Quartz countertops are made from ground quartz crystals combined with resins and pigments to create a durable and beautiful engineered stone. Routers can be used to cut edges and openings in quartz countertops for a custom look. Routing quartz requires the right techniques and tools to avoid chipping and cracking. This guide will provide in-depth instructions on how to successfully router quartz countertops.
Tools and Materials Needed for Routing Quartz Countertops
Routing quartz countertops requires having the proper tools and accessories. Here is a list of the essential items you will need:
- Router – A heavy-duty, variable-speed plunge router with at least 2-hp works best for routing quartz. The Makita RP2301FC or Bosch 1617EVSPK are top choices.
- Router bits – Use diamond-grit or tungsten carbide bits designed for stone. 1/2″ shank bits stay cooler.
- Clamps – Spring clamps or locking C-clamps to secure the quartz firmly.
- Straight edges – Long metal or wood straight edges to guide the router.
- Eye protection – Safety glasses or goggles for eye protection.
- Ear protection – Ear plugs or muffs as routers are very loud.
- Dust mask – To avoid breathing in fine stone particles.
- Shop vacuum – For immediate dust extraction while routing.
- Mineral oil – Applying mineral oil lubricates the diamond router bits.
- Router table (optional) – For edging long or multiple pieces.
How to Cut Outlets and Sink Holes
Cutting holes for sinks and outlets is one of the most common router tasks for quartz countertops:
Step 1: Measure and Mark the Cutout Layout
- Use the sink or outlet templates to trace the cutout shape onto the quartz.
- Mark the depth of the cutout, usually about 1/4″ deep.
- Mark a center point to help align the router circle jig.
Step 2: Setup and Adjust the Router
- Install a quality 1/2″ diamond router bit.
- Set the router to a fixed depth to avoid deep plunges.
- Set the variable speed on the lower end (~10,000 RPM) for quartz.
- Attach a shop vacuum hose to the router dust port.
Step 3: Position and Secure the Countertop
- Place the quartz countertop on a flat, stable surface.
- Use C-clamps to securely fasten straight wood edges along the cutout lines.
- The clamps act as guides for the router circle jig.
Step 4: Rout the Inside of the Cutout
- Position the router circle jig at the center point and align between the guides.
- Make multiple light, incremental passes with the diamond bit to cut the sink hole to depth.
- Rout clockwise for a smoother cut.
- Keep the router moving and avoid dwelling in one spot.
Step 5: Rout the Outside Edge
- Remove the jig and rout along the inside of the cutout guides.
- Remove only 1/8″ per pass until cutout is complete.
- Continuously flatten the bit against the guide edge for clean cuts.
Step 6: Check Fit and Polish Edges
- Test fit the sink or outlet. Use a small diamond pad to polish cut edges.
- Clean thoroughly after routing to remove all stone dust.
- Apply mineral oil to exposed edges to seal and inhibit moisture intrusion.
Cutting Edge Profiles on Quartz Countertops
Edge profiles add shape and style to the front edge of a countertop. Common profiles include bullnose, chamfer, and ogee. Use a router table for best results cutting edges.
Step 1: Setup and Configure the Router Table
- Install a sharp 1/2″ diamond bit in the router motor.
- Adjust router bit height so maximum cutting depth is 1/8″.
- Set fence to remove only 1/16″ per pass.
- Activate router and adjust speed to around 8,000 RPM.
Step 2: Run Test Cuts on Scrap Pieces
- Practice various passes on leftover quartz scraps first.
- Make several light passes removing minimal material.
- Check edges are cutting cleanly without excessive chipping.
Step 3: Cut the Actual Countertop Edge
- Joint one long edge of the countertop to create a straight reference.
- Position the reference edge against the fence when routing the profile.
- Carefully feed the countertop through removing just 1/16″ per pass.
- Make the final profile pass using a scrap piece to prevent tear-out.
Step 4: Smooth and Polish the Profile
- Use a diamond polish pad to lightly hone any small chips on the edge.
- Carefully round over the top and bottom of the edge by hand.
- Clean and apply mineral oil to the routed quartz edge.
Cutting Channels and Grooves in Quartz
Channels and grooves provide drainage for sinks and add unique designs. Plunge routers excel at cutting custom channels.
Step 1: Mark Layout Lines
- Determine channel width and mark layout lines.
- Mark the start, end, and intersection points of each channel.
Step 2: Secure Countertop and Setup Router
- Clamp a straight edge guide parallel to the channel layout line.
- Install a sharp 1/4″ or 1/2″ diamond plunge router bit.
- Adjust cutting depth for channel thickness.
Step 3: Plunge Cut the Channel
- Line up router base along guide to start channel.
- Turn on router and slowly plunge cut into quartz at starting point.
- Rout channel keeping router base tight to guide.
Step 4: Check Fit and Finish Cut
- Test fit appliances or sinks to verify dimensions.
- Carefully trim and polish channel edges with a diamond pad.
- Thoroughly clean the channel when complete.
