We aren't complete newbies when it comes to renovating (we've laid a bit of flooring and done lots of painting, some drywall) but we aren't intimidated though, and if we want to try something, we think it through and go for it! This project, though, is not out of reach for someone with little experience. Why live day in and day out with a white porcelain sink if you could have a beauty like this for roughly $200-300 not including time spent.
Step 1: Find a Sink You Love.
Step 2: Build or Buy a Vanity to Hold Your Sink.
Our vanity had a shelf underneath with an open back to allow for plumbing to enter. My dad delivered it primed and the photo shows it painted with the first coat of our chosen colour.
Step 3: Paint or Otherwise Prepare Your Vanity.
Step 4: Prepare Your Countertop.
Again, my dad made a simple plywood top. It had a backsplash and a small border around the edge. It would all be tiled. We made a template for the sink and cut the hole out. This took a bit of fine-tuning, as store-bought sinks come with a cardboard template. Mexican sinks don't. It took two or three cuts to get the shape of the overflow correct. We also cut holes for the faucet. Be certain that the lip of the sink won't overlap the holes you need for the faucet. Very important!
The trim around the edge was narrow, just wide enough for our 1" tile. The backsplash had to fit under some wood trim in our bathroom that was not coming out. If you are handy with a table saw, these customizable things are a better option than buying a vanity in a store, where you are stuck with just what they have.
The guy at the tile store will help you buy enough tile. We ordered 1 full square less than what he recommended and still ended up with a full piece leftover. We were taking into account the void left from the sink, but we didn't want to be left short either.
Step 5: Dry Fit Your Sink!
Step 6: Cut and Dry Fit Your Tiles.
We didn't want to look at the finished countertop and be able to easily see the one foot sections, so we cut the mesh in places and when gluing, slid them around just the slightest bit so that they looked 'handplaced'. We didn't want it to look like it rolled off an assembly line in a factory, but we also didn't want it to be sloppily made, somewhere in between.
One trick: we took a pic with our digital camera to reference where all the bits and pieces went. After each section is laid out, then you remove them to put glue down, it's tricky to remember just where this triangular piece and those three single tiles go back on. This worked pretty well.
Remove the tiles where your faucet will go. We also butted our tiles right up to the backsplash, then tiled up the backsplash.
We placed our tiles so that there was a smidge of an overhang, so that when we tiled the trim around the edge of the vanity, they'd be butted up as well and make for a neat edge.
Step 7: Start Slapping Down Some Glue.
You had to work fairly quickly, as the open time (the time before it sets) was around 15 minutes. We did this in sections. Glue (thin set) on one quarter of the counter top, then with clean hands, place the tiles. Then more thin set and more tiles. Working quickly, we placed the tiles, then had just enough time left to work them around, wiggle them into place so that it wouldn't have that 'factory made' look. Again, we didn't want people to look at it and be able to clearly make out the foot sections of tile.
Following the directions on the label, leave to dry 24 hours.
Step 8: Time to Grout.
Following the directions, we mixed up a bucket according to weight. (Weighing is a more accurate measure than by cups, ask any baker) Again, this stuff is kind of toxic, so use gloves and don't breath in any of the dust.
We mixed a bucket only to find that we didn't have enough. Mixing up more was really no problem. I was worried that the second batch might not match the first, but there's no difference at all.
You need a special grout squeegie (can't remember the name...trowel?) that has rubber on the bottom. It's flexible so that it can squish the grout in the cracks but it's not hard enough to scratch the tile. Always grout on the diagonal, so that you aren't inadvertently dragging grout out the cracks. Work the grout into all the nooks, up the backsplash and around the trim.
Step 9: Wipe Off the Grout.
This is really your last chance to leave this grout looking like how it will look on your vanity forever. If there are any goopy danglers, wipe them off now. Leave a nice, neat edge around the top of the backsplash and where your top meets the edge and trim. Tidy up the holes where the faucet and drain stopper will go through. Clean up the overflow divet and the hole where the sink will sit.
Again, follow the directions on the lable for the grout and leave to dry overnight. You want a gradual dry so that the grout doesn't crack and separate anywhere, so frequent misting with water in a squirt bottle allows it to ever-so-slowly dry out.
After it has dried completely (and no cracks, yay!) seal the grout with a...grout sealer. This is a clear, runny liquid that I used a thin paintbrush to apply. I imagine if you had a large surface to cover, you could probably just sponge it on and wipe off the excess, but I used a paintbrush to apply. That way, I knew I hadn't missed a corner.
Step 10: This Photo Isn't Really a Step...
If you made it this far, you are ready to take this pretty sink to your bathroom and install it!
We first brought in the vanity, then the countertop. If you are halfway handy, or have a handy friend, this should all be within your grasp. Don't be intimidated! The sink is held into place by its own weight and by the plumbing alone. The drain plumbing (the elbow) comes in from behind (again, the vanity has no back) and hooking up the supply lines to the new faucet is fairly straightforward, especially if you were the one who unhooked the old sink.
We attached the countertop to the vanity using four small 'L' brackets from the hardware store. I'm sure there are numerous other configurations that would have worked too. The vanity is freestanding from the wall; the only way it's attached is by the plumbing.
Step 11: Place a Bead of Caulk.
Not shown in this photo, but we placed a small piece of trim along the top of the backsplash. We didn't have enough space to tile it, but we did make a skinny trim that just wedged in there nice and neat. We painted it blue the same as the vanity.