Bathroom countertop and backsplash [Archive] - Ceramic Tile Advice Forums - John Bridge Ceramic Tile


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07-22-2006, 09:46 AM
I hope I'm not being redundant. I couldn't find a discusion of this on the forum when I scanned the threads.

I plan to create a 2x2 or 3x3 tile countertop on a new 48" vanity cabinet to be installed in a corner. The tile base will be about 2" thick with hardibacker as the top layer and strips of it along the edges. I like stone or slate, but I'm concerned about putting that in a bathroom where it will be subject to moisture, spills, stains, cleaners, etc. Porcelain is acceptable. The faucet will be antiqued bronze, the sink will be copper. So we'd prefer something a bit more rustic looking than glossy glazed ceramic.

I'd prefer chair rail tile (which will dictate the thickness of the tile base) for the edges but haven't found a good color/design, especially to work with stone tiles. Bullnose is another option (curved edge up around the edge of the countertop), but expensive ($30+ per foot) if available at all to match. Schluter-type edges could work, in solid brass perhaps, but I don't know what to expect in terms of price. Any ideas?

Then there's the backsplash. 12" up the back and one side wall. I guess I'll have to use bullnose around those edges to taper back to the existing drywall. Can I put the backsplash directly on the drywall (this is a bathroom, not a kitchen)? I'd thought about using 1/4" hardibacker but then I have a very narrow edge to cover. I could build it out an inch or so, but don't think I'll like that look. I'd like to avoid replacing the drywall with 1/2" hardibacker, but that's another possibility.

If you were doing a project like this in a bathroom, what would you use and how would you do it?

Sorry for going on so long, but I wanted to give you a full picture of the project.

Thanks for your help.

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07-22-2006, 12:11 PM
Hi there, welcome! Gotta first name we can use? Not sure bout the prices of the Schluter metals. Yes you can put the tile on the drywall as long as it's not going to get continually wet.

07-22-2006, 12:53 PM

Here's a picture of one I did with slate and the very stone-like Dal French Quarter Cobblestone (9 moh porcelain-virtually indestructible). The field tiles are 6" but they also make 4" tiles in the series. The bullnose is 3x12 Cobblestone and the skirts are cut from 12" tiles. It's set on an inch of plywood and a 1" mudbed. Splashes are set directly on drywall.

The bullnose cost $2.10 per lf and the field tiles cost $2.50 sf. The slate is flat polished on the exposed edges. Grout is SpectraLock on the counter and Polyblend on the walls.


07-23-2006, 02:43 PM
Hi Mike. My name is Ray. Sorry about not signing that last one. The drywall is perfectly sound, so it's good to know that tiling right onto it will work. Saves a lot of effort.

Don, the counter looks great. We looked at that very line of tiles yesterday at Expo. In fact, we thought about using the Orleans Moss color in 4" on the counter then using 12" hex on the floor with the same 4" dots in between. The Daltile site doesn't list the hex tiles, but Expo has them on display and claims to be able to order them ($4.36/sq ft). Are you sure about those being porcelain? Expo and the Daltile site say they're ceramic.

I think we've settled on a some 3x3 tiles for the countertop, ($5.80/sq ft) and some complimentary 6x6, 6x12 or 12x12 tiles ($5.53-$6.42/sq ft) for the floor. The colors look better in person.

The floor is about 5'x7'. I thought that smaller tiles would look better than larger. Any thoughts on that?

Where to you buy your tiles? Expo isn't the cheapest place to shop but buying them online involves ridiculous shipping rates. I'd think any tile shop could order tiles if I have the product numbers, right? Or are those Expo prices reasonable?



Is there some reason I cannot add URLs to my posts?

07-23-2006, 02:54 PM
All porcelain is ceramic, but not all ceramic is porcelain. It is how and what it is made from that determines, but both are made from clays.

07-23-2006, 05:13 PM
Hi Ray,

Dal is a funny bunch. It seems like they place equal priority on dazzling you with brilliance and baffling you with BS. They use a different system than the rest of the world and don't use PEI ratings but have their own system that tops out at 4. When I started using this particular tile, I also thought it was garden variety ceramic but subsequently found a tech document somewhere that said it was indeed porcelain and a very tough one at that. The manager at Dal in Pensacola FL confirmed it for me. Regardless, I can personally vouch for the strength and durability. Shortly after I tiled the laundry room floor with it, I dropped a 18v cordless drill out of the attic from at least 10' above the floor. The drill hit bit first and did no damage to the tile but completely mashed the phillips bit.

