Preparing the Deck
Ceramic tile countertops look great and are extremely durable. You can customize them by the way you set the tile, mix colors or add patterns. The first part of the installation is the decking. 3/4 inch plywood is measured and cut to fit the countertop and then screwed on to the tops of the cabinets. The cut is then made into the plywood for the sink. Most sinks come with a template to use, however the sink itself can be used by turning upside down and tracing around it. Then remove the sink and measure in for the rim before you make the cut. Then cement backer board it is measured and cut to fit over the plywood. The backer board is installed by applying thin set with a notched trowel, setting the backer board in place and screwing down with cement screws. The flat heads of the screws should be flush with the board. Once the backer board is in place, you are ready to install the tile.
Installing the Tile
Lay out and properly plan the setting before you start. You want a much of a full tile as you can get around the sink, so you can start by planning the sink area. You will begin the installation on the outside edge of the counter and work towards the wall. If you are installing a tile edge, start by laying these tiles out. Then work around the sink. It will turn out that the tile against the backsplash will need to be cut. Don't measure one and cut them all because chances are, your back wall is not straight. Measure and cut each one as you go along. If you are using a wood border around your tile, so they will be inset, then attach that first and start with a full tile on the outside edge.
To install the tile, mix up some thin set. Apply with a notched trowel and lay down the first tile. Lay the next tile and place a 1/8th or 1/16th spacer between them if you are not using common countertop tile. Countertop tile will come with its own spacer built right into the tile. When you get to the next row back you will need to put spacers between the first and second row and the tiles next to it. When you need to cut a tile, measure the space, transfer the measurement to the back of the tile with a pencil and use a wet saw to cut the tile. When all the tiles are installed, allow the thin set to dry overnight before grouting.
Finishing the Installation
There is a special grout that is made for use in wet areas. It is a little harder to work with but is a much better choice for countertops than the common sanded grout. It is known as un-sanded grout and it is an acrylic based product that is more like caulk than grout. You can purchase ready to use and you just put a glob on the counter and work it into the joints with a grout float. Do a section at a time and wipe with a damp sponge. When you get the entire counter finished, let it dry according to the manufacturer's directions. Sometimes this grout tends to shrink and crack a little and it will be necessary to repeat the process. Look at it closely and see if you need to do a second coat. Next you will need to seal the grout. This will protect it from getting stained and from degrading due to constant washing. Apply at least two coats of grout sealer with either a paint brush or a rag. Allow it to dry overnight and you should be ready to use your new countertop the next day.