Monday, September 25, 2006

Advice for the Sticky Tile Questioner

Sweetie, your email bounced, so I'm making the reply a post!

Sticky tiles on counter as a temporary face lift atop hideous old Formica until real money/real remodelling comes along:
I've done this in my mom's kitchen and mine (both are temporary!!! and will need to be replaced in a few years), and for both projects I used the stone-textured tiles that are fairly rigid. They cut with a razor knife, just like the thinner/cheaper ones, but take a bit more effort (and a straight edge - like a counter top edge- to snap them over) to snap.

Teh best advice I can give is to make sure your counter is CLEAN and smooth (I had to mount that molding on the edge and shim underneath to make my 3 independent counter sections contiguous and smooth enough to tile). The tiles will stick best to Formica if it's not bubbled, chipped or damaged. If the counter is damaged/chipped/has an uneven surface, ask the floor guy at the hardware store for advice on picking out a floor levelling compound. Don't tell him why, though, or he'll try to sell you a new counter.

I don't really recommend this for covering any other counter surface, like wood, ceramic tile (if it's really ugly, get it refinished instead, or if the grout is bad, clean it up and re grout it.), or bare particleboard. If it's wood, you'll get weird water damage issues, and that is a whole other kettle of fish.

Things I've learned about non-standard uses for sticky-tiles:

  • Don't use sticky tiles on vertical surfaces unless there is something supporting them from the bottom (like mouldings), unless you want to have to go back and glue them in place with E-6000 in 3-6 months (or on any hot day). My mom has a few vertically placed tiles that slipped for 2 reasons (no primer and no support) which we have had to re-mount. All the tiles on my walls in my kitchen that I was lazy about (i.e. walked away from the job half-finished because I've been really ADD about this house) and did not support with mouldings have slipped because the house wasn't air-conditioned this summer, and I have to re-mount them when I get the mouldings put up. The ones that were supported are fine.

  • If you do have to remount, use E-6000. It works really well. Spread it thin. If the tile is reluctant to be remounted, tape it up with masking tape while you wait for it to set. Alternatively, use a contact-type cement (whatever type you are comfortable with).

  • If you put tiles on vertical surfaces, use the thinner/cheaper kinds of tile (heavier tiles will slip even if the adhesive is good), but don't go with a discount brand, as the adhesive is different and not as secure. I'd avoid them for any surface or use, really, as they tend to slip or peel up no matter what.

  • ALWAYS use the latex surface primer for applying sticky tile, as it really improves the adhesion.

Okay, now to paint choices for cabinets:

My cabinets are steel 1950's cabinets. Paint choices for these don't necessarily apply to wood or melamine cabinets. If you have non-metal cabinets ask someone at the paint store for advice. There are special paints for melamine, for example.

I used appliance epoxy spray paint for the doors, except for the red ones. I'm not very happy with how the red ones turned out and may take them down and re-paint them with a different, more durable, even paint. What I used was regular safety red (fire engine red) spray paint, and I'm probably going to re-do them with tractor spray paint (not as good for my purposes as appliance epoxy, but comes in more colors).

The matte black paint on the cabinets is brush- or roll-on chalkboard paint, and it comes in a can, which was necessary as I wasn't going to be able to move the cabinets outside to repaint them (when they come down, they're going AWAY and period-appropriate ones are going up in their places). I just took the drawers and doors out for painting in the contrast colors. I understand that you can use this paint in nearly any surface as long as it's prepared correctly, which means sanding it smooth (but not too smooth), filling any dents, and re sanding to smooth it and allow the paint to stick properly (that's a from-memory summary of the surface prep instructions on the can). I used 3 coats, waiting until each coat was dry before putting up the next. It can cover in one coat, but I have kids, and wanted the surface to be durable. 1 quart did all my cabinets and left me enough to do part of the wall for another chalkboard.

If you have an old appliance (like a stove or fridge) that is chipped or in a weird color, appliance epoxy is the stuff you need to refinish it. However, stoves require high-temp paint on the cooking surface, and that comes only in matte black, silver, white and cream, so keep that in mind when you are planning to refinish one, and figure out how you want the overall look to work before you buy paint.

Now, I shall return to feeling sorry for myself about my apparent ear infection.


  1. i had tile put down this summer 12x12 good tile he pull up all the old tile & cleaned the floor put down some wood then the self stick tile now every time i walk on it ,it sounds sitckey.What can i do about it. THANK U MARIE

  2. Marie, I'd ahve emialed you but you didn't leave an email :)

    It sounds as though your installer did not level the floor. Applying a new substrate is only part of the job - the substrate must be levelled with a filling compund before tiles are applied. This is even more important with larger or self-adhesive tiles, as they require a perfecly level surface to adhere properly.

    A slightly uneven surface is one of the reasons we chose small, ceramic tiles for our bathroom. The cost would have been approximately the same for inexpesive tiles (our ceramic tile was about 1.80 a square foot) + grout + substrate + leveling and filling compound vs quality self-adhesive tiles (generally about 3.00 or more a square foot) + substrate + leveling and filling compound.

    On the postive side, it tends to be fairly inexpensive to pull up and replace self-adhesive tiles in order to correct insufficient floor leveling. Good luck!


Thanks for commenting! Comments are moderated, so do not be alarmed if your comment doesn't show up immediately.