Rooms & Spaces/ Kitchen/ Countertops/ Surfaces & Systems/ Tile Setting/

How to Lay Ceramic Tile on a Laminate Countertop


Use this innovative tiling system to put ceramic tile directly on top of plastic laminate, metal or wood countertops

This method, developed by Armen Tavy, uses a mastic and fiberglass reinforced paper mat to turn any surface into one that can be tiled using standard thinset mortar. It requires no concrete backer board and adds very little thickness to the surface.

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Spreading the adhesive before the paper is applied
Step 1

Prepare the Existing Counter Top

Begin the process by applying a specially formulated adhesive that is made for just this process. Spread the glue liberally, using a 1/8" V-notch trowel. This seems to be the perfect size for this application, allowing you to get enough adhesive down to be effective, without making a big mess. Once the adhesive is spread, apply the fiberglass reinforced paper with a flat bladed putty knife. Make sure you work out any air bubbles and that you have a smooth surface.

Using a straight edge to screed the excess mortar
Step 2

Apply a Base Layer of Mortar

Use a putty knife to apply a skim coat layer of mortar to the paper surface. This prepares the paper for the thin set in the same way that primer prepares wallboard for paint. You should also use this step to fill any dips or rolls that may be in the pre-formed countertop. Simply apply more mortar in those spots, and then screed off the excess with a straight edge.

Spreading thin set mortar with a trowel
Step 3

Spread the Thinset

Once the skim coat layer of mortar has dried, you can begin to apply and rake the thinset with a trowel, just as you would with any other tile installation.

Buttering the bullnose
Step 4

Preparing the Bullnose

The bullnosed tile is applied first. These are the pieces that go on the front edge and round over the corner. These pieces need to have extra mortar applied directly to the tile. This process is called buttering. Buttering the bullnose will give it added strength, ensuring that it won't crack or break under the wear and tear that it may get in your kitchen.

Installing spacers in the bullnose
Step 5

Tile the Field

Install spacers in the bullnose, and then begin laying tile in the field behind it. Make sure that you work in small enough areas to ensure that you can get the tile down before the mortar starts to set up. If you don't then you may find that you have loose tiles later on down the road.

Tapping tiles into place with a plastic mallet
Step 6

Space and Set the Tiles

Continue installing spacers as you lay the field of tile. As you are working, you also need to use a plastic or a rubber mallet to lightly tap the tiles that are placed. This will help them bond with the mortar and ensure that they are set firmly, without large gaps of air underneath that may later cause cracking. Once the tiles are all in place, the spacers can be removed.

Using a float to push grout into the joints
Step 7

Apply Grout

Use a float to force grout to the bottom of the joints. Next, turn the float on edge and remove the excess grout from the face of the tile. A damp sponge or rag can be used to complete the cleanup. The step with the sponge or rag may need to be repeated several time to completely remove the haze left behind by the grout.

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