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How to Replace a Bathroom Countertop with Granite Tile

Updated on September 27, 2015

If you have an older home, chances are it could use a little updating. A great place to start for a do-it-yourselfer is replacing old bathroom counters. There are four main steps to replacing a bathroom countertop: (1) remove the existing countertop, (2) install granite tile, (3) grout granite tile, and (4) seal granite tile and caulk.

This guide is for replacing a laminate countertop with granite tile, but the steps are essentially the same for any existing counter surface with modifications made depending on the type of existing counter surface (for example, tile will require breaking or chipping off to remove).

Finished Granite Tile Countertop

Source

Materials and Tools

You will need the following materials and tools to replace your countertop:

  • Tape measure
  • Level or other straight edge
  • Razor blade
  • Adjustable wrench
  • Philips head screwdriver
  • Pry bar
  • Rubber mallet
  • Belt sander or orbital sander
  • Tile saw
  • Granite tile
  • Trowel
  • Float
  • Mortar/adhesive
  • Grout
  • Silicone caulk
  • Caulking gun

The Beginning

Starting off with a hideous laminate countertop.
Starting off with a hideous laminate countertop. | Source

Remove the Existing Countertop

Before you can replace your countertop, you need to remove your old one as well as the sink(s). To remove the sink:

Removing the Existing Sink

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Hot and cold water shutoff valves underneath the sink.Using adjustable wrenches, disconnect the water lines from the sink.Disconnect the drain from the sink.Carefully lift the sink out and away from the countertop.
Hot and cold water shutoff valves underneath the sink.
Hot and cold water shutoff valves underneath the sink. | Source
Using adjustable wrenches, disconnect the water lines from the sink.
Using adjustable wrenches, disconnect the water lines from the sink. | Source
Disconnect the drain from the sink.
Disconnect the drain from the sink. | Source
Carefully lift the sink out and away from the countertop.
Carefully lift the sink out and away from the countertop. | Source
  1. Turn off the hot and cold water running to the sink.

  2. Unhook the water line from the sink.

  3. Unscrew the sink bowl clamps holding it to the countertop.

  4. Disconnect the drain from the sink.

  5. Use a razor to score the silicone around the sink to break the seal.

  6. Pop up (carefully) from underneath the sink to lift it out and away from the countertop.




Removing the Countertop

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Use a razor to carefully score around the countertop.Use a rubber mallet to loosen a stubborn countertop.Use a pry bar to pry the countertop from the cabinets.Carefully lift the countertop up and off the cabinets.Goodbye, ugly countertop!Use a razor (be careful!) to scrape off remaining adhesive.
Use a razor to carefully score around the countertop.
Use a razor to carefully score around the countertop. | Source
Use a rubber mallet to loosen a stubborn countertop.
Use a rubber mallet to loosen a stubborn countertop. | Source
Use a pry bar to pry the countertop from the cabinets.
Use a pry bar to pry the countertop from the cabinets. | Source
Carefully lift the countertop up and off the cabinets.
Carefully lift the countertop up and off the cabinets. | Source
Goodbye, ugly countertop!
Goodbye, ugly countertop! | Source
Use a razor (be careful!) to scrape off remaining adhesive.
Use a razor (be careful!) to scrape off remaining adhesive. | Source

Once you have removed the sink, remove the existing countertop:

  1. Use a razor to score around the edges of the back splash or anything against the wall as well as the underside of the countertop that connects to the cabinets to loosen the adhesive/silicone seal.

  2. Check for any screws connecting the countertop and cabinets and remove them using a Philips head screwdriver.

  3. Pry the countertop carefully using a pry bar and lift off and away from the cabinets and wall. You may need to use a rubber mallet to pry particularly stubborn countertops.

  4. Use a razor to take off any remaining adhesive on the walls or cabinets to create a flat surface.

Install Granite Tile

Before installing the granite tile, you’ll need to replace the countertop. You can either re-use the existing countertop as a base for the granite tile or use a new plywood board and backerboard. Backerboard will help create a moisture barrier between the tile and plywood, which is particularly useful for tiling around tubs or shower areas.

