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Copper Countertops Tutorial; Kitchen Renovation Idea

29 June 2011

Well Hello there fellow Remodelaholic readers!

I'm Merrilee, and when I'm not being rescued from pretend peril by my 2 superheros I can be found at

Lilliedale is a a place where I share my endeavors to live a simple and ecologically responsible handmade lifestyle. From remodeling to recipes my husband and I always attempt to make it ourselves, and more often than not we are in love with the results. I hope you pop over to see a few of the other projects we have done with our own 4 hands and a few re-purposed materials!

 I am so jazzed that Cassity asked me over today to share a little about the copper counters we installed in our kitchen. It's a long one, so get comfy!

DIY-ing Copper Counter Tops
When we decided to revamp our tiny kitchen we decided on a goal of using as many re-purposed and recycled items as we could. For the most part we were able to give everything a second life. we bought second hand appliances, used an old kitchen table for our butcher block, turned vases into lighting,re-painted the existing cabinets, and even used brown paper bags as the flooring. But when it came to the counter tops we wanted something special, after all we had saved so much money on all those other items, right?

We wanted something unique, warm and rich looking. Being a Jeweler/Metal worker I've always had a love for copper, and we had always loved the way the copper counters looked in one of our favorite coffee shops, so we decided on copper and off we went.

Here is a post I did about the costs, pro's and con's of copper as a kitchen surface, I suggest you fully read up on copper before deciding to go for it. Copper is not for everyone because it requires a lot of maintenance, I however, do not mind the work and LOVE LOVE LOVE the depth and beauty that the copper gives my kitchen.

Installing copper as a surface is a lot like installing laminate counters. Basically all you are doing is applying a thin sheet of copper over a strong base of MDF or plywood. There are a lot of tutorials out there and you have to choose the right one for your abilites and needs, today I'll show you how we did ours.There are also really great ones at this Garden Web Forum.

Here is a very basic list of the materials that you will need:
16 or 20 oz. Copper sheeting (I orderd mine from a local roofing company)
2 layers of 3/4" MDF or plywood
TC-20 Glue found Here
Dremel or table saw with metal cutting blade
about 100 bar clamps of all sizes
files and sandpaper
Drill and screws

We used 16oz copper roofing material instead of the recommended 20oz sheeting. We were just very careful not to dent or bend it before laminating it and it worked out fine. we transported it from the supplier to our home sandwiched flat between 2 sheets of plywood instead or the recommended method or rolling it up, cause that's just asking for problems when you un-roll it!!

We started by removing all the previous plywood all the way down to the cabinets because the existing counter was not level and the plywood had extensive water damage. If your surface is level and in good condition you can just lay the mdf right on top of it. I have heard of people laying the copper on top of laminate but I do not recommend it because the glue is designed to soak into the mdf which it obviously could not do on laminate.

Next we cut sheets of 3/4" MDF and screwed it to the the top of the base cabinets. On top of the first layer of MDF we placed the sheets of 3/4" mdf but did not screw it down. At the corner of the L shape we used miter bolts in holes we routered out from underneath to join the 2 sections securely on the top layer of MDF. Something like this...

To secure the top layer of mdf to the bottom layer we applied construction adhesive in between the 1st and 2nd layers and then screwed them together from underneath (ie, inside the cabinets up into the first and second layers of mdf) You do this so there are no screw holes on the top surface that you would have to fill and sand and they would probably still show through the copper. But we did not do this until after the copper had been applied, so that we could easily slide the entire unit out to clamp the front edge. confusing I know but stick with me...

For the edges we screwed oak boards into the mdf and plywood before applying the copper sheeting. Mdf is relatively soft and will dent easier than oak will. This is a pretty standard way of doing edges when applying regular laminate. After screwing the oak boards to the sides we then filled and sanded the holes perfectly smooth so they would not show under the thin layer of copper.

We decided to apply the copper to the sides before putting the top on to avoid having the seam on top. If you have access to or would like to make a sheet metal brake then you can just bend it to a 90 angle and glue it down. I however did not want a rounded edge, but there are a few tutorials around if that's the way you want to go.

We cut strips from our large sheets of copper with a dremel in our garage. This step takes forever but makes a perfect cut without warping the copper as shears would. Simply lay the sheet out with a board underneath to elevate it a bit. then mark your line, put goggles on, and patiently cut along your line. Cut your strip about a quarter inch wider than you need so it can be filed/sanded down to fit perfectly after it is put in place.
Prep your surfaces by lightly sanding the back of the copper and cleaning both the oak edge and the copper with rubbing alcohol.

This is the ONLY adhesive I suggest you use, it's worth the money, cleans up with water, is VOC free and has a long working time. Yes, you could use construction adhesive but this is so much better and has twice the working time. You can order it several places but I purchased mine and a glue roller together here.
Follow the directions on the glue and apply glue to the back of the clean copper and oak edges and tape into place.then clamp ayway!
(See how the entire thing is scooted out a bit so we can clamp to the back edge. later we glued and screwed the mdf to the lower sheet of mdf.)

