The Process and Gathering Materials:
Replace or resurface?
This was our first question that we needed to answer. Were our old countertops in decent enough condition that we could resurface with a new material, be it laminate or tile? Our answer: no. Our countertops were structurally in bad condition. Not to mention that we added an extra cabinet to one end of our kitchen, so we were completely missing a whole section of countertop there. So we decided that we needed to take the plunge and completely replace all of our countertops.
What kind of new countertop?
This was the BIG question for us. We needed to evaluate our budget, time constraints, installation costs, material costs, neighborhood, home value and just plain' ole' personal preference on this one. We got estimates, looked at all sorts of different countertop materials and colors, and put alot of thought into our choice.
Our first choice was laminate - we gave the counter-man our dimensions, picked out a few colors from the samples, and got a quote. We decided we could save the money and do the install ourselves. Still, choosing this option would cost us around 300 big ones, and that's the cheapest option we had. We would've loved to go with another option, but granite or another solid-surface type of countertop was just out of the question as far as our budget would allow.
So we settled on a new laminate countertop as we headed off to look at backsplash tiles and get an idea for our kitchen there on colors, cost, etc. It was then that we saw them - beautiful, gorgeous granite tiles. Hello, beautiful! A wonderful thought popped into our heads: we had another option! So we grabbed a scrap of paper and started doing some quick cost calculations (okay, so it was mostly Tom doing the math), and after figuring the cost per tile to span the square footage of our countertops, not to mention proper tools and supplies like grout and sealant, we realized that granite tiles were a valid option for us. And yes, we totally did the happy dance right there in the middle of Lowe's, in the tile aisle! We figured that, as far as supplies and materials went, a granite tile countertop would cost us about the same amount as a new laminate one would, giving us all the pluses of having a granite countertop with only a laminate budget. Sweet!
There were endless colors of the beautiful natural stone to be found in the store, not to mention many more that could be found at specialty tile stores, as well. But we found ourselves in love with the simple neutral color black. Plus, it definitely helped that the tiles were on sale when we bought them. Score.
We also picked up some black unsanded grout (so it won't scratch the delicate stone), to let the grout lines blend with the tiles, giving the illusion of a single stone slab. In addition to the tiles and grout themselves, we also picked up some plywood for the countertop base, some tile cement backerboard, some mastic/adhesive to adhere the cement backerboard to the plywood, and some granite tile thinset mortar and stone sealer (we already had sponges, buckets, trowels, and a tile cutter at home).
Do we need a new sink and faucet?
Our current sink and faucet functioned pretty well, but the cast iron sink was a off-white creamy color, and the old faucet was showing it's age. With all of our upgrades and new stainless steel appliances, not to mention the new granite countertop we were planning on installing, it seemed like an ideal time to upgrade those parts of our kitchen, too.
After perusing all the different types of sinks, taking into account different brands, sizes, types, and gauges, we settled on this single-basin standard size beauty:
(this photo is not the actual sink we bought, but a similar one to it)
We loved the look and functionality of a single basin sink, but didn't want to sacrifice sink size. So when we spotted this baby, we knew we had found a winner. Score.
Next up was the faucet. While the store employee tried to dazzle us with those high tech faucet gadgets, with touch technology and diamond bonds and magnetic heads, the price just didn't sit well within our budget. Spending 400$ on a fancy faucet was a bit much for us. We wanted something simpler, with clean lines and an even smaller price tag. Then we spied this baby, which was also on sale for a little over 100$ (sweet!):
We love the clean, polished look and lines of it, and the pull-down sprayer was a huge plus for us. So we snabbed our new snazzy kitchen jewelry and headed home with, essentially, everything we need for our new countertop.
Now that we had everything we needed for our next big project, we needed a plan. The plan is as follows:
1) Rip out old countertops
2) Check to make sure cabinet tops are level
3) Install plywood to cabinet tops
4) Cut sink opening
5) Install cement backerboard, cut sink opening
6) Lay tiles using thinset mortar
7) Polish tile edges
8) Seal tiles
9) Grout tiles
10) Seal tiles again
11) Install new sink and faucet
12) Enjoy our new countertops!
We are praying that everything works out well, and that we don't run into many snags (although we've already run into a few already! More on that later). So stay tuned because we will be dishing on the entire process, even including our mistakes and snags, and what we would've done differently if we ever do it again.
Next Phase: Kitchen Countertop Project - Part 2 "Demo Time!"