Do you know any affordable and not-ugly tile countertop solutions?
October 2, 2017 4:55 PM   Subscribe

We have a shitload of tile countertop. I hate it and we're not rich. What should we doooo?

I love everything about my house except the tile countertops and the abundance of carpet. (Guess what I'll be asking Me about next!) We have a decent amount of counter space but I never ever ever want to cook or do anything in the kitchen because the cleanup is such a pain in the ass--everything seems to stick in the grout, and I can't stop thinking about all the germs and some of the tiles are cracked and just all of it is awful. I'm about to net about $1500 from a bonus at work and am hoping there is something we can do to make cooking slightly less painful.

I saw Stonecoat epoxy after a bit of Googling--it seems pretty cool but super labor intensive and easy to mess up. Our counters have a bit of a bull-nose that would be tough to level into a sharp edge. I guess it would be possible to just knock all the tiles off of the counter and start with the plywood underneath?!

I thought of just using some kind of thick, clear epoxy that filled in the grout and leveled everything out--is that an option? I don't hate the look of the tile as much as the hassle of the grout so if it looked basically the same it wouldn't be the end of the world.

Slightly classier options include a stainless steel or granite overlay, but I'm not sure where I'd even start to look for that, or how to price them out.

We're in Vancouver, WA (right outside of Portland, OR) and are fairly competent DIYers. Please help, I miss cooking!
posted by masquesoporfavor to Home & Garden (21 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Can you not demo the tile and put in a laminate counter? It's reasonable in price.
posted by Ftsqg at 5:15 PM on October 2, 2017 [4 favorites]

For $1500 you can rip them out and replace them with decent laminate at least.
posted by DarlingBri at 5:16 PM on October 2, 2017 [3 favorites]

Response by poster: Ok sorry, I guess I should clarify! I would like a granite or quartz or whatever but am not a rich person. Corian would be fine, but I would prefer something I actually am proud of and not JUST the cheapest, worst thing. We do cook a lot and would like something fairly durable. Sorry and thanks!
posted by masquesoporfavor at 5:18 PM on October 2, 2017

Are you near an IKEA? Their countertop costs are significantly lower than what I see at other retailers. Check them out.
posted by ancient star at 5:28 PM on October 2, 2017 [10 favorites]

How big is your kitchen? If you're looking at a ~24 sqf of countertop and you're willing to do the demo and install yourself, you can probably afford the material cost of Big Box Store/Ikea quartz or acrylic as long as your don't get fancy. Granite prices are more variable, but some suppliers will let odd lots or remainders go for cheap; I'd call a couple of local places as see what your options are.
posted by givennamesurname at 5:38 PM on October 2, 2017 [1 favorite]

It may have been here, but I recently saw someone talking about taking Ikea butcher block countertops and having them covered in stainless steel.
posted by rhizome at 5:40 PM on October 2, 2017 [7 favorites]

We went to a granite shop and they had remnants (not small though - sometimes they were orders that ended up not fulfilled!) that were deeply discounted. We got some honed granite and then for one part of our counter we got a piece of butcher block installed. That part was super affordable and we know we'll probably replace it at some point, but after 5 years it looks pretty good.

I also like concrete countertops, but doing that yourself might be really tricky (it would be for me, at least).
posted by jdl at 5:56 PM on October 2, 2017 [2 favorites]

I DIYed granite tiles to replace a countertop (that 80s beige Formica with wood edges).

There are two reasons it turned out very well: first, 18" tiles mean lots of space (don't settle for 12"). Second, granite is cut with very high precision and usually beveled edges, meaning that you can go with 1/8" grout lines if you dare to make that bet on your ability to align it that well.

I used the tile edge as the countertop edge, and put in a 1" strip of the same tile, flush, underneath as a front edge. You can use the same tile as a backsplash; I used a line of 4" decorative tile.

I loved that kitchen. Sadly, somewhat stuck with corian now.
posted by Dashy at 6:08 PM on October 2, 2017 [2 favorites]

And I remember that the total granite bill was less then $800.
posted by Dashy at 6:11 PM on October 2, 2017 [1 favorite]

You could skim concrete over it. Example.
posted by deludingmyself at 6:48 PM on October 2, 2017 [6 favorites]

Cultured granite would also work, and should fit your budget.
posted by thomas j wise at 7:21 PM on October 2, 2017

I saw Stonecoat epoxy after a bit of Googling

Hi, don't do this. I did this, worked my tail off, and ended up with something that looked like brownie batter all over our kitchen. No joke. Our landlord who is normally kind of a jerk felt so bad for us after all the work we did he went halves with us on installing granite. Installing this stuff is not only a PITA but also prone to resulting in you having a lumpy mess all over that can only be removed by removing the whole thing.

