Putting tile over formica counter tops

Hello all,
Me and my wife would like to remodel our kitchen some day, but it's like 5 years off :) In the mean time, we want to do whatever can (on a budget of course) to update our kitchen. It has green formica counter tops and backsplash, and I was wondering if it would be possible to put tile over this.
In visiting a friend's new home this weekend I noticed her counter and backsplash were tile, but on the front it had a piece of wood trip covering the edge of the counter. If I installed tile on the counter and did the same, it would totally cover the formica.
Anyone done this or seen this done before? I know the counters will need to be sanded and washed real good for anything to stick, but anything I need to put down before? Maybe a primer or something? I've worked with tile before, but never on counters.
Thanks for any suggestions or ideas...
Sam
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Sam Alexander - sam.alexander(at)sidebandbbs(dot)com
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I used the Hardi backer type board over the top of the old countertop in a previous house... Put a lot of construction adhesive on it (Liquid Nails type) and then used A LOT of screws to attach it... From there, standard thinset... I believe that I used a latex additive in the grout though... I used this for one countertop... When I got to the other one, I didn't like the condition of the existing substrate once I started looking at it closely... This type of thing is particle board and it is rather stupid to have a sink in a particle board countertop, in my opinion... So, I ripped the old cabinets out, keeping the face frame and doors and built a new cabinet structure out of plywood and 2x4s... I used 3/4" plywood for the countertop and then put the Hardi backer type board over the top of it, just like with the other countertop... Worked great, very sturdy... No give whatsoever if you climbed on top to reach a light that needed changing... Yeah, it takes a bit more effort to do it right, but at least you don't have to do it again...
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Go to the local home center and get a replacement formica top for less than you can buy the tile. I doubt anything would reliably stick to the formica and even if it did you are at minimum going to have to redo the drain in the sink for the increased height and possibly the supply lines depending on the way the faucet was installed.
A new formica top can be replaced in a day. A tile job as you described is *at least* two days of work, probably a lot more.
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To: RayV Re: Re: Putting tile over formica counter tops By: RayV to alt.home.repair on Tue Apr 25 2006 01:59 pm
> From Newsgroup: alt.home.repair > > Go to the local home center and get a replacement formica top for less > than you can buy the tile. I doubt anything would reliably stick to > the formica and even if it did you are at minimum going to have to redo > the drain in the sink for the increased height and possibly the supply > lines depending on the way the faucet was installed. > > A new formica top can be replaced in a day. A tile job as you > described is *at least* two days of work, probably a lot more. >
Hi - does the new formica go over the old, or how do I remove the old formica from the counter? The house is 23 years old, so it's been there for a while :) I wouldn't be opposed to replacing the formica counters with something of another color or style, but I do want to tile the backsplash. I'm just worried that if i try to remove the formica from the backsplash that it'll tear the drywall behind it.
Thanks for the great suggestion though, I hadn't thought of that :)
SAm
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He's saying to completely replace the countertop with a new one... Basically trading one piece of particle board for another one... Personally, I think he should rip off the particle board countertop and put a piece of 3/4" plywood down as a replacement... I hate particle board, especially in areas where there's a chance that one of these years there might be a leak in the calking around the sink... Even if he replaces the existing laminate top, he's going to need to cut new holes for sinks / ranges / etc...
A lot of people don't like the look of laminate countertops... Tile is definitely a step up, but as long as he's at it, he might want to consider some type of stone instead... There's not that many square feet on a countertop and even the more expensive stones wouldn't add that much to the price... He can still go with the idea of a wooden edge frame instead of stone there if he wanted... He'll need a wet saw for cutting stone in most cases... Scoring with a standard tile cutter and breaking does not result in anything close to a straight line... I've seen 12" granite floor tile used on the countertops with wooden edge frames and it looked very nice... Maybe it's not as nice as a solid granite slab, but it's a 'ell of a lot nicer than tile or laminate... Looks better than the solid surface stuff also, in my opinion...
Another thing that he might find is that unless his old fixtures look very good, he'll encounter mission creep, basically, "Well, as long as I'm replacing *this*, it would look so much better if I replace *that*..." Been there, done that... Mine started out as a simple tiling of the countertops and once I got into it and saw how crapily the cabinets were constructed, I soon found myself with exposed wall studs -- even replacing the insulation in the walls... A lot of the time, it's best not to see these things -- out of sight, out of mind...
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Usually the countertop is screwed down from inside the cabinets. You should see little triangular brackets in the corners with screws going up into the counter. Take down the measurements and go price a replacement laminate countertop. They can even cut the sink hole for you cheap.
As for the backsplash, since you want a temporary spruce up, forget the tile backsplash. They sell this stuff that is made out of hardboard that looks like tile. It has some kind of enamel finish with genuine, imitation, simulated grout lines. Comes in 4x8 sheets and you'll find it with the paneling. It cleans up easy and is very water resistant, It will also cover any damaged drywall if the counter backsplash is glued to the wall.
In our first house we did a kitchen clean-up that consisted of: Painting the cabinets - White Muralo - easy to clean, great finish Replacing the dark grey countertop with a nuetral green laminate replacement Replacing the chipped & stained porcelain sink with a SS sink New faucet Put the *tile* paneling up as a backsplash and behind and around the stove Less than $500 for everything
Wasn't going to make it to the cover of Better H&G but looked a hell of a lot better than the battleship grey phenolic we ripped out. Three years later when we sold the house everything still looked great.
If you do replace the countertop take the time to prime the bottom and around the sinkhole where the exposed particle board is. Also use a ton of silicone under the sink lip and between any countertop joints and let it squeeze out everywhere then clean up with vinegar before it sets up. Hardest part of the whole job was getting the double-bowl cast iron sink out by myself. A 2x4 across the top and heavy rope through the drain holes held it up while I removed all the clips while laying underneath it.
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You'll get an OK (good for 5 years) job if you use ceramic tile and mastic then grout normally. Rough up the formica with a belt sander and a rough grit. With the wood band you describe that would work out nicely, if you tried to set bullnose or shaped tiles for the edges, the mastic and formica won't perform as well as the flat surface. Can use the same method on drywall for the backsplash.
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with drain and supply line issues and most likely formica backer is rotted at least a little your better off just replacing the formica tops. picking a stock color is cheap, and for not a lot more a new sink and faucets
trying to stick tile to formica and get everything to lok right just isnt worth the effort
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Well, the OP didn't say anything about the substrate being damaged or rotton but if that were the case and he still really wanted tile, either thick plywood alone or with cement board on top would make an acceptable replacement. Or, you can continue to try and convince him to stay with a laminate top (not necessarily of the formica brand name) which he apparently dislikes which requires disassembly of the old counter and backsplash, trimming and seaming the new counter and then installing that big heavy thing. That does not sound easier than slapping on some tile for a few years.
One more note to the OP. 18" tile set on the diagonal is the right depth for a counter and you may like that pattern better than perpendicular. With a tile saw and some contrasting material, you can make all sorts of patterns but the bigger the tiles, the less grout lines you will have.
Thinset (premium modified kind) directly on the laminate might hold if skuffed and primed with concrete bonding compound but I think a mastic would work better as it remains slightly flexible.

