How to Install Ceramic Tile Countertops

If you have ever thought of changing your countertops from laminate to tile, consider doing the work yourself. Installing ceramic tile countertops can be time consuming, but is also fairly simple if you have the patience required.

It is important to decide before beginning how you will finish the edges of the countertop. It is common to use sink cap tile to finish the edge, although hardwood edging is also a popular option. Figure out how much edging and how much tile you will need to complete the project.

Draw a diagram on graph paper to help you determine how much ceramic tile you will need. Keep in mind it is not enough to simply calculate the area, you must also calculate how many cut tiles you will need. Also, do not forget to calculate the amount needed for the backsplash. It is also important to buy a few extra tiles in case of a mistake.

Before installing ceramic tile, remove the old countertop and install 3/4 inch to 1 inch exterior plywood. Cut the exterior plywood to match the size of the desired countertop. Then screw through the plywood and into the tops of the base cabinets. It is helpful to mark where the base cabinets meet the countertop to ensure the screws are being placed properly. Next, seal the new plywood base with an oil based sealant.

Now you are ready to begin to install the edge tiles or hardwood edging. If you are installing hardwood edging, use finishing nails to attach finished strips of hardwood to the front of the plywood base countertop. The top of the hardwood edging should meet the top of the tiles, not the top of the plywood base.

If you are installing sink cap or edge tiles, mark the midpoint of each countertop. Begin buy laying out the edge tiles on either side of that line. If your tile does not have spacers to help ensure even grout lines, use plastic spacers you can by from the home improvement store. Figure out how you are going to address tile that meets corners or the edges of appliances. Mark the tiles that need to be cut for the edging to meet any of these challenges.

Next, also put the countertop tiles onto the plywood base. Lay them all out so you have an idea of any problems with the ceramic tile countertops. Try to eliminate narrow cuts or irregular grouting as much as possible. Mark your final layout in pencil directly onto the plywood countertop. This will help you recreate it later. Then remove the tile. Cut tiles to fit as needed.

To apply tile, you will need to apply adhesive to the back of your tiles. Take to your home improvement store for adhesive options in your area. Spread a liberal, but even layer onto the back of your edging tile. Using the marks you made in the previous step, line up each tile as evenly as possible. Be sure to use your plastic spacers to achieve even grout lines.

Do the same for any tiles that fit into the wall and countertop inside corner. This tiles are called cove tiles. Next, apply a thin layer of adhesive to the plywood base countertop and lay the rest of the tile. Do not neglect to use the plastic spacers to ensure even grout lines. It is important to be meticulous while laying tile. Any mistakes will be magnified once the job is complete, so be sure to lay each tile perfectly.

Use an 18 inch by 18 inch square of plywood wrapped in cloth and a mallet to set the tile into the adhesive. Using the plywood as a barrier will ensure that all the tiles are set into the adhesive evenly. Finally, install the backsplash tiles using the same techniques.

Remove any plastic spacers and clean any stray adhesive. Wait for the adhesive to cure, it should take at least 24 hours to do so. Then you may carefully grout between the tiles. After a few days of curing, your countertop should be able to be used. Be very careful not to spill anything on your countertop, in two weeks you should seal it with a grout sealant.

The most important thing to remember when installing a tile countertop is patience. Take the time to lay out all of your tile and address any places that may disrupt the countertop, such as a sink or range top. Before beginning your own project, consider taking a class where you can get some hands on experience in applying grout and adhesive. Many home improvement stores offer classes to show you basic tiling techniques.

If you don’t have the patience or time to install your own ceramic countertop, call a contractor. The job should take less than a week, and a contractor will have the skills necessary to navigate even the most difficult kitchen arrangement. You may also be able to save money on materials.

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