FYI, granite was surprisingly affordable.
posted by arnicae at 7:50 PM on October 2, 2017 [7 favorites]

I know a few people who HATE their granite counters, because they're constantly breaking plates and glasses just by taking them out of the cupboard and putting them down. Don't discount laminates until you see the new ones available, and the different edge profiles. They're definitely not like what your grandma had (or at least not all of them). You'll pay a premium for the FX or HD styles, and granite-look edge, but they're still way cheaper that solid surface products and don't need a lot of babying.
posted by kate4914 at 8:01 PM on October 2, 2017 [5 favorites]

One of my very favorite kitchens, has counters made of galvanized metal with a light gold tone. They have been there for 20 years now and still look new.
posted by Oyéah at 8:33 PM on October 2, 2017 [1 favorite]

Our house has granite with a pattern that makes dirt impossible to see, meaning it's hard to clean them properly. Whatever you get don't do that. Discovering invisible sticky messes with your hands isn't fun.
posted by emjaybee at 8:34 PM on October 2, 2017 [3 favorites]

I'm going to be the person who says the thing that always bothered me when I was remodeling: my opinion is that the simplest and highest value approach is going to be that basic thing that everyone does, and it is going to cost a little more than your budget, but not nearly as much over your budget as trying something that doesn't work well and then having to do the whole thing over again.

I think our granite countertops cost $1500, $750 for materials and $750 for installation, but (a) the kitchens are small whereas you said your kitchen is big, (b) that was two years ago, and (c) that doesn't include demo of anything previous, or prep. But they were as cheap as the IKEA laminates at the time I was shopping.

I think you could remove the tile yourself, but then you'll have whatever is beneath that with mortar on it. But since you're fairly competent DIYers, maybe you can replace the plywood yourselves?

But -- okay, on preview, arnicae explained the problem with the epoxy. And a thin coat of concrete sounds prone to cracking and some of the same annoyances you mention. (Maybe you could use the self-leveling stuff if you read the instructions closely? I would still be concerned.) In my opinion, the DIY approaches turn out to be a ridiculous amount of work. Here's a DIY post that comes close to what I'd expect. But if you try out any of these options, let us know how it turns out!
posted by slidell at 9:13 PM on October 2, 2017

In Portland, there's a place called Quality Home Building Supplies on NW Yeon/Highway 30. They sell discounted granite, and they'll cut it to fit plus install. My spouse says they bid us $2-3k for granite, which we were buying for a small kitchen in a house we were selling. They definitely had less expensive granite than what we tried to buy, and the bid included cutting & installation (for us, that involved a weird triangular space as well). Their customer service is variable, however; the friends who recommended them to us had fantastic service. My spouse got frustrated and we ultimately DIYed countertops from Ikea. The pricing there was incredibly reasonable.
posted by linettasky at 9:21 PM on October 2, 2017

Definitely Ikea. Their counter tops are crazy cheap and easy as hell to install. The stone and concrete look look really nice and modern.
posted by fshgrl at 9:46 PM on October 2, 2017

Could you post a pic or drawing to give a sense of what configuration we're talking about? I like your stainless steel notion, since it's s great top, doesn't require you to remove existing before adding, and doesn't appreciably add to height of top. You could consider doing long runs in SS, then having a marble (or butcher block) section (from a demo) for pastry/baking work to help deal with direction changes or varying depths.
posted by bullatony at 5:55 AM on October 3, 2017 [1 favorite]

Many of the stores that specialize in hard surface countertops will have a stash of large, leftover pieces that they'll give you a deal on. We did our bathroom that way. The trick in our case was learning to ask to see the 'bone yard'.
posted by dws at 9:31 AM on October 3, 2017

Portland here. Also not rich.

The folks at Hanset did an amazing job on our custom counters and sink/water station counter plus the backsplashes. Even with welding in a sink we bought elsewhere and our choice of edges etc... came out way cheaper than granite, and about the same as the lower end quartz countertops. After a year(to the day!) everything looks and feels AMAZING and solid, and is so easy to keep clean. Happy to mail/text you pics if interested.

We have a small space with no margin for error and everything was fabricated quickly and perfectly, and as someone with 20 years of restaurant exp, it's the best made stainless work I've seen. The welding is so gorgeous.
posted by nenequesadilla at 8:51 PM on October 9, 2017

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