Introduction: Granite Tile Kitchen Countertops

With old stained, burnt laminate countertops staring at me for the last year of being in the house, I decided it was time to upgrade. I looked at the great instructable of doing concrete countertops. I milled it over in my head for months. But I didnt feel that I was up for the challenge- Also, I wasn't sure I was ready to not have a kitchen for more than a week...

I found the Quick and Easy Granite Countertops at Floor and Decor Outlets.
The Quick and Easy Countertops are 18"X31" and polished on all sides. This eliminates figuring to buy bullnose pieces, build a wood frame or hand polishing with the standard 12X12" tiles. Also the Quick and Easy tiles are 1/2" thick tiles.

The granite was about $12/sq. ft. and it ended up being around $25/Sq. Ft. for the finished product- including waste (I have a good few pieces of granite that I would like to try inlaying into wood projects) And one full 18"x31" piece that I will hold onto- just in case I break a piece in a fit of anger....
This Instructable can be applied to any tile, granite, marble, ceramic, glass. I just found what I thought was the best option for me.

You will need enough tile for your tops. Standard countertops are 25" deep so for every linear foot of countertops, you will need 2 square feet of tile. I would suggest buying 20% extra for waste, bad cuts, non-matching tile, cracks or other imperfections. The last thing you want is to find out you need one extra piece to finish when you have your mastic (tile adhesive) ready to go.

I have my own tile saw that I have used for other tile jobs, but it is one of the cheapest ones you can get from the big box home improvement stores and I was unsure how it would handle the thick granite. I rented a 10" tile saw. Ill talk about the problems I ran into that when I get to that step...

So, material list?
- Tile - 20% extra
- Mastic - tile adhesive
- 1/4" square notched trowel
- 1/2" Marine grade or pressure treated ply (I was told they are pretty much the same thing...)
- 1/2" Hardie board
- Hardie board screws
- Deckmate or outdoor screws- for the ply
- Tile saw
- Masking tape
- Safety glasses
- Plastic rolls -tarp for covering the countertops
- Grout- I used a three part expoxy grout
- Grout trowl

By all means, this list is not exhaustive. Im sure you will need other parts, tools, supplies as you get into doing this. Hopefully you will have enough forethought to catch it before its too late!!

Step 1: Remove the Old Tops

OK, for the people that are doing this with at new kitchen, go ahead and skip this one.
For everyone else....
You want to make sure that everything is out of your way...

Take all the stuff off the counter, remove the first few drawers and all their contents. This ends up getting messy, so if you are clumsy or a stickler for really clean everything- cover your floor with rosin paper or anything that you have laying around.

Remove the sink- Im not going into how to remove the sink- there are tons of instructions of how to do so everywhere- This is how I figured it out...
Get the stove/range out of there.

Usually laminate is glued or screwed or both...
I was lucky, mine was only screwed in. It had three or four screws at the end of each length of tops. Get those drawers, out of your way so you can get in there.

There is a bead of caulk on the wall part- take a stanley blade and cut that. Lift up and reuse those countertops in your shop/garage/shed!!

Step 2: Secure Ply and Hardie Backerboard

Now that the tops are out of the kitchen, inspect the cabinets to make sure the weight of the new tops- granite tile in my case can be handled.

Near the sink, there were not enough "joists" to hold the weight. I installed a 2"x2" piece of pine and attached it with small "L" brackets. This helps prevent sagging when the weight of the ply, hardie board, granite and all the other crap I store on the countertops gets applied...

After inspecting and reinforcing where necessary, Its time to measure and cut the plywood.
Since countertops are a standard of 25" deep, and there needs to be a front lip on the countertops, you need to cut the ply at 24" deep. This worked out for me because my hardie board was 1/2" and so was the tile.

Dryfit the ply in and make sure the front is inline with the fronts of the cabinets...
My cabinets were custom built to the kitchen so slight changes were needed to shave off on the wall side of the ply to ensure even fit for the fronts.

Get your sink- old or new and use the template (or use the old sink) to make your cutout.
Make sure the is enough support around your sink- some sinks are pretty heavy, but a sink full of water with dishes is extremely heavy- you want to make sure there is enough support- you dont want your sink to fall through when you are done...

