ceramic over laminate [Archive] - Ceramic Tile Advice Forums - John Bridge Ceramic Tile


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08-09-2001, 02:15 PM
I am about to install ceramic tile over my laminate kitchen counters and backsplash, and while I've gotten lots of answers during my research, I still have lots of questions! How carefully do I need to trim tiles that will go under the sink and drop in stove top? What kind of adhesive do I need - mastic or thin set? What kind of grout? Do I need to seal it? I've read in your forum that you don't recommend tiling directly over laminate... I'm REALLY confused. I'm pretty sure I don't have the skills to lay backerboard, and have been told by local installers that tile CAN be laid over laminate. Are they just trying to get a job after I screw up? Please help me out here!
Thanks, Liz

[Edited by lwilson on 08-09-2001 at 04:43 PM]

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John Bridge
08-09-2001, 04:22 PM
Hi Liz, Welcome to the fray.

You can, of course, lay tiles over anything at all, but some things are better than others. Cement backer board is several jumps ahead of plastic laminate, for instance.

And, if you have the skill to install the tiles, you certainly have the skill to install the backer board. 1/4 in. backer is usually used on countertops. We can lead you through the process step-by-step if you choose that route.

If you are determined to install the tiles directly to the formica, use mastic.

The cuts under the sink and range top don't have to be pretty.

There are people all over the world who claim to be tile setters. Many of them don't know the best methods.

Hang around. There will be other opinions here.

What discipline do you profess?

Bud Cline
08-09-2001, 04:28 PM

I am about to install ceramic tile over my laminate kitchen counters and backsplash, and while I've gotten lots of answers during my research, I still have lots of questions! How carefully do I need to trim tiles that will go under the sink and drop in stove top?

You don't have much room on the drop-in stove top and the sink could go any number of ways depending on the style. Just be sure your tile runs under the lips of the appliances. You already have them, so this will be easy to determine.

What kind of adhesive do I need - mastic or thin set?


What kind of grout?

Epoxy would be best but maybe not for the DIY'er. You can also use any quality brand standard grout with latex additive.

What's your tile spacing going to be?

Do I need to seal it?

Epoxy no, latex additive I would.

I've read in your forum that you don't recommend tiling directly over laminate... I'm REALLY confused. I'm pretty sure I don't have the skills to lay backerboard, and have been told by local installers that tile CAN be laid over laminate.

I wouldn't lay tile over laminate myself but it is being done. I would install 1/4" cement board (glued & screwed) directly onto the laminate. It's not that difficult and 1/4" is easy to work with.

Are they just trying to get a job after I screw up?

You won't screw up, stay here and we can take you through the entire process one step at a time if you want.

Who knows what their thinking is?

Well I see John and I were typing at the same time, Let's see, do we agree?

08-09-2001, 04:42 PM
Hi Liz,
First thing...take a deep breath.Installing the backer board isn't that difficult.
1.Make sure that the laminate is not loose anywhere.If it is you will need to remove it.
2.Use 1/4" backerboard. Using a circular saw with a carbide tooth blade,cut the cement board to fit just like cutting wood.(wear eye protection and a dust mask)
3.Once you have "dry-fitted" the backerboard you're ready to put it down to stay.Mix a batch of latex modified thinset to the consistency of oatmeal.Let it set for 10min.then mix it again.Using a 1/4"x1/4"x1/4" notched trowel,spread the thinset on the countertop."Comb" it in one direction.Set the backerboard on top of it and nail it every 6" with galvinized roofing nails 1 1/4" long.Continue until all the backer is in place and nailed securely.This is just an overview to get the backer in place.There are a few details that will need to be attended to prior to setting any tiles.The other guys will be here to help with that.

I recommend using a Latex Modified Thinset(white) to set the tiles.Mastic will work fine and is easier to use but costs more.I usually use mastic only on walls or backsplashes.

You don't have to be too concerned about the cut tiles that will be hidden under the sink except to make sure they are not hitting anything.What good is "pretty" when you can't see it anyway?

The type of grout will depend on the type of tile and the width of the joints between the tile.For glossy glazed tiles(typically 4 1/4"x4 1/4")an UNsanded wall groutwith polymer additives.Light in color...seal it.
For rougher tiles and joints exceeding 1/8" wide,a standard sanded grout....seal it regardless of color.
The guys will be along shortly to add more info so stand by.

Now as for the "installers" who lay straight on laminate,let me just say...they'll NEVER work for me!!
Tile "CAN" be installed on a myriad of surfaces but failure on some is sure to come.Laminate is one of those surfaces.

Rob Z
08-09-2001, 06:02 PM
Hi Liz

You have all the answers you need to start your project. Lots of folks claim that setting tile over laminate is okay, but if you want it to last, use the cement board.

Come back and see us while you're doing your work. Send in digital pictures, if you can. We like to watch the progress.


