ShopTalk Sunday: Smiles to Tiles

Sorry I didn’t get to this a little sooner (like a week ago) but turns out tiling a kitchen is not one of the fastest things to take on as a “home improvement project.”

If you’re in a hurry, might we suggest Formica or Wilsonart from the Home Despots or Lowes?

Seriously:  Tile Causes Time Dilation!

Having lived on my sailboat for more than 10-years, there is still a corner of my brain that can drop into “cruising mode.”  It’s the same mindset found when the Baja Ha-Ha sets out for Cabo next month.

No, people don’t necessarily say “This is about FUN and having a good time, we’ll get there when we do, but chill and enjoy…”  But, in reality?

Precisely the mindset you need for tile.  Especially if you plan to tile over laminate in the kitchen.

Your choices aren’t good, no matter what.

Option #1: Rip off old laminate or countertop.

This will involve tedious hours with a heat gun if you do the rip off.  It you are putting down a new countertop, there’s a special kind of hell here.  Because even if you do a reasonable job, in 20-years, there will be a leak somewhere and the underlayment (3/4-inch exterior ply, but waterproof is better, but you may need a re-fi to buy and good luck finding it…) will rot out.

Option #2:  Buy, cut, install and tile over backer-board.

If you haven’t played with cementitious board (pronounced “seh-men-tish-us” but everyone in the trades says “semi-tish-us“) you have a led a blissful life.  The stuff is a real PITA to work with.  All those N-95s (or better, N-100 masks, or better hire it done) will be needed in the clouds of fine dust generated in cutting.

Then you will have to screw things down (stainless steel screws!) and then, you still have the misery of the tile lay, itself.

Option #3:  Tavy Tile has a two-part process involving a special adhesive which is used to put on a special fiberglass enriched backer-paper which thinset mortar (that you bed tile in) will adhere to,

There’s a dandy video over here TAVY Thin-Skin Underlayment System Counter-Top Installation Demo – YouTube.  Looks super easy – and really, it’s not too bad.

HOWEVER, the “special adhesive” is very much akin to non-volatile rubber cement.  When you get it on your hands (which you WILL) it will be most effectively removed by emulsifying with a bit of mineral oil and then spraying your hands with Krud-Kutter or similar everything-but-skin removing detergent.

Selecting Materials

We selected a VERY pleasing (to us) green tile.  Unfortunately, only to discover one of the axioms of tile laying:  If you find a pattern you like, be assured there will be no Bull Nose tile for facing off the fronts of the counters.

Real craftsmen (a rank only earned after building your own home) like Chris Tyreman, know enough to plan on using solid wood counter edging.  No rounded corners! You can take any decent hardwood, put some epoxy on it, and square-tile your way to heaven.

I ran this by our Art Department and SHE would hear nothing of my lame-brain scheme to put in 45-degree corners.  “Rounded corners” with a glint of defiance which – in other discussions – might have been fetching.  This time?  Not so much.

Tile Size

This is always a great one.  I love 18-inch Travertine tile which is sometimes on sale at the home improvement stores for $2-bucks a tile.  On a cost per square foot basis?  Hard to beat.

A good custom color glazed runs more.  We have ordered 13 boxes from Home Depot and what we agreed on came in at just over $800 bucks.  There is more to the story, however.  You will need to order about 2 (and by now maybe 3-4) weeks ahead of time.  Make sure you’ll have someone around to collect the tile which will be coming off the back of a lift-gate semi-trailer.

Our choice turned out to be 4-inch squares which worked.

Order of Project

We decided to cut the project into thirds:  the north counter, south counter, and then the kitchen sink area.  We can keep eating and have lots of workspace.  For each of these:

  • Day 1:  Lay the Tavy underlayment paper and glue.
  • Day 2:  Allow full day of drying.  Tavy says you can tile immediately, but this is not a bull nosed and level job.  I was planning to go for a semi-rustic look with many tiles vertically on the corners.
  • Day 3:  Apply the edge tiles with type 1 (water resistant) mastic and the bigger areas with thinset mortar.  Mastic has better holding power, thinset is cheaper, but is a PITA.  Because you first mix it well, let is slake (a chemical reaction) for 10-15 minutes, then mix again.  Thinset is not as easy to use as mastic.  Cheaper?  Oh, yeah….
  • Day 4:  Drying Day.
  • Day 5:  Drying Day.  You want to make sure everything is solidly in place before grouting.
  • Day 6:  Grouting
  • Day 7: Drying day.
  • Day 8:  (Optional) grout sealing.