Cutting Holes for Undermount Sinks
Undermount sinks require cutting a precise hole in the countertop for a seamless look. Follow these steps for clean results:
Step 1: Trace the Sink Profile
- Turn the sink upside down and center on quartz countertop.
- Trace a line along the sink edge onto the quartz surface.
Step 2: Mark Cutout Layout Lines
- Offset the traced line by about 1/8″ to allow clearance for sink rim.
- Mark cutting lines for any corners or complex shapes.
Step 3: Drill Inside Corners
- Use a 1/4″ masonry bit to drill intersecting holes at inside corners.
- This creates space for the router bit to make turns.
Step 4: Rout Sink Opening
- Rout just inside the layout lines using a diamond flush trim bit.
- Take small 1/8″ depth passes until cutout is complete.
- Test fit sink and refine edges carefully for accurate fit.
Step 5: Smooth and Finish Edges
- Lightly hone around the cutout with a diamond pad.
- Carefully polish the top edges with a stone polish.
- Clean thoroughly and seal with mineral oil when complete.
Cutting Slots for Splashguards
Splashguards require cutting thin slots in the backsplash. Use pin routers or laminate trimmers to make these slots.
Step 1: Mark Layout for Slots
- Position splashguard and mark slot locations.
- Extend slot layout lines using a straightedge.
- Double check dimensions match splashguard.
Step 2: Set Router Bit Depth
- Use a 1/4″ straight bit or up-spiral router bit.
- Adjust bit depth to thickness of splashguard + 1/16″.
Step 3: Rout Slots
- Align router base with layout line and start slot cut.
- Make several light passes until reaching full depth.
- Rout each slot working top to bottom only.
Step 4: Test Fit and Adjust
- Carefully file slot edges until the splashguard fits flush.
- Confirm splashguard is level and slots are aligned.
- Polish and clean when fit is correct.
Cutting Notches for Backsplash Endcaps
Backsplash endcaps finish off the edges where countertops meet a wall. Precise router cuts are needed for a perfect fit.
Step 1: Measure and Mark Notch Layout
- Measure thickness of the endcap and backsplash.
- Transfer measurements to mark notch cutout on countertop edge.
Step 2: Score Cut Lines with Circular Saw
- Lightly score cut lines using a stone blade and straightedge.
- This helps guide the router and avoid tearing the top layer.
Step 3: Rout Notches
- Use a sharp 1/4″ straight bit. Make several shallow, incremental passes.
- Rout the backside of the notch first, then edges.
- Sneak up on the correct depth.
Step 4: Test Fit and Refine
- Fit endcap into notch and check alignment.
- File or sand edges to custom fit as needed.
- Polish, clean, and seal when complete.
Cutting L-Shaped Wrap Countertops
Fabricating L-shaped wrap cabinets with seamless front corners requires careful routing techniques.
Step 1: Adhere Countertop Pieces Together
- Apply adhesive and clamp quartz tops together.
- Use temporary supports to keep pieces aligned as adhesive dries.
Step 2: Mark Reference Lines for Edges
- With tops joined, lay out reference lines for edging profiles.
- Lines should extend around the entire L-shape.
Step 3: Rout Profiles on Long Edge
- Cut bullnose or other edge profiles along the long countertop section first.
- Stop routing precisely at the inside corner.
Step 4: Rout Cutouts and Holes
- Measure and cut sink and fixture holes in each section.
- Drill inside corners prior to routing.
Step 5: Complete Front Corner Profile
- Carefully complete the edge profile cut at the front corner.
- Remove just 1/16″ per pass.
Step 6: Sand, Polish, and Finish
- Smooth any chipping with diamond sanding pad.
- Polish by hand with stone polish and buffing pad.
- Clean thoroughly and finish interior edges as needed.
Cutting Thick Double Edge Profiles
Creating double edge buildups adds substantial thickness for a striking visual statement.
Step 1: Adhere Edge Buildup Strip
- Cut quartz strip to width of desired edge thickness.
- Secure buildup strip to countertop front using adhesive.
Step 2: Allow Adhesive to Cure Overnight
- Use clamps and props to keep buildup strip aligned as adhesive hardens.
- Allow curing for 24 hours to gain maximum strength.
Step 3: Mark Edge Reference Line
- With buildup strip attached, mark reference line for edge profile.
- Extend line across both countertop and buildup surfaces.
Step 4: Rout Full Edge Profile
- Lock countertop in place and rout complete edge profile along line.
- Make several light passes until reaching final shape.
Step 5: Refine Details and Finish
- Carefully file or sand small chips and seams by hand.
- Rounded front edge corners and polish edges.
- Clean thoroughly when complete.
Cutting Built-In Drainboards
Drainboards neatly channel water into the sink basin. Integrated drainboards require precise router work.
Step 1: Mark Drainboard Layout
- Position sink and trace drainboard width and shape.
- Mark any edges that require trimming.
Step 2: Score Outline with Circular Saw
- Lightly score sink cutout and drainboard outlines.
