Ceramic tile is one of the most attractive and versatile finishes for countertops in the home. Among its advantages are an ability to withstand damage from heat, and resistance to abrasion. Tile also offers a myriad of design possibilities. Decorative tile, called "decos" can add design flair to an otherwise drab setting. Liner tile, contrasting colors and decorative edging are other means of enhancement.
A consideration when opting for tile is the availability of trim pieces. Inside corners, outside corners, edge pieces and bullnose tile are an important part of the appearance of the finished product. Trim pieces often vary from manufacturer to manufacturer. You might fall in love with a specific tile only to find that it has no edge-trim tile available. You can, however, still have the tile you want. You merely need to get creative when it comes to edge trim.
A piece of one by two wood trim that is stained and finished to match the cabinets can be an attractive and popular alternative to a tile edge. Hardwoods, such as oak, work especially well, although virtually any variety can be used. To make it decorative, the outer edge of the trim can be sculpted using a router.
Since the tile counter will be set to finish to the wood trim, the trim should be installed before the tile. However, height and finish must be addressed before the trim is installed. The height at which the trim is installed is influenced by a combination of factors ö bed thickness, adhesive thickness and tile thickness. For example, if the tile job is a do-it-yourself project, you might opt to use a precast mortar board in lieu of a floated mortar bed. Use a small piece of mortar board (slightly larger than a piece of tile) to create a measurement jig. Apply thinset adhesive to the piece mortar board using a grooved trowel and place a piece of tile into the mortar. Once the sample has set up, it can be used to determine height at several locations.
Wood and water don't mix. Therefore, it is especially important that the trim is properly finished on all sides before it is installed. This will prevent deterioration from moisture which could otherwise be absorbed through an unfinished back side.
Prior to finishing the material it should be fit and cut according to size. A quality miter box along with a good cross-cut finish saw will provide professional results. The raw trim first should be lightly sanded. Then create an edge detail, if desired, followed by another light sanding. Sanding dust should be removed with a tack cloth.
If the trim is to be stained to match existing cabinetry, test the stain on a small sample. Stain can be darkened by applying a second coat. To match a lighter finish, wipe the stain off with a soft cloth immediately after application. Once a match has been made, the material can be stained. All edges should be stained, including the raw ends of the miter joint. After the stain has had the opportunity to dry for a day or so, a high-quality oil base polyurethane should be applied to all edges of the trim. For best results apply three coats, lightly sanding between coats with 0000 steel wool. Use only one thin coat at the miter joints for a nice tight fit. Gently stir the polyurethane to avoid creating bubbles which otherwise would mar the finish. A natural china bristle brush works the best when applying a polyurethane.
The finished trim now can be installed. Apply a generous bead of carpenter's glue to the back side of the trim. Place the trim against the edge of the countertop and attach it using finish nails. Driving nails into hardwood such as oak can be difficult, to say the least. The material often splits or the nails bend. Therefore, it's best to drill a pilot hole that is slightly smaller than the shaft of the finish nail. Carefully drive the nails, using a finish hammer. Use a nail-set to recess the nail heads below the face of the trim. Conceal the nail heads with a wood dough or putty stick that closely matches the stain.
With the edge trim securely in place, the tile can be installed. Make certain to leave at least one eighth-inch joint between the tile and the wood trim. This joint should be grouted at the same time as the balance of the tile, but should be held down slightly to allow for a small bead of clear silicone caulk. Grout tends to crack at this location due to the coefficient of expansion. The silicone lends the needed elasticity and extra waterproofing.