08-09-2001, 06:18 PM
Thanks guys. O.K., I'll try the backer board, but I'm gonna be touching base a LOT! John - I teach human resource management in a small public university in south Georgia.


John Bridge
08-09-2001, 06:26 PM
Human recourse management, you say?

Ask all the questions you like, Liz. These guys don't seem to have anything better to do. I don't think any of them have a real job. :D

[Edited by John Bridge on 08-09-2001 at 09:00 PM]

Bud Cline
08-09-2001, 06:55 PM
"Human Resources" now there's something I could use most of the time. I'm getting old and tired and can't keep help. They all say the work is too hard.

I agree, I'm just doing this until a good job in fast food opens up.

I interviewed for a greeters job at the WalMart, but when they tested me I flunked the "stickers 101" quiz.

08-10-2001, 12:44 PM
OK, I'm back at work now - through with class for today, so here come some more questions. (I know these are dumb questions, but I told you!) So..I'm gonna try the backerboard stuff. I've got a circular saw and will get the recommended blade. Do I need to put this on the edges of the counters too? Yes, I know I do, but pleaseeeee tell me I don't have to mitre corners - can I just butt joint at the corners? How do I do the cut out for the sink and stove?
Should I get a plumber to remove the sink? I have a disposal and dishwasher connected to the sink. The stove won't be a problem except to find someone to help me lift it out. Do I need to put this backerboard stuff on the wall where there's a laminate backsplash too? O.K. I know I do, I just don't want to!


John Bridge
08-10-2001, 04:55 PM

You know you do!

Actually, you don't need backer board on the backsplash area. That's one situation where you can either go over the laminate or pull the laminate off and go over the sheetrock (wall board) that is behind it.

Getting the disposer off the sink is not too tough. Getting it back on can be a bear, though.

Disconnecting the drain is not a big problem. You have to somehow loosen those big nuts that surround the pipe. They are called "slip nuts."

Removing the range top may entail disconnecting the electrical, if they didn't rig it with a plug-in.

No, you don't have to miter the backer board. You do have to tape the seems, though. This will include the seem between the horizontal and vertical all the way around the edge. You can use pieces around the sink and range areas. You don't have to cut a hole in a sheet.

Now, tell me what your signature indicates. Should we be calling you Dr. Liz?

08-10-2001, 08:25 PM
Thanks...I put the disposal in so I guess I can probably take it back out, but I had instructions putting it in...guess I can write my own as I take it out. The stove won't be much of a problem. There are just 3 wire connectors, and I watched the guy put it in, so I can do that part.
I like the sound of no backer board on the wall, how come I have to put it on the counter but not the wall?? What do you mean TAPE the joints? This is getting more and more involed! I can already tell I'm going to be without stove, sink, dishwasher for a LOT longer than I had planned...I may need to recruit some students who aren't doing too well in my classes to volunteer to help. Come to think of it, I could use this project as bonus points! On second thought, I'm not sure a bunch of college kids are what I need for a orderly process!
Yes, I'm a "doc", but as the 5th of 6 kids, I pretty much answer to anything. I'm not particularly hung up on the title.


John Bridge
08-10-2001, 08:46 PM

You have an uncanny way of answering your own questions. The students who aren't doing so well aren't the ones you want helping you, eh?

Congrats on the "doc." I love education. Any kind. All of it.

I'm thinking the backsplash isn't going to receive the abuse the countertop will. We routinely do ours right over sheetrock.

The tape is fiberglass mesh. You buy it where you buy the backer board (Home Depot?) The tape is put on with thin set, the same stuff you'll bed the backer in before you nail it down. So it's no big deal.

Thin set is also the material you'll use to adhere the tiles with. If you buy a 50 lb. sack and watch your step, it may do the entire job. At worst, you'll need two. Buy white modified thin set. Home Depot has Versa Bond (white). It'll run you about $16.

There are little handouts available where backer board is sold. Check it out, and then come back. Maybe one of the guys who really knows what he's talking about will reply. :)

08-10-2001, 08:57 PM
Thanks again. Yes, I often "answer my own questions" as I think [write?] out loud.

I've seen a bit of debate about trowels and the type of notches what do you recommend? I don't really like asking the guys at HD - contrary to the commercials, I haven't found them to be much help. Maybe I'm getting the wrong teenagers as clerks, but you guys are giving me much more help!

I got the doctorate pretty much because I was tired of working 60 hours a week as a management consultant and figured I could take it easy as a college professor. Doesn't pay nearly as much, but its a lot more fun and a lot less stressful. Been doing this for 6 years and loving it!

Oh yeah - I forgot - do I put little strips of backerboard around the edges of the countertops?


Bud Cline
08-10-2001, 10:00 PM
"Little strips of backer board around the edges of the counter top"?

Yes. I would do them first so that the cement board on top of the counter overlaps the cement board on the edges. Those little strips will need to be applied with both thinset and mechanical fasteners; nails, screws, etc.

