How Do You Install A Tile Countertop?

How do you install a tile countertop? Tile countertop installation, while traditionally left to professionals, can also be a do-it-yourself project for the homeowner with enough dedication. Most projects...

Tile countertop installation, while traditionally left to professionals, can also be a do-it-yourself project for the homeowner with enough dedication. Most projects consist of precisely measuring the tile needed, creating a flat surface on cabinets with plywood and concrete board, then cutting tile and securing it in place with a mortar. The project does require some specialized equipment, such as a saw capable of cutting tile, but the most expensive pieces can be rented from major hardware stores.


Professional fabricator and installer Michael Bryan touches on the installation process, "For a granite tile countertop, you would have a straight piece of plywood and then you would use a concrete board such as a wonder board or even a hardy backer, and then you would use a thin set motor to set it in. It can be a do it yourself project. It's really easy to do, but it is better to have a professional do it because they know where the cut should be, etc.




The first step is to prepare the top of the cabinets. The plywood fastened to the cabinets needs to be strong enough to hold the considerable weight of the tile as well as anything set on it. For many projects, reinforcing a ¾ inch thick piece of plywood with another ¾ inch piece works best. For other projects, reinforcing one ¾ inch piece of plywood with thick plywood strips around the edges of the cabinet and in an X beneath the plywood is recommended. For countertops in the bathroom and kitchen, the next step is secure polyethylene film or building felt over the plywood to prevent moisture from getting it to it. Over that, attach cement backer board and seal any seams. Before continuing to tile installation, the countertop needs to be level and smooth.

Install the tile in such a way that a minimum number of tiles will need to be cut. Experts recommend starting on the sink area and any complicated corners, so you can give yourself a second chance if the first cut is wrong. Thin-set mortar will need to be applied to the cabinet top, and the tile is spaced evenly over that. Small tile spacers are available to help insure even spacing for a beginner while laying tile.

Counter edges can be complicated. Most homeowners prefer rounded tiles that match the rest of the countertop to cover edges. If working with rounded corners, small shims are inserted into the last row of tile to overhang where the rounded pieces will be installed. These shims help hold the rounded edges in place while the thin-set dries,after which they will be fully secure.

The final phase of the project involves sealing the tile and grouting its lines. First, make sure no tiles have sunk or are out of level. If necessary, pry out any tiles, add more thin set, and re-lay it. This part can be tedious, but is not something you want to fix later or have to live with. Wipe any excess adhesive from the tops of the tile with a damp cloth, and scrape out any extra adhesive from between the tiles. Leave the tile to dry for about 24 hours or according to manufacturers directions. Some tile requires sealing and some doesn't,make sure you know which yours is. Apply sealer across the top of the tile according to manufacturer directions, and allow it to dry fully. To apply the tile grout, use a squeegee to spread the mixture over the entire counter. On a second pass, try to remove as much grout as possible from the tile surface. This will also take any excess grout off the top of the seams. Once the grout is partially dry and firm to the touch, use a damp cloth to remove extra grout on the tiles and carefully do any grout shaping you desire. Eventually a hazy white film will dry over the tiles, which can again be wiped up with a damn cloth. Expect the grout to take at least a few days to harden fully, during which time it should not get wet or be used extensively.

© High Speed Ventures 2011