Like most home improvement subjects, Dave & I had so much fun discussing countertop options. There are so many choices out there, and even more choices available to the DIY-er!
We considered DIY-ing concrete counters, like these, but decided that was too much of a personal preference for a house we were fixing to sell.
Another option we could have considered but did not know about at the time was IKEA butcher block counters.
Or DIY stained IKEA butcher block counters.
But, aside from the fact that we didn't know about them back then, neither of those options would have looked too great with cherry cabinets anyways. And we really wanted granite. But we had a friend of a friend give us a quote for $4000 to install granite counters in our kitchen. And of course, that was WAY out of our budget. So we figured the only thing left was laminate.
I absolutely loved this laminate countertop option, on display at Lowe's.
But it turns out that it was discontinued by the time we wanted to buy it. So...no luck there. I browsed through the cheapest laminate countertop color choices and nothing really impressed me. So, we continued brainstorming.
Finally one day I was at a friend's house watching HGTV when I saw this ingenius idea: using granite floor tiles on the countertop. And I thought, why don't we do that?
So we went to Lowe's and special ordered a ton of 12" x 12" granite floor tiles. They were about $10/sq ft, but we got them for 20% off on a sale. So, for a total of about $400 we bought all the materials to build our own granite counters. That's a lot better than our $4000 granite slab quote! Then came figuring out how we were actually going to do this. We weren't sure how we would finish the front edges. Or exactly how we'd arrange the tiles to make our 24" deep countertops. Dave spent a great deal of time google searching and youtube video watching.
We found the following photo (among others) online to help us with the tile layout:
And we saw that a lot of people used a wood panel across the front like this:
But we personally didn't care for it, and when have you known us to go the easy route anyways? So, we decided we would bullnose the top surface tile and polish it then put another flat strip of granite underneath (like shown here):
We found this helpful youtube video and also this video, among others, from Toolocity. And ended up ordering diamond cutting tools and polishing pads and grinders, hole saws, etc. from their website. Toolocity was extremely helpful. The owner talked to my husband for 30 minutes or more on the phone to help explain the process we needed to go thru. In the end, each tile on the front of our counter (and all the way around the undermount sink) was bullnosed and polished, at least 40 mins to an hour of work per tile!
So, once all the tiles were cut, it was time to glue them down. We built all our counters out of plywood like this:
Then we covered them all with 1/4" thick tile backer (ours was made of gypsum and was blue but we could have used concrete hardibacker). This step is necessary since these materials will not expand and contract like the wood resulting in less cracking of grout/tiles in the future.
Once the backer was glued and screwed to the plywood, we used tile mortar to glue down the tiles. Dave also used painters tape to help hold the tiles in place until the mortar had cured.
Once that was dry, it was time to grout the tiles. And then seal the tiles 3 times at least (so they don't absorb water or other liquids placed on them).
And once all our cabinets were in place, we merely screwed the counters on top from underneath.
Easy enough, huh? If you can tile, I assure you, you can do this! The hardest (and most time consuming) part was grinding and polishing the front edges, but with a meticulous hubby like mine, that was not that bad.
We did have a couple of realizations once we got into this project, however. After purchasing the tools to grind and polish the granite, we realized that we could have just bought a remnant slab of granite and ground and polished the edges ourselves rather than dealing with cutting all the tiles and arranging them, etc, etc. One slab per counter would have been much faster I believe.
Another thing that we realized, is about 6 months after we purchased all our tiles, some companies started selling tiles sized perfectly for countertops so people wouldn't have to make 12" square tiles work. That would have been nice and would have reduced the number of grout lines. Although, the grout doesn't really bother me. I just try to keep it nice and clean.
So what do you think? Have any of you DIY-ed your countertops? What types of counters did you go with?