We've sped past one little comment earlier that should be touched on briefly and that is the removal of your rangetop. A qualified electrician should disassemble the wiring. Should you choose to do it yourself, don't forget to turn off the circuit breaker before touching any wiring. The rangetop will have it's own dedicated circuit breaker that can be turned off without effecting anything else.

When dealing with the Isle Monitors at HD believe nothing your hear from them and only half of what you see.

Rob Z
08-10-2001, 10:10 PM
Hi Liz

Well, I've been away for a day and John and Bud are doing all my work for me. Sounds like you've got it under control.

Depending on the tile you are going to use, a 1/4" x 1/4" trowel will work for you on all phases of your job.

When you do the backsplash, you may want to have some shims or spacers available for lining up the tile. HD doesn't sell the plastic wedges like I do, so you'll have to go to a tile store and get some. They are about $7 for a small jar.

I'll disagree with Bud on the HD thing. Believe nothing of what you hear, and NOTHING of what you see.

And, as Bud said, BE CAREFUL with your range.

Keep us posted and we'll help you through this one.

Can you identify your school?


08-11-2001, 06:29 AM
Did "Bud", advise this Dr. to use "Epoxy"?

And did this Dr., suggest that she is considering or may have previously coerced, co-ed's who were struggling in her class, the opportunity to improve their grades? By helping her with house hold chores? I think I would like to know more about this public institution and to see just how I might be able to enroll. I figure, about 450,000 hours of community service, as suggested by the good Doctor, and I could have a degree.

G O O O O L L L Y Y Y Y ! ! ! ! ! ! Who would've thunk, little ole' me, with a real chance of getting a degree?

Art (If I only had a brain) Phenis

spark chaser
08-11-2001, 06:30 AM
Dr Liz,

Please listen about the wires going to the range and disposal. The ones to the range are "hot" any time the circuit breaker is on. If it is a 220/240 range, you have 2 hot wires and a neutral. I will not mention wire color, as it is not a good idea to bet your life someone else "did it correctly".

The disposal should be 110 and just a regular plug under the sink.

As you are doing this in your spare time, and not as a continuous job, put some sticky notes (or tags) on the range and disposal reminding you to pull the breakers before any work is done.

It is also a good idea to put similiar notes on the breaker box. Guys that do this for a living are required to put locks on the breakers to keep from inadvertantly energizing a circuit under maintenance. Called "Lockout/Tagout".

Good luck, and how about a UGA cheer ?

Rob Z
08-11-2001, 06:59 AM

Thanks for lending the expert electrical advice. How is your project going?


I have a cheapo tester that I keep in my van, and anytime I am doing anything around electricity I use it to verify that the circuit is dead. Even after I turn off the breaker that I think is the one, I check the device or wires that I am working with.

These testers don't have to be elaborate-my just shows current and voltage-enough to let me know if I am going to get zapped.

Bud Cline
08-11-2001, 04:01 PM
Liz: "What kind of grout"?

BUD: "Epoxy would be best but maybe not for the DIY'er. You can also use any quality brand standard grout with latex additive".

So Art, the problem with that is.....................?

In a kitchen environment and especially on a counter top, epoxy grout would by far be the absolute best grout to use. Unless the good doctor has a 300 square foot counter top, then it would still be the better choice. Someone tell me where I've gone wrong here.

I think I need a drink.

John Bridge
08-11-2001, 04:05 PM
No, I think you're okay, Bud. I think Art's just having one of his flare-ups.

I'd go with regular grout and sealer, though, Liz. Epoxy is a mess. Don't go there.

08-11-2001, 05:11 PM
Bud, you have a million posts, stating your dislike for epoxy, expounding on the fact that you wouldn't go near them with a 10 foot pole etc.

Thats all.

Just pulling your chain man, just playing thats all.



08-11-2001, 06:09 PM

Bud Cline
08-12-2001, 10:16 AM

Let's see if I can help clear this up here and now since someone seems to think I have countradicted myself.

I haven't used epoxy grout in a few years now, if it hasn't change in workability in the past few years then:


I purposley steer clear of it because of the problems I have had getting it into place and cleaning up the mess it makes.


This doesn't mean that everybody has had the same experiences I have had. My dislike for the product and problems and frustration in handling the product may very well be of my own doing. I don't care though;


Just because I may not understand the material or how to work with it doesn't mean it isn't a good product or doesn't have a place. It is, and it does.

The "stuff" is used in commercial food service and medical applications all the time. I have done thousands of square feet of the "stuff". And this is what qualifies me to say:


Now a little epoxy on a residential kitchen counter top wouldn't be that tuff. It would be the best grout you could use I think. But as I said, it may not be something a DIY'er should attempt, I think I said that in my original statement.

I think anyone coming here for information and advice is entitled to have all the information and experience all of us have made available to them. Ultimately "they" will make the final decision anyway on which way to go.

I hope this clears things up a little, but make no mistake when it comes to epoxy grouts: