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Kitchen Design/Remodeling/Kitchen ceramic backsplash meets formica countertop


Ceramic meets Formica
Ceramic meets Formica  
QUESTION: Hello, Jim!
    Thanks for taking my question.  I have a ceramic tile backsplash on the wall that meets the 3" high wall backsplash "molded" to the Formica countertop.  There are some areas where the caulk, grout (or whatever it is?) is breaking away slightly from the ceramic and Formica in that tiny 1/8" space.  I don't know if that is "grout" or "caulk".  I know it's grout between the ceramic tiles on the wall, but I'm not certain what it is between  where the ceramic meets the "L-shape" countertop backsplash. It looks like caulk in the way that it is separating, but I'm not certain.  
    Can I just clean that out as best I can and re-apply caulk.  (I hope it's caulk because I would have no idea how to apply "grout".)  Where the separation is happening is on an inside wall.   Is there a special type of tool to best clean it out and another one to make it look "neat and clean" after re-applying from the tube?  Maybe it would be better to ask a professional painter friend of mine to come in and apply whatever is needed after I clean it out - he could do a better job than I could - what do you think?  Even though the countertop may be considered outdated, I still like the look of my ceramic backsplash and countertop.  
    Last question:  Why would it break away in some areas and not in others?  Could my countertop be shifting?  Hope not!  Thank you for whatever info you can share with me.
 Unsure in Minnesota

ANSWER: Hi Rose:

You seem to be explaining this perfectly but I'm having a hard time picturing it. Would you be able to send a picture so I could answer your question accurately? I don't know if this would help any at the moment but you were asking about grout VS caulk. You can buy grout in a caulking tube. You may have to go to a tile store for it and it's available in many colors. You likely will not find grout caulking in the big box store. These grouts can come sanded or plain. Sanded is what you generally find on most tile applications.

Thanks you

---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: You asked for a photo, Jim.  I had attached a photo with my initial question.  The attachment for the image is named "Image:ceramic-meets-formica".  The link for this photo is at the end of my question and just above your ANSWER. Also, the "feel" of the material that is cracked/separated is pliable and that's why I'm assuming it is "caulk" and not a grout.  Please take a look at the photo and let me know what you think.  I will re-send it with this follow-up question.
Unsure in Minnesota

Ok much better that I can see it. You have what appears to be one of those preformed laminate counter tops. They are not very thick and therefore have some flex to them. Maybe someone stood on the too to get to a high up shelf, who knows and it doesn't really matter. I'm saying this because this top has some flex and bend which probably caused that broken caulk/grout line to crack as the picture shows.

Ok no matter what it is, you can avoid it happening again by redoing it with either a much higher silicone content or preferably 100% silicone caulk. This would allow the top to flex all it wants and there will never be cracking. The tiles on the wall don't move so that grout will not crack. The preformed counter top is really just 5/8th thick with a thinner then normal laminate veneer. If you see them stacked tall in the big box store you can easily see how they wiggle if you shake them on the shelf. By comparison, granite has no flex.

I would scrape out that old caulk/grout (it doesn't matter) out with like a pop sickle stick so as not to scratch the laminate. If you feel confident about it, you can use some other non sharp object like a putty knife to scrape it out. It don't have to be cleaned perfectly as you can apply the silicone in a thicker bead to cover it.

The only difficulty with silicone is application. Normal caulk you put on the bead and wipe it with your finger. Can't do that with silicone easily. If you cut the tip of the caulking tube to be just a tiny hole, apply this very small bead between the tile and laminate. Then use your finger to smooth it in one non stop movement.

So nothing to worry about....oh yea you mentioned you have a painter. They are quite skilled at straight caulk lines. Ask them to do it. They can even dig out that old caulk/grout. So hope all that makes sense. Please use 100% silicone in white I think is your color or I think it's called Polyseamseal which is also meant for wet areas around a sink. It has about 80% silicone content which makes it much easier to apply and still as a lot of flexibility when your walls shift or your counter top shifts or anything else that is normal.

Good luck. You are welcome to let me know how you make out.


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Jim Fulloon


Dedicated professional in cabinet sales, design, installation and product knowledge for 30 years ! Extensive experience in every single area of kitchens & baths, TV entertainment centers and home office design. Working with Homeowners, Builders, and managing large new home tracts, product knowledge from wood species to box construction, plumbing, electrical and every part of home construction. Kitchen design, kitchen products, product choices, cabinet brands and levels of quality, 20/20 Vision CAD kitchen design, industry standards, well educated on wood species, wood stains and other finishing products. Familiar with and experience with about 14 major cabinet brands.


Master Cabinet Craftsman Master Kitchen Designer Kitchen Designer for famous movie stars and sports figures More then 6000 kitchens sold and installed over 28 years Thousands of photos to show off with pride Beyond expert in design, box construction and product knowledge Proud member of NKBA (National Kitchen and Bath Assn) Familiar with local codes and requirements. Volunteer with several construction related services/organizations to aid the poor. Previously elected Shop Steward and Safety Officer. Experience working with HUD and City Officials with providing cabinets for Community Redevelopment Block Grant Programs.


My book coming out soon on kitchen designs. Self published.

Ongoing educational classes by the NKBA to maintain and/or earn certifications. Volunteer my valuable free advice in other public forums. 30 years experience in the construction trades with focus on my first love....fine cabinetry.

Awards and Honors
Kitchen Designer for famous movie stars and sports figures Chosen Kitchen Designer for The Las Vegas Parade of Homes 2007

Past/Present Clients
Celine Dion Mike Tyson Robin Givins Tiger Woods 3 players from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers 5 MLB baseball players 2 famous rock Musicians 1 famous Politician

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