Build your own ceramic countertop

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Today, kitchen countertops come in several finishes that meet the requirements of all decors and all budgets. Whether you opt for moulded, wood, concrete, quartz or natural stone countertops, all of these finishes have advantages and disadvantages.

Here are the steps to follow if you opt for a ceramic countertop. Make sure that you have a suitable surface, preferably a plywood panel at least three-quarters of an inch thick. The panel must be firmly attached to the cabinet to reduce any risk of movement at the base of the ceramic. Take the time to place ceramic tiles various ways. If you have a counter with one or more corners, start your pattern in the corners. This will enable you to find the pattern that suits you. 


The photo shows a rectilinear band that outlines the circumference of the surface and the centre tiles have a 45 degree angle.

Once you find your pattern, do a dry run using spacers, the small plastic crosses that are used to create the space required for the mortar between the tiles. You can find these spacers at your local hardware store.

Do the dry run directly on the plywood. Don’t use glue or mortar so that you can easily correct any cutting mistakes.

To obtain a good look, don’t lose sight of the symmetry of the pattern throughout the work. Tracing lines or placing small strings on the plywood surface during final installation is appropriate if you want to make sure that the tiles are properly aligned.

Many professionals recommend applying an undercoat because it provides a more stable base. Make sure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions to avoid any unpleasant surprises.


If this is your first time, you may want to install the ceramic section by section, making sure to give the tiles time to dry.

Cover the edges of the counter under a moulding. There’s a wide variety of available materials for tiles, mouldings and mortar. Examples: regular mortar with or without sand and epoxy mortar.

  • Epoxy mortar is recommended for the top of a counter because it’s non-porous, making it easier to clean. However, applying it requires a great deal of experience because it has to be done very quickly.
  • Regular mortar is easier for the majority of home handymen, but it has to be sealed once it’s dry.

All you have to do now is give it a try and let your imagination run wild. As artist G.J. Hempson reminds us in his doctorate thesis (p. 88-89 loose translation): “In the end, they [works] are perfect in their imperfections” and “There is no perfection without imperfection.”


Sources: Casarazzi and the thesis by Hempson, G.J. 2012. The naturally imperfect form: Investigations of the application of digital sculpting methods – extracted art; incorporating and translating ‘found art’ into the medium of digital sculpture. Queensland University of Technology, Faculty Science and Engineering, Brisbane, Australia.

Photos: Casarazzi, iStockphoto.