To tile your bathroom countertop you’ll need to decide whether or not to use underlayment . You can lay tile on any solid surface, however you may also choose to use an underlayment that is secured to the cabinets. Always make sure the work surface is dry, clean and dust free.
In the event you are using plywood for an underlayment you will need to leave a ¾” overhang for a drop edge on the front. Once it is cut make sure to flip the wood bottom-up. You can use the same type of strips to build up all the edges of the countertop, gluing them down with a wood glue.
Once it is dry, take drywall screws and fasten the underlayment to he cabinets. Make sure they do not come up through the wood.
Your Sink Opening
Find the center of your countertop. A template is usually provided for every sink bought today. This will help with the cutting process. You will want to use a jig saw to cut out the sink opening. To get a starting place for the jig saw you may want to use a drill pilot hole
When you have cut about ½ way around make seine to begin bracing the center so the piece dose not sag and break off, which could potentially ruin your underlayment.
For added protection the do it yourselfer can also install concrete backerboard over the plywood. Since he backerboard is coated in fiber glass you will be protected from water damage.
Backerboard is much tougher then plywood and you can not use a saw to cut the sink hole out. You will need to use a nail punch to cut the hole. After tracing the opening as your guide, take the nail punch completely around the outside.
When you have finished that, take a hammer and it softly around the inside. If you need additional help with the cut, a utility knife can be used by scoring it on both sides.
Now that your backerboard is cut and ready, you can attach it to the plywood with a very thin set layer of mortar. Secure it with the right length roofing nails. Now your ready for the next step.
The countertop layout needs to be planned in some detail. You will want to use as many full tiles as possible and hide the cut lines you do have.
Here are a couple of layouts suggestions you may find helpful.
Front to Back layout
Start by laying your tiles form the back. Remember to leave spacing for the grout between them. This will allow you to keep your cut lines towards the back of the countertop.
Side to side layout
For this layout you’ll need to find the center of the edge. Now draw a line down the center that is perpendicular to the front. Now from that center line lay the tiles out side xo side (both ) again leaving space for the grout.
Now that you have chosen your layout you can start laying your tile. Prepare your adhesive, but only enough so that you can use it within a ½ hour. You can make more when you need to. The adhesive dries out fairly quickly.
Setting the tiles
You need to start by laying the edge tiles so you can line up all the others behind them. As you place the tile down be sure to give each one a small twist to make sure the adhesive coats the entire tile.
You’ll want to lay all the full tile now leaving any cut tiles for later.
Use your trowel to lay the adhesive evenly. Try not to cover your layout lines.
Some tiles sold today are cast with premounted spacers that will help you with this layout. If your tile does not you can use plastic spacers that are sold at most hardware stores. As soon as the tile is set you can remove the spacer.
At this point you can take a padded 2×4 and lay it across the tile with a rubber mallet or hammer gently hit it. This will kelp get even height for all the tile. Use a pencil or the putty knife to remove any mortar that came through as well as a clamp sponge.
The full tiles are set, now you can start cutting the edge and sink opening tiles. The tiles you cut out for the sink opening do not have to be perfect because they will be covered by the sink lip. To make these cuts use the nippers.
It is common to finish your countertop with a small backsplash. This can range from one to three tiles up the wall.
You’ll need a plywood backsplash piece to place the tile on just as you did on the countertop. Keep your space/grout lines consistent.
Grouting your tile
There are two different kinds of grout: some with sand, some without. The sanded grout is used for joints over 1/16th. This is mainly used for the floor.
For the counter the non-sanded grout is good for countertop tile. You will have your choice of colors. Using a light color can draw out your darker tile, while using light color on a light tile can also hide some mistakes.
Make sure to mix your grout according to direction (a latex adhesive). With a grout float spread the grout. Going in a diagonal direction you can push the grout into the space lines. Once all the joints are filled with grout, use the grout float to scrape off any excess.
You can use a damp sponge to wipe off the excess grout. Make sure to keep the sponge clean and wipe gently as the tiles may not be set yet. Let the grout dry for a few days before caulking it.
Now fill the joints with caulk full and smooth them out wiping the excess off with a rag.
Your final steps
You’re almost done but now you need to seal the tile. Simply apply a silicone grout sealer to the joints, wiping off all excess before it dries. Allow it to dry for 24 hours. Now you can enjoy your work.
photo by j-nellie -CreativeCommons Attribution