When renovating their new kitchen, a couple of homeowners sought a design that was eye-catching, yet maintainable. With an idea of implementing materials that would withstand the test of time, but which would also provide a contemporary aesthetic, they turned to a local, custom countertop fabrication and installation company to bring their vision to life.

SSC Countertops Ltd., known for its high-quality service and work in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, accomplished the desired design using large-format, marble-look porcelain tiles from Antolini, which were employed on the full-height backsplash, range hood, window casings and island countertop. “The overall design goal of the kitchen was to have the look and character of marble while having the low-maintenance characteristics of porcelain,” said Ian Morris, production manager at SSC Countertops Ltd. “Our clients also wanted to have something on the island and walls of the kitchen that would grab your attention. They chose the large-format porcelain for a clean look with minimal joints.

“The homeowners also wanted the joints to be as discreet as possible,” he went on to explain. “They had great attention to detail, which is why we chose to miter back all of the window trims and the hood fan so the veins would carry around the corners, and just add to the overall clean, flowing look of the kitchen.”

The two-man installation team utilized two panels of 5 1/4- x 10 1/2-foot porcelain tiles in “Calacatta Borgo” from the Antolini Tech collection, which were supplied by Margranite in Burnaby. The 12-mm-thick tiles provide a nice complement to the white Corian countertops below.

“With the kitchen being the main gathering place of the home, the homeowners opted to use Calacatta Borgo porcelain with large gray veins as a contrast to the white Corian countertops to really make a statement,” Morris said.

For the bookmatched walls and intricately crafted facets of the kitchen, the installers were tasked with making sure all of the pieces fit perfectly into their designated places. “As the homeowners mentioned how they really wanted their joints to be very discreet, and with all of the trims and hood fan parts being mitered, there was no room for error on this project,” Morris explained. “Being that the whole kitchen was bookmatched exactly to the customers’ specification, there was the added pressure of knowing if any piece did not fit perfectly or had any deficiency whatsoever, we would need to get a full new slab to achieve the same vein layout. Usually, ceilings and walls are never perfectly square, level and plumb, so we also needed to scribe our porcelain to match the wall. The porcelain backsplash and hood fan also needed a 30-degree beveled backcut, as it was a vaulted ceiling.

“Whilst the hood fan porcelain was setting, we built a temporary support from 2x4s and plywood that sat directly underneath the porcelain,” he went on to say. “This took the weight and made sure that the porcelain didn’t move or slide while the thinset was curing.”

The installation began with the application of the HardieBacker cement board from James Hardie on all of the walls, opposed to regular drywall. Ardex P 51 primer was used atop the HardiBacker, followed by Ardex 8+9 rapid waterproofing and crack isolation compound to absorb any movement from substrate and prevent any cracks in the porcelain. Ardex X 77 Microtec mortar was then applied to set the panels in place and the joints were filled with Ardex SX color-matched silicone.

Although the onsite installation only took three days, the team at SSC Countertops took various steps beforehand to ensure design accuracy. Initial renderings were sent to the clients to show them how the veins on the island, hood fan, backsplash and window casings would all look once installed. Once approved, the installation team fabricated and mitered all of the porcelain pieces in-house using their Breton Combicut. “The time the project took from start to finish for us was one full week,” Morris said. “We feel the overall design intent was achieved.”

Private residence

British Columbia, Canada

Tile Supplier: Margranite, Burnaby, British Columbia, Canada (Antolini Tech collection in “Calacatta Borgo”)

Tile Installer: SSC Countertops Ltd., Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada

Installation Products: Ardex Americas, Aliquippa, PA (Ardex P 51, Ardex 8+9, Ardex X 77 Microtec, Ardex SX); James Hardie, Mission Viejo, CA (HardieBacker)