Installing quartz countertops can transform the look of your kitchen or bathroom. With their durability, low maintenance, and stylish appearance, quartz countertops are a popular choice for home upgrades. However, they require precise installation, especially around the edges, to get that seamless look.
Trimming and polishing the edges is typically done using a router. But what if you don’t have a router or don’t feel comfortable using one? Thankfully, it is possible to get clean and smooth quartz countertop edges without a router, with just a few additional tools and some extra time and care.
In this comprehensive guide, we will walk through all the steps and techniques for trimming quartz countertops without a router. With proper preparation and the right approach, you can achieve flawless edges. Let’s get started!
Things You’ll Need
Before starting the trimming process, make sure you have gathered all the necessary supplies:
- Quartz countertop slabs
- Table saw with a diamond blade
- Safety gear – gloves, eye protection, ear protection
- Sandpaper – 60 grit and 120 or 220 grit
- Quartz bonding adhesive
- Clean rags
- Mineral spirits for cleaning
- Wood trim pieces or laminate strips for building up edges
Step 1 – Cut the Countertop Slabs to Size
The first step is to cut your quartz slabs to the appropriate size using a circular saw. This doesn’t need to be perfect, as you will later trim the edges. Just get the general sizing correct.
Be sure to:
- Carefully measure the dimensions of your countertop space. Add 1/8″ – 1/4″ to length and width.
- Use a straightedge guide with your saw for straight cuts.
- Cut with the quartz face down to avoid chipping.
- Go slowly and steadily to ensure clean cuts.
- Make several passes if needed, adjusting the blade depth each time.
Also cut out space for sinks or other features as needed. Having the slabs at rough size will make the edging process much easier.
Step 2 – Build Up Edges
With a router, edges can be trimmed down nicely to fit against the walls. But without a router, you need to build the edges up to create a perimeter ledge. This allows you to sand/grind the edges flush later.
To build up the edges:
- Cut 3/4″ wood strips or laminate pieces to desired edge height. 2″+ is common.
- Run a bead of quartz adhesive along the underside.
- Firmly adhere strips to all edges except those fitting against walls.
- Use clamps to hold strips in place until adhesive dries.
- The built-up edges will overhang the slab slightly. This provides space to work.
Step 3 – Sand Edges Flat and Smooth
With the edges built up, now you can sand and grind them down flush. This takes precision, patience and the right techniques.
Be sure to:
- Work slowly and carefully to avoid cracking the slabs. Quartz is brittle on the edges.
- Wear safety gear – eye protection, mask, ear protection. Silica dust is hazardous.
- Keep your sanding angle consistent across the top and bottom edges.
- Overlap strokes for an even finish. Avoid tilting the sander.
- Start with 60 grit paper to flatten the surface. Follow with 120 or 220 grit.
- Wrap sandpaper around a block for manual sanding in tight spots.
- Clean edges frequently to check progress and smoothness.
- Sand until you achieve a flat profile with rounded corners all around.
Take your time with this step to get the edges perfectly smoothed and avoid weak spots. Thorough sanding also preps the surface for polishing.
Step 4 – Build Up and Sand Wall Edge Pieces
For edges along walls, use a different approach:
- Adhere strips of wood or laminate behind the slab edge. This creates a ledge.
- Allow adhesive to fully cure before sanding (24 hours).
- Use sandpaper to grind down the front edge until flush with the wall.
- Support the overhang as you sand to avoid cracking.
- Do a final sanding by hand with fine grit paper.
Once all edges are sanded smooth, inspect closely for any uneven spots or small cracks. Use adhesive to fill as needed, then sand again.
Step 5 – Clean Edges Thoroughly
Now that sanding is complete, thoroughly clean the edges and entire surface:
- Wipe away all dust with clean rags.
- Use mineral spirits to remove residue and grease.
- Rinse cleaned areas well with clean water.
- Allow countertops to fully dry before polishing.
Proper cleaning is crucial to prep for polish and ensure strong adhesion.
Step 6 – Polish Edges for Smooth Finish
Polishing is the final step to achieve glossy, professional edges:
- Use a handheld high-grit wet stone, diamond pad or polishing compound.
- Rub gently against the edges using even, circular motions.
- Start with a coarse pad, follow with finer grits to finish.
- Rinse edges frequently to check smoothness and remove residue.
- Take care not to polish too aggressively, as this can cause chips or new unevenness.
- Make final passes with a 3000+ grit pad for maximum shine.
- Apply sealant if desired to protect the finish.
Follow these steps carefully on all edges, taking your time to get an evenly polished surface.
Step 7 – Install Countertops and Caulk Seams
Once all edges are trimmed, sanded, polished and cleaned, you are finally ready for installation:
- Apply thick beads of adhesive to cabinet surfaces.
- Carefully lower countertops into place.
- Use shims to make edges level and tight to walls.
- Clamp slabs together tightly.
- Allow adhesive to fully cure as directed before use.
- Seal all seams and edges with a flexible caulk.
And that’s it! With some perseverance and these tips, you can achieve seamless quartz countertop installation without using a router. Just take it slowly and focus on smooth, consistent sanding and polishing. Be patient and your hard work will pay off with gorgeous, flawless edges.
What kind of saw should be used to cut the quartz slabs?
It’s best to use a circular saw with a diamond tipped blade specifically for cutting stone materials. The diamond blade stays cool while cutting and avoids chipping or cracking the quartz. A standard woodcutting blade could overheat and damage the material.
Can I use an angle grinder instead of sandpaper?
An angle grinder is not generally recommended, as it’s harder to control the smoothness and avoid uneven spots. The high speed of a grinder can also chip or crack thin edges. Sanding by hand allows you to be precise and gentle while evening out the surface. However, an angle grinder can be used very cautiously for initial major grinding if needed.
What grit sandpaper should be used to finish edges?
Start with a 60 grit paper for initial major grinding. Then do a second pass with 120 or 220 grit to smooth out scratches. Hand sanding spots with a 220 or 400 grit gives a polished finish. If you want an ultra shiny edge, use a wet stone or diamond polishing pads up to 3000 grit or higher.
Can wood strips other than 3/4″ thickness be used to build up edges?
Yes, any material from 1/4″ to 1″ thickness will work to create the edge ledge for sanding. Thicker strips around 1″ allow you to shape more of a bullnose edge profile. The material just needs to be rigid enough not to compress while sanding. Wood, plastic laminates, acrylic and composite materials can all work well.
Should anything be applied to seal the edges after polishing?
Sealants or finishes are optional, but can help protect the polished edges from water spots and oxidation over time. A quartz-specific sealing product or clear epoxy can be applied per manufacturer instructions. Avoid wax or oil based sealers that may stain. Test in an inconspicuous spot first before applying to all edges.
Completing a clean, precision quartz countertop installation doesn’t require an expensive router when done properly. With some cheap supplemental wood strips, sandpaper, elbow grease, and the techniques covered here, you can achieve flawless trimmed edges. Just take your time with each phase, work carefully around the fragile corners, and aim for smooth consistency across the entire profile. Don’t rush the process. Let the sandpaper do the work. Your patience will pay off with stunning quartz countertops that will look professionally installed.