Granite tile countertop questions

I am considering granite tile countertop in my kitchen renovation using 12x12 tiles. I have some questions for those that have installed this. I have researched this and I believe I know everything that needs to be done but I have never installed any kind of tile before. When the counter is finished should the tops be smooth and seamless along the grout lines? How hard is it to get the surfaces to be exactly flat and exactly the same elevation to the adjacent tiles? I want to have as seamless and flat a surface as possible without having to get a slab. Is this unreasonable for these kind of counters? Any tips for laying the tiles consistently so that I can achieve this? If you have done this is there anything you would have done differently? Thanks for any info.
Charles
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Just butt them up tight. use a paste to backfill the cracks.
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I haven't done it yet either but have thought about the same things.
You can choose to or not to have a grout line. Do what you think looks best but I plan to have no grout line and butt them up close. For obtaining a flat surface you need to get real picky with a level and straight edge (I'll be using a 8" torpedo level and a 2' level). Make sure each tile is independently level (front to back, side to side and both diagonals) and use a straight edge to check planarity over several tiles at once. Between these two checks, most problems should become evident. (I think it takes less time to do then explain) Use a thinset mortar with a reasonably long setup time so you have time to move any tile you need to at any time during setting. Use recommended thinset thickness for the product you choose.
Have you bought the tile yet? 16x16" or 18x18" set on the diagonal is about right for a counter depth (22.5" or 25.5") and will result in even fewer joints but lots more cutting.
How are you finishing the edge. Metal edge bead, wood trim or are you having some tiles bullnosed?
Good luck with your kitchen.
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I did this a while back. I recommend 18" tile with the full tile to the from and the small one towards the backsplash. The 12" pattern with look odd.
Most important! For large natural stone on counters, install a dryset morter base first with wire mesh in it. Do a google for how to setup the wood frame to level the morter. Any other method with large granite with look cheap. It will lay flater and never crack at the grout line. Same goes for the backsplash if your using the same stone. Also, do use grout of a matching color with a 1/8" line. Butting them together is not professional since the edges of natural stone always have small nicks that will show when butted. A small grout line also allows you to control the layout. You say It's your first time - you'll need the wiggle room. Level tile is controlled using 2' and 6' levels and tapping each one as you go into the thinset morter. It takes patience. Don't rush it.
I highly recommed you read this book (available in paperback) first : Setting Tile by Michael Byrne. He only shows how to do it right.
-- Bill
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You hold a mistaken idealism about this work. You must allow for grout lines and for some lippage. The artistry of tiling involves disguising imperfect materials and situations with regularity and pattern. None of the tiles or the surfaces you work with are truly flat, square, plumb, level, or equal in size. A job that looks perfect is a skillfully crafted illusion for the benefit of the casual observer; in reality things are never perfect.
You will not have good results without practice. The first efforts will not come out well. Your best chance is to (1) lower expectations and (2) practice for good results, until they converge.
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