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Thread: Tile Countertop

  1. #1

    Default Tile Countertop

    I will soon need to install a ceramic or porcelain or stone (customer isn't sure yet) tile kitchen countertop. They want to use 12" x 12" tiles.

    Questions:

    What kind of board do you use? I was thinking of 1/2" plywood.

    Is my choice of thinset the same, regardless of the type of tile?

    Is it best to cut all the tiles ahead of time, spread the thinset, and set all the tiles at once?

    How much time do you have to set the tiles before the thinset hardens?

    I imagine that I need to make the cutout for the sink right off the bat.

    Does the sink "flange" get mounted over the tiles, or should the tiles come up to the sink, but not under it?

    If I have to trim some of the tiles that overhang into the sink cutout, what's the best method for doing this?

  2. #2
    Commercial Plumber markts30's Avatar
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    I would use a thicker plywood for the underlayment and cover it with cement board...
    The tile should go under the rim of the sink...
    I have used tile nippers and an angle grinder with diamond blade to trim tile in this type of situation in the past with fair results...

    DISCLAIMER: I am a plumber, not a tile setter...(and I tend to over-build things)

  3. #3
    Retired Defense Industry Engineer jadnashua's Avatar
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    You want more ply than 1/2"...some people use two layers of 3/4"! Keep in mind that it would not be unheard of to have kids or even adults climb up onto the countertop on occasion to do things like finish painting the wall, get that last bit out of the highest shelf, etc.

    Depends on the sink you choose best how to do it. There are some sinks that are designed to be tiled in and typically are square so you don't have to deal with curves when laying the tile up next to it (these are typically cast iron sinks). But, yes, if it is a dropin, then tile to the edge of the rough opening so that the sink will both fit and cover the raw edges. You might want to waterproof those edges in case any water leaks under the rim.

    The cement board is not really structural in this instance, so the thinner stuff works well. You can also use a membrane like Ditra (available at HD in small rolls) which is waterproof if you seal the seams with the Kerdiband. Another thing that works is Redgard, also available at HD and tile stores by Custom Building Products. You paint this stuff on, then can tile over it once it is cured.

    One of the harder things to sometimes come to grips with is finishing the edges. Wood can work, tile works, and if you use stone, you can have the edges polished and or bullnosed.

    You'll get some other ideas if you visit www.johnbridge.com.
    Jim DeBruycker
    Important note - I'm not a pro
    Retired Defense Industry Engineer; Schluter 2.5-day Workshop Completed 2013, 2014

  4. #4
    Homeowner geniescience's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Verdeboy
    ...What kind of board ...
    Porcelains are fantastic for countertops. And epoxy grout. Get the white thinset if the grout lines are going to be light color.

    Like Jim said, many membranes are good and they all work. Thinsetting directly onto plywood has been done successfully too, but not by all.

    Why 12"x12" tiles? You could use bigger ones. Some porcelains are 24"; does that fit the depth? What size is the counter? Whether to cut some in advance depends on a lot of factors.

    Have you set tile before? Your question about thinset hardening...

    David

  5. #5

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    Quote Originally Posted by geniescience
    Porcelains are fantastic for countertops. And epoxy grout. Get the white thinset if the grout lines are going to be light color.

    Like Jim said, many membranes are good and they all work. Thinsetting directly onto plywood has been done successfully too, but not by all.

    Why 12"x12" tiles? You could use bigger ones. Some porcelains are 24"; does that fit the depth? What size is the counter? Whether to cut some in advance depends on a lot of factors.

    Have you set tile before? Your question about thinset hardening...

    David
    I've only done shower tile repairs using the tile adhesive that comes in the 1 gallon buckets, so I don't know about the properties of thinset. As far as the tile size, the owner is going to pick up whatever tile remnants she can find.

  6. #6
    Homeowner geniescience's Avatar
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    ok, got it. For a cheapie client, in a cheapie market, i'd just make sure the base is solid and let everything else get decided based on what the weekly special is at the local low cost store. Tell them that any two teenagers dancing on the counter will cause cracks in the grout within a week or two. The tiles have to be strong. Tell them to seal the grout, wipe up visible water, and not leave wet things on the countertop.

    david

  7. #7
    Moderator & Master Plumber hj's Avatar
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    Default sink

    It depends on the sink. There are self rimming sinks that set on top of the tile, square corner ones that set into the tile flush with the tile, or standard flat rim sinks that go under the tile, with a bullnose trim to cover the tile's raw edges. These are the most common cast iron sinks. Stainless and enameled steel would either be undermount or use a stainless steel rim with long clips.

  8. #8

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    She's gonna just use the sink that is already there. I'll take a photo of it so it'll be easy to decide the right course of action.

