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Old 02-06-2010, 06:41 PM   #1
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tile counter sinking?

I am trying to offload my wife's old place from before we were married. It has a tile countertop and a portion of the counter seems to have started settling. I really don't want to redo the whole counter with something else (even though I realize that tile is "out". Does anyone have any ideas on how to fix this? I do have half a box of the tile sitting in the utility closet (left by the previous owners when they had it done).

I can't post attachments for some reason (disabled in my account) but I do have pictures of exactly what I'm talking about on flickr.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/[email protected]/sets/

My first thought was to try to shim the cabinet back up in the front, but I don't have any matching floor tile and I'm deathly afraid of screwing up the floor. I welcome any ideas...
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Old 02-06-2010, 06:59 PM   #2
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can you shim between the counter and the cabinet to raise the top?
Short of cutting off a body part, the worst that can happen in woodworking is manufacturing really nice looking kindling. --- Quoted from lenaitch
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Old 02-07-2010, 09:03 AM   #3
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Get into the underside of the counter area, and inspect it (that area underneath the grout line).
Push the underside of that countertop location upwards. (Have somebody helping you to see if the countertop surface moves).
If it moves, then you know that the issue is the countertop substrate sheathing has sagged/dropped.

What to do:

Option # 1: Easiest
1. You can attempt to measure and cut some sections of lumber to prop-up that (underside)area, so that the height matches. Install either a section of wood (full width of the cabinet depth - like a support cleat), using wood glue and wood screws.
You may need to use a small prybar to separate the old countertop sheathing plywood from the top of the cabinet base - to give it some slack to move upwards.

2. You could also install a complete interior sanded ply wood facade on that side (over the cabinet's side). The point is to use it as a means of supporting (re-inforcing/propping-up) the countertop along that edge (grout line).
Once propped up, scrape/score - out the loose grout and replace with a color matched caulk (to allow flexibility).

You may, or may not need to install some shims - along the top edge of the cabinet area (if your efforts move it up to that extent) - but judging by the pictures, it doesn't look like a huge difference. You judge it.

Option # 2: Still Easy
This is an option if the issue isn't that the countertop substrate surface is sagging (that this is not the culprit).
If there is a face board in front of the cabinets kickboard area, then remove it.
Empty cabinet area of all items (reducing weight).
Install shims (being carefull not to damage tile floor).
Level cabinet.
Dig (Score out the loose grout) on that line.
Apply color matched caulking instead of grout - to allow some flexibility along that line.

On a side note: Is the floor ok, or has it sunk too? If it has = then you've got a whole nother project to do....
- Build Well -
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Old 02-09-2010, 08:31 PM   #4
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Nope, floor still sound

Thanks for the suggestions AWB. The floor is still sound. I haven't gotten back to the old house to check out whether I can do option 1 or not. I am a little on the scared side to try option 2 since I can just picture taking out a tile and turning a small project into a big one...
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Old 02-10-2010, 09:48 AM   #5
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Here's my guess as to what is happening there.......

You can see by the oak trim that the top has not settled or raised. It is further obvious that a seam in the counter tops underlayment exists along the length of the upheaval. My guess is that the counter top substrate is made of particleboard. This can be confirmed by looking at the underside.

If this is the case the particle board on the high-side of the upheaval has swollen from moisture migration. As you look across the top of the tile, the tiles seem to remain "plane" further testifying to the gradual swelling of the substrate.

There is only one possibility as I see it. (In truth the counter top is history and should be replaced.) However, it may be possible to remove the raised tiles and sand the particleboard substrate to realign the tiles surface. You should first remove any grout that surrounds the tiles you intend to remove. This will make it easier to remove the tiles without damaging adjacent tiles. My guess is the tiles will come up easily and can be cleaned and reused.

Next time around use caulk (not grout) on that particular seam but go ahead and grout the rest of the replaced tiles.
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