Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Top Ten Tuesday:
"Home is home, though it be never so homely."

"Home is home, though it be never so homely."
English proverb, 
reported by John Clarke, 
Paræmiologia (1639), p. 101.

Over the Thanksgiving holiday, we took the opportunity to use our days off (and AC actually being in town for the whole holiday) to work on creating a backsplash in our kitchen.  

Our house has an open kitchen and living room design that separates the two areas with a long bar-height countertop, which holds the sink, dishwasher and empty counter space on the kitchen side.  The space between the bar-height counter and the sink-height counter is covered completely with the same laminate that is the counter, which is great for the wet area of the kitchen.  However, perpendicular to this area, up against the outer wall of the kitchen is the rest of the countertop and the stove, and unfortunately, between this counter and the cabinets above is just plain wall, and after years of cooking (and splashing) on the stove, we decided we needed create a tile backsplash.

So, here are ten steps to create a tile backsplash.

1.  First, measure the area you wish to tile.  While you are doing this, decide what size tile would look best in the space and might be easiest to place.  Typically backsplashes are done with smaller, more decorative tiles, but plain subway tiles are very popular, and if you are crafty, you can even use both plain tiles and add a strip of decorative tiles strategically (though that may require more cutting).  The area we had to tile was just under eight feet long and between one and two feet in height, depending which part of the counter it was under, so we decided a smaller tile would probably look best.

2.  Choose a tile.  We found this tile at our local home improvement store after looking both online and at other stores.  The color of the stone tile matches our countertop perfectly, and the glass tiles add just a little something without being too much in the small space.

3.  Gather your supplies.  
  • You will, of course, need the tile you chose.  Make sure you buy enough extra for cutting and piecing whatever pattern you want.  For example, the tile we chose has an "random" pattern with the glass tiles, so we needed to make sure we had enough to repeat that pattern depending on what we were cutting to fit at the top or the bottom.  For our just under ten total square feet, we bought twelve square feet of tile, which came in 12" x 12" blocks attached at the back with some sort of netting.
  • Some type of tile adhesive like Tile & Ceramic Adhesive
  • Grout in a color that matches the tile you chose.  You can use either the powder that you mix yourself like Polyblend Sanded Tile Grout or a premixed grout like Simple Premium Grout.  We used the premixed simply because we were doing such a small area of it, but we have read online that the powder is really very simple.
  • Caulking that matches the grout color like Polyblend Ceramic Tile Caulk - 10.5 Oz
  • A grout float like Grout Float
  • Tile trowel like 11-Inch by 4-1/2-Inch Notched Trowel
  • Grout sponge like Extra Large Hydra Tile Grout Sponge
  • Water
  • Clean, dry cloth
  • Tile nipper like Compound Tile Nippers (PRO)
  • Tile spacers like 1/8-Inch Tile Spacers, 200/Bag.  Make sure you get the size that you want to space your tile.  If you chose a tile like we did that already has space between the 12" x 12" sheets, make sure you get the same size spacers for between the sheets as is between the tiles on the sheet.
  • If you need to make large cuts, you will need a wet saw like SKIL 3540-02 4.2-Amp 7-Inch Wet Tile Saw.  However, for our tiny tile, AC said it was more likely that he loose a finger than cut the tile in the right place, so we only used the tile nippers for the few tiles we needed to cut down.

**At this point, if your walls are uneven, you may need to take an extra step or two to clean them up.  However, we did not have to do any of that, nor did we sand the wall to remove paint or have anything previously stuck to the wall that needed to be removed or holes patched.  You will need to remove outlet covers if there are outlets on the wall you wish to tile, and add outlet extenders like Quick Fix Electrical Spacers to the depth that the new tile will protrude from the wall.  You will also want to tape off and cover any counter that is showing with old newspaper or painters' paper.

4.  Apply the adhesive.  Use the tile trowel to apply a thin layer of the adhesive to an area of the wall that you will be able to apply tile to in about thirty minutes or less.  Use the teeth on the trowel remove excess and even out the adhesive layer.

5.  Apply the tiles.  Starting at a bottom edge of a prominent focal point, apply the tile over the adhesive, pressing firmly but not hard.  Make sure you get the tile set exactly where you want it the first time, because once it has been set in the adhesive, it is VERY difficult to move.  It will not slide into place, even a minimal amount, if you put it on crooked.  Put spacers under where the tile will set (we put them on the counter ledge), and make sure you put spacers around the edges of the tile before you place the next tile or sheet.

**From this point you will go back and forth between applying the adhesive and placing tiles until you have placed them all.  Do not forget to add the tile spacers in between.  When you get to the edges, around outlets or any other you will need to make cuts with the wet saw or tile nippers, and you may find it easier to apply the adhesive directly to the back of the tile.  After all the tiles have been placed, you may remove all the tile spacers, but if you forget, they will come out easily before you apply the grout.

6.  Apply the grout.  After the tile has set for 24 - 48 hours (depending on the instructions on the adhesive), you may apply the grout.  Follow the directions to mix the powder grout or simply apply the premixed directly from the carton.  It may be easier to scoop the grout with a simple trowel from the carton onto the grout float.  Holding the grout float at a 45 degree angle,  press the grout into the space between the tiles (joints), moving diagonal to the lines, working from the edges toward the center.

7.  Wipe down grout with a damp sponge.  After the grout has set for ten minutes (this is ten minutes from the first grout has been placed, not ten minutes after you are done), dampen a sponge and wipe up the excess grout from the surface of the tiles.  Some would suggest having a bucket to hold water in, because you will need to rinse the sponge between every wipe so as not to simply push watery grout around on the tiles, but doing it in the kitchen meant I just rinsed the sponge in the sink so that I was not constantly changing the water in the bucket.  This is where having two people might come in handy, as AC was able to continue applying grout while I (and even SC) came behind him to remove the excess.  You do not want the sponge to be so wet it is dripping water, as this will add too much water to the grout in the joints.  It needs to be barely damp.

8.  At least four hours later, use a tile scrubber to remove any lingering grout residue.  This tile scrubber is simply a sponge that has a slightly abrasive side (like Grout Scrub Sponge With Coarse Scrub Side), and on the tile we chose, the only residue remained on the glass tiles.  So, I dampened the abrasive side of the sponge and scrubbed lightly until the residue was gone.  Then I wiped the excess water away with a clean towel.

9.  Caulk the edges.  After the grout has set 18 - 24 hours, apply caulking to the edges between the tile and counters, outlets, etc.  This is eminently easier with a caulking gun.

10.  Clean up and enjoy!  Reaffix outlet covers, push the stove back into place, and put the things that live on your countertop back where they go.

Overall, this was an easy project, though definitely a two (amateur) person job.  I love the way it turned out, and would love to encourage anyone who is thinking about giving it a try that you can do it.

What small upgrade projects are you planning?  Leave a comment, and then check out more Top Ten Tuesday posts here:

Top Ten Tuesday at Many Little Blessings

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