Kitchen Counter Top

Kitchen Counter Top

Our kitchen island used to be like a big sore thumb in the middle of the room.  It’s the first thing you see when entering the kitchen through the back door.  The whole island is set at an angle to the rest of the room, and the wood is really orange, especially compared to the other woodwork in the room.  The counter top itself was the worst part of it all when we moved in.  The counter top had been used as a cutting board by somebody, even though it was finished with a varnish, and where all of that cutting had taken place, the varnish had chipped away.  The exposed wood was now stained darker than the rest of the counter, and the finish bubbling and cracking in other places.  In the center of the counter was a tile inlay that I was not particularly fond of.  The tile was cracked and the “grout” that held it in place was stained, and no not matter how much I scrubbed and cleaned it still felt dirty.  (Sorry I don’t have a better picture of the before!)

Kitchen Counter Top
Picture of the kitchen from the Craigslist ad we found.  You can see where the finish and stain have been chipped away. And how yellow the living room was.

November 2015, I stripped, sanded, and re-stained the wooden part of the counter to better coordinate with the cabinets in the room, and I sealed the whole thing with a Helmsman finish in satin (so it wouldn’t glare so much when the sun shines in the kitchen).  I really wanted to replace the tile in the middle of the counter with something cleaner looking, but I couldn’t find anything I really liked so I put it off.

When Scott was gone with the kids a few weekends ago, I had enough of the existing tile and decided it was time to find something I liked better.  I found some tile “sheets” at Menards that seemed like a good replacement, so I picked up two sheets to bring home.  I wasn’t sure how much tile I would actually need, and I just picked up the two so that I could figure out how the layout would work and how many more sheets I would need to fill in the space.

This is basically what each “sheet” looks like…only in real life, it wasn’t grey in between, just a dot or two of glue here and there on the underside of the tiles, holding them all together.

The initial two fit perfectly across the whole in one direction, but I still needed more tile pieces, so I purchased 2 more “sheets.”  The tiles are glued together so that you don’t need to worry about your spacing, and all I needed to do was to space each sheet apart as well as I could to keep the gaps consistent.  The second set of sheets needed to be snipped apart because there were excess tiles.

Since the tile were staggered in a brick-like pattern, there were little half-tile holes that needed to be filled.  I had to score some of the leftover tiles and break them to fill in the squares.  That was tricky since I probably could have used better tools.  I read you can use a regular glass cutter (which I already owned) so I tried that, but it took quite a few tries before I really figured it out.  Luckily I had enough tile pieces to get it right 🙂

The Kitchen Counter
This is a better picture of the refinished counter top with the old tile still in place.

At that point, I had still not removed the existing tile, I was simply laying the new tile on top to save time once the original tile was removed (I didn’t want a “hole” in the counter top until I could finish the project).  So I went to start removing the old tile.  It had been “grouted” using some kind of caulk, so I thought I’d be able to pry it out easily enough, but I couldn’t.  I tried a few different things, but I didn’t want to damage the wood counter, so I left it until I could get the right kind of chisel.  Eventually I made it out to Home Depot and picked up a mason’s chisel, and that made the job really easy.  It took a little bit to crack the first tile, but once I got a section out, the rest came out really easily.

Then I went to start and lay the tile in only to realize I had failed to get mortar for the job, so I had to go back to Menards AGAIN and get the mortar I needed (I already had everything else).  Once I had the rest of the tools, the tiling went really smoothly.  I mixed some mortar according to the ratio on the package, spread it with the trowel as directed, and placed the tiles in.  Mixing the mortar took longer than laying the tile in (it helped that they were in that “sheet” form).  Getting the spacing right wasn’t all too complicated, though it isn’t completely perfect…then again, the hole in the counter wasn’t either.

Kitchen Counter Top
At this point I just did a little of clean up work with the paint scraper (pictured) and hammer.

The mortar set according to the directions, with a big DO NOT TOUCH sign on top of the tile to keep people from touching it for the day.  Then today I went and mixed the grout, applied it, and let it set!  The grout had no directions on  it other than a mixing ratio, so I was winging it, but it worked.  Once it was dry, I sealed it with a grout sealer.

The only thing I really did incorrectly was something I realized after it was done.  I used sanded grout instead of un-sanded.  I should have used un-sanded as that is what is used for counters.  Oh well. I can always go back and re-grout if needed.  We don’t prepare food ON that tile section, but that doesn’t mean it won’t get dirty.  The grittiness will just make it more difficult to clean…but the grout sealer should keep it from staining, so I just might need to keep a toothbrush on hand for cleaning that up.

Aside from the little mix-up, I like it much better now.  It’s not what I would have chosen had we designed the kitchen, but it works!  Now I just need to replace the kitchen sink cabinets (or give them a makeover), and fix up the base of the island.  I think I want both to be white like the lower portion of the kitchen walls, but add some detailing to make them look more like the style of the cabinetry.

Kitchen Counter Top
Fully finished tile job! If I were designing my own kitchen, I would probably have opted for a stone counter top, but seeing as this is what we “inherited,” we’ll make do with what we got. I actually like it a lot more than I expected!

In other news, we are now getting 8 eggs a day from the chickens!  (We were at about 6 a day for the past two weeks, and before that, anywhere from 2-4.)

Kitchen Counter Top
Aren’t the eggs pretty in that bowl 🙂  ?   Hmm…looking at that bowl, I’m thinking I might need to paint some dishes for us.  I really love that bowl.  (No, I didn’t paint it, it was a thrift store find.)

All in all, I would probably rather have an entirely tiled counter top or one that was entirely wood, but not both.  Either way, it brightens the room a lot and it’s definitely cleaner than it was (for now).   For it being my first ever tiling project, I was surprised at how easy it was, and I thought it went pretty well, aside from all of the extra trips to the store for supplies!

What do you think?  What would you have done?  Do you like the old tile or the new tile better?  (Don’t worry, I don’t judge you for it!)  Have you ever tiled?  Don’t forget to leave your comments!



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