Kitchen Countertops: Tile Counters, Part 5 of 7

By Jim Mallery
RefacingCabinet.com Columnist

Part 5 of a seven-part series, Kitchen Countertops

In Parts 1 through 4 of this series, we discussed various types of solid surface countertop materials to complement the new look of your refaced kitchen cabinets. If you have decided a solid surface countertop does not fit in with your refurbished cabinets, either for budget or aesthetic reasons, consider the many types of tiles.

Tile Countertops: Looks and Convenience

Here are 7 things to think about if you're considering tile countertops:

  1. Aesthetics. Some people feel tile is dated since the price of granite slab has dropped, making granite the popular choice now. In some kitchens, tile just wouldn't fit in, particularly if the look is sleek and modern or avant-garde. On the other hand, tiles might fit right in with a rustic or retro kitchen. Grout lines and materials make a big difference in the nature of the countertop: granite tiles with just a 1/16" grout line can look very sleek, whereas 4"-square ceramic tiles with a ¼" grout line, or larger tiles with a 3/8" line will look very casual.
  2. Cost. Depending on your material, the cost of a tile will range from just a little cheaper than a slab-type countertop to just a fraction of the cost of slab. Remember, slab prices almost always include installation, while tile prices do not include installation. Standard granite tiles will cost $10/sq. ft. or more, and cheaper ceramic tiles can easily be under $1/sq.ft. You can also buy eco-friendly, recycled materials that have been fabricated into tiles. Installation can be from around $2-$5/sq. ft. depending on the difficulty of the job.
  3. DIY installation. Even if you lay the tile countertops yourself, you still will have extra costs. You need an underlayment backerboard, usually around $10 for a 3 ft.-by-5 ft. sheet. You also need mortar, spacers, trowels, grout and sealer. If you don't have a wet saw to cut the tile, you'll have to rent, borrow or buy an inexpensive one for $100-$150.
  4. Counter granite. Some tile shops provide granite maxi-tiles--designed just for counters--about two feet long to fit the depth of the counter and usually 18" wide. Some are a little longer, so that a strip can be cut off for the backsplash. They often have edge-trim pieces to match. These tiles cost $75 or more, plus you have the cost of installation. When the final tally is made, they are not a lot cheaper than slab granite.
  5. Ceramic/Porcelain. Ceramic tiles are the common tile-counter choice. Usually they are made with white or red clay and fired with a colored glaze on the surface. Porcelain is a harder, denser version of ceramic--and also a little more expensive. Often the color runs throughout the material, not just in a top glaze.
  6. Tile pluses. It's cheaper and you can achieve a desired look.
  7. Tile minuses. Owners of tile counters grouse about the grout. Kitchens and grout don't mix well because grout stains and mildews. You need to keep it sealed and clean if you want your counters to be grime-free.

These are some considerations about tile to complement your refurbished kitchen cabinets. The final two articles will look at tile installation for the do-it-yourselfer.



About The Author

Jim Mallery, a semi-retired journalist and onetime registered contractor, has extensive experience remodeling, repairing and rebuilding homes.