How to Tile a Countertop Over Laminate

Tiling over an existing laminate countertop can transform the look of your kitchen or bathroom without having to completely replace the countertops. Laminate provides a smooth, water-resistant surface, while tile offers an attractive, easy-to-clean option that is very durable. With careful preparation and installation, you can achieve a beautiful tiled countertop surface.

Assessing the Existing Countertop

Before deciding to tile over laminate, assess the condition of your existing countertop. Look for any cracking, warping, or damage that would prevent the tile from bonding well. The laminate surface must be in good shape for the tile application to be successful.

Here are some things to check:

  • Cracks or holes: Any cracked or missing sections of the laminate will need to be patched and leveled before tiling. Use spackling paste or epoxy to fill any holes or cracks flush with the surrounding surface.
  • Warping: Warped areas will need to be leveled out with a countertop leveling compound before tiling. The surface under the tile needs to be as even as possible.
  • Loose areas: Check that the laminate is firmly bonded to the substrate beneath. Re-adhere any loose edges or sections.
  • Condition of caulk: Remove any old or yellowed caulk and re-caulk between the backsplash and countertop before tiling.

If the laminate countertop surface is generally in good shape, with only minimal imperfections, it can be a suitable substrate for the tile. Properly preparing the surface will help ensure the tile installation succeeds.

Cleaning and Prepping the Laminate

Once you have assessed the laminate and addressed any issues, thoroughly clean the countertop before prepping it for tile. Here’s how:

  • Use a degreasing cleaner or soap and water to clean the entire surface. This removes any dirt, grease, or residue.
  • Rinse well and let the surface dry completely.
  • Sand the laminate lightly with 120-150 grit sandpaper. This roughens up the slick laminate surface so the tile mortar can adhere properly.
  • Vacuum up all sanding dust using a brush attachment.
  • Wipe the surface with denatured alcohol on a clean rag to remove any remaining dust.

The laminate needs to be as clean and dust-free as possible for the tile to bond well. Take your time with the surface prep.

Applying Primer and Membrane

Most laminate countertops are made with a particleboard or wood substrate under the laminate surface. These materials can absorb water that gets under the tile, causing the substrate to swell, warp, or delaminate.

To prevent moisture damage, apply a waterproofing primer and membrane layer. Here’s the process:

  • Roll on a thin layer of tile primer meant for laminates. Let it fully dry.
  • Apply a waterproofing membrane like RedGard according to the manufacturer’s instructions. This seals the surface to prevent moisture penetration.
  • Let the membrane cure fully, usually 24 hours. Then do a final light sanding to rough up the surface.

The combination of primer and membrane ensures no moisture will seep under the tile and damage the substrate over time. This step is critical when tiling over laminate.

Choosing the Right Tile

You have lots of options when it comes to choosing tile for a laminate countertop. Consider these factors when selecting tile:

  • Tile material: Ceramic and porcelain are most common, but natural stone can also be used if the laminate substrate is thick and sturdy enough to support the weight.
  • Tile size: Medium sized tiles like 12”x12” are easiest to work with. Large tiles can be prone to sagging. Small mosaic tiles may require a plywood overlay to support them.
  • Tile finish: Use a tile with a flat, smooth finish. Textured or very porous tiles make it harder to achieve full adhesion.
  • Grout lines: Small grout lines (1/8 inch or less) give a flush, seamless look. Wider grout lines work better for textured tile surfaces.
  • Tile thickness: Thinner tiles adhere better over laminates than thicker, heavier tiles or natural stone.

Choose tile colors, patterns, and designs that complement your kitchen or bath decor. Stay away from very heavy stone tiles for laminate countertops. Get tile samples to see how they pair with your cabinetry and flooring.

Purchasing Supplies for Installation

Tiling over laminate is similar to tiling over other surfaces. You’ll need the same basic supplies and tools:

Tile and Grout

  • Tile for countertop
  • Matching bullnose edging tiles
  • Grout (sanded for joints wider than 1/8”, unsanded for smaller joints)
  • Grout sealer

Adhesives and Mortar

  • Tile mortar suitable for laminate application
  • Tile adhesive compatible with laminate and membrane
  • Wood glue (for any bullnose tile seams)

Helpful Tools

  • Trowels for spreading mortar and adhesive
  • Tile spacers and levels
  • Mixing bucket
  • Grout float
  • Grout sealer applicator
  • Sponges
  • Safety gloves and eye protection

Shop for commercial grade tile installation products. Avoid cheap adhesives, mortars, or grouts which can lead to adhesion problems. Having the right supplies makes the installation process go smoothly.

Step-by-Step Tile Installation

Tiling over laminate countertops involves careful planning and attention to detail. Follow these step-by-step instructions:

1. Lay out your tile design

  • Dry lay the field tiles on the countertop to determine the layout and make sure you have enough.
  • Decide on desired pattern and orientation. Mark reference points if needed.
  • Do a dry layout with the bullnose edging tiles to ensure fit.

2. Mix and apply mortar

  • Mix the mortar according to instructions on the bag. Let it slake for 10 minutes.
  • Use a trowel to spread it evenly over the surface, about 1/4 inch thick.
  • Only spread mortar over sections you can tile within 30 minutes. It will start to dry and set quickly.

