Tuesday, March 20, 2012

How to Finish the Edge on a Tile Countertop

If you decide to use tile for a countertop, you should also consider the look of the counter's edge before you purchase the counter tiles. Edge options may be limited by trim tile; especially If you want to use the same color of tile on the edge as on the countertop. There are four ways to provide a finished edge for a tiled counter:

  1. Wood Strip - not recommended
  2. Border Strip - decorative relief tiles
  3. Bullnose Tiles - tiles with a tapered, glazed edge
  4. V-caps Tiles - tiles that wrap around the edge of a counter

Finishing a tiled counter edge with a V-Cap trim tile
V-cap tiles trim the edge of a tiled counter on a patio

Tile Counter with a Wood Edge

A wood edge is the least expensive option and the least desirable. Wood does not provide a durable and long-lasting solution for a kitchen - especially near wet areas like a sink. However, it can be easily replaced and can provide a nice accent to the cabinets. if you will be using wood edge trim, fasten a 1x2 batten to the face of the countertop so the top edge is above the top of the counter.

Finish a tiled counter with a Wood Edge
Finishing a tiled counter with a wood strip

Tile Counter with a Borderstrip and Bullnose Tiles

If you can't find V-Cap tiles to trim the edge of a counter, consider using a decorative or relief borderstrip. This option will be more expensive than using using field tile and can be more expensive than a V-cap - depending on the borderstrip. Make sure you can purchase a bullnosed tile in the same glaze as the rest of the counter. Alternatively, you can create a borderstrip with glazed bar tiles or decorative caps. If you are using bullnose tiles for your edge, a batten that is the same thickness as the edging tile, plus 1/8" for mortar thickness, should be fastened to the face of the countertop so that the top is flush with the counter.

Finishing a tiled counter with a border strip edge
Finishing a tiled counter with a border strip

Bar Tile
Bar Tile can be used to create the border strip

Decorative Cap
Decorative caps can be used to create the border strip

Tile Counter with Field Tile and Bullnose Tiles

This solution is the the least expensive of the three options that use tiled edging. You might be able to avoid lots of cuts if the counter tile comes in a format that matches the width of the counter (like 1" x 2"). Install the same as with the borderstrip.

Finishing a tiled counter edge with bullnose tile
Bullnose tile trims the edge of a tiled counter

You can use bullnose tile to finish the edge of a tiled window as well. For something different, set the bullnose tiles on the wall surface, instead of the recess. In this case, set the recess tiles first, then the bullnose.

Tile Counter with a V-cap

For a professional look that is maintenance-free, consider using a special type of trim tile tile called a V-cap. V-cap tiles are expensive; but, you'll save money on installation costs. They do tend to break easily before they are installed; so, purchase about 10% more than you need. To install V-cap Tiles, a 1x2 batten attached with screws along the reference line will guarantee straightness.

V-Cap Tile
V-cap Trim Tile

Lay out tiles in a dry run using spacers before you actually install them. L-shaped counters should be tiled starting at the corner and working outward. All other counters, start at the sink to ensure that there will be equal sized cuts on both sides of the sink. To prevent yourself from having to cut very narrow tile segments, you may need to shift your starting point.

Finish a tiled counter with a Wood Edge
Finishing a tiled counter with a wood strip

You can tile over a laminate countertop. Just make sure that it is square, level and structurally sound. The surface will need to be sanded before setting the tiles to ensure proper adhesion. If you need to remove your existing countertop, remove the screws from beneath the countertop and if needed, cut the construction adhesive with a knife.

Tiled countertops aren't as popular as they used to be. Solid surface counters like granite and more recently Silestone and quartz have become the new standard. However, I frequently here designers mention that client who installed tiled counters many years a ago still love them and prefer them. Tile is still an excellent choice for a countertop because it provide a great value, excellent durability with limitless design options.


Anonymous said...

Any improvement in this old house of mine is huge. I love the color of the formica countertops. Taking a cue from that long scratch on the original ones, I’m extremely careful not to do anything to damage them, but they are pretty durable.

Bill Buyok said...

Suzie, Thanks for your comment. Glad your countertops are holding up.

Remember, if your Formica countertops are still in good shape and you decide to replace with tile, you can tile over them as we suggest in this post.