The final step in finishing the kitchen project was to put a new counter top on the cabinets. We ended up buying Roman Stone Noce porcelain tile. It is manufactured, but is designed to have a natural look, so there is some variation in it, which gives it a nice texture. Once I had the plywood and cement board attached to the cabinets, I had a solid foundation for the tile, and was ready to start tiling.
On Monday I started off by cutting a few tiles before I actually started laying tile. I knew that there would be a couple tricky cuts, particularly the inside corner of the v-cap by the stove. As it turns out, it took me more than an hour to get the miter cut to my satisfaction. I used the tile saw I had just bought to do the cutting. I went with the second cheapest option on the tile saw, which turned out to be pretty good. The saw had the option of tilting the table, so I could do miter cuts. Unfortunately, after tilting the table, the saw was no longer tall enough to cut totally through the v-cap. So I fiddled around until I got it right. I also tried to cut a few tiles with the new tile snapper I had bought. I found out it doesn’t seem to work for porcelain tile, which is quite a bit harder than ceramic tile. So I ended up having to use the tile saw for all my cuts, even the straight ones.
With my new found knowledge about my tile snapper being useless on porcelain tile, I decided to make a few more cuts before mixing up the mortar, especially the ones around the sink hole. I also determined that I needed a few more v-cap pieces, since I decided to put v-cap next to the stove, even though it meant moving the stove. So I went to Lowe’s and grabbed a quick burrito for lunch. When I got back I mixed up another batch of thin-set mortar. While I was waiting for it to slake for 10 minutes, I removed the tools from the cement board, and swept it with a hand broom to remove any debris.
I started off putting the v-cap on, since it requires both some mortar as well as a bead of silicone sealant where it meets the plywood and the edge of the cement board. I placed all of the v-cap tiles on the sink side, then I capped off the silicone sealant and did the field tile. Laying the field tile was relatively easy. I did notice when I got to the other side of the sink that my grout lines were starting to drift a bit, and since I had chosen a small grout line, I wasn’t able to correct it too much. It doesn’t seem too noticeable though. If you come to visit us, please feel free to point out all my mistakes.
After I finished all the tile on the sink side, I took a brief break, then worked on the opposite side, again starting with the v-cap. I did do one little trick on this corner. The corner piece seemed a bit lower than the rest of the v-cap, so I put a little shim underneath it to raise it up, which worked very nicely. Now I had to let the mortar set up overnight before I put the backsplash on.
On Tuesday I put the backsplash on, which ended up taking a bit longer than I had planned. I had to make several cuts, and it seemed like it took awhile for the pre-mixed mastic I used to set up. I also spent quite a bit of time on a miter cut in the corner by the sink. It ended up turning out pretty nice though.
On Wednesday I finally got around to grouting. We chose Harvest as the grout color, which I think turned out fairly nice as well. I disregarded the advice of the salesperson at Lowe’s and used some of the latex additive in the grout, since my experience had been that it makes it much easier to work with. It took me about 4 hours to grout. After grouting, I had to wait at least 72 hours before sealing it. I let the grout set up a bit for a few hours, then I put the sink in with a bit of silicone underneath the rim, and another bead between the rim and the counter top.
With the grout on and the sink in, I was ready to re-connect the plumbing, which I did on Thursday morning. I had another surprise waiting for me. After putting the garbage disposal back on, I plugged it in, and it immediately started running, which was not what I was expecting. I thought that maybe I had flipped the switch. Nope. Then it dawned on me. The outlet that I thought was broken a few days earlier was not broken at all. It was wired as intended. Half of the outlet was controlled by the switch, and half was always on. Thus it could be used for the garbage disposal, which needs a switch, and the dishwasher, which doesn’t. So I searched around the internet and found out that I simply needed to remove the tab between the two screws on the one side. It was a mistake, but I learned some more about electrical in the process.
Besides sealing the grout and caulking around the edges, the only thing left to do was to put on the cabinet hardware. This too, turned out to be a bit trickier than I thought. I started off by replacing one of the old knobs on the old upper cabinets with the new handle. This was easy since the holes were already pre-drilled. Then I tried one of the drawers, and discovered that the provided screw was too short, because the drawer front was thicker than the cabinet door fronts. I first thought I would have to go get some longer screws, but then it dawned on me that I could countersink them. I tried countersinking one, but ended up countersinking it a bit too far, so that now the screw was too long.
I ended up going to the store to buy a couple shorter screws. Then when I got back I tried both a 1/2″ and a 3/4″ screw. The 3/4″ was a touch too long, and the 1/2″ a touch too short. So then I decided to drill a bit more and use the 1/2″. As soon as I touched the drill bit to the wood, the drill pulled me all the way through! I had just drilled a huge hole in the front of my new drawer!! I was not very happy. I decided that I had the wrong drill bit, so I bought a countersinking drill bit. That didn’t really do what I wanted either. So in the end I bought longer screws for the drawers. And in the end the hardware looks okay, though it is not all level or even.
I completed the very last steps — sealing the grout and caulking — on the next Monday. I got a video camera for Christmas, and decided to test it out a bit, so I made a short video on my grout sealing method (below). I want to get my video editing skills honed so I can share baby videos in the near future!