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.
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.
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.
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…’