Use a belt sander to roughen the surface of the countertop.
Use a belt sander to roughen the surface of the countertop. | Source

To re-use the old countertop, you will need to prepare laminate surface by sanding. Use a belt or orbital sander to sand the surface until it is roughened enough for the adhesive to get into all the grooves and scratches.



Replacing the Old Countertop

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Old countertop is placed back on the cabinets.Countertop's surface is roughened for better adhesion. Screw countertop into place.
Old countertop is placed back on the cabinets.
Old countertop is placed back on the cabinets. | Source
Countertop's surface is roughened for better adhesion.
Countertop's surface is roughened for better adhesion. | Source
Screw countertop into place.
Screw countertop into place. | Source
Dry fit tile before making cuts.
Dry fit tile before making cuts. | Source

Cutting Tile

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Tile saw used to cut tile.This tile saw has a nifty laser guide for cutting.For curved edges, cut thin strips into the tile.After cuts have been made, use a hammer to carefully knock off the strips.The edge won't be smooth, but it will be hidden under the sink. Dry fit cut tile one more time before adding mortar and permanently placing tile.
Tile saw used to cut tile.
Tile saw used to cut tile. | Source
This tile saw has a nifty laser guide for cutting.
This tile saw has a nifty laser guide for cutting. | Source
For curved edges, cut thin strips into the tile.
For curved edges, cut thin strips into the tile. | Source
After cuts have been made, use a hammer to carefully knock off the strips.
After cuts have been made, use a hammer to carefully knock off the strips. | Source
The edge won't be smooth, but it will be hidden under the sink.
The edge won't be smooth, but it will be hidden under the sink. | Source
Dry fit cut tile one more time before adding mortar and permanently placing tile.
Dry fit cut tile one more time before adding mortar and permanently placing tile. | Source

Applying Mortar and Placing Tile

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Use a trowel to apply a thin layer of mortar to countertop.Use the toothed edge to score one way.Score the opposite direction to create a cross hatch pattern.Apply mortar  to the back of edge pieces.Use a level to make sure surface remains level. Use painter's tape to keep tile pieces in place.
Use a trowel to apply a thin layer of mortar to countertop.
Use a trowel to apply a thin layer of mortar to countertop. | Source
Use the toothed edge to score one way.
Use the toothed edge to score one way. | Source
Score the opposite direction to create a cross hatch pattern.
Score the opposite direction to create a cross hatch pattern. | Source
Apply mortar  to the back of edge pieces.
Apply mortar to the back of edge pieces. | Source
Use a level to make sure surface remains level. Use painter's tape to keep tile pieces in place.
Use a level to make sure surface remains level. Use painter's tape to keep tile pieces in place. | Source

To install the granite tile:

  1. Place the old countertop with prepared surface back onto the cabinets to re-secure.

  2. Screw old countertop into place using pre-existing holes.

    If using a new plywood board, pre-drill holes into plywood to line up with pre-existing holes in the cabinets.

    To install the backerboard, apply a thin layer of mortar (also called thinset) to the plywood before placing the backerboard on top. Countersink screws every 8-10 inches to secure the backerboard.

  3. Dry fit granite tile to identify tiles to cut.

    Note: You may want to take out all tile from their boxes and spread them out to see how the patterns line up.

  4. Make cuts in tile.

  5. Dry fit tile again (with cuts made) to make sure everything fits.

  6. Mix mortar (also called thinset) according to package directions.

  7. Apply mortar with a trowel. (Be sure to only apply as much as you can set tile for so it doesn’t dry before you are finished setting tiles.) Use the flat edge of the trowel to spread a thin layer of the mortar.

    Using the toothed edge, score the mortar horizontally and vertically to create a cross hatch pattern.

  8. For corner edges, apply mortar (sometimes referred to as "buttering") directly to the back of the tile piece, using the same application technique as in step 7.

