Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Tiled Kitchen Backsplash!!!

We bought these tiles from our local used building materials store (for only about $1 per square foot!!!) over a year ago and finally tiled our kitchen backsplash the other weekend.  I am so proud of our work and super stoked we get to check off one more project off our list.  Not to mention our outlets will finally be in the walls with covers and we won't get shocked in the middle of the night reaching for the light switch!

Here's my list of things to have:
  • tiles (I've read somewhere to get 10% more than you think you'll need to make up for bad tiles or you might break one while cutting, etc. )
  • thinset aka mastic
  • grout (sanded for joints 1/8" and bigger, non-sanded for smaller joints and glass tile)
  • grout sealer
  • caulk to match the color and sand-situation of your grout
  • latex gloves (all of this cement based stuff dries your hands out like crazy and gloves make taking care of kids and babies much easier when you can just whip off the gloves instead of scrubbing and scrubbing your hands clean)
  • trowel (check with your tile store/thinset for the right size of v-notch)
  • rubber floater (we used the economy/cheapie one and it worked fine)
  • putty knife
  • lots and lots of spacers (they're cheap so buy the big bag)
  • butcher block paper to cover your countertops
  • painters tape
  • self-adhesive drywall tape
  • plastic grocery bag or piece of plastic wrap to put over the thinset in the bucket to keep it from drying out
  • take-out (you have to unplug and pull out your oven to tile behind it so have pizza delivered!)
  • Your fav bev!
Before we started we watched an incredibly informative video on YouTube from the DIY Network's Amy Matthews.  If you're planning on doing any tiling, anywhere in your house, I highly recommend watching this video.  She goes into a lot more detail then I do here and she's a licensed contractor!

Tape up any joints (were 2 pieces meet together) on the drywall or if your drywall doesn't meet up with the cabinets perfectly like ours.  Don't worry about where your wall meets the counters, that's filled in with caulk.

Planning is key and taking the time to be precise before starting will save you lots of time and mistakes.  Once we watched the tutorial a few times, we determined the focal wall of the kitchen and measured and marked the center.  In our kitchen that was the wall with the window and sink that you first see when walking into the kitchen from the dining room.  Next we had to determine the level line for the top of the first row of tiles.  Unfortunately our countertops and cabinets are not evenly spaced all across so we had to adjust for that.  In Amy's video she says to determine the highest point of the countertop and use caulk to fill in for lower places.  Our height difference was as much as 1/2" at some spots which was just too much to make up for with caulk.  So we decided to lower the top level line about 1/4" then trim a little bit off of the bottom of the first row of tiles in the areas that were higher.  This sort of "split the difference" all around so we didn't have an 1/8" bead of caulk in one area and 1/2" in another, but closer to 1/8" to maybe "1/4".  My dad lent us his wet tile saw so all this cutting was easy peasy (especially since the Hubs did it all).  Below is an example of a trimmed down tile (left) and a standard one (right).  You can't really tell unless you get up close or I point it out, which I will probably do :).

So after all of the measuring you want to get a layout of how you're going to place your tiles.  I'm not kidding when I say a lot of planning is necessary for "easy" tiling!  You want to make sure you don't end up with a sliver of a tile at the outside end of the row and it's best to keep cuts in the corners and on the top row which is right up against the cabinets.  We could have spent a little more time on this, but I was getting antsy and wanted to be productive already.  Thankfully we only had a few issues/small tile slivers that came up because of this (see the photo below).  Again, wet tile saw made the cuts easy!  If you don't have one or know someone who does, you can rent them by the day.

As you can see, tiling is messy business.  Or maybe I'm just messy...either way slap down some butcher block paper to protect your counters and wear your workin' clothes!

The main tiles were fun and fairly easy to put up.  These tiles were actually "rejects" from a local tile maker so they had some flaws to them.  Some of the flaws were interesting and kind of pretty, others were not.  We kept the not-so-pretty ones for cutting tiles or put them in the corners.  The tile in the center of the photo below was one of my favorite pretty imperfections, it has a sort of mottled effect:

TIP: when placing your tiles on the thinset smeared surface, don't put them exactly where you want them.  Put them in the approx spot and then slide/jimmy them to the exact right spot and then place the spacers.  By moving the tile slightly, it helps schmear the thinset over the entire back which increases adhesion.

Our accent tiles were about 1/4" thinner than the main tiles.  At first we made up for the diff by backbuttering, but that was too much trial and error with a lot of error.  So being the uber handy/genius the Hubs is, he made me a little backbutterin trough!  We took the difference between the two tiles and that gave us a rough idea of the depth needed for the trough.  Of course there were some slight adjusting necessary with a chisel, but overall so much faster than to butter each strip of tiles by hand!  Even with the trough, these little boogers took FOR-EVVVV-VERRRR to put up!  Next tile job, no tiny accent tiles!  Unless they're in big blocks on mesh backing, then maybe...but probably not.

The accent tiles also took a squillion spacers!  Another reason for getting the big bag.

After you're done tiling, you let it set up for about 24 hours (the instructions on your thinset will tell you the exact time) and then comes the grout!  A batch of grout is only good for about 20 minutes so move quickly, don't mix too much and try to minimize any distractions, i.e., don't answer the phone and wait until the kiddos are down for a nap!  Since I didn't minimize my distractions, I didn't take any pictures of that process.  After you grout, you need to seal the grout.  We used a squeeze bottle with a brush on the tip and looking back we should have just used the spray on kind.  I had to brush EVERY single joint TWICE with the sealer.  The spray stuff would have been so much easier!  Spray and wipe, how hard is that!!

So after the grouting and sealing, comes more waiting and then caulking!  This is also messy and time consuming.  Although I would bet if the space between the counters and the tiles were more consistent it would have been cleaner and faster.  Our job took two tubes of caulk.  You caulk where the counter meets the tile, the corners where the walls meet up and where the tiles meet up to the cabinets.

My dishrack likes to be productive, so I try to always have dishes hanging out in it.  It's just fulfilling its purpose, right?

Overall, we're so pleased with the outcome.  Next tile job will be the bathroom!

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