My DIY EuroKitchen, Part IV

Deciding On Material For The Counter Top

A kitchen countertop can be a huge expense. The most popular top for higher end kitchens is granite. The cost can be upwards of $45 to $200 or more per square foot. A typical installation can total well over $5,000. My last kitchen done for our home cost $117 per square foot for a total of $5,500. Other choices like Corian and Stone can have high prices as well.

This is Part 14 in the BUDGETHOUSE RENOVATOR series that involves the search for, location of, and unique auction-style purchase of my home in the country. The series includes dealing with a foreign based auction house and escrow to help facilitate this transaction. Also, I show how I worked with a mortgage company programmed to process the “specialized” FHA 203k Program rehabilitation loans. My loan included funds to buy “and” repair my house. Part 13 is about dealing building my new kitchen with My DIY Euro Kitchen, Phase III. My next article in Part 15 is entitled “My DIY Eurokitchen, Phase V“. It will continue my work on kitchen cabinet building and related steps with some insights into cabinet Doors and Drawer Fronts.

Right now I am into my kitchen expense to the tune of about $1,350. The cabinet boxes are assembled and installed on their toe kick platforms. The drawer boxes are assembled, finished, and in place. And I am now eager to get the countertop on, sink and faucet mounted, and the old oven range temporarily slid back into it’s slot. This way we can at least prepare food and such before I move on to the Doors and Drawer Fronts.

My cost saving choice was going to have to be tile. This decision required the sub-top material to be 3/4 inch plywood. I bought a single sheet which gave me 32 square feet of counter top coverage (48″ x 96″). There was a leftover piece 24″ x 48″ which I had from another job. This was enough to cover my 40 square feet of top area.

NOTE: You can have a fully functional kitchen before you install the Doors and Drawer Fronts. If you are living in the house you are remodeling, this is a viable alternative to waiting for everything to be completed.

Prepping The Top For Tile

I cut the plywood lengthways down the center which gave me 2 pieces that measured 24″ x 96″ each. Along with the piece I already had in stock, I cut all pieces to fit flush with the face of the cabinet boxes. I fastened them down to the cabinet supports with 1 1/2″ coarse drywall screws.

My next step was to purchase 1/2″ tile backer board to attach the tile to. I chose HardiBoard from Lowe’s. The best size is 36″ x 60″ for easy handling. You can buy mastic adhesive to install tile directly to plywood but I do not do that. It is risky and depends on the plywood never getting wet or the laminations from coming loose.

I then cut-to-fit and then attach the HardiBoard with cement board screws. They were spaced about 6″ apart for rigidity. The edges are cut flush with the plywood. The anticipated tile thickness would be 3/8″.

The Front Edge Of The Counter

A typical tile installation will have to allow for the front edge trim and wall ends of the counter top. Many tile choices will include specialty pieces for this procedure. V caps, bull nose, corner pieces and related items make the install process easy.

I wanted a quality look without the high expense tag. So I chose Empress Greek Green 12″ x 12″ x 3/8″ thick marble tile squares from Daltile in Miramar Beach. This decision left me without any specialty edge pieces to complete the job. What I did was pick an engineered aluminum edge that allowed for thin dark glass strips to be inserted into slots in the front of the trim for a unique finished look. They came in 8′ lengths. Built in tabs allowed for easy mounting to the top of the HardiBoard. The exposed edge was 1/2″ thick x 2″ tall.

Now keep in mind that your finished countertop needs to extend out past your 3/4″ thick doors and drawer fronts. The total extension should be at least a minimum of 1″. This will keep spills and drips from landing on top of your drawer fronts. It will also look much better.

To get my overlap in front of the cabinets, I attached a strip of wood 1-1/2″ x 3/4″ with the top flush with the top of the HardiBoard with shallow pan head screws. The attachment tab allows for 1/2″ thick tile to butt up against trip piece with the tile top flush with the top of the trim piece.

Since the trim piece is 1/2″ thick and the wood strip is 3/4″ thick, my finished top extension is 1-1/4″ out from the face of the cabinet box.

Installing The Tile

The color of my tile was a dark green/black background with marbling patterns of emerald-green. I chose grey thinset mortar to bond the tile to the HardiBoard. The thickness of the tile coupled with the mortar allowed the top of the tile to be butted up flush with the top of the aluminum trip piece. Voila! Front edge problem solved. Black glass front-ice pieces would be inserted into the front of the aluminum trim later.

My kitchen is “U-shaped having 2 inside corners with the sink in the middle of the “U”. To start the tile laying process I started each inside corner with a full piece of tile. This keeps from having to cut pieces until you reach the outside edge of each cabinet end. It makes for a much better look and finish.

My old tile saw sat outside for a long time and the motor froze up. Since it was an outdated unit, it would not accommodate the larger tiles you see today. So I again went to Lowe’s and purchased a moderately priced one. It was a Kobalt 7″ Wet/Dry Tabletop Tile Saw. The price was $159.00. Since I was also planning to do the kitchen floor and adjoining dining room floors in tile, this made sense to me.

The saw had enough power to cut through the marble squares and didn’t chip the edges. I butted the tile edges together and didn’t want any ragged joints to be present.

The planned future grouting would be the black un-sanded variety because the gap would be 1/8″. The back splash tile had not been chosen yet. It will have to wait until a future date.

So that is it for the counter top so far. I was now ready for the sink, faucet, oven range and a refrigerator. That discussion will take place in Part V. Until then, Adios!

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