  9. Carefully set tile onto mortared surface.

  10. Use a level to make sure the surface is level and remains level with each subsequent tile.

  11. Wipe off any remaining or excess mortar off tile using a damp sponge.

  12. Tape tile in place using painter’s tape or similar tape.

  13. Repeat steps 7-11 if you are including a backsplash.

  14. Allow tile and mortar to set for 24 hours before grouting.



Grout Granite Tile

For granite or any other natural stone, unsanded grout is recommended. Although for most tile projects you would use spacers between the tiles, this project doesn’t use spacers to create the illusion of seamless a surface (like a slab of granite). Unsanded grout is recommended for tile projects with 1/16-inch spacing or less.

Be sure to choose grout that will match the granite tile as well as possible. The idea is to minimize the grout lines to create as seamless a surface as possible.

Grouting the Tile

Click thumbnail to view full-size
You can use a float like this one to apply grout.We used a smaller float to get into corners.A smaller float also helps with thinner grout lines, as in this case.Wipe off excess grout with a damp sponge.
You can use a float like this one to apply grout.
You can use a float like this one to apply grout. | Source
We used a smaller float to get into corners.
We used a smaller float to get into corners. | Source
A smaller float also helps with thinner grout lines, as in this case.
A smaller float also helps with thinner grout lines, as in this case. | Source
Wipe off excess grout with a damp sponge.
Wipe off excess grout with a damp sponge. | Source

To grout the granite tile:

  1. Mix your grout with water according to directions on the packaging. If you are using pre-mixed grout, move on to the next step.

  2. Use a float and moving at a diagonal to press grout into the spaces between tiles until grout line is full.

  3. Swipe the float along the top of the grout line to remove excess grout.

  4. Use a damp sponge to wipe up excess grout on the tile after letting the grout set for about an hour. You will want to do this again after the grout has set for a few hours.

  5. Use a dry cloth to wipe up any remaining “haze” after 24 hours.

Check manufacturer directions before applying sealant.
Check manufacturer directions before applying sealant. | Source
Evenly coat the tile with the sealant using a sponge.
Evenly coat the tile with the sealant using a sponge. | Source

Seal Granite Tile and Calk

After the grout has had 24-48 hours to set, you are ready to seal the granite. Make sure the tile is clean and dust free. Be sure to check the directions for the sealant you purchased before applying.

To apply the sealant:

  1. Pour a small amount of sealant onto a sponge and apply the sealant in a circular motion to the countertop surface. Make sure to evenly coat the entire surface. You should notice the tile and grout will look slightly wet or a bit darker once it has been saturated.

  2. Use a dry rag to wipe off any excess sealant within 10 minutes of applying the sealant (check manufacturer’s directions).

  3. Use a dry, clean rag to gently buff the tile.

  4. Wait another 48 hours to fully cure before getting wet (again, check manufacturer’s directions).

To keep your granite looking its best, you should re-seal once every year.

Replace the sink after sealant has cured.
Replace the sink after sealant has cured. | Source

After applying the sealant, put the sink back into place. Be sure to reattach all the water lines, screw the sink bowl clamps back into place, and reconnect the drain to the sink.

Turn on both hot and cold water knobs to make sure the water lines were properly connected. Check underneath the sink as well for any leaks.

Once the sink is back into place, and the waterlines and drain have been connected, apply caulk around the edge of the sink where it meets the tile surface.

Be sure to use a clear (or color that matches your sink) silicone caulk to keep out moisture.

Caulking Around the Sink

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Use a caulking gun to apply silicone caulk around the sink.
Use a caulking gun to apply silicone caulk around the sink.
Use a caulking gun to apply silicone caulk around the sink. | Source
Source

Finally, stand back and admire your amazing new countertop. High fives all around!

Ugly laminate countertop gone, beautiful granite tile here to stay.
Ugly laminate countertop gone, beautiful granite tile here to stay. | Source

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    • profile image

      MelindaJGH 22 months ago

      That is ingenious! I had never heard of granite tile!