Another interesting tidbit I learned not long about the French Quarter series is it won the Consumers Digest "Best Buy" Award.

I buy mine from a local independent "little box" who specializes in tile and cabinets. They sell all 12x12 tiles in the series for $1.95 a ft and have builders grade for $1.45. I used a whole bunch of the builders grade and this dealer was graceful enough to allow me pick of the litter so I was able to return anything that wasn't up to my approval. The biggest problem with these culls was chipped bottom edges and corners and no problem at all.

They stock and sell the 6x6, 4x4 and 6x12 for $2.70 but sold to me for $2.50. I think the hex, 18x18 and bullnose tiles are purely special order from anywhere. It sounds like Expo is trying to rip you a new one. I'd shop around if you're interested in using any French Quarter tile. The prices can be all over the map. I've seen the 12x12 Cobblestone selling for up to $6 a ft right down the road from the place I buy it.

I don't think your floor is too small for 12" tiles at all. Our master bath, where you see the countertop with the 6" tiles, is in two different rooms with a cedar closet off the other section. I used the 12x12 cobblestone in all areas and it looks great. In fact, I think I have a picture of that floor posted here somewhere as an example of transitions to carpet. I'll see if I can find the link and post it for you.

I think you have to accumulate 10 posts before the forum software allows you to post a link.


07-23-2006, 05:52 PM
Here's the link. This is the floor in the room with the double vanity.


07-23-2006, 07:57 PM
Schluter is about $8 for a 6' stick. OR.. do this....
nevermind the white streak(its uncured caulk)

07-23-2006, 08:07 PM
Whoa! Bob, please take that picher down and reduce it to about 800 pixels wide and pewt it back up. Makes lotta folks hafta scroll back and forth to read anything on the page when you post'em that big.

Thanks. :)

07-24-2006, 11:24 PM
That is another idea, Bob. Is there anything special about the wood you used?

Actually, depending on prices which I'm still working on, I'd prefer to cover everything with tile, even eliminating the Schulter strips. As my engineering brain works through the process, I have a few questions. The countertop, BTW, will be against a wall in back (obviously) and on one side.

1. I gather that the countertop should be tiled to within about 1/8" of the back and side walls. Correct?

2. I plan to use bullnose tiles along the surface edge as Don did, and have them overlap the skirt tiles which I'll have to cut to the proper height. I plan to use bullnose on the skirt as well, with the rounded edge down which means that the cut edge will be against the underside of the top's bullnose tiles (less a 1/8" grout line, of course). Is that appropriate?

3. In which order should I install the following: skirts, horizontal surface, backsplash (two walls)?

4. I'll use hardibacker as the top layer of the countertop base. I planned to cut strips of it to attach to the edges. Is that necessary?

5. I assume I should put down the bullnose edges of the countertop then install the field tiles working back toward the backsplashes, right? I'll do the same for the backsplashes, working from the bullnose edges back toward the corner.

6. I understand that I should caulk, not grout, the joint between the countertop and the backsplashes. Does that also apply to the vertical corner where the two walls meet?

7. Is it overkill to finish (paint?) the underside of the countertop base? I'm planning to lay two sheets of 3/4" plywood topped by a sheet of 1/2" hardibacker. Too thick? Originally, I'd thought of using laminate covered particle board or MDF (whichever is available), finsihed side down, then top that with hardibacker, but I understand that plywood is preferred. I just don't want a rough underside to the nice new finished countertop.

It looks like everything will be 3x3, including the bullnoses. Sorry, Don, but unless there's a significant final price difference, the SO is pretty set on the Crossville Milestone Mosaics.

Thanks, guys.


07-28-2006, 10:58 PM
I still need some help with these questions if anyone has any suggestions.



