How to Install Granite Tile Countertops

Introduction to Installing Granite Tile Countertops

Granite tile countertops can add gorgeous natural stone beauty and luxury to any kitchen. With proper planning and preparation, you can install these countertops as a DIY project and save significant cost compared to hiring a professional. This article will provide a step-by-step guide to installing granite tile countertops, from selecting the right stone tiles to care and maintenance after installation.

Selecting the Granite Tiles

The first step is choosing the right granite tiles for your project. Consider the following when making your selection:

Color and Pattern

Granite tiles come in a wide range of natural colors and patterns. Look at granite slabs in person to get an idea of the color variations and textures available. Some popular choices include black granite, white granite, and granite with blue, brown or gold tones. Choose a granite tile that will coordinate well with your cabinetry and kitchen decor.

Tile Size

Standard granite tile sizes include 12″x12″, 18″x18″ and 24″x24″. Larger tile sizes have fewer grout lines for a seamless look. Smaller mosaic tiles can create a more intricate pattern. Choose the tile size based on your design preferences, scale of the space and skill level.

Tile Thickness

Granite tile thickness is typically 3/8″ or 1/2″. Thicker 1/2″ tiles are more durable and suitable for heavy use kitchen countertops. 3/8″ tiles can only be used for vertical applications like backsplashes.

Granite Tile Finish

Granite tile comes in polished or honed finishes. Polished granite has a shiny glossy surface that reflects light. Honed granite has a soft matte finish. Consider which finish aligns best with your kitchen’s overall design and style.

Purchase an Extra Box

It’s smart to purchase an extra box of granite tile than your measurements estimate. Having extra tiles allows you to replace any that get damaged during installation.

Preparing the Countertop for Installation

Proper preparation of the existing countertop or cabinet base is crucial for a successful granite tile installation. Follow these key steps:

Remove Old Countertop

If replacing an existing countertop, safely remove the old countertop first. Cut countertop into manageable sections with a circular saw adjusted to the depth of the countertop. Pry sections off with a pry bar, hammer and wood block.

Deep Clean Cabinet Base

Thoroughly clean the exposed cabinet base to remove grease, grime and debris. A degreaser and putty knife can help remove stubborn sticky residue.

Check for Level Surface

Use a level to check that the cabinet base surface is even and flat. Shim any low spots on the cabinet base as needed to create a level surface.

Make Repairs if Needed

Inspect the cabinet base and make any repairs before installing new countertop. Repair significant wood damage, holes or weak joints.

Apply Moisture Barrier

For an extra layer of moisture protection, roll waterproof roofing felt paper or a plastic moisture barrier onto the cabinet base. Staple the edges in place.

How to Prepare the Granite Tiles

Prepare the granite tiles properly before installation for best results:

Clean Tiles

Wipe the back of each granite tile with a clean damp cloth to remove dirt, dust and oily residue. Allow tiles to fully dry before installing.

Apply Sealer

Sealing the granite tiles before installing will prevent staining and damage from moisture. Apply a penetrating natural stone sealer with a paintbrush and allow it to fully cure per manufacturer instructions.

Organize Tiles

Unbox the tiles and arrange by general color tone. Place lighter and darker tiles in separate piles. This allows you to evenly distribute color variations when installing.

Cut Tiles If Needed

Measure the countertop space and determine if edge or filler tiles need to be cut. Cut the tiles to the measurements with a wet saw outfitted with a diamond blade.

How to Lay Out the Granite Tile Pattern

Proper planning of the tile layout is essential for an attractive finished look. Consider these tips when laying out your granite tile pattern:

Make a Pattern Template

Cut out pieces of cardboard or foamcore to represent each tile. Arrange the mock tiles on the countertop area to test layout patterns.

Avoid Narrow Cut Tiles

Plan the layout so tiles along the edges are not less than 1/3 of a full tile’s width. Very narrow tiles are prone to cracking.

Offset Grout Lines

An offset or staggered layout will avoid straight grout lines running across the countertop. Offset tiles by at least 1/3 of the tile length.

Balance Granite Colors

Distribute granite tiles evenly from the light and dark piles to create a balanced and blended color effect.

Mock Up Final Layout

Once you determine the optimal tile layout, use painter’s tape on the countertop base to mark the positions of each tile for reference.

Items Needed for Installing Granite Tile Countertops

Gather all required materials, tools and supplies before starting the installation process:


Choose a 1/4” x 3/8” v-notch trowel for spreading the thinset adhesive mortar.

Thinset Mortar

Use unmodified thinset designed for natural stone tile. Make sure it is suitable for countertop installation.


Purchase unsanded grout in a color that matches or complements the granite tiles.

Grout Float

A grout float with a soft rubber edge is used for spreading grout between tiles.

Tile Spacers

Small crosses or wedges placed between tiles to create consistent grout line spacing.

Wet Saw

For safely and accurately cutting granite tiles to size. Use a diamond blade.

Rubber Mallet

A soft mallet is used to lightly tap tiles into the thinset mortar.