3. Set the tiles

  • Working in sections, lay the field tiles in the mortar according to your planned design.
  • Use spacers between tiles to ensure consistent grout lines.
  • Use a level to check tiles are even. Adjust as needed while mortar is still workable.
  • Don’t walk or lean on newly set tiles until the mortar has cured 24 hours.

4. Install bullnose edging

  • Measure and cut bullnose tiles to fit around perimeter of countertop using a wet saw or tile cutter.
  • Dry fit edging tiles before installing to ensure proper fit.
  • Apply tile adhesive and set bullnose tiles. Fill any gaps between them with wood glue so grout won’t show.

5. Let tiles cure

  • Allow tiles to fully cure for at least 24 hours before grouting so mortar bonds securely.
  • Use spacers to keep tiles aligned and prevent movement while curing.
  • Don’t walk on tiles and avoid setting anything heavy on them.

6. Mix and apply grout

  • Mix grout with water according to package directions. Let it slake for 10 minutes before use.
  • Use a rubber grout float to spread grout over the tiles, pressing firmly into joints.
  • Wipe diagonally across tiles with a damp sponge to clean excess grout off the surface.
  • Rinse sponge frequently to keep it clean. Allow grout to cure per manufacturer instructions.

7. Seal grout lines

  • Once grout has cured, use a grout sealing product to seal the grout lines according to directions.
  • Apply carefully to avoid coating tile surfaces. Wipe up any excess.
  • Sealing minimizes staining and makes grout cleaning easier. Reapply sealer periodically.

Take care through each step of the installation process for a professional looking result. Your new tiled countertop will provide a durable and beautiful finish over your existing laminate.

Tiling Countertop Backsplash

To finish your new tiled countertop, consider adding matching tile to the backsplash area. Here are some tips for tiling a backsplash over laminate:

  • Prepare backsplash wall area just as you prepped the countertop. Clean, sand, and apply primer and membrane.
  • Use the same mortar and tile recommended for laminate countertop installation.
  • Carefully measure and cut border tiles to fit from the countertop to lower cabinets and around outlets.
  • Install backsplash tiles directly over cured countertop tiles for best alignment.
  • Grout and seal backsplash tiles to match countertop finish.

Tiling the backsplash carries the design up the wall for a finished, built-in look. Take your time to get clean precise cuts and grout lines.

Tiling Tips and Tricks

Here are some additional pointers to help your tiling project go smoothly:

  • Always refer to tile and product manufacturers’ instructions. Follow specific guidelines for use over laminates.
  • Arrange tiles before adhering so the layout and pattern are visually balanced.
  • Use tile leveling systems to keep tiles even during installation. Adjust as needed.
  • To cut holes for fixtures, measure and mark tiles then use a tile bit and drill or an oscillating tool. Cut holes slightly larger than fixture size.
  • Use painter’s tape outside tile area to protect walls. Remove tape immediately after grouting before it sticks.
  • Clean excess grout off tiles as you go using a damp sponge. Don’t let grout residue dry on the tile surface.
  • For a cleaner finish between tile and wall, caulk the seam after grouting. Match caulk color to grout.

Stay organized and work methodically for best results tiling over laminate. Take a little extra time on each step and your new tile finish will look polished and professional.

FAQs about Tiling over Laminate Countertops

Some frequently asked questions about installing tile over laminate include:

Is it okay to tile over laminate countertops?

Yes, laminate can be a suitable substrate for tile if the surface is properly prepped and high-quality tile adhesives are used. Be sure to apply primer and membrane layers first.

What kind of tile works best on laminate?

Medium size ceramic, porcelain or natural stone tiles with a flat, smooth finish. Avoid heavy stone or textured tiles which don’t adhere as well.

Can you put heavy tiles like marble or granite on laminate?

Laminate may not provide enough support for very dense, thick natural stone tiles. The substrate could eventually crack or buckle. Medium weight porcelain or ceramic are better options.

How long does it take to tile over laminate?

Tiling a standard sized countertop takes 2-3 days. Day 1 to clean and prep surface. Day 2 to install tile and edging. Day 3 to grout and begin curing.

Does tile alter the height of the countertop surface?

Yes, tile does add some height. Standard tiles add about 1/4 to 5/16 inches over the laminate. Bullnose edging can add up to 3/4 inch. Keep this in mind with surrounding surfaces.

How long does tiled laminate countertop last?

It should last many years with proper installation and care. Be sure to re-seal grout periodically. Avoid excessive direct heat which may cause adhesion issues over time.

Be sure to do your research and carefully follow installation instructions when tiling over laminate. The finished result can provide you with a brand new look while saving on full countertop replacement costs.


Tiling over existing laminate countertops offers a relatively easy and budget-friendly way to update the look of your kitchen or bath. With careful prep work, quality tile installation, and proper sealing, you can achieve durable, beautiful new countertops without removing your laminate.

The key steps include fully cleaning and sanding the laminate, applying primer and membrane layers, selecting the right tiles, and methodically installing the tiles and grout. Pay close attention to details like proper mortar coverage, consistent grout lines, and smoothing away excess grout. Tiling the matching backsplash completes the built-in look.

With some patience and DIY dedication, you can transform your worn laminate into a like-new tiled countertop surface. Just be sure to follow all manufacturer’s recommendations and allow sufficient drying and curing times. Your new tile finish will add value and give you years of decorative, low maintenance enjoyment.