Excerpt from my regular column in the Santa Barbara News-Press.
Question: The cabinets and tile countertop in our kitchen are all about 20 years old but are in very good condition and look nice. However, our kitchen sink has numerous stains and scratches and it looks pretty bad. Is it possible to just remove the tiles around the sink and install a new sink without having to replace the entire countertop?
Your Handyman: Yes you can just remove the perimeter tiles around the sink, install a new sink and retile just the affected area provided you can purchase matching tile and that the new sink has the same footprint as the old sink or is just slightly larger.
Depending on the style and color of the tile on your countertop, finding matching tile may not be a problem at all or it may be mission impossible, so step number one is to go shopping for the tile. If your sink is a typical under mounted sink, you will probably need to purchase both square field tiles and narrow quarter round tiles that are used to finish the edge of the counter top where it laps over the edge of the sink.
Once you have determined that the replacement tile is available, the next step is to find the new sink. A under mounted style sink sits inside a cut out in the plywood base which is under the tile, with the sink edges supported by the plywood. So if you are not able to find a sink of the exact same size, then the cut out can be slightly enlarged to allow for a sink that is a little bit bigger, but it is not easy at all to reduce the cut out size for a sink that is slightly smaller. Do not start removing any of the old tiles until you have purchased both the new tile and the new sink.
It is always hard to estimate how much time will be needed to remove old tile because there is no way to know beforehand how well they were installed and how much thin set adhesive was used. Sometimes tiles will pop out in intact pieces with minimal effort and other times they have to be chipped out in small potato chip size fragments using a hammer and a cold chisel. You will want to remove only the first row of tiles that surround the sink and the first step is to cut the outside grout line with either a hand grout scrapping tool or with an electric oscillating cutting tool equipped with a grout cutting blade. Cutting the grout line will help to protect the second row of tiles that you do not want to remove or damage.
Once the tile is removed, the outer edge of the sink will be exposed and you will need to check inside the cabinet under the sink to make sure that there are not any fasteners on the underside of the plywood that are helping to hold the sink in place that will need to be removed also. Now the faucet, dishwasher air gap, filtered water tap, garbage disposal, and drain lines will all need to be removed or disconnected. If the old sink is porcelain coated over cast iron, it is going to be very heavy and two people will be needed to lift it up and out.
The next step is to set the new sink in place which may require a slight enlargement of the cutout and a heavy bead of adhesive silicone caulk will need to be applied to the edge of the cut out to help seal and hold the sink in place. Now the tile setter will take over and install the new tile and quarter round and then the new grout after waiting a day or two for the tile work to dry. There are many different colors of grout but it should not be a problem finding the correct match at a local tile store. The tile store also sells caulk that matches the grout color that can be used when caulking the sink to give a nice finished look. Grout is available as either sanded or non sanded and if your old grout feels rough to the touch then it is sanded and likewise if it feels smooth it is non sanded. The new grout will need to be sealed after it has had a couple of days to dry and the sealer will protect it from moisture and staining.
Most new sinks have 4 holes along the back edge and you will probably want to purchase a new faucet, filtered water tap, dishwasher air gap and a soap dispenser, all in the same metal finish. After all the plumbing is connected, your new sink will be ready for use.
Owner, YourHandyman & Construction
CA License #935259