A rustic ceramic tile countertop; photo courtesy Gryffindor
This article was updated on 06/29/21.
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Have you ever wanted to update your countertops yourself with tile but just didnt want to tackle the hassle? Well, the good news is that now theres a way to get the job done without using messy adhesives, thinset, or mortar; Use MusselBound Tile Membrane or Simplemat Tile Setting Mat or Bondera instead.
Its not at all messy, its simple to use, there are no irritating VOC (airborne particulates or chemicals—dubbed Volatile Organic Compounds) problems, and you can begin the tile grouting part of the job immediately after laying tile. That cuts hours off the job, meaning your kitchen will be out of service for a minimal amount of time. That's a win!
Benefits of Adhesion Mats
Although the mats are a bit more expensive than pre-mixed thinset or mortar, they make it possible for reliable contractors to lower their labor expense (not needing to come back the next day to grout the tile). And as mentioned above, they allow DIY types to finish a kitchen remodeling job in less time.
This alone has kept many husbands out of the dog house. So how does it all work? These products come in mat shapes; one side adheres to your counter and/or backsplash and the bottom of the tile adheres to the other side of the mat.
Tile-bonding mats may be used to install natural stone, porcelain, glass, or ceramic tile, but keep in mind this important caveat; the manufacturers suggest that the tiles be larger than 1 X 1 (2.5 mm X 2.5 mm).
Cheese cloth for polishing the grout haze off the tile surfaces
Heavy-duty scissors or utility knife for cutting the mat
A measuring tape
Prepare to Install Your Tile
The initial task to tackle is make sure that your countertop and backsplash surface are clean. Mats are both designed to bond to the surface on which they are placed.
It goes without saying that if it is placed on a dusty surface, you wont get the desired results and you will encounter problems down the road. Scrubbing surfaces down with TSP (TriSodium Phosphate) will virtually guarantee that you will get a satisfactory bond. Use chemical-resistant gloves for this task.
Keep in mind that your mat can be used on OSB and plywood surfaces also, so it will work well with cabinets that havent been laminated. In either situation, your surfaces need be flat, with no any dips, steps, or bumps.
Basically, these mats are simply cut n stick products. The one you use is an individual choice as they both seem to work equally well. The primary difference between them is that Simplemat utilizes a seam overlaping method (which seems to violate the flat surface rule somewhat).
On the other hand, Bondera utilizes its proprietary seam tape, which seems more logical to me. Because the mat is so pliable, it will bends over a rounded edge of the countertop, if that is your particular configuration. That's handy.
Now Install and Grout Your Tile
Laying the tile is an easy job so long as the countertop and backsplash surfaces are flat as explained above.
Remove or jack up your sink and any appliance (like a gas or electric stovetop that is embedded). Note that due to your new elevation you may need to reconfigure your plumbing under the sink; probably just use a longer tail piece, or, with any luck you'll have enough play with the existing one.
Cut the first piece of mat to size if you cant start with a full piece. The whole point is to achieve full coverage.
Remove your mat backing.
Set the mat in place.
Remove your mat top liner.
Repeat steps 2 to 5 for the area being worked.
Firmly press the tiles in place using spacers of the thickness you desire.
The grouting can begin right away.
Finally, after the grout is dry, use a professional-grade grout sealer. I recommend 2 coats for best results.
Those are the basics of tiling countertop/backsplash over plastic laminate with adhesive mat. Every situation is different per configuration and tile style but following these steps will keep you in good stead.
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Kelly R. Smith was a commercial carpenter for 20 years before returning to night school at the University of Houston where he earned a Bachelors Degree in Computer Science. After working at NASA for a few years, he went on to develop software for the transportation and financial and energy trading industries. He has been writing, in one capacity or another, since he could hold a pencil. As a freelance writer now, he specializes in producing articles and blog content for a variety of clients. His personal blog is at Considered Opinions Blog where he muses on many different topics.