. Knock out the plastic. Eventually, you get all the holes cut. Maybe your hole saws are better than mine, but mine jammed solid.

Cutting the sink hole isn’t too bad. The wood isn’t exactly the right shape so, I cut inside the wood and then filed and sanded until the sink went in. The clamps hold the sink against the underlying wood, so it’s solid. Solid.

However.

The fittings (two fresh-water, one raw water) are now going through a countertop that's ¼″ thicker than it was before. It appears that most fittings expect 1½″ and that’s how long the threads are.

In particular, the back of the Delta faucet had two big plastic “nut-with-washer” things that hold the faucet assembly down. The bold was now too short, only a few threads would grab. But. A ⁹⁄₁₆″ nut with a big fender washer seems to do the trick. 

Edging

So. There’s this edge around the HDPE skin over the counter top. What to do?

Nothing adheres well to HDPE. Silicone sealant will cling, but it’s not a proper adhesive. Clear silicone it is. 

And. This thing I learned online.

  • Vinyl Glove.
  • Rubbing Alcohol.
  • Two Paper Towels.

Silicone the seam. Remember. Push the bead forward from your caulk gun. 

Done?

Splash some alcohol on one paper towel. Put on your gloves. Wipe your finger with alcohol. Run it along the silicone bead to push it down and create a nicely curved fillet. 

Wipe the excess silicone onto the dry towel. Refresh the alcohol with the wet towel. When you’re done, it looks really good.

Back Story

In case you’ve gotten this far. The story is long because the Whitby was designed with a double sink. In the confined space, a 24″ double sink means two sinks that are too small for anything useful.

The previous owner had replaced it with a single sink that was 20″ or so. And a block of wood to fill the void. The wood rotted.

We put a particle board skin down. It was ¹ ⁄₈″ thick and didn’t matter much when reassembling the fixtures. Now we’ve got something that will last the life of the boat. 

  © Steven Lott 2017