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


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02-27-2008, 11:12 AM

First time to this forum, and I have a question I haven't been able to answer by reading through the threads here.

All the bathrooms in my house have countertops with built-in sinks, and they're no longer matching the house well, as my wife and I have made many improvements (tiled all the countertops, tiled the entire downstairs floor, etc.).

My question is, can I tile over the bathroom countertops, including the sink? I think it would look great to tile the sink using small tiles, probably in some mosaic pattern, but I've never done this, and don't know if it's even an option.

If it is an option, will it last? Are there things I need to consider? Should I use grout, or caulk to fill in the gaps between the tiles? Is there a special type of grout for these purposes (being wet much of the time)?

Thanks in advance for taking the time to respond. I have a vision in my mind of what the completed project might look like, and I'd love for the bathroom countertops to match the rest of the house, but if it's going to cause problems, I'd rather find another option. Thanks!


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02-27-2008, 12:01 PM
Hi Jim,
I'm no expert, and have not done as you have suggested, but I have been a mosaic artist for 3 years who reads LOTS, and can repeat some of the answers I do know. If anyone here contradicts what I say, go with their advice, not mine.

Yes, you CAN tile over your existing countertops and sink. Will it be the most long lasting method? No. Will it outlast you? Possibly. The issues are numerous.

1. Substrate. What is your countertop made of? Is it formica and shiny? Formica is just a skin over particle board or the like, and it's possible for that skin to come loose. If you've adhered tiles to it, then it's possible for the tiled surface to come up. Now, I've never seen that happen on a horizontal surface - usually just the vertical surface on the end of the countertop.

2. tooth of the substrate - you would need score up the shiny surface. Rub it with a medium-grit sandpaper. Even if it's not a shiny surface, this is still a good idea. But don't go so far down that you scrape through the water-proof skin to the particle board below. This will help the adhesive hold the tiles to the substrate.

3. Adhesive. You MUST MUST MUST use something water proof. Silicon is a decent adhesive, but epoxy would also work. There are others. E-6000 might work. Explore a site called thistothat.com and see what it says. USE GOOD VENTILATION. Water-proof glues are by and large toxic has hell. Don't use mastic or thinset in this application.

4. Grout. Under no circumstances should you use caulk/silicon as your grout. It would be a nightmare to get off the surface of your tiles, and difficult to keep it clean. I would either use a normal sanded grout, and seal it well and regularly, or better yet, use epoxy-based grout.

5. Tiling the sink. Hmmmmm... I've seen this done, and they can look great, but I have to question the wisdom of it. I think it would be really hard to keep clean, especially if it's your main bathroom (a guest bathroom might be OK if it's little used). Mosaics generally have little nooks and crannies, and mosaicking a curved surface has it's own set of tricks and a decent learning curve. For one thing, it's difficult to get the spacing consistent. When you mosaic over a convex surface, the gaps get bigger (wedge-shaped - narrow at the bottom, wide at the surface, and more likely to expose sharp tile edges - use a dremel and smooth those edges!! You don't want to cut yourself on your sink.). When you go over a concave surface, the gaps get narrower - wide at the base, and narrow at the surface. So you MUST pay extremely close attention to your spacing, to keep your groutlines consistent.

I'd hesitate to recommend something like this for someone who has never done a mosaic. And adhering to a glassy surface can also be difficult. I'd recommend scratching up the basin as well. Glass-on-glass mosaics have their own set of rules to make them work. Are the tiles you are going to use clear? If so, then you have to make sure that the ENTIRE back surface of the tile is fully covered with glue, or the grout will seep beneath, and show through from UNDER the tile. You are also limited to perfectly clear glues, or else it can change the color of the clear tile you've just used.

You can use a resin to coat your sink - it will make it look like it's under a layer of glass, but resins like this scratch VERY easily, and tend to yellow with time, especially if they are exposed to sunlight.

IF IT WERE ME - I'd tile over the countertops and risk it not being long-lasting, but I'd just buy a new sink and get it installed.

I hope my inexperienced advice is helpful.

02-27-2008, 01:24 PM
Wow, thanks so much Cathy for your lengthy, informative, and well thought out response!

I will look into different waterproof adhesives, and epoxy based grout; that advice was very helpful.

While I don't have experience with mosaics, I do have significant tile laying experience, and I've dealt with small pieces of tile in the other jobs I've done, so I'm not too worried about the job itself. I'm just worried about the longevity, as it would be a fair amount of work to do, and I'd hate for it to start looking bad in a short period of time.

Does anyone else out there have experience with tiling a sink? Any problems anyone has had doing this?

Thanks again Cathy for your great feedback.

02-27-2008, 01:36 PM
No problem, Jim.

If you don't get any advice from someone who has tiled a sink, I would suggest heading over to the Mosaic Artists Organization Yahoo group, and joining them, at groups.yahoo.com/group/mosaicartistsorg/and posing your sink questions there. I know there have been a few that HAVE done sinks. They can offer advice as to which glues to use for that part of the project, and any other tips they might have. They will look at it from the artist point of view, but there is a huge overlap in practical knowledge.

Do you know what kind of tile you are considering for the sink? Personally, I would suggest vitreous glass tile. Very easy to cut with wheeled nippers. And glass is easy to keep clean, especially with lots of exposure to water. And as the tiles are thinner than ceramic tile, it'll be easier to go around contours. For a smallish project like this, you can get lots of colors in smaller amounts (without having to invest in full-square foot sheets), and loose, rather than mesh-backed from mosaicmercantile.com. Their per-square-foot price is certainly higher than from a tile store, but you can get just what you need, and they have a HUGE selection.

Good luck.