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ponch37300 02-02-2009 09:06 PM

ceramic tile counter top
I'm going to be tiling my kitchen floor in the near future. While I'm at it I thought I might as well just give the whole kitchen a face lift and I'm leaning towards tiling the countertop. Right now it is formica.

My plan is to(feel free to add advice or corrections) rip off the counter tops and then paint the cabinets white. Then lay down a layer of 3/4" plywood and then thinset and some kind of backer. Then thinset and tile.

I'm trying to do this on a budget but don't want to wrong just to save a couple bucks. Does my plan of 3/4" plywood and then backer sound good? What is the best type of backer to use for counters? Anything other things I'm missing? Any pointers about doing the edge tile and how to do the backer for the edge tile? Thanks for you advice.

sharb 02-06-2009 09:39 AM

I have formica countertops and unfortunately they are outdated and chipped. I would like to know if I can tile over the formica and if so is there anything special I have to do to prepare the surface.

ccarlisle 02-08-2009 07:05 AM

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You're both in luck...ceramic, or just 'tile' kitchen countertops are regaining popularity because of their cost effectiveness, ease of installation, and the availability of knowledgable people with the proper training in the field. We've done a few in our time and highly recommend them and the thing that they have going for them is that now we can say they are "waterproof" - much like we can now describe a shower installation. "Waterproof" is the single most desirable feature we are asked about and fortunately we are in a position to advise on...

With water dealt with, a tile countertop becomes equal to slabs; whether it's formica or granite, one of the qualities of these products is their resistance to water - and with newer technologies, we can reach that. But now of course, you're looking at installing a tile versus a slab and thus the pricing goes way down, to say nothing of the number of choices going way up.

Nowadays, we offer tiled-under sinks, nose profiles and edging that makes ceramic tile counters look custom-made with nickel. chrome, stainless steel and ceramic borders. Match that with similar hardware makes a kitchen stand out...:thumbup:

But to answer your technical question, yes plywood is sufficient as a subsurface. But plywood alone won't give you the water resistance you need. There's abit more to it just as there is to making a waterproof shower. And, no you can't tile over formica. Just as easy to rip it out.

Here's a small kitchen we did last month just to give you an idea of what is possible on a budget.

Keep us well posted!:yes:

ponch37300 02-08-2009 10:00 AM

Thanks ccarlisle. I understand that plywood alone isn't sufficiant and that's why I asked about 3/4" ply then thinset and then 1/4" backer and then tile? Is that the correct way to do it? What type of backer is recommended for counter tops? How do you attach backer to the edge of the counter top? How do you tile the edge of the counter top? Thanks for any help with this.

ccarlisle 02-08-2009 10:43 AM

You have to look at 2 things: 1. support i.e the strength of the subsurface to hold whatever is on top of it (and here, 3/4" plywood is sufficient to hold most things including a person standing on it) and 2. a Waterproofing membrane.

Now cement backerboard (CBU) is used under bathroom tiled floors and walls to provide both support and waterproofing (to some degree). CBU isn't waterproof in itself but it is water-resistant that means it will repel and not hold onto water too long. A waterproofing membrane is normally placed on top of the CBU to waterproof these area.

So, let's say we've already established that support is not really needed because the plywood can hold its own. But is such a system waterproof? No. So on a kitchen countertop, we need 3/4" plywood - and a waterproofing membrane. This is available, and one example is called "Ditra".

There are edge mouldings available that are just the right height to cover 3/4" plywood+thinset+Ditra+thinset+tile. 90-degree mouldings are also available where the tiled flat surface meets a backsplash, or the wall - either way more tile.

With your plywood+CBU+thinset+tile, the overall height might mean that you'll have to custom-make an edging that goes with it. We get back to my original statement in that no CBU is really needed on a kitchen countertop. It is not a strengthening element...

An important point is the sealing of the grout between the tiles; sealing here will prevent stains etc from penetrating the grout. The tiles themselves may or may not need sealing, depends. But to offset that, the word 'tiles' can of course include granite, slate, porcelain - any tile you want. In my picture, we used porcelain, but elsewhere we spent the $5 each and bought granite tiles. Do the math vs a granite slab at something like $50-80/ installation charges of course.

Tile countertops aren't quite a DIY project but on the other hand, once the planning and prep work is done, a good contractor will give you a new countertop in a day.:)

Hope this helps...

ponch37300 02-08-2009 10:22 PM

Thanks carlisle. How do you prepare the edge of the counter for tile? Backer of some kind?

ccarlisle 02-09-2009 08:21 AM

Special mouldings...:yes:

sharb 02-09-2009 09:25 AM

I am intending to put down granite tiles on the counter. I watched a program where they did not grout inbetween the the granite tiles so that it would look continuous. Is that wise? Thanks for all the other advice, it came in very handy. Thank God for this site. Always have been a do it yourselfer but never with tile or granite. Thanks again

angus242 02-09-2009 11:16 AM


Originally Posted by sharb (Post 227634)
Is that wise?

No. :no: Even if you could find rectified granite tile, I still don't think they would be perfectly straight enough to accomplish this.

ponch37300 02-09-2009 12:51 PM

Ccarlisle.. Thanks for your help and being patient! Do you have a link to these "special mouldings"? I think I understand everything besides how to prepare the thin edge of the counter for tile. Thanks again

ccarlisle 02-10-2009 09:12 AM

Schluter RONDEC...

ponch37300 02-10-2009 10:54 AM

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I looked at that tril and might end up using it but how to you prepare the edge of the counter for tile? After you put backer on the top if you look at the counter from the side you will see 3/4" plywood and then backer. Do I need to put backer on the sides of the counter? If so what do I attach the backer to, just screw it to the side of the plywood or wouldn't that split the plywood? I've attached a drawing of what i'm talking about to hopefully make it more clear and figure this out. Thanks again.

ccarlisle 02-10-2009 11:24 AM

Well, now that you've put the backerboard down (which I thought to be an option only), then the Schluter RONDEC may not help. Try the 2 1/4" thickness. 3/4" plywood + 1/2" CBU + thinset + tile may = 2 1/4".

Otherwise, just thinset pieces of tile to the edge without the moulding. Hopefully you'll find nosing tile that is that thick otherwise cut your own.

The RONDEC is a lot more elegant.

ponch37300 02-10-2009 11:39 AM

ccarlisle...I haven't put anything down yet. Trying to plan this before I jump in. Not sure what i'm using for the backer yet. Are you saying that you just use thinset to attach the tile to the edge of the 3/4" plywood? This is what I'm trying to figure out how to attach the edge tiles. The trim you suggest does look nice but I don't think it helps attach the tiles to the edge of the counter. And I don't think thinsetting the tiles to the edge of the 3/4" plywood is the right thing to do either. I would think that you would need some sort of backer to attach the tile to on the edge of the counter top. Thanks

Anyone know how to prepare the edge of the counter top for tile? Thanks

ccarlisle 02-10-2009 12:26 PM

"Are you saying that you just use thinset to attach the tile to the edge of the 3/4" plywood? "


"The trim you suggest does look nice but I don't think it helps attach the tiles to the edge of the counter."

I know, it is a solid piece of aluminum...that's only one style.

"And I don't think thinsetting the tiles to the edge of the 3/4" plywood is the right thing to do either."

? :huh: Well, how do you think it's been done all these years?

"I would think that you would need some sort of backer to attach the tile to on the edge of the counter top."

Why? what do you think the backerboard does anyway?:)

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