How to Tile a Bathroom Countertop
LESLIE: Jane in Maryland listens to The Money Pit on WJFK, Free FM. And you’re thinking about tiling a countertop. What a great project.
JANE: Yeah, we’re renovating a bathroom and it’s an odd-shaped cabinet. And we wanted to put a tile countertop on because we found that the other types of countertops would be prohibited based on the size and the cost. But our question is we’re not really sure which tile to go with. There’s the smaller glazed tiles and the larger porous tiles. And we weren’t quite sure what would be best for a bathroom countertop.
LESLIE: Oh, I think that’s a matter of what you like. Let’s talk about the first steps to building a countertop that you can actually tile. Since it’s going to be around a lot of water, I’m assuming … is there a sink involved over here or is it just a strict counter?
JANE: Nope, there’s a sink.
LESLIE: There’s a sink. Alright. So you’re dealing with moisture. So you want to make sure that you use the proper base, which I would use like a cement backer board. How about you, Tom?
TOM: Yeah, I would use a cement backer board or an MDF that was water resistant; medium density fiberboard.
LESLIE: Mm-hmm. Make sure, though, if you go with the MDF, you get the one that’s moisture resistant.
LESLIE: Because even though it’s going to be covered with tile, there’s a lot of humidity in the bathroom and that can tend to cause problems with the MDF. So go for …
TOM: Or what about a marine plywood? I mean that would work as well.
LESLIE: That works as well, too. I just like the backer – the cement backer board – because it’s sturdy, it’s stiff, it tends to be in a good size depth-wise; the size that the planks come in. Because I think they’re like two-and-a-half or three feet by three feet. You know, they’re an interesting size when you buy them at the store. So they may get …
TOM: Yeah, but do you still think it’s going to be strong enough, as a countertop, if you have a lot of weight in the middle?
LESLIE: Well, maybe then put it …
TOM: Like it’s going to break. You know, let’s say, what if … see in my house, what if your kid climbs on top of that …
LESLIE: (overlapping voices) Ah, the kid factor.
TOM: … to like, you know, reach up for something on the counter. I … you know, I’ve gone into houses, in all the years I spent as a home inspector, and seen cleaning people standing in sinks in bathrooms …
LESLIE: Oh. (laughing)
TOM: … to try to reach stuff. You know? So I always wonder about the strength of the countertops. That’s why just using backer board would concern me a little bit.
LESLIE: (overlapping voices) Alright, let’s say plywood and then backer board.
TOM: Alright. I’ll go for that.
LESLIE: How about that, Jane?
LESLIE: Plywood, then backer board. Now, for the tile choice, it’s really up to you. I mean small tiles in a mosaic style, picking whatever colors you’d like to choose, that’s really trendy right now. And it looks good and it lasts nice and you can get a really good variety of choices. But there’s also travertine and there’s slate and you can … I mean it’s really your preference.
JANE: Well, our concern was … my husband’s theory on it was that with a bathroom, you’re placing lots of containers on the … on the countertop and he was afraid that all the grout lines, if they’re not exactly at the height of the tile, would cause those bottles to be unstable.
TOM: Oh, no way.
LESLIE: Oh, I don’t think so.
TOM: Nice try, pal. I wouldn’t go for that at all. You know, if you’re going to come up with a story to try to convince your wife that your way is the right way, you’re going to have to do a lot better than that.
LESLIE: And number one, the width of a grout line is an eighth of an inch.
TOM: I never … I never heard of anything falling over because the grout line was too … was too thick or too wide. (laughing)
LESLIE: That is hysterical. Janie, remember, when you’re picking out your tile, make sure, if it’s a porous tile, that you seal it properly so you don’t have to worry about going back there and trying to clean it to get a stain out of it. I would say go for a grout that has some sort of … would you … is there a grout with a mildicide they could get in there?
TOM: Yes, actually LATICRETE has Microban built into it. LATICRETE is a grout manufacturer that has Microban, which is an antimicrobial additive.