Lining up the Gear

First steps include getting all the installation tools.  In addition to the Skil tile wet saw, you will need…

Then comes the good-looking assistant who slices the edge pieces of the underlayment paper.

Next, we put down the sticky gooey impossible to get off your hands stuff and set the paper…giving it a chance to dry well:

Setting Tile Begins

With underlayment dry, you begin to work around the edges of two sides:

With two adjacent sides laid, you can keep going, on the diagonal so the fitting works out, or knock-off to do stock trading for a day.

Notice on the far corner (by the work stool) there is a round corner.  This was managed by making a series of vertical pieces and putting them on with mastic:

One of two of these will be re-set before grouting to even out the size of the grout line.  Still, with the grout planned just a few shades darker than the tile, it’s all going to lo0k very, very “rustic” on this rounded edge.

The rest of the job came out very nicely:

Again, the grout will tie everything together more.

What Next?

Monday, Elaine will be doing the grouting.

The approach on the edges was to cut 45-degree chamfers to leave a 1/8 to 1/4″ grout channel.  Which meant innumerable trips to the wet tile saw:

The idea with chamfers – such as this, is that it gives you a channel when you put to pieces on a corner.  Done in showers all the time.  Less so in kitchens.  But it works.

We will have some “finished piece looks in a month, or so.  Spacing the job out for maximum drying and minimum household disruption seemed like the way to go for us…you may wish to take another angle on it. A few manic days.

One thing, though:  Be aware that while you’re cutting those impossible angles for corners on a 45-angle saw that all kinds of crud will be caught in the saw, so every second or fourth tile cut, you’ll want to get the slivers out of the way before going on.

The Skil wet tile saw ( SKIL 3540-02 7-Inch Wet Tile Saw , Red at Amazon) is just $86-bucks and one of the best deals out there in home improvement tooling.

Doing a kitchen over this way, you can have the whole thing done in a month – figure one week each for the left, sink, and right counters in our case. Four hours at a whack, or less.  Doable as an after work project, too, if you’re not retired yet.  Space out the tasks, take your time.  No mania.  Tile and manic aren’t a good fit.

The other week? The fourth one? Well, that’s when the backsplash will be done (and sit on) the counter after it’s grouted.  Auuummm…  Dream of Baja (before the cartels…).  Downwind sailing.  Work without a sweat.

If you want a fast project, we’ll be doing the replacement deck shortly and that’s down in the 1 to 3 day range, depending on how much joist tape and Penofin I lay on the exposed cuts.  And how many hurricane straps.

And it will all be predicated on getting the footings set well ahead of time, too.,

Coffee and then a genuine day off.  On the lawn mower.

Want to get that last lawn shaving done and the oil changed today.

Write when you get ahead of the leaves…’

33 thoughts on “ShopTalk Sunday: Smiles to Tiles”

  1. Good morning George and You are up EARLY. Having done a counter or two (taught by my youngest son the cabinet maker) I do understand your thinking. But, the counter does bring back a live-a-board memory. Richard, another live aboard hooked up with a bit of deck fluff and it did work out. However when she moved aboard she wanted a new galley top and of course she got it. What was it? Marble! First marble galley top and the last that I have ever seen on a sailboat.
    Have a good day and enjoy life because as my school principle used to sing while strolling the halls, “Enjoy yourself its later than you think”. Great guy.

    • For me, it would not be the first bag boat with marble.
      There was a fellow up in the PNW that had a Liberty 458 and it had drop dead gorgeous marble (medium green – almost a jade) in the galley and in the heads.
      Another – when I was pondering whether to stay on a sailboat or grow up, was a different boat – an Amel 54 which also had marble (white) in the galley.
      Of course, non of it could top the hand-carved solid teak doors on a Panda 37…but that’s one of my “motators” getting my CNC machine. Want to do engravings on some of the kit cab doors but shhh! Don’t mention it to the Art Dept. yet.