I don't think the effort would be any greater to install on a laminate substrate using a polymer mastic adhesive, the concern is about long term reliability WRT grout line cracking and tiles releasing from the bonded surface and also as you noted, collapse of flexing of the underlying substrate (the old counter). (IMO)

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While not as extensive as a kitchen counter top, I've put tile (actually stone) on a bathroom vanity & back splash that was covered in formica. Seems to work very well. Used thin set and a sanded grout. Had to raise the sink, so hold-downs needed to be found for that 1/4 of an inch increase - that was the only issue that was encountered.
Of course a bathroom vanity doesn't get the abuse like a kitchen counter top.
-Mike
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Sam, I had done this many years ago. My counter was L shaped and there was a window above it to contend with. In our case as yours there was no damage, just for looks. My advice is simple. Go to a real tile company. Forget about the big box stores or the guys who sell carpeting and etc. Take a reasonable good sketch of your layout with dimensions. Tell the folks at the tile shop what you want to do. They will fix you up with the right mastic and all the odd pieces that you never thought about. Did you know there is a tile made to fit an inside corner and mate with the backsplash. I didn't know about it before I started. But when you get that piece in position it is an "gee whiz" moment. I used bull nose and tile to finish the edge. When I finally sold that house nobody had a poor opinion of the tile job. It looked good and professional.
Charlie
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