Cooktop Installation

 DEAR MIKE: I want to replace the gas cook top on my counter with a new one. What do I do? -- Stan R.

DEAR STAN: Installing a new cook top is a little like installing a clothes dryer, except that you don't have to add a fabric softening sheet when you use it. You will have a gas connection to make and a plug to insert into an outlet. Other than that, it's a matter of securing the cook top into the counter and getting out your recipes.
Before you go shopping for a new cook top, take a measurement of the hole that your current cook top sits in. Measure from underneath the cabinet so you can get an accurate measurement.

Ideally, buy a new cook top that will fit the opening. The cook top will drop into this hole and rest on the counter. You are trying to avoid cutting your counter top to accommodate a larger cook top. Not that this is bad, but you don't want to cut granite or tile if you can avoid it.

Cook tops come with lots of different features, so choose the ones that you like. I like sealed burners (which also have a ceramic cap for easy cleaning). I also like continuous grates which give cook tops a modern look, and also make it easy to move pots around the cooking surface.

Once you have your new cook top, you need to remove the old one. From underneath the cabinet, unplug the old one and turn off the gas valve. The gas valve will be off when the handle is perpendicular to the pipe. Unscrew the flexible gas line.

The cook top will be secured in the counter by one of several fasteners, bolts or tabs. It may have straps that hang down from the sides and are screwed to the cabinet. You may also have hold-down clips that are attached to the bottom of the cook top that push screws into the underside of the counter.

Whatever style you have, just look for the screws and remove them. The cook top should just lift out of the hole.

Installing the new cook top is just as easy. Before you drop the new one into the hole, use a putty knife and scrape the gunk off of the counter left by the old cook top.

If you have measured correctly, you won't need to enlarge the hole in the counter. If you need to enlarge the hole, be careful. Laminate counter tops cut easily with a jigsaw, but they can chip. Corian is easy to work with, but tile and granite will make a real mess and you may want to call in a pro for these.

Also, the flange on the new counter top (the part that rests on the counter) may be very narrow, so your cuts will have to be precise. Other wide-flange cook tops leave plenty of room for error.

Set the cook top gently into the hole to avoid scratching the surrounding counter. To secure the new cook top, attach its fasteners to the cabinet (or underside of the counter) and screw it into place.

Make the gas connection by applying three wraps of gas Teflon tape (it is yellow and thicker than standard Teflon tape). Screw on the fitting from the flexible gas line until tight. Then plug the cook top into the outlet.

Open the gas valve and test for leaks with soapy water. If you see any bubbles, you will have to tighten the connection, or disassemble it and try again.

Assemble the cook top according to the manufacturer's directions, which generally consist of setting the ceramic caps on the burners and installing the grates and knobs.

Turn on the knobs and you will hear the clicking of the ignition followed by the burner firing. You can start boiling the water for the pasta.

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