- This helps guide router and prevents top layer chipping.
Step 3: Cut Sink Opening
- Follow process in earlier section to cut sink hole.
- Cut drainboard area slightly undersized.
Step 4: Rout Drainboard Area
- Make several shallow passes with a 1/4″ router bit.
- Create a gradual sloped drain trench to sink basin.
Step 5: Smooth and Polish
- File or sand drainboard to remove any small chips.
- Soften edges and corners by hand.
- Polish and clean when routing is complete.
Cutting Radius Corners and Curves
For a soft custom look, radius inside and outside corners using a router and trammel setup.
Step 1: Mark Layout Lines
- Determine desired radius for inside and outside corners.
- Use a trammel compass to draw rounded corners.
Step 2: Drill Inside Corners
- Drill intersecting 1/4″ holes at tight inside corners to allow router clearance.
Step 3: Set Up Router and Trammel
- Install a sharp 1/4″ or 1/2″ diamond bit in the router.
- Adjust cutting depth for a 1/8″ increment.
- Attach trammel with pin at corner mark.
Step 4: Rout Radius Cuts
- Position router base in line with trammel radius curve.
- Make several light, smooth passes following the arc cut.
- Repeat for all inside and outside corners.
Step 5: Refine Edges
- Use a small file and sandpaper to refine curve shape by hand.
- Soften edges and corners as needed for smooth finish.
- Polish edges and thoroughly clean when done.
Cutting Irregular Shaped Edge Profiles
For a truly custom look, rout one-of-a-kind artistic edges with abstract shapes and angles.
Step 1: Design Edge Shape
- Sketch out a template for the desired irregular edge.
- Mark key dimensions, shapes, and reference points.
Step 2: Adhere Guide Blocks
- Use scrap wood to create template guides matching edge design.
- Secure guides to countertop aligned with layout marks.
Step 3: Rout Edge Profile
- Lock countertop securely to avoid shifting during routing.
- Rout along guides, removing just 1/16″ per pass.
- Make profile cuts working top to bottom only.
Step 4: Refine Edges by Hand
- Remove guides and use files and sandpaper to refine details.
- Soften points or sharp transitions for smooth finish.
- Polish by hand and clean thoroughly when done.
Troubleshooting Issues Routing Quartz
Routing quartz can sometimes lead to a few issues. Here are solutions to common problems that may arise:
Problem: Chipping on Top Surface
- Make sure quartz is fully supported beneath the cut.
- Use slower router speed around 10,000 RPM.
- Reduce depth of cut to less than 1/8” per pass.
- Consider scoring cut line with circular saw first.
Problem: Uneven Cut Depth
- Lock countertop securely to prevent movement.
- Ensure router base is flush with guides at all points.
- Make multiple light passes, avoiding deep plunges.
- Use even feed rate and avoid pausing during cut.
Problem: Burning Along Cut Lines
- Use diamond router bits designed for stone.
- Lubricate bits periodically with mineral oil.
- Reduce router speed to slowest setting.
- Pause frequently to allow bit to cool.
Problem: Router Bit Wanders from Cut Line
- Ensure guides are clamped tightly with no gaps.
- Feed router slowly and steadily without sudden moves.
- Install sturdy fences on router table to prevent bit drift.
- Replace worn router bits that allow wandering.
Problem: Excessive Dust Production
- Connect shop vacuum hose to router dust port.
- Use diamond bits that extract dust efficiently.
- Pause periodically to clean stone dust from work area.
- Contain dust generation with plastic sheeting barriers.
FAQ About Routing Quartz Countertops
Here are answers to some frequently asked questions about routing quartz:
Can I Use a Router to Cut Quartz?
Yes, routers are commonly used to cut edges, holes, notches, and custom profiles in quartz countertops. High-quality diamond bits specifically designed for stone are required.
What Size Router Do I Need for Quartz?
Look for a heavy-duty 2+ hp router with variable speed control from 8,000 – 25,000 RPM. Plunge routers and fixed-base kits excel for different quartz routing applications.
Can I Use My Trim Router to Cut Quartz?
Smaller trim routers tend to lack the power and precision needed for clean results in dense quartz. Stick with a full-size, high-torque plunge or fixed base router if possible.
What Router Bit is Best for Quartz?
Use router bits with diamond grit or tungsten carbide designed for stone. 1/2″ shank bits stay sharper longer. Lubricate constantly with mineral oil to prevent burning.
How Deep Can You Cut Quartz With a Router?
Limit depth of cut to less than 1/4” per pass. Cut in several light increments instead of one deep plunge to help avoid cracking or excessive chipping.
What Router Speed is Recommended for Quartz?
Variable speed routers capable of 8,000 – 25,000 RPM work best. Run quartz routing on the slower end around 8,000 – 12,000 RPM for best control and cleaner cuts.
How Do You Keep Quartz From Chipping When Routing?
Always support underside of cuts, make light passes of 1/8” or less, run slower router speed, use diamond bits, lubricate, and score edges before final cuts.