Laying Ceramic Tile Countertops
Tile has to be installed over a solid substrate, or the joints could easily crack later on. Options include plywood with a build-up (described above), concrete backerboard over plywood, or a bed of concrete floated over plywood.
Cut any sink openings in the substrate before laying the tile and then test-fit tiles around the opening.
Layout is critical in a tile installation, so adjust any tiles to acheive the most pleasing layout. Mark off reference lines that will guide where to apply adhesive.
Once you've established a layout, it's best to install all the full tiles first, working a small section at a time. Then measure and cut the pieces that go around the sink and countertop edges.
Be sure to wipe the tiles clean with a wet sponge as you work because tile adhesive can leave a haze. Let the tiles set overnight before grouting.
Grout can also leave a haze, so be sure to clean the tiles as you move along -- sponge them clean every couple hours as the grout sets up.
We have a few additional sections related to Ceramic Tile Countertops. For more information, see Ceramic Tile Index.
Working With Solid Surface Countertops
Solid surface countertops are among the most durable and most expensive countertops. Unfortunately, do-it-yourselfers can't really afford to try cutting costs by installing it themselves because that'll void the warranties with most manufacturers.
Scheduling a fabricator is often a matter of timing and coordination—since many fabricators prefer to wait until the cabinets are in.
They need to create a template, cut in openings for sinks and take final measurements, too. It all adds up to a delay of a week or two after the cabinets go in before getting finished countertops.
Countertops are normally secured to the cabinet frames with silicone caulk. Usually, fabricators must make at least one seam on site. But they've developed clamping tools and gluing techniques to create joints that virtually disappear after the excess glue is sanded down.
Granite Countertop Installation
Granite is another durable but expensive countertop option that's also pretty much beyond the realm of do-it-yourselfers.
Like solid surface materials, granite stone is cut and polished off-site, including cut outs for sink openings. That demands a lot of accuracy and coordination to make sure measurements and templates are correct.
Granite is secured to the cabinets with silicone caulk, but one major difference is how it's seamed. With granite, the joints don't totally disappear, but in a sense, that's what separates natural stone from manufactured products.
Forming A Backsplash
You can install backsplashes after the countertop is secured, especially if you've ordered granite or solid surface which can't really be scribed to fit flush with an imperfect wall.
A ceramic tile backsplash, for example, can effectively hide any gaps there and keep water from dribbling down the wall. And a backsplash doesn't require a special backerboard so you can apply the tiles directly to the drywall.
For laminate countertops, a piece of matching laminate is sometimes secured to the wall and caulked at the seam to repel moisture.
Laminate companies now offer pre-fab backsplashes in colors matching many available countertops. The laminate's mounted on 3/8" particleboard and beveled to a point on the top.
It's flexible so it not only covers any gaps between the top and the wall but it also flexes to fit snugly along imperfect walls. It's secured with hot-melt glue and sealed with silicone caulk along the bottom where it meets the countertop.