The Truth About Corbels

Being in the countertop business, we know that when it comes to stone and concrete, having good support is very important.

Traditionally, corbels have been used to provide support for countertop overhangs. For those that don’t know the name “corbel,” they are the triangular structures commonly seen supporting wall shelves.

Corbels are great for applications like shelving, but they can have several downsides in countertop installations.

1. Corbels are often poorly designed for installation.        

Poor Installation DesignNotice this standard corbel. How should we install it? There are only two screw holes, one at the bottom and one at the top. The top hole is inaccessible because it’s located behind the angular support piece. Unless you have a very tiny drill, a flexible bit head, or you don’t mind the screws going through the stud at an angle (highly not recommended), then you will have to add your own holes to make this corbel install work.

Are two screws even enough support? A general rule of thumb is that one screw can support 150 pounds of pressure. Since it is nearly impossible to install the screw at the top, the bottom screw is not enough and this is not adequate support. Should you be worried? Unfortunately, many corbels (including this standard design) merely provide the illusion of support.

2. Corbels often provide inadequate support.

Corbels aren't always square

Most corbels are made from wood, and aren’t designed to flex/fit the 90-degree angle between the countertop and the cabinet. This standard corbel won’t fully contact or support the countertop. We have seen many corbel installations that leave upwards of a ¼” gap between the corbel and the countertop. The light coming through in this photo is the gap between the corbel and a true 90-degree L-Square. If the corbel is not physically touching the countertop, it is not providing valuable and necessary support.

3.  Corbels take up too much space. 

What an underused bartop!

If your customer has a countertop bar wide enough to seat 6 people, corbels usually reduce useable leg space to only seat 3-4 people. Corbels simply get in the way. In this beautiful bar installation, each chair is placed between a set of corbels. This is such a great entertaining kitchen, and this customer would gladly have more stools if they only had the legroom to do so. Don’t let corbels ruin the party!

4. Corbels are usually unattractive, and some are plain ugly. 

May he watch over your knees and noggins!Most corbels are made as aftermarket accessories and not made in sync with cabinets. It is very difficult to find corbels that look good with your cabinets, and even more difficult to accurately stain the wood to match. This design disconnect creates a lower perceived quality of workmanship for the contractor and provides lower aesthetic value for the homeowner. Additionally, most corbels are traditional in their design and won’t work with newer, timeless, and modern designs.

5. Corbels can cause injury. 

He's too cute to get hurt like that!If you have ever sat at a bar that has corbels, you’ve probably bumped your knee, and you know that it is not fun. This is even worse for kids who bump their heads! Because corbels stick out in places where they either can’t be seen or shouldn’t be to begin with, it’s easy to get hurt bumping into one. No to mention, that many corbels can rip your pants/skirt if you rub against them. Don’t let corbels hurt you, your kids, or you wardrobe any longer!

6. Corbels can be really expensive.

Goodness gracious, that's a lotta money!Some corbels cost an arm and a leg (which you may eventually lose from bumping your knees on the corbels). Average corbels can run $150 each, which does not include installation cost. Above is a screen shot from a popular corbel retailer. Nicer corbels can run upwards of $300 a piece! Considering an average installation needs 4 supports, that’s over $1000! You would be better of taking a vacation (and not have to come home to corbels when you get back).

7. Corbels take longer to make and receive.

Any day now...Nicer, custom corbels have long lead times. Other than the standard corbels that big box stores keep in stock, most corbels take between 2-3 weeks to produce. Considering that a custom countertop only takes 1-2 weeks to manufacture, you probably won’t get your corbels at the right time. In the meantime, there will be no support at all for the countertop overhangs. So what is the point of getting a corbel in the first place?

Corbels aren’t the enemy…

We are not saying that all corbels are bad. We are not saying that all corbels are ugly. We just feel that in 9 out of 10 situations, with 9 out of 10 customers, a floating, invisible, sturdy metal support brace installation will look better, be safer, and cost less money and time.



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