  2. Hey George;

    Good Sunday morning, to ya.

    We took a day trip yesterday up to the Lighthouse where the wife and I got married. Just thought it would be nice to go there. And it was.

    She was driving and I was looking out the window and saw a big trailer in a field along the highway. Big sign on it said, “WHO IS JOHN GALT?”

    Asked the wife, “Ever hear of him? She says, “nope.” I hadn’t either, for all I know could be some guy running for office in the area or what ever. So I looked him up …

    Wow …

    I don’t want to post a link to what all I found, because different folks have different perceptions and try to point out certain other people of the day. Keep my opinions to myself. But I can say, it’s interesting to see something pop up from 1957, even though there appears to be a movie about it all since.

    Interesting stuff.

    • John Galt has gotten ALOT of notice on the last 5 years. Social and political chaos, news blackouts and full face lying (propaganda?) by powerful media, and corporate takeover of US policies has given rise to more and more people asking about Mr. Galt. Not that everyone is noticing, since Youtube,
      Facebook, and other social media outlets are banning any dissenting voices.

      Fwiw, I got on a kick of finding older dvds of dystopian society films like Escape from New York and Ultraviolet since they are fun action flicks that don’t take much to digest, and I like their action sequences. But it’s a little scary when some of these movies seem to have a parallel to what is happening right now.

  3. Nice kitchen and the tiling looks to be quite the project for you two. Personally, I always preferred butcherblock counters. Love the look and feel of wood over laminates, marble, etc. in my home.
    When we moved to NoWhere, IN five years ago, we started a handful of replacement/sprucing projects. A year or so into it, one of us developed an issue with (dibilitating) arthritis. Finishing up these loose ends has been frustrating for me as I’m the less experienced or strong of the team. I’ve had to hire out to handyman types to complete some of it. So, it’s good to see that you and Elaine are healthy, and capable to do these things.

  4. Nice work.. its looking great..
    I really like how you did the round corner.. what color did you pick for the grout..

    • mix of half georgia pine green and black – very dark green
      And a six pack of dark green chisel tip sharpies if anything gets knicked down the road. they don’t seem to make GreenOut anymore, lol

  5. “Hello ! this the skelyton from outer space, having a party”

    Has anyone seen this Braden guy ?

    ECU roadtrip yesterday -all over Lancaster county were TRUMP 24 and “Lets Go Branden” banners and signs, allover.

    Now I understand the perception of NASCAR fans as being a bunch fat drunk bubbas, but all the slurring has me confused. In Pennsyltucky at PSU football games – they simply chant “Fuck Biden” – which to my ears soundz nothing like “lets go braden”. At college football stadiums around the country, every week is the same – “Fuck Biden” . Seems the majority of young, edumacateds are pissed about our Pretendidente being a owned/controlled “deepstater” = puppet.

    This terribley abysmal example of mental cognition, “empty shelves joe”, proves on almost daily basis – that you can fool ALL of the People, All of the Time…just ask cnn,fox, christians in action, fumbling bumbling idiots, fubar emergency mismanagement agency or homeland zionazi’s -“we need more funding, quick shot up a SSRI kid patient with some scopolamime in school parking lot, give him gun, and tell him go shot the bad guys in the school”..easypeasylike

    Sorry WCD, no recall of where “tale” of weapons explosions at groomlake and or yucca lake/ area6 came from..hell I dont even know where I was last night, but my body is sore and feeling rather heavy..must be after affects of 2nd Shingrex shot yeasterday…

    • That’s adorable… You guys think the reporter was “confused…”

      Das be “damage control” in da 21st Centaury…

      Oh, and East Coaster, it’s “F*ck Joe Biden…” FOUR syllables, not three.

      What impresses me about the whole thing is, that stuff is coming from college kids — not known for their political savvy or mental acumen, or their ability to “see the big picture.”

    • I know! I laughed my self silly over this video post. You just know that the other kids dared him, lol. I don’t imagine he needed much encouragement to have that much fun with the reporter!!!