    • Lacey Taplin profile image
      Author

      Lacey Taplin 22 months ago from Highlands Ranch, CO

      Thanks, MelindaJGH. Neither of us are contractors (although my husband has several home improvement skills). Another reason to use granite tile is that it is much lighter than the slab. We would not have been able to do the slab by ourselves.

    • profile image

      MelindaJGH 22 months ago

      Do you both work as contractors? I am so impressed that you installed granite on your own. It is tremendously heavy!

    • Lacey Taplin profile image
      Author

      Lacey Taplin 22 months ago from Highlands Ranch, CO

      Thanks, Eldercurk. I will look into this widget you speak of and try to add that.

    • Lacey Taplin profile image
      Author

      Lacey Taplin 22 months ago from Highlands Ranch, CO

      Thanks, Nell! I can understand not wanting to take on a home improvement project. It's not for everyone, and not everyone can spare the weekend(s) to do it.

    • Lacey Taplin profile image
      Author

      Lacey Taplin 22 months ago from Highlands Ranch, CO

      Thanks for reading, Venkatachari M!

    • Eldercurk profile image

      Elder Curtis Shelton 22 months ago from Stone Mountain

      Hey Lacey, I notice that you don't have a widget to follow, by the way, nice work with the countertop.

    • Nell Rose profile image

      Nell Rose 22 months ago from England

      It looks great! we recently had ours done, but not by me! lol! great job!

    • Venkatachari M profile image

      Venkatachari M 22 months ago from Hyderabad, India

      Very interesting and useful hub. You have done it so much instructive with easy to follow guidelines and images.

    • Lacey Taplin profile image
      Author

      Lacey Taplin 22 months ago from Highlands Ranch, CO

      Thanks, CherylK! Tiling can be laborious but it's otherwise not as bad as it looks. It can certainly save some cash if you are willing to take on the project yourself.

    • Lacey Taplin profile image
      Author

      Lacey Taplin 22 months ago from Highlands Ranch, CO

      Thank you for reading, RTalloni.

    • Lacey Taplin profile image
      Author

      Lacey Taplin 22 months ago from Highlands Ranch, CO

      Thanks for reading, VirginiaLynne. Tile was definitely the more economical choice for this project.

    • Lacey Taplin profile image
      Author

      Lacey Taplin 22 months ago from Highlands Ranch, CO

      Thanks, Jean! I honestly believed anything would be better than the countertop we had in there, so it wasn't so much bravery as nothing left to lose!

    • CherylK profile image

      Cheryl Kohan 22 months ago from Minnesota

      Great directions and it looks really nice! I've done a lot of tiling in the past and it's really not as difficult as people might think...well worth the effort, that's for sure!

    • letstalkabouteduc profile image

      McKenna Meyers 22 months ago from Bend, OR

      It looks like a professional job! You and your husband should be proud!

    • RTalloni profile image

      RTalloni 22 months ago from the short journey

      Thanks for sharing your useful DIY on this clever project with us.

    • VirginiaLynne profile image

      Virginia Kearney 22 months ago from United States

      Very nice idea to use the tiles rather than having the solid block, which is very expensive. Nice clear directions. I think anyone with some basic DYI skills could handle this project.

    • Jean Bakula profile image

      Jean Bakula 22 months ago from New Jersey

      It looks great! My husband and I were young when we bought our home, and stupidly bought a color counter top to match the wall paper, instead of the other way around. It's an odd shade of blue, like a dusty blue, and when I buy accessories, they either look gray or purple against it. I need to change the counter, but I'm not as fearless as you.

    • Lacey Taplin profile image
      Author

      Lacey Taplin 22 months ago from Highlands Ranch, CO

      Thanks for reading! DIY takes some patience (and a good sense of humor)...it also helps to have a handy husband!

    • paolaenergya profile image

      Paola Bassanese 22 months ago from London

      I wish I had the skills to do this type of DIY! A very informative hub - I jokingly just voted that my bathroom looks like the one at the Ritz!