Granite counters are strongly desirable in today’s housing market, but the specialization tools and skills needed and the high price of granite slabs can put them out of reach for all homeowners. Less expensive and easier to utilize than slabs, square foot tiles can be set up by do-it-yourselfers and make an equally attractive and durable countertop.
Remove the kitchen sink and appliances. Pry the present countertop from the cabinets with a pry bar or hammer. Remove the doors and drawers from the lower cabinets.
Expand two-by-four blocking to the interior back of the cabinets with 2-inch screws driven to the wall studs. Expand blocking to the faces of the cabinets on the interior. For any sides which will be visible after the countertop is installed, use construction adhesive rather than screws and clamp them in place until dry.
Rip sections of 3/4-inch plywood so they cover the cabinets and overhang the cupboard fronts by 5/8 inch. Make sure joints between pieces of plywood are over blocking. Screw the plywood into the blocking with 1 1/2-inch screws.
Cut parts of cement backer board to cover the plywood. Utilize a carbide-tipped scoring tool first, then sprinkle it along the score line. Expand the backer board to the plywood, making sure to sink the screws beneath the backer board. Cut 2-inch-wide strips of backer board and then screw them into the edges of the plywood to form the front end of the countertop. Cover joints in the backer board with tape.
Cut a hole during the backer board and plywood for the sink with a jig saw. Stick to the template supplied with your new sink.
Polish the edges of the shingles that will sit in the front of the countertop with a stone polisher. Begin with a tough pad on the polisher and utilize steadily less coarse pads until the desired texture is reached.
Lay complete tiles on the backer board. Spread thinset tile adhesive onto the backer board with a notched trowel, then lay the shingles in place. Butt the shingles against each other rather than using spacers. Make sure to overhang the front edge by the width of the tile.
Cut tiles to fit any untiled places in addition to the 2-inch vertical part you made at the front edge. Apply thinset into the open parts of backer board and set the cut tiles. Use tape to hold the 2-inch vertical pieces in place while the thinset dries.
Mix unsanded grout in accordance with the manufacturer’s directions. Spread the grout throughout the tile surface, pushing it to the seams between the tiles. Wipe off excess grout with a damp sponge. After the grout has fully cured, apply grout sealer to prevent staining.