Tile Leveling System

Plastic leveling spacers help keep tiles even across the countertop.

Cleaning Sponge

For wiping excess grout off the tiles before it dries.

Tape Measure

To measure for straight cuts and layout spacing.


To mark cuts. Pencil makes only a faint mark on granite that won’t be visible after installation.

Safety Gear

Safety goggles, gloves, knee pads and N-95 dust mask.

Step-by-Step Instructions for Installing Granite Tile Countertops

Now that you have all the materials and site prepped, follow these step-by-step instructions for properly installing the granite tile countertop:

Step 1: Apply Thinset Mortar

Use the v-notched trowel held at a 45° angle to spread a layer of thinset adhesive mortar onto the countertop base. Cover an area just large enough for a few tiles, spreading in one direction.

Step 2: Set Granite Tiles

Remove the paper backing from the granite tiles. Place the first tile in the corner of your installation area, aligned with your layout lines. Press the tile into the thinset with a slight twisting motion.

Step 3: Use Tile Spacers

Place tile spacers around all sides of the installed tile. Spacers create a consistent 1/8” grout line.

Step 4: Level Tile

Use a level on top of the installed tile to check it is even with the countertop base. Tap gently with a mallet if any adjustment is needed.

Step 5: Repeat Setting Tiles

Continue setting additional tiles next to the first one. Repeat applying thinset, setting tile, adding spacers and leveling across the countertop area.

Step 6: Clean Up Excess Thinset

Use a damp sponge to wipe away any excess thinset near tile edges before it dries. Thinset can be difficult to clean later.

Step 7: Allow Thinset to Cure

Let the thinset adhesive mortar fully cure for at least 24 hours before continuing with grouting the tiles. Curing times can vary, so check thinset packaging.

Step 8: Mix and Apply Grout

Prepare grout by mixing with water per package directions. Holding the grout float at a 45° angle, firmly press grout into the tile joints.

Step 9: Clean Excess Grout

Wait 10-15 minutes for grout to set slightly. Use a lightly damp sponge in a circular motion to clean excess grout off the surface of the tiles.

Step 10: Remove Tile Spacers

Carefully remove all the tile spacers from the countertop once grout has started to cure. Be cautious not to smear any uncured grout.

Step 11: Final Cleaning

Use a soft cloth to do a final cleaning to remove any remaining grout haze or residue once fully cured, typically after 72 hours.

Things to Consider After Installing Granite Tile Countertops

Your new granite tile countertop needs proper care and maintenance to stay beautiful over time:

Seal Granite Yearly

Reapply penetrating natural stone sealer to the tiles once a year to prevent staining and damage.

Clean with Mild Dish Soap

For routine cleaning, use mild dish soap and warm water applied with a soft cloth. Avoid harsh cleaners or abrasive pads.

Promptly Clean Spills

Quickly clean any spills, especially acidic substances like wine or fruit juice that can etch the granite surface.

Use Trivets and Cutting Boards

Place trivets under hot pots and pans. Use cutting boards to protect the countertop from knife scratches.

Avoid Standing Water

Don’t allow excess water to pool on the granite, which can seep into grout lines and cause mildew or staining.

With proper installation and care, granite tile countertops are sure to be gorgeous and durable focal point in your kitchen for years to come!

Frequently Asked Questions About Installing Granite Tile Countertops

What type of thinset should be used for granite tile countertops?

Use an unmodified thinset mortar formulated for natural stone tiles. Modified thinset with latex additives is not suitable for granite tiles in countertop applications.

How long does thinset take to cure before grouting?

Check thinset packaging, but allow at least 24 hours of curing time before applying grout on granite tiles. This allows thinset to fully harden to properly support the tile.

Can sanded grout be used with granite tile countertops?

No, only unsanded grout should be used with granite tiles. Sanded grout has fine sand particles that can scratch and damage the polished surface of granite tiles.

How soon can I put items on granite tile after installation?

Avoid placing heavy objects or appliances on the countertop for at least 72 hours after installation to allow the thinset and grout to fully cure.

Is sealing granite tile countertops absolutely necessary?

Yes, sealing is highly recommended to prevent staining, etching and moisture damage. Reapply sealer once a year as needed based on use and wear.

How level does the countertop base need to be for granite tiles?

Any spots higher than 1/8” over 10 feet will need to be shimmed level. Smaller deviations under 1/8” can be adjusted by applying slightly more thinset as needed during tile installation.


Installing granite tile countertops enhances kitchens and bathrooms with natural elegance and luxury. With proper planning and preparation, homeowners can tackle granite tile installation as a DIY project and save on the overall cost. Follow the techniques outlined to ensure your granite tiles are laid out attractively and installed securely by your own hands. Pay close attention to grout line consistency, tile levelness, and cleaning to get professional-looking results. Maintain your investment by properly sealing and caring for your new granite tile countertops. Get ready to enjoy the beauty and durability of natural stone in your kitchen.