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Question DetailsAsked on 1/8/2017

Gmc
Can you put concrete over a tile countertop?

I love the way concrete countertops look; however, right now I have tile countertopso. I would like to lay concrete over it. I've looked on YouTube but it appears as though when it is done it's laid over laminate.

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I never ceases to amaze me the "chicken wing" salesmanship that goes on - convincing people that a reject or inherently poor quality product is the new "fanciest and best" product. Take chicken wings that are thrown out or ground up for animal feed and call them "Buffalo Wings" and presto - charge more for them than for any other part of the chicken or even beef. Take acrylic resins or epoxies and make fake stone swirl patterns in it and it becomes more popular and, for some years, pricier than real stone countertops. And then push that one step further and use an easily stained, almost invariably cracking, heat-sensitive and largely unsuitable material called concrete and sell it as the newest and greatest and charge as much as for real stone - I just don't see it. Guess it falls under the category of fooling some of the people all the time, or most of the people some of the time. Goodness - next thing you know they will be taking tap water and putting it in bottles and selling it to people at $10/gallon, or shredding scrap wood up and mixing it with a bunch of glue and pressing it into panels called "particle board" or "oriented strand board" that deteriorate terribly when exposed to moisture and calling it "engineered wood" and selling it as if it were as functional and long-lived as plywood. Ah well...


Unclear which type of concrete countertop you are talking about - prefabricated or "solid surface" countertop (basically synthetic stone except using cheapo concrete - I never did understand why someone would spend good money on a concrete countertop though except in very large industrial settings), or cast-in-place or "feathered" concrete which is basically "poured" into an in-place form and then polished in place.


Either way, not taking the tile off is a shortcut and just introduces another factor or three that could lead to a poor result, and does not save much if any time or cost in the long run.


With solid countertop, people are roughening the tile with carbide sandpaper and then putting on an epoxy levelling or bonding coat, then the countertop. Risks - in addition to having to have a really thick front lip to cover the tile countertop, if the underlying tile countertop is loose or comes loose because of water getting under it, has cracks propogating through it due to wood movement, or the leveling coat (which is real thin) breaks up, you can end up with a hard point under the concrete which can induce cracking, or a crack propogating through from below.


There are also pads sold to go over tile - making the concrete countertop basically a "floating" countertop like granite and marble was done in the 60's and 70's, and similar to the Schluter tile floor system currently sold where the tile is put down over a non-bonded pad. That worked - until someone gets it wet and it goes moldy, or until someone sits or climbs on the countertop or drops a bag of flour or sugar on it and cracks it because it did not have firm support under it. Also - much harder to properly level if done over tile that is not level in the first place.


With the poured-in-place countertop, much a fad right now mostly because a lot of people are making it a DIY job - even if you use the right kind of epoxy-fortified concrete (which most do not) it is generally so thin that it WILL crack up - and that assumes the proper substrate bonding and reinforced crack-prevention fabric is put over all joints. Basically, putting it over tile runs much the same risks as with the precast product, plus adds in the typically greater stain susceptibility (because you are not getting the typically 3-7 coats of factory-applied sealer or the special epoxy mixes), and the fact it will generally crack up over time both due to underlying wood movement and typically improper field curing and any large heat source placed on it - especially with non-epoxy concretes. Also - getting it ground and polished properly up against the wall and on edges is a real pain and hard to get a consistent appearance over the entire surface.


With both the above methods, if done over tile, you will also end up with basically no feasible choice regarding sink mounting - will basically have to be a surface-mount sink, because trying to put in a presentable rim around the opening for an undermount sink with the finish countertop sitting on top of tile is going to be pretty near impossible.


Also - again with both - unless the tile is properly level in the first place, you will either end up with an out-of-level finish surface, or have to create a transitioning levelling layer under solid surface or end up with a tapered thickness front edge with cast-in-place or a variable-thickness final countertop - all of which add labor cost and risk ending up with a substandard finish product.


And - any leaks through or around the countertop can lead to water in between the tile and the countertop - between two relatively imprevious surfaces, so there is no way for it to evaporate like with conventional countertop over plywood - leading to mystery odors and discoloration at the seams with backsplash or on the front lip.


I would say just do the job preofessionally and take the typically 2-6 manhours extra to strip the tile off (with or without replacing the substrate - generally cheaper to just tear that off too unless well embedded into the wall or trying to save the backsplash) and get down to a proper substrate which you can properly level and prep to receive the countertop. And my opinion - forget the cast-in-place stuff and go with shop-fabricated countertop material - concrete if you must, but please think twice. An AWFUL lot of people are going with concrete or synthetic stone like Silestone or such "synthetic stones" and regretting it (though some do like it, primarily for the lack of any permeable zones like natural stone has), and replacing those with other natural materials - not infrequently in very new homes, even sometimes in new-builds that they first see and buy after the home has been completed, like in spec homes or ones that were custom builds that the buyer then defaulted on.


Saw one a few months ago - $15,000 of silestone (or similar brand) countertop in a new remodel that the owner then had to sell because of a business relocation move, being torn out to replace with natural stone by the same installer - at 2/3 the cost of the silestone, tearout and replacement total cost ! But the new owner made a smart move- put the silestone in the garage as workbenches and in the kid's room as desk and craft table - painted over with concrete floor epoxy in the garage to make it more stain resistant. What a fate for a supposedly "high end" product.

Answered 1 year ago by LCD

0
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Thanks, LCD! Best all-around explanation of these countertops and the potential issues!

Answered 8 months ago by buildersavvy




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