  9. #9

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    Here's a photo of the sink we are going to continue to use: Should the tiles go under the rim or up to the rim?
    Attached Images Attached Images  

  10. #10
    Jack of all trades frenchie's Avatar
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    That would be the "stainless steel rim with long clips" type, which are meant for laminate countertops... I don't know if you can get clips long enough to hook onto a tile countertop, which is considerably thicker.

    If you're doing something as high-end as tile counters... I'd spring for a new (undermount) sink.

    If you don't want the tile to pop up within a week, learn about proper substrates & adhesives. If I recall, for a tile counters you want 2 layers of 3/4, wonderboard (layed into thinset & screwed), all joints taped with thinset, and the tile adhered with latex-modified thinset.

    Browse the book section at the box store. 20$ on a good tile book, is a worthwhile investment. Really, it is.

    My personal fave:

    http://www.amazon.com/Setting-Tile-H.../dp/1561580805

    Hey, only 13.57!

  11. #11
    Retired Defense Industry Engineer jadnashua's Avatar
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    By far the easiest is to tile under it, then mount the sink on top just like on the laminate counter. This also means that you can replace the sink later, if you decide to without tearing up the counter.

    An alternative is to make it look like an undermount, and mount the rim on the underlayment, then tile over the edge. You need to be careful about the exact heights, may need a router to get it just right and then you need to be very careful about shaping and polishing the edges of the tile that would be exposed. If you do this, and it comes time to replace or update the sink, you'll tear out the counter. Shaping and polishing granite is an acquired art and requires skill and some special tools. An alternative is to have a shop do them for you, at about a buck an inch is typical.

    If you go to www.johnbridge.com , you can find some pictures of this technique.
    Jim DeBruycker
    Important note - I'm not a pro
    Retired Defense Industry Engineer; Schluter 2.5-day Workshop Completed 2013, 2014

  12. #12

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    I wouldn't got with any less thatn 3/4" Ply with 1/2" backer on top of that. You will get too much flex and the grout will start to crack.

    Tom

  13. #13
    Homeowner geniescience's Avatar
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    here is where I'd use Kerdi, since it is so thin. Or a paintable membrane. Or 1/4" Hardi. (And not Ditra, since it's not a continuous layer, it leaves little air gaps, and a countertop space is so small I'd want a continuous layer instead of a number of micropillars separated by a plastic waffle).

    Only the plywood adds strength of the kind needed for a counter top.

    CBU, cement board, is not strong in the snap-flex-bend sense of strong, it is strong in other ways not relevant to what is needed here. Only ply.

    If you have an uneven number of layers in the plywood, orient them so the stronger axis is put to use across the larger space unsupported. Actually, an uneven number of layers is good here (even if less than total 3/4" thick), and if you can glue the two or three plys together you get a space age strong counter.

    david

  14. #14

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    Do they make a CBU jigsaw blade for making a sink cut-out or do I need to break out the rotozip? Or, if using 1/4", can I just score a sink cutout and pop it out with a cold chisel?

    Also, do I glue the hardi to the plywood or countersink some screws?
    Last edited by Verdeboy; 08-02-2007 at 09:05 AM.

  15. #15
    Homeowner geniescience's Avatar
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    more reason to use Kerdi or paintable trowelable membrane that comes in a paint can.

    Or no membrane at all. Scoring the top of the ply and soaking latex additive into the scratches first, before thinsetting, ensures adhesion. Read up on that at the thinset manufacturers' web sites.

    Don't think that CBU is needed absolutely. People spec it because they always have. Get it? It is "spec'd" because it is so often spec'd.

    CBU's sole purpose is to decouple tile from wood, period. And why decouple? Because over a large large surface the two materials expand and contract at different rates over the course of seasonal changes in humidity and temperature. Here, you have a small small area, and your climate is stable, stable, not with four totally distinct seaons like what I have, where humidity in spring and fall is low, and then high again in winter and summer. Long story short, you don't need CBU, and you don't need all that much decoupling, and you DO have the option of tiling directly onto plywood, as all thinset manufacturers will tell you if you read their web sites. Don't overdo this countertop. just 1. ) Make the ply strong, and 2. ) Decouple a bit or ensure a strong bond so that the tiles don't come off. Please realize that tiles coming off is the big hot topic among tilesetters. It's called delaminating. It makes big tiles sound hollow when you tap on them. It happens a lot, in all kinds of installations. The more quality time you spend with the ply, the more you will reduce risk of tiles delaminating later. Using big tiles is better than small tiles since they may still stick partially while delaminating partially. Grout is necessary to hold tiles in place too, so nobody should put pressure on the tiles while ungrouted, and not until the grout is really old either.

    The total area to be tiled is 12 to 20 square feet.


    david
    Last edited by geniescience; 08-02-2007 at 09:18 AM.

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