Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Kitchen Countertop Project: Part 5 "Cutting the Tiles"

This past weekend we've finally made some progress with our granite tile kitchen countertop project! If you haven't been following along, you can catch up on Parts 1, 2, 3 and 4 here before reading this update. If you have been following along, you'll know that we've been seriously stumped for the past couple of weeks.

Here's why:

One of the big concerns about a tile countertop is how to do the edge of the countertop, something we didn't put too much thought into until we actually reached that point. Now, there are quite a few different ways to do an edge on a tile countertop, you can purchase a wood or metal piece to cover the sides, so you only tile the top. You could also tile the edges using a different type of tile, and treat it as an accent. Or, for granite, you could polish the edges and overlap them or miter the edges.

Polishing takes time, money and effort, plus we're not pros, so we figured we would put our wet saw to use and try our hand at mitering the edges for a nice, seamless effect, like below:

It was a no-go. Try as we might, we couldn't get a consistent miter on the cuts, due to the wet saw cuts being a milimeter off and gravity, and our amateur-ness probably played a part, too. All our cuts were too shallow, making the edge too large.

So first we headed to Lowe's to ask our friend in the flooring department for advice. He told us he's had the same problem before on jobs, and that we could try rigging the tile saw by placing a thick metal piece under the tile, which would force the blade to make a deeper cut and therefore just-right edge. He also told us that even pros have a very difficult time making good miter cuts. Um, thanks for the encouragement, man.

So we tried rigging the tile saw with the metal piece. Although the cuts were closer, they were still inconsistent, and we would have to make many, many mitered cuts, and then later polish down the super-sharp edges before actually laying the tiles.

So after several weeks of trying, we gave up on the mitered edges. Which, come to find out, was apparently a blessing in surprise.

After much discussion and deliberation, we decided to have some pro's polish up our edges for us, figuring that after the cost of labor, mistakes, and the equipment (nowhere here rents stone polishing supplies) would far exceed the money and time it would cost to have some pro's do it. And we were sure we wouldn't be able to do near as nice a job as they would, anyways. So we called around to numerous tile shops and granite stores in town trying to find someone to help us out. Everyone but one shop told us that since we didn't purchase our granite tiles from them, they wouldn't polish them for us. Thank goodness for that one shop!

When we took the tiles in, the employees informed us that they never do miter cuts on granite tiles for countertops, since it makes the edges sharp, but most importantly since the tile comes to a thin edge/point it greatly increases the chance that the tile could break/crack if something hit it hard enough. And that is never good, especially in the kitchen! So in the end we were glad of our mishap with the miter cuts. Everything happens for a reason. So true.

When we got our tiles back, they had done a beautiful job of polishing the edges, and even made a rounded edge for us, which further enhances the look and feel and more closely resembles that of a granite slab. Score.

So instead of having a mitered edge, our edges will now be setup by laying one tile atop the other one, like below:

With our beautiful new tile edges in hand, we began dry-laying the top tiles on the backer board and measuring the tiles to make our cuts. We spaced the tiles using 1/16" grout lines and spacers, and began dry laying the tiles beginning with 1 full tile on each inside corner, and worked our way toward the sink.

Cutting the tiles around the sink was difficult, but we got it done.

Once all the tiles were cut and dry-laid exactly where we wanted them, we stepped back and surveyed our hard work. It was starting to resemble a real countertop!

After we took a break for dinner (it was 6 o' clock on Sunday evening at this point!), it was time to actually lay them down with mortar (which we did until the early hours of the morning on Monday). Stay tuned for that exciting adventure in the on-going saga of our kitchen countertop project!

Next Phase: Kitchen Countertop Project: Part 6 "Laying the Tiles"


  1. Yay! I'm glad this one was more happy then some of the last ones. I don't like to see people struggle with DIY projects, but I guess that's what happens when people are learning something new. It's looking great!!

  2. Looking good girl!!! You inspired me to post about our kitchen re-do and I've started it here. I hope you'll "follow" along. :)



  3. Good to know! We are in the process of redoing our kitchen and were going to do granite tiles.

    We may just do a butcher block for now and tile later.
    I'll be back to see how you do!

  4. Thanks, guys! It's definitely getting there, and we are rocking it now! I'm glad to get over that huge bump and be moving forward with the project - it's really starting to look quite beautiful, and it's keeping us motivated to finish. I see the light at the end!

  5. Laura -
    A butcher block would definitely be easier, that is for sure! I believe it's very "in" right now, too - plus super useful for cutting food on. Although I don't want to deter anyone from doing granite tiles, either - while difficult, granite tiles are still a good DIY project, I think. Good luck with whatever you do, Laura!

  6. It is going to look great once it's all finished. Even with all the problems, the end result will be worth it. I can't wait to see how it all turns out.
    I just put in a butcher block counter top and backsplash myself and ran into a lot of problems, too. I also couldn't get anyone to put my butcher block in for me since I didn't buy it from them, that is how my dad and I ended up installing it ourselves. Glad you found someone who was willing to help you :)


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