Building your kitchen worktop allows you to express your creativity and individuality. Ceramic tile is long lasting and easy to care for. Ceramic tile is available on today's market made from recycled materials such as light bulbs and glass bottles. Wood veneers feature a layer of wood encased in plastic laminate, making it easy to care for and looks good for years. Budget-conscious worktops, built from furniture grade or bamboo plywood and finished with several coats of polyurethane, can serve as a base for installing ceramic tile or other coverings in the future.
Construct a base for ceramic tile by cutting and fitting ¾-inch plywood to the top of the cabinet base. Measure the top area of the cabinet base both length and width. Add ½-inch to 1 ½-inches to the width if you want the worktop to extend over the front edge of the cabinet base. Cut the plywood to size and secure to the cabinet base with screws from the cabinet base upward into the plywood.
Cut concrete backer board to the same dimensions as the plywood. Attach the backer board to the plywood by applying several lines of silicone adhesive to the plywood. Lay the backer board on the plywood and attach with rustproof screws driven downward into the plywood. Fill any large gaps in the seams of the backer board joints with mortar. Apply fibreglass tape to the joints in the backer board.
Spread a layer of thin set onto the concrete backer board with a notched trowel. Thin set dries quickly; only apply to an area you can set the tiles to in 20 minutes. Apply a layer of thin set to the back of each tile before setting it into the thin set on the worktop. Set spacers at the edge of each tile to keep the rows straight and evenly spaced. Wipe any excess thin set from tile surfaces before it dries. Allow the tiles to dry overnight.
Mix the grout according to package directions. Adding a latex additive to the grout mixture allows the grout to flex without cracking. Add colouring to the grout at this time if desired. Press the grout mixture into the openings between the tiles with a grout trowel. Wipe excess grout from the tiles with a damp sponge; avoid over-wetting the grout. Polish grout haze from the tiles with a towel and allow drying overnight before sealing.
Seal the grout with a good-quality sealer to prevent staining. Trim the front edge of the worktop with wood or ceramic tile.
Measure and cut to size ¾-inch plywood to fit the top of the cabinet base. Sand the plywood smooth and vacuum to remove sanding dust. Wipe the top with a tack rag or a cloth dampened with white spirit.
Cut wood veneer to fit the plywood top adding 1/8 inch to the width. Spread contact cement to the top of the plywood and to the backside of the wood veneer. Allow the contact cement to dry until it feels dry to the touch. Verify drying time from package directions.
Place wooden dowels or scraps of lumber horizontally across the plywood every 12 to 14 inches. Lay the veneer cement side down on the dowels and align the back edges. Remove the dowels one at time and press the veneer onto the plywood top.
Roll the veneer from the centre outward with a rolling pin or dry paint roller to remove air bubbles. Allow to set overnight and file the front edge even with the plywood, using slow steady strokes to avoid chipping the veneer. Trim the front edge with your choice of trim.
Measure and cut furniture-grade plywood to the measurements of the cabinet base. Attach to the base with screws driven upward from the cabinet base.
File the edges to round-off and smooth the sharp edges. Sand the worktop smooth and remove sanding dust with a tack rag.
Apply stain to the plywood with a rag or paintbrush. Choose an oil-base stain to avoid raising the grain of the plywood. Allow the stain to set for the recommended time and wipe off excess. Allow to dry.
Apply two to four coats of clear polyurethane to the plywood worktop, allowing recommended drying time between coats. Allow the worktop to harden and cure as long as possible before using.