A new countertop can be installed in an old kitchen to improve its aesthetics and increase its resale value. The standard depth for a kitchen counter is twenty-four inches, making most of them appear congested and overloaded. Kitchen appliances like toasters, mixers, and blenders can take up a lot of room, leaving you with nowhere to put your food or cook it. The countertops in my kitchen were worn and scraped and needed to be replaced. I opted for a significant overhaul because the kitchen is spacious. There is no plan to replace my ell-shaped cabinet installation. The screws that fastened the cabinets to the wall studs were inaccessible before removing the countertops. After removing the wall anchors, I moved the cabinetry unit six inches away from the wall.
Only two new six-inch fillers were needed, one at each end of the cabinet run. Since I could not locate any suitable pre-dyed filler materials, I used plain white pine stained with a contrasting hue. As an accent, it was stunning. After ensuring everything was level, I removed the cabinets, placed new blocking, and re-fastened them to the wall studs.
My wife had in mind a solid ceramic tile countertop in a dark gray tone with six-inch square tiles and grout in a Pewter shade. Along the back drywall wall, I set up a new ledger board so that it is level with the tops of the cabinets. The plywood for the countertop would have something to attach to and be supported by this. I put in the new countertop’s base 3/4-inch B-C grade plywood. My wife was shocked when she saw how much larger the new counters would be once the plywood was in place. I finished drilling the sinkhole and attached the plywood to the wall ledger and the countertops.
I calculated how many times I’d need them, and my wife recently suggested putting them on the backsplash. Yeah, sure. We’ll need tile, grout, and glue, so we’re off to the store. If you don’t have a tile cutter and an eighth-inch notched trowel, I recommend purchasing them together; I do. Before you start working, make sure you’ve thoroughly vacuumed the entire counter. When a tile is pressed down on, even a tiny amount of dirt or sand can cause a break.
Start by dry-laying the tile, paying great attention to the edges, corners, and apertures. It’s essential to use the most extensive tile feasible whenever possible. Never leave a tiny tile piece hanging off the front or end of your counter. Five or six tiles will fit nicely on a counter that is thirty inches deep. The counter edges and the sink cutouts are the potential trouble spots. In a tricky area, divide your design on the diagonal to ensure your components remain as large as possible. With dry laying, you can rearrange your tiles as often as you like until you achieve the desired design without creating any messes.
When you’ve settled on a design, tile the countertop. Spread only as much adhesive as you can reasonably expect to use before it hardens. Tile the entire area, cutting tiles to size as needed. Don’t try to cut anything out until the glue has dried. When the adhesive dries, fitting tiles into the gaps can be nearly impossible. Cutting should be done while the adhesive is still pliable. Keep everything off the counter and wait a day for the tile to cure before using it.
You can put up your splash tile as soon as the tile is dry. Similarly, arranging your items on the counter will give the illusion that the counter is more extensive and enticing. Once more, let the tile adhesive a full day to dry.
It’s best to grout the tiles all at once. You might require an assistant to keep the tiles clear of grout haze. Once the grout is ready, mound it on the tile and work it into the joints at a 45-degree angle with a sponge float. Using the sponge, you can perform the grout until it is smooth and fills the joint. If you pull perpendicular to the joints, you risk scooping out moist grout. With some exercise, you’ll soon be an expert. It is recommended to use the countertops at least two days after grouting.
We’ve become accustomed to the more extensive counters and no longer find them unusual. If you enjoy spending time in the kitchen, this project will reward you.
Pete Ackerson has worked in the construction industry for over 40 years as a building inspector and construction boss. He has experience in both the office of building design and the field of construction in the Eastern United States, having worked on a wide range of projects from schools to treatment plants, individual residences, and condo projects to major residential landscaping projects. Wagsys LLC, which he co-founded in 2006 with two other building inspectors, developed software for city departments such as building inspection, planning, and zoning.