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 new oven range temporarily slid back into its 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 3″ wide x 3/4″ thick cabinet supports with 1 1/2″ coarse drywall screws.

For my next step, I purchased 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 which allows you to install the tile directly to the plywood plywood, but I do not favor that option. It is a risky procedure that depends on the plywood maintaining a dry state or the laminations from coming loose from the absorption of any type of moisture.

I then cut each piece of the HardiBoard to fit and attached same with cement board screws which have a wide diameter head for proper hold down capability. They were spaced about 6″ apart for rigidity. The edges of the material are cut flush with the plywood. The anticipated tile thickness should be about 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 piece choices 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″ flush with the top of the installed HardiBoard using shallow pan head screws. The attachment tab allows for 1/2″ leeway in total installed tile height thickness (3/8″ thick tile + 1/8″ thick mortar) to butt up against trim 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 imbued with a dark green/black background enhanced 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. To complete the installation, I will insert black tinted glass frontice pieces into the slots 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 cost was $159.00. Since I was also planning to do the kitchen floor and adjoining dining room floors in tile, this investment made sense to me since a rented tile saw from Home Depot costs about $45. a day.

When I began using the saw, I found that it had enough power to slice through the tough marble squares and left a nice clean cut without chipping the edges. Since I planned on butting the tile pieces together with no gap in between, any ragged joints present on the surface would have ruined the look I wanted to achieve.

The type of grout I planned to use was the black un-sanded variety mixed with a bonding agent because of the tiny minimal gap clearance between each tile of 1/16″ or less. The back splash material had not been chosen yet, so all grouting would have to wait until a future date. I figured the absence of said backsplash would not affect my usage of the kitchen countertop right away, so I held off that installation step until I could find a product that would mate well with the marble countertop. Meanwhile, I diverted sparse funds towards other necessary kitchen completion endeavors.

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

I am requesting that my readers click on the links provided and download a sample read of each book and give a review on Amazon. You will have free access to the first four chapters of each book. My hope is that you will like the story lines enough to obtain either an eBook version or a paperback copy that you can put on your bookshelf as a masterpiece when you are done. FATE STALKS A HERO I: RESURGENCE, FATE STALKS A HERO II:THE FIJI FULCRUM, and THE SAGA OF HERACLES PENOIT. I will be giving excerpts on these works in upcoming blogs to familiarize you the reader with exciting details about the contents of each one. Thank you!


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *