We put in a new kitchen in 2010. While talking to the contracter to determine the scope of work, he asked whether we wanted a backsplash. “How much would it be?” I asked.
“$500 in labor costs,” he told me. “Plus the tile.”
“That’s ok,” I told him. “I’ll put one in as soon as you guys are finished.”
Cut to just under two years later, and I was ready to go!
First, we had to chose the tile. I had pinned this tile by Ann Sacks over the summer because I loved the shape:
Maybe it’s because we went to a wedding in Marrakesh in 2010. But it began at $31.50 psf. Even though we were only covering 22 square feet, that would still be $31.50 x 22 = $693. Not ideal. Then my sister-in-law happened to show us this tile from Home Depot:
It was $6.95 a square foot. $6.95 x 22 = $152.90. Much better. The general rule is that you need the number of square feet you’re covering with tile, plus 10%. Somehow that worked out to about 33′ in my very rough calculations, which meant I needed all of three boxes at 11′ per box. So I order four to be sure I had enough. Then I ended up returning two of them. Home Depot’s return policies are very, very, very easy and lenient, so it was not a problem. I also ordered a whole bunch (34) of border tiles that I only ended up using 2 of, so I returned them too. I ended up returning so much stuff that by the end of the project I felt like I’d made money. Note well — I had not made money.
I already co-owned a wet tile saw, and had a lot of leftover thin-set from an earlier tiling job. I also bought some unsanded bone-colored grout (though I probably should have gotten sanded grout, since the space between the tiles ended up being a little more than an 1/8″ when you stretch the backing the tiles come on).
Here are some non-glamour shot of the kitchen before I began the installation of the backsplash:
The plan was to tile the area between the counter and the cabinets, all the way up behind the oven, and behind the sink.
I started by cleaning up thoroughly, and removing any switch or plug cover plates.
Next I sanded the walls so the thin set had something grab onto.
Then I started laying tile. I started in the most visible corner, so that I could ensure the pattern looked its best from there.
The space of the tiles worked out so that half tiles went on top and on the bottom to complete the pattern. So I just calculated the number of half tiles I needed, and pre-cut them with the wet saw so I had a ready supply. Helpful hint — remove the tiles from the netting before cutting them. The netting will disintegrate in water.
I came back later with the custom cuts for the areas around the outlets. That ended up being a lot of tiles with just the tops or sides cut off, or just the tops or sides installed. It was easy to notice if you missed any when you put the outlet covers over the outlets and looked for errors. I got this far the first day:
Behind the sink:
However, note that the tile on the far left edge and right edges left the cut edge of a couple tiles exposed. I didn’t like that, so I pulled them down, cut them back, added a border tile, and re-installed them. It was easy to pull them down while they were still a little wet and the grout hadn’t been added yet.
Then I had to let it dry for 24 hours or so, then scrape out any excess thin set from between the tiles with a screwdriver (note, you should probably use a lighter thin-set with a lighter grout, but I already had the dark gray, so it was fine).
Time for grout!
First I covered the outlets in painters’ tape to protect the outlets from grout and myself from electrocution.
Then I mixed the grout.
It dries lighter. I then applied the grout with a float, and even used a metal scraper in the hard to reach places, being careful not to scratch the tile. I wiped off most of the excess groat with the float, and went over every tile carefully with a sponge. I used a task light to ensure I had filled in all the gaps, and cleaned off all the tiles. Here’s how it looked applied while still pretty wet:
Since the tiles were an 1/8 of an inch thick, and the thin set another 1/8″, I had to get all the outlets to sit a 1/4″ or so higher. To do that I got these little inserts that don’t allow the outlet to rest flush with the box. Youtube has a good video description. They push the outlets out an 1/8″ every time you fold another over and add it to the box.
You can kind of see them in action in this shot:
Be careful not to screw in the outlet plates too tight. They crack easily.
And now the money shots.
Wide Shot Before:
Wide Shot After:
Corner Detail After:
Another Detail After
Behind the Sink Before:
Behind the Sink Without Border After:
Behind the Sink With Border After:
You might have noticed that there are some task lights that were not evident before. They were always there, but we didn’t have a good way to plug them in that didn’t look bad. But I figured it out, and will post about that soon.