Tiling bathroom counter [Archive] - Ceramic Tile Advice Forums - John Bridge Ceramic Tile


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06-13-2001, 03:31 PM
We're planning a new addition with a master bath which will have about 12.5 linear feet of base cabinets in an "L" configuration. There will be 2 undermount sinks.

We've priced the solid surface stuff - Corian and its ilk, and granite, and we're looking at a minimum of $1600 installed.

What about granite (or marble?) tiles, like 12" square? I have a couple of questions here. First, what's a rough estimate of the cost installed (not DIY)? Second, what sort of grout is used? The installations I've seen don't seem to use regular tile grout - it's sort of "plastic" looking. Third, can it be installed on plywood? Fourth, how do you make it look decent around the undermount sinks?

Right now, we've got marble tiles on our kitchen counter, and they're all coming up and uneven. It was obviously a bad installation job (on plywood). We don't want a repeat of that.

Thanks for any help.

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John Bridge
06-13-2001, 03:42 PM
Granite tiles are not a good idea with the under-mounted lavs. Granite really needs to be milled in a pre-fab shop. It's hard stuff. The under-mounted sinks are also a big part of your $1600 estimate for the solid surface. Top mounts would knock a big chunk off the tab.

No tiles can be mounted on plywood. You would need to use a cement backer over it. The solid surface, on the other hand DOES go directly over plywood.

I know, no help. Maybe someone else can come up with something.


Bud Cline
06-13-2001, 03:42 PM
Well this is going to be fun. I can't wait to see the varied ideas and techniques that come from this one.

I just finished one of these a few months ago and YES it can be done beautifully if I do say so myself. The cost estimates are going to be interesting also. I've got to go back and look to see what I charged to do that one.

Actually the "undermounts" don't really pose a serious problem depending on the style used. But I'm talking granite tile here, could also be done with porcelain I think.

OH, oh, look at the time, gotta go pick up my son from daycare.

06-13-2001, 04:37 PM
The undermount sinks do bring the price up.It can be done provided the installer has the shaping/polishing tools needed.Time consuming compared to a top mount.

The grout you saw was probably an epoxy.It is more sanitary than portland cement based products but is also more expensive.Unsanded grout is also very common on marble/granite installations.

Cementious backer is a must.Installs directly over plywood,especially where there is alot of moisture,are not a good idea.Labor.......uuuuuuuuuuuuuhhhh......probably around.......$350-$400...less with top-mount sinks and ceramic.

06-13-2001, 05:11 PM
Thanks for all the replies. I get the impression that we may not save a lot with tile over solid surface. Unfortunately, we already have the sinks (they were given to us), so changing them is not an option.

Regarding our kitchen, would the solution to repairing the counter be to remove the existing tiles, put cement backerboard over the plywood, and re-lay the tiles?

06-13-2001, 07:55 PM
Actually the countertop should cost about $800 or less material and labor.That includes the marble/granite.

That is an option worth exploring.Removal will need to be done carefully.You will want to see if that color,shade and size marble is still available.More than likely some won't survive the removing process.

Another thing to consider is the "cleanability" of the marble tiles once removed.Cleaning the old adhesive and grout from the tiles can be costly.Get an installer to look at it and assess the situation before you commit to anything.

[Edited by kalford on 06-13-2001 at 09:59 PM]

Rob Z
06-13-2001, 08:59 PM

You could cetainly get your pieces of granite that trim out the sink fabricated, but it would be time consuming and expensive. My recent trip to a stone fabrication class showed me how much work (and expensive tools) goes into working the stone.

For the cost of two drop in sinks (self rimming type), you could afford to not use the free sinks and avoid the expensive granite fabrication step.

I try to help my customers avoid the trap of designing an expensive and complicated project in order to just make use of relatively small or inexpensive free items.


06-14-2001, 09:47 AM
Rob - I hear you, however the sinks also match the toilet and tub that we got for free, and I simply can't afford to throw all that out.

In any event, I have a question about solid surface. It appears that the typical charge for doing "cutouts" is about $200 per. However, with the undermount sinks, we will technically need 4 cutouts for each sink, one for the sink and 3 small holes for the fixtures. Is this charge $200 per hole? I asked this question at Lowes and the guy said it's $200 per sink, but he may not have known what he was talking about.

Does anyone know for sure?

Bud Cline
06-14-2001, 10:32 AM
Hey guys.....this doesn't have to be this complicated. Here's what I did.