It is best to have a few sets of hands to quickly clamp the edge. The glue allows quite a bit of working time, but I do recommend cleaning up any that squeezes out with a damp towel while it is still wet. As you can tell we used A LOT of clamps, the more the better! We placed another board over the copper before clamping so the clamps would not mar the copper and would evenly dissipate the pressure.
Allow the edges to dry overnight before removing the clamps. Once dry, file and sand the top edge flush with the mdf layer. The copper top will go over this so it is important that it is perfectly flat and smooth.

Next we cut the copper sheets to just a bit larger than what we wanted our finished size to be.We used the factory edge of the copper for the front and placed our cut edge in the back, this is only important if you are doing a "L" shape or long span and have to have a seam on the top. Ideally you want to mate the 2 factory edges together to make a perfect seam.
*Notice in the picture above that we had already cut out the sink hole out of the mdf sub-layer. Do this, but wait to cut the sink hole in the copper until after it is glued down.

Prep the back of the copper and the top of the mdf by lightly sanding the copper and cleaning both with rubbing alcohol. We had an "L" shape so we chose to lay only 1 segment at a time.
Apply the glue with a roller CAFEFULLY and lay down the copper. Smooth out all air bubbles and cover with another sheet of mdf. You will do this so that the pressure from the clamps is evenly distributed and that the clamps do not mar the surface.
Here is a general idea of how it should be laid out so that the seam will be on the edge and not on the top. Pretty snazzy sketch huh?

This ridiculous picture is because we figured that the more weight and pressure we applied the less air bubbles we might get. So we placed just about every portable heavy object in our home on top of the mdf. It worked too because there are no air pockets under the copper. Also we did not apply too much weight on top of where the sink would be to avoid denting the copper that had no mdf underneath it.

After allowing the glue to dry overnight we removed the clamps, scooted the whole shebang back and into place and glued and screwed it to the plywood layer from underneath as I discussed earlier.

Next,  we filed and sanded so that the edge appears to be 1 solid piece. As I have mentioned before I'm a jeweler/ fabricator so this went fast and easy for me. Mostly you just need to make sure that the edges feel smooth and that there is no gap between the top layer and the edge, If there is then you can squish in some just for copper epoxy putty.

I purchased mine at Ace hardware and followed the manufactures instructions for use. this is also what we used to fill the seam on the top of the counter. I simply smooshed it into the clean crack, waited for it to dry then sanded it flush.

here is what the finished edge looks like

See how it looks like 1 solid piece rather than 2 sheets butted together.

Here is the only outside corner. It looks like the corner is sharp but is is not at all sharp, it actually slightly rounded at the point. also notice the bit of oxidation on the bottom, it can easily be cleaned off with a scrubby.

Here is the only inside corner that also lines up with the only top seam. this is where I mentioned the factory egde is important so that the top seam look straight and only a little noticeable when finished.

In the end we are definitely happy with how we did the counter top but we had to do a lot of figuring and problem solving to make the other methods we had seen work best for our space. If you should choose to install a similar surface you will probably have to do a lot of your own adjusting to make it work for you.
It has been just over a year and I am happy to say that our counter still is scratch/ dent free with the exception of 1 small dent that came with the copper sheet. We have no air bubbles and still love the way it looks is our home.
By Day,

or Night!

If you have any additional questions feel free to ask, I'm always glad to share and help.
Thanks again to Cassity for having me over and I hope you all stop by Lilliedale and check out a few of our other handmade projects!

Pretty Peace!

This project was contributed by one of our fabulous readers!  We love to share your projects with this great blogging community.  So, if you have projects from kitchen renovation ideas to small bathroom remodels, overhauled and repurposed furniture, spray paint updates you name it please send it in!  Thanks for reading!
If you like this post please check out these other kitchen updates:


The enchanted home June 29, 2011 at 7:30 AM  

Fascinating......and sooo beautiful. They are so warm and elegant. Love it!

Ms. Bake-it June 29, 2011 at 8:57 AM  

What gorgeous counter tops! I love the depth of warmth they exude. Great job!

Red Hill General Store June 29, 2011 at 9:19 AM  

I can tell a lot of hard work went into those countertops and they turned out just stunning.

kristincita June 29, 2011 at 7:02 PM  

I'm curious if you find that your countertops smell? My favorite restaurant has copper topped bar tables and my hands always smell like pennies after hanging out there. I don't think I would like this in my kitchen.

Lilliedale July 1, 2011 at 11:30 AM  

Thanks to everyone for all the nice comments. Thanks for your question Kristincita, my counter tops have never had have a penny-ish smell, and I was actually a little concerned about that too. I think maybe it's the way that I clean them and use a light furniture polish that keeps them from stinkin' up the place. Hope that helps a little.~Merrilee

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