tile countertop edge question

TwoStepsBackMay 18, 2014

We recently had an island surfaced with porcelain tile. Between the tile and the cabinet top is 3/4" plywood, then about 3/4" thick mortar bed, and of course a little thin set. The installer put a 2" thick strip of tile, vertically, around the edge, on the underside of the tile countertop. The obvious problem is that there now isn't room for the top cabinet drawers. The installer insists nothing can be done except to cut down all of the top drawers around the island by about 1/2".

I'm not trying to rag on the installer. I'm wondering if anyone has run into this before and, especially, I'm hoping some of you might have creative solutions for the problem.

He used a perforated metal strip along the vertical edge of the countertop, and I'm worried it might be screwed into the face of the cabinet frame, where the drawers should be. And then there is backer board over the metal and then the tile edging.


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I'm trying desperately hard to watch my tone on this board, but the best I can do is "Your tile setter is a moron."

He must detach the plywood and insert a continuous 1/2" shim between the top of the cabinets and the plywood bottom.

I don't like his detailing one bit. An exposed 1/2" tile edge is begging to be torn off over time.

    Bookmark   May 18, 2014 at 3:51PM
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Trebruchet did a very good job of toning down what I was thinking.

Since the guy who made the mess doesn't know how to fix it, my best suggestion is to get in an expert. If you're in Southern California, I can give you a reference. Theoretically, you could get the money back from the first guy, but don't hold your breath.

A tile counter should end in V-cap. When I saw your subject, before I read your post, I was thinking, oh, no, the V-cap cracked because they didn't leave enough room, which is a common edge problem. What you describe just sounds like three kinds of bad workmanship.

If you don't have V-cap, you can do a round edged tile on the edge and apron (and the apron should be well above your drawers!), or use a quarter round on the edge, but your pattern is more likely to come in V-cap than quarter round, and quarter round is more delicate, and not a great choice for the edge. Whereas, there are companies that will transform your tiles into a rounded edge.

If you have finished edge tiles, then the issue is that the tilesetter should have cut down the apron tiles to fit the cabinetry.

    Bookmark   May 18, 2014 at 4:45PM
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Thanks for the helpful responses, Trebuchet and Pillog.

I didn't explain the edging, I guess I should say apron, very well. There isn't an exposed 1/2" on the apron, if that's what you mean, Trebuchet. It's fully backed by backer board. You can't get behind it to rip it off. This leads to another problem, which is there isn't really any countertop overhang. The outside edge of the apron is about 1/16 proud of the drawer fronts.

And, Pillog, the tile we used doesn't have a v-cap or other apron option, so he field cut tile for the edge/apron. It's through body porcelain, very dark gray, with no pattern. I think he could have cut 1.5" strips for the edging, instead of 2" strips, but maybe that was dicey; the tiles are 48" long. The 2" strips he cut are nicely done. But, if 2" was the smallest he could go, he could have shimmed up the top as Trebuchet says.

I'm wondering, without much conviction, if it might be possible to detach the apron and reattach it to the front instead of the bottom edge of the tile top. This would give us almost a half inch more overhang and reduce the depth of the apron by the same amount. I think, if we did this, and if I adjusted all the drawers down, I could maybe squeeze them in without having to cut them. The counter top would be a little less attractive, of course, at least from up close.

I'm also wondering if we could just take off the apron tiles and apply a concrete wash or something to the (cut down) backer board. It's a non-traditional kitchen, sort of industrial looking, so something unusual for the edging might work.

    Bookmark   May 18, 2014 at 6:10PM
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Sophie Wheeler

Do-over. I wouldn't trust a darn thing he did. Get your money back and hire an actual tile expert that has done counters before and at least understands tbe clearances needed by full overlay cabinets.

    Bookmark   May 18, 2014 at 6:16PM
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I have to agree with Hollysprings.

Not only that, but the butt edge is inappropriate. It's going to chip. The through body tiles are perfect for the places that round the edge to a quarter round. That feels better when you touch it, and doesn't leave an exposed corner to break off.

Since it's non-traditional, another option might be remove the tiles and install a trim moulding. You might find some great cast pewter moldings at a salvage yard or something.

The concrete is certainly an option, but it needs to be done with skill so it looks like it was meant to be that way, not an afterthought. If you want it to look really --I want to say "sharp", but I mean in the sense of a well fitting suit, not pointy-- if you can build up the concrete so that it covers the edge of the counter tiles and stands out a good quarter inch, you can bevel the edge. That way you also protect the edges of the tile.

Edit: It may be true that 2" was the narrowest he was comfortable cutting a 48" tile. But that would have been the time to discuss it with you and say you were going to have to have 12" strips that are narrow enough, not just use strips that are too wide for the cabinets. When I told my master tilesetter that I wanted impossible things, he figured out how to do them, and did them. And when I didn't like something, he worked out another way. And there were some things I just had to accept. Shorter trim tiles might have been something you had to accept if that's what your guy was capable of. "You'll have to cut down the cabinetry," is not.

This post was edited by plllog on Sun, May 18, 14 at 18:43

    Bookmark   May 18, 2014 at 6:36PM
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A follow up question: how hard is it to remove a mortar bed with tile on it without destroying the cabinets underneath?

    Bookmark   May 18, 2014 at 8:50PM
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"A follow up question: how hard is it to remove a mortar bed with tile on it without destroying the cabinets underneath?"


What is the point?

I'm betting the guy nailed/screwed the plywood to the cabinets, then mortared over it, instead of screwing the finished top to the cabinets.

It may be possible to get a Sawzall with a long metal cutting blade to sever the fasteners without cabinet damage, but I sure wouldn't trust this guy to do it after recommending cutting your drawers.

    Bookmark   May 18, 2014 at 9:25PM
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I mean, almost everyone is recommending a redo. I'm trying to figure out how complicated/expensive it will be to do this, and specifically the demolition/removal of the tile and mortar bed already installed. The width of the mortar bed (and plywood underneath) is really too short to provide an adequate overhang, so unless there is a work around for this, I'm assuming we need to redo the mortar bed.

Sorry if these questions are dim; I'm new to this stuff.

    Bookmark   May 18, 2014 at 9:57PM
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Well, my carpenter just demo'd the kitchen in my mother's house with mortar bed construction going up the walls, as well as the countertops. I expected a gigantic, difficult mess--certainly wasn't pretty--but it was easier than expected. The plywood was nailed down to the cabinets, and with a little effort, the whole thing popped up. (After he took off the wall/backsplash tile. That's got to happen first. The cabinets weren't harmed at all. But he's a very careful carpenter....

    Bookmark   May 19, 2014 at 12:04AM
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About a year or so ago, I got a call to complete a tile countertop started by someone else. I told the customer I wouldn't do it, only tear it out and start over and that's what we did. You had better start getting used to this idea.

    Bookmark   May 19, 2014 at 7:19AM
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