After doing the sink cutout, screw the ply down to the cabinets with the deckmate screws- you might need to countersink the screws if they arent going down far enough.
Check the sink- if it doesnt fit, you may need to take out the jigsaw and cut where necessary. Just make sure you are still centering on the window/cabinet or wherever the sink is being placed.
Double check to make sure you are level and now its onto the backerboard

I wanted to have an overhang on the hardiboard so the tile rested on the full pieces of board- I didnt want a lip at the front. So I cut the cement board at 24 1/2" deep.
Dryfit the board and get under the sink and draw out what needs to be cut out from the underside using the cutout from the plywood as your template.

Again, make sure you are still only 1/2" from the fronts- shave off where necessary.

Dryfit the sink again.
Get the Hardie board screws- yes they are expensive, yes it feels silly buying a box of screws just for hardie board. They work great, they pull themselves down so you dont need to countersink- I highly recommend.

I cut the Hardi board with a carbide jigsaw bit. I hear you can use some sort of shears and it doest make much dust... I didnt have anything like that. It creates lots of dust- do it outside, put on a respirator- I didnt for the first cut and I coughed my way inside to get the respirator- I highly recommend... only if you care...

Step 3: Leveling

I could have used shims to level everything out before hand... But whats the fun in that...

Soooo After securing the backer board and finishing up for the day, the next day I realized that I had not checked the level beside the dishwasher... The answer?
Self-leveling concrete.
It works like a charm- I had to "build" a duct tape form for the front besides the dishwasher and tape off the back to make sure none of the concrete dripped behind the dishwasher.

Mix up the mix so its a water consistency. (It dries quickly). Spread it out and let it dry.

You could have skipped this step by putting shims under the ply, or between the ply and cement board.

Step 4: Tiling

I rented the tile saw, But after trying to calibrate it (to ensure straight cuts against the guard) I realized that it couldn't be done. Straightening it out as far as possible still made the tiles be off square by 1/4" per 24"... Unacceptable....
This may not really be noticeable with 12"x12" tiles, but with 31" pieces, It wouldnt work...

So... I had to freehand all my cuts. I put masking  tape down, clamped the tile down and slowly, very slowly ran it through the saw. 

I cut 1.5" strips for the fronts, keeping the polished piece. Then I cut my 25" pieces, also keeping the other polished piece.
Dryfit all the pieces and adjust where necessary

I didnt want grout lines in the middle of the sink, so I used cut 30" strips for the front, back and edge strips.

Next spread out the mastic, and start putting down the tile. The mastic dries fairly quickly so be ready to adjust and have all your pieces cut and ready to go.
Attach the front strips and hold them in place with masking/painters tape.

Dryfit the sink again!!!!
You dont want to grind down later.

I plan on putting a slate backsplash up soon, so I didnt cut any granite for a small backsplash- I want the slate to go all the way down to the tops.

Step 5: Grouting

I used the three part epoxy grout. Its supposed to be a little flexible, highly stain resistant and works well with really thin grout lines.

I butted all my granite together because there were beveled edges. I didnt want 1/4" grout lines on the countertops.

Using regular granite tile, without beveled edges, I would do a 1/16" grout line.

Press the grout into the grooves and spread it with the grout float. Pull across holding the float at a 45 degree angle and then push it back down into the grooves. You dont want a crack later, so make sure all grooves are filled. Keep a damp cloth on hand to wipe up some stubborn bits. Use a damp sponge to get rid of grout residue on the tiles but make sure you arent wiping up the grout in the lines

Step 6: Sealing

The grout I used doesnt really need to be sealed, but even though granite is hard and not very porous, It is a stone, it is still porous, It can still be stained and it needs to be sealed.

I went with a Dupont brand stone sealer. - Spray it on, let it sit, wipe/buff it off. Very simple.

Give it a few days- 72 hours before heavy use or cleaners.

Next step is enjoying the new countertops.
This can be done by not pointing out any imperfections (though I know you will).