What can I say? We tackled this granite-tile countertop project and dived into it headfirst as pretty much complete amateurs who weren't afraid to try their hand at something new. We did things we had never done before, learned some new things (sometimes the hard way!), and in the end built something we love the correct way, that should stand the test of time and will hopefully last for many years to come.
Okay, time for the big BEFORE and even bigger AFTER.
Are you guys ready? Let's go back in our hot tub time machine here, to what the kitchen looked like the day we bought it, less than 1 year ago:
And here's what it looks like NOW:
Did I mention that the countertop is beautiful? Because it totally is!
The point is, we did it 90% on our own (we did have a little help a couple of times), saved bundles of moolah and gained confidence in our own amateur DIY abilities.
We also had a bit of trouble at times, but what home improvement project doesn't have hitches? And if we don't make mistakes, how would we learn?
1) Part 2 Demo - During the demo phase, we had problems getting the old sink out of the hole, and ended up having to cut through the laminate countertop to rip out the counter from around the sink - and of course the sink fell, even though it was propped up by a jack-and-bucket contraption. Yeahh, don't ask.
2) Part 2 Demo - Also unmentioned, we had originally intended to use our Dremel tool (scored it on clearance at Tarjay for 25 buckaroos - it's an 80$ tool) to polish down the edges of the granite tiles for the edges. The dremel tool malfunctioned and broke, and we called Dremel and they graciously sent us a new one. Which, in the end, we didn't use to polish the tiles, anyways, but that's not the point.
3) Part 3 The Base - During the plywood-base construction, we ran into problems where the plywood sheets met and weren't supported by the cabinet bases underneath. Our solution: build support beams. Problem solved.
4) Part 4 Second Base - When we were cutting the cement backerboard to lay on top of the plywood (for a super-secure base so the tiles wouldn't move when the plywood expanded/contracted), we had lots of problems cutting the cement boards. Finally, we invested in a circular saw and someone informed us that we needed to lower the carbide-tipped blade down as far as it would go. Then those babies cut like butter.
5) Part 4 Second Base - Unmentioned on the blog, while we were applying the cement mortar in between the plywood and cement backerboard, some of the edge pieces started cracking when we pressed them onto the mortar. What happened? Well, us math-whizzes didn't add enough water when we mixed the cement mortar, causing it dry quicker and the thin edge pieces to crack when we screwed them in. We remedied this on our second batch of mortar.
6) Part 5 Cutting the Tiles - We had a tough time here when we were set on doing mitered edges ourselves. After a couple of weeks and countless attempts, we decided it was time to call in the pros on this one. We took the tiles to the only shop in town willing to polish them for us, and are we are so happy we did. We are more than pleased with the smooth, polished, rounded edges they made for us.
7) Part 8 Grouting - The grouting went pretty smoothly, but once things started to dry the grout was lighter than the box indicated, more of a dark-gray color than jet-black. After some research, we suspect that we used too much water when wiping off the grout with our sponges, thereby taking out some of the color off the top. We aren't too worried about this, because the grout still looks great, but in the future we will invest in a little black grout stain to get that jet-black invisible look we were aiming for.
A few little bumps, but in the end everything worked out.
Now it's time to reveal the budget, and let the numbers speak for themselves. Keep in mind that we priced the lowest, cheapest laminate at 350$ total, and around 450$ for medium quality/fancier laminate.
Cement backerboard: 60$
Cement Mortar: 50$
Granite Tiles: 180$
Stone Sealer: 40$
Tile Wet Saw: 150$
Circular Saw: 40$
Cement Board Blade: 16$
Bucket, screws, etc: 20$
Hiring Pros to Polish the Granite Edges: 100$ Total
Total Cost (without Tools): 520$
Not too bad! Yup, we got granite on a laminate budget. Score!
And now the million dollar question: Would We Do It Again?
Yes. We would definitely do it again - although we would have to wait a couple years from now to recuperate beforehand! It was definitely a lot of work, but now we are so happy and proud of the new countertops we've built - yes, us amateurs, with our own hands, blood, sweat and tears! - that if we end up moving in the future (who knows what the future holds?), we wouldn't hesitate to do it all over again. We love the result that much. And hopefully, if we were to do it over again, we would be able to look back on these blog entries and avoid all our previous mishaps and mistakes. Or at least try to. Either way, despite our amateur-ness, the countertops look Grade-A Professional. Seriously. We still can't believe that we, of all people, made them. Whoa.
We are so happy with our work, and, besides all the other pluses to installing a new countertop, we are able to rest easier knowing that all our plumbing will be correctly connected and that the new countertops were built correctly. Why? When we went to disconnect the old sink plumbing before demo-ing the old countertop, we realized that the pipes actually weren't connected at all in one place - talk about scary! When Tom accidentally brushed it with his hand, the pipes fell apart! Add that to the sagging countertop, and you've got a recipe for a kitchen disaster there. We sleep better at night now knowing that our construction (and soon-to-be-rebuilt/reconnected plumbing) is all (and will be) correctly installed and that there will be no surprise disasters resulting from shoddy workmanship (hopefully, anyways!). Ahh, the upsides of DIY.
We love how the granite reflects everything, including the light, making the kitchen seem bigger and brighter, even though the granite itself is black. And we love setting things on the new countertop, because of the way the granite shows off reflections. It really showcases objects beautifully and bounces off the natural light from the window around the kitchen.
And one more after shot:
So how about it guys? Are you impressed with the results? Are you ready to start tearing down your own countertops? Is there something you would've done differently? Or maybe you would've opted for a different material - stainless steel, butcher's block, cement? We'd love to know what you think!
Did you enjoy this post? Please subscribe for free updates in the future and to see what we're up to next!
Linking up to The Thrifty Home's Penny Pinching Party, Room to Inspire's Be Inspired Party, House of Hepworth's Link Party and the DIY Show Off's Project Parade.