Installed 1/2" CBU on plywood and cutout for the "CORIAN" sink that was used. We cut-out for the bowl(s)only (one sink two bowl style). The sink had a mounting rim (lip) intended to be welded (corian fashion) to a Corian countertop (underslung). We then recessed this rim into the CBU and siliconed the sink in place completely around the rim. Nothing to it, maybe it took an hour.

We then installed granite tiles. I first made a cardboard template of the sink opening. The tiles were layed out as they would be placed on the counter, but this time on a work table. I scribed each tile according to my template. I then used a 4-1/2" diamond cup on a right angle grinder to follow the scribe. The sink sides didn't have straight lines it was somewhat arched on all four sides with maybe four inch radii corners.

Once I had the basic cutout completed in all the granite tiles I then used a belt sander to finish and soften the edges. When complete the individual pieces were in effect bullnosed at the corian sink bowls edge. These pieces where set with thinset and where the thinset oozed at (into) the sink bowl I removed the thinset by gouging the crack about 1/4" deep under the tile. This crack was later also siliconed.

As far as using the belt sander for a carving tool you must find silicone carbide sanding belts. I stock and use these things all the time. Garden variety sanding belt paper is usually aluminum oxide and won't begin to touch the granite. Silicone carbide is what the stone industry uses for cutting and polishing rocks. I used grits of 24, 80, 120, then wet sanded with 600 grit automotive wet/dry.

I also softened the edge of all the tiles along the front of the countertop so that the bullnosed effect would match the sink cutout. There was a center island also finished in the same manner.

This project was done for a Hollywood screenwriter retiring in a small town near here. Stone tiles have been used in California for years and he and his wife would hear of doing it no other way. Great people, great job, fantastic results.

The countertops also had a granite drop on the face (front edge), and a four inch granite splash at the wall that stood proud of the wall two inches. This splash was also capped with granite. The whole project was about 32 feet of counter including the "L" and the island was about 24 square feet. Unsanded grout with latex was used then the entire project was sealed with a stone sealer from SCI.

Four Days: $1500.00 labor only. The sink alone took about eight hours to negotiate the cuts.

John Bridge
06-14-2001, 04:59 PM
But with 600 grit, though, did you get the edges to a fairly high sheen?

Bud Cline
06-14-2001, 06:51 PM
No. No high gloss like the finish on the surface of the tile. That would take buffing and rouges which I wasn't prepared to do. I offered to invest in the necessary tools and products if that's what they wanted, they didn't.

I told them going in that the finish would be different in appearance but wouldn't be that noticeable because of the edge and direction changes and the manner in which the light would reflect from the modified edges. As it turned out the 600 finish looks good. The sealer brought out the depth of color just like the polished finish.

Next question?

06-15-2001, 04:09 AM
And those Italians think they Know it all. Just look at this little ole boy from Nebraska, in the good ole USA.

Underslung sinks, back splashes standing proud, won't use rouges. God you gotta admire a man that can B S his way out of something by describing the way light reflects off varius angles of the dangles.

$1500.00 bucks for 4 days labor??????????

I've got to get off this.75 cent per square foot rate. Sure do have the work lining up though.


How do you wedge that block again? on right foot with left knee? Sure had a rought time snapping those 1x1 mosaics that way last night.

Sonnie Layne
06-16-2001, 08:06 PM
So sorry if I misled you, flattile. Now wait that's mis-led not misled hmmm still not right mislead maybe??? I don't use the concrete block with those little 1x1 guys, just pull out my swiss army knife. Everything you need in one front pocket, including a 600 grit diamond nail file. It's gotta be a real sure 'nuff Swiss thingy (don't you just love that word?) tho', fakes from Taiwan ain't gonna do it.

John Bridge
06-16-2001, 08:36 PM
I've never had a Swiss army knife, but for the past several years I've never been without my "Leatherman," the original version made in Oregon. I'm on my second one now, because I actually broke the file off the first one trying to pry up a man hole cover. (It wasn't intended for that. I should have used a Craftsman screwdriver instead.)

Sonnie Layne
06-16-2001, 08:41 PM
Thanks, JP, I needed a good laugh.
BTW, last set of Craftsman screwdrivers I bought came with two defective ones out of 24. Not good odds, and definitely caught me by surprise.

06-16-2001, 09:12 PM
Holy Crap! Now you're scaring me John! I too can not get through the day without my Leatherman "wave"....I must use it 50 times a day.

Sonnie Layne
06-16-2001, 09:15 PM
One of my guys carries one, too, but I'm too stupid to figure it all out. Suppose it's like a Swiss knife, you just get used to it all?

I don't cope well with options, maybe.
a non-optional intender?