07-29-2006, 07:08 AM
Hello Ray,
Where are you located? If you've got an EXPO close to you, you're also going to have several real tile showrooms to browse. Many tile manufacturers don't produce a complete assortment of tile trim for each of their lines. Instead, they'll offer a simple surface-bullnose, if they offer anything at all. To deal with this, a REAL tile shop should have the ability to coordinate those tiles with trim made by other manufacturers. If you walk into a good tile shop with a sample of what you want, they should be able to hook you up with chair-rail and field tile which are complimentary to each other. It may not be the be the tile you walked in with, but it'll be close.
Best of luck,

07-29-2006, 07:37 AM
Mornin' Ray,

1. Yes, that'll work.

2. Yes. Appropriate but not really necessary to invest in bullnose for the skirt. It's cheaper and appropriate to simply smooth the bottom cut edge.

3. Your choice. I always do skirts last.

4. If you use mortar to hang the skirts, yes it's probably a good idea. I attach skirts with PL Premium Polyurethane Construction Adhesive.

5. Again, your choice. Whatever is most comfortable for you.

6. Correct but I grout the vertical. Some may consider it inappropriate but it works fine so far. If you use SpectraLock you can skim your caulk with grout to hide it.

7. Whatever floats your boat but the undersides of countertops aren't very easy to view. Don't use any particle board or MDF. Since you're cutting your own skirts, you can make your substrate as thick as you want.


07-30-2006, 08:44 PM
Hi guys. Sorry, but I was out of town for the weekend and just got back.

Shaughnn, I'm in St. Louis. We've checked out three tile shops besides Expo and just didn't like what they had to offer for the price. However, I didn't specifically look for a chair rail to match "our" tiles which is still a possibility. I did find that Crossville has some coordinating large format tiles that I'm trying to find locally to see in person. One of those coordinating styles (Mountain Stone) has a 2x6" chair rail which Fast Floors sells for a mere $6.84 per piece! That's almost $14 per lf compared to the bull nose at $4.68 per lf (more like a buck and a half if I take Don's advice about using field tiles on the skirts). Much as I'd prefer the chair rail edges, unless someone has something similar for a LOT less $$$, I'll cut the skirts to size.

I did find a color-compatible chair rail at Lowes (American Olean) for about $3.00 per lf, but it's only 1-1/4" tall. Grrrr.

Don, thanks for sorting that out for me. Just to clarify: I kinda like the idea of construction adhesive for the skirts. Seems like it would be easier than mortar to keep them in place while the adhesive sets. Are you saying that I wouldn't have to bother with hardibacker on the edges that way?

Thanks for all of the advice. Don't think it's not appreciated.


07-30-2006, 09:36 PM

My countrertops are all made of varying thicknesses of plywood and mudbed. I set all my skirts directly to this substrate with the PL. I spread a coat on both surfaces, set and secure with blue tape. In a few minutes minutes they're safely stuck and after an hour, they ain't coming off unless it's in little bitty pieces. PL says the bond will last as long as the surfaces... and I believe them.


08-05-2006, 11:02 AM
I've been talked into replacing the tub/shower enclosure as part of our bathroom re-do. Given the title of this thread, I'll start a new one with those questions. It does impact how I approach the countertop, though. The room is typical, with all plumbing in one wall. The vanity cabinet is in the corner at one end, the tub/shower at the other end and the commode between. I'll tile above a new built-in tub and continue along the plumbing wall behind the commode and over to the new vanity cabinet. Should I install the vanity cabinet first and cut the last column of tiles to fit against it? Or, should I install the tiles first so that the last column ends behind the cabinet?

The backsplash will be a continuation of the wall tiles above the countertop. These are 3x3 tiles and I'll want the grout lines to be continuous across the wall, so where I start in the shower will dictate the height of the bottom row of backsplash tiles. Likely, full wall tiles will partially extend down behind the back edge of the countertop substrate. The only way to avoid that is to build the countertop against the drywall and cut tiles around the overhanging lip of the countertop and all along its length. It would be easier and probably look better to do all the wall tiles first, including the backsplash, then install the cabinet and build the countertop in front of them. Is that acceptable or is there some reason I should not have tiles behind the countertop substrate?

The backsplash will turn the corner and continue above the short end of the countertop. I can stop the backsplash at the front edge of the countertop and be done or should I add a vertical column of bullnose tiles below the countertop to give the illusion that the entire wall is tiled behind the cabinet?

I'm wondering what is typical so it looks like it's done right.