  6. George?

    It’s not too late to switch to epoxy grout! Available in almost any color, waterproof and stain proof. Never cracks or lifts. Never needs sealing.

    You won’t regret it.

  7. G, your tile job looks good from the pics.

    When I did the kitchen floor I screwed down the backer board and the kicker, I used mortar instead of mastic to hold the tile down. The floor is permanent.

  8. George, what’s wrong with cement board? Used it for my kitchen no sweat. But I didn’t have a dust problem because I cut everything with a scoring tool and broke it just like drywall. Sometimes hand power works better. Now, the wet tile saw, that I like. Beats the hell out of the hand cutter.

    michael in maryland

  9. George-should have trashed the old counter tops,2 layers of strand board,liquid nails between.1/4″ fiber rock glued and screwed.Thinset the tiles.You can walk on the counter tops.35 year tile setter here and still at it.You need to put a bevel on the backside of those radius tiles so they in tighter.Some nice wood trim makes a nicer finish than the tile trim.With all the new mortar formulas out there have no use for mastic these days.

  10. Tile looks like a lot of work. Before I would even consider a ‘topping’ like that, I would have to replace all my cabinets. The damn fiberboard they build the cheap stuff out of nowadays doesn’t last in this wet tropical climate. Get it wet and it swells and dissolves. What I need first is to win the lottery, then have new REAL WATERPROOF WOOD cabinets custom made. And if I’m rich enough for that, then I can have some custom toppings made. While I dream of all that, I’ll just have to put up with the formica.

    Back on rotation schedule with sister rejoining the elder care routine, so I have a few days at home to occasionally work on the ‘super antenna’ project. Slow but sure.

  11. Formica might not be pretty but at least it is easy to clean. I have a grouted tile counter and there are always crumbs in the grout lines

  12. That is really nice work.

    Having done a master bath in my old house in Travertine by myself (huge job, expensive quotes, cheaper to buy top of the line tools, then re-sell when done) I know the PITA it is to get everything level, mix thinset to the right consistency so stuff doesn’t shift around, etc… Let’s not even get into setting 18×18 on a shower ceiling, with no help…

    I did Durarock (backerboard) in the shower and sidewalls by the Jacuzzi, floor was concrete, and bought a special blade for the wet saw to do bullnose. Also a Makita polishing tool with the disks.

    I am NEVER doing tile work again, especially marble, travertine, or granite. Tools sold, and I saved quite a bit of money, but there are some things (as handy as I am) I’ll try once, then hire pros if needed again. Tile and HVAC are at the top of that list.

    That’s one heck of a job. Looks like you either have a great deal of experience and/or a heck of a lot of patience.

  13. I couldn’t give a Fark about the dribble . I will talk to all you gurus and veges on Saturday. Like Jed clampett . You all come back now or should I say talk sheet again!!! Der der der !!!

  14. Great job if you have the eyes for it! At least you have a live-in artist/helper to see and provide feedback. Until I get one, you’ve convinced me to stick with Formica. It’s quick and already finished(if you buy it that way). I’ll stick to what I do best – measuring, cutting, and joining. I’ll flat finish sheetrock and play with stucco, but that’s it for finishing.

    I’ve never enjoyed tile and avoid it like the plague. Even when it’s installed, it can get dirty grout. Many people love it, and I wish you the best with yours.

  15. My old house built in 1958, was a little custom home. All the houses built in that area of that era, had tile on the kitchen countertops and kitchen backsplash, bathroom floor and walls up to 4′, bathroom countertops, and tiled shower, too. The double Porceline sink was custom tiled around it and it was situated 2″ deep so water never got on the counter.

    I loved it all. Hubs complained of the squares and grout in kitchen, but bleach got them clean if they discolored.

    Neighbors got tired of theirs but underestimated the solid building of the era. The tile was laid on concrete countertops!!! Took a sledge hammer to demolish everything. They replaced those beautiful forever countertops with formica. Within a few years, their formica color faded, and their kitchen aged.

    How did they know how to build and set tile perfectly 63 years ago???

    Oh, no particle boards for the roof. Real tongue and groove wood decking.

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