See part one of the tile post right here.
The thing about tiling is not that it’s difficult, but it really is a job that takes time, patience and a lot of supplies. Luckily, we still have a handful of tools leftover from our entryway, but I will say that if this is your first tiling job, it’ll likely be a large one time investment. After which, tile away! In any case, we finished our backsplash this weekend – hooray! – and in reality, the job was spread over four separate days and weeknights: Set > Grout > Seal > Caulk. So, let’s jump in to all the things that happened after we set the tile!
GROUTING TILE: SUPPLIES USED
Unsanded grout mix, Whisper Grey
Flexible grout admixture
Caulk, matched to grout color
GROUTING TILE: TOOLS USED
Rosin paper + painter’s tape
2 med-lg plastic buckets
Drill + grout mixer paddle
WHAT WE DID. Just as before, we took the time to lay out rosin paper on our counters. Dropcloths would work just as well, but be sure to tape or tack your protective layer in place so you’re not fussing with it throughout this time sensitive process.
Next up, it was time to mix the grout! Because we used small 1/16″ spacers with our tile, we needed to use unsanded grout. (Anything 1/8″ or larger will use sanded grout, like the tile in our entry.) You know now that we had a last minute change of heart and rather than going with charcoal grout, we opted for a softer color, landing on Whisper Grey from Tile Shop. Using the paddle mixer attached to our drill, we mixed the admixture with the grout in one of our buckets until it was a thick toothpaste texture. The most important thing here is to add the admixture to the bucket first, and follow that with the grout mix until it reaches the proper consistency. Only mix as much as you can grout in about 20-30 minutes.
I used the float to push the grout into the tiles, working my way across the backsplash at a 45-degree angle. We moved fast, so there aren’t many photos during this time, but we were able to grout the entire backsplash – both sides of the kitchen – in about 30 minutes. As I moved from section to section, Scott followed behind with a bucket full of clean water and a sponge, wiping away the excess. Tip: If your grout drips or oozes out of the cracks too easily, you likely need to add more unsanded grout to your mixture.
Your first few swipes with a sponge will look incredibly messy, but that’s okay! The water bucket will need to be dumped and refreshed every few minutes (which adds to the hectic time crunch of it all), but it’s important to keep your sponge clean while not allowing the grout to sit for too long on the tile. In our case, Scott would wipe one section, move to the next, and then go back to the previous section for one more wipe down.
Once I had finished grouting and Scott had the tiles looking surface clean, we both buffed the tiles using a microfiber cloth. Keeping our hands as flat as possible (so as not to dig into the grout, which at this point is starting to harden), we moved our hands back and forth as if we were waving Hi! The microfibers removed every last bit of grout haze.
After allowing the grout to fully harden for 48 hours, it was time to seal it. At the time of grout purchase, we were torn between Whisper Grey and Dove Grey, with Dove being darker but also a little too cool for our tastes. We were so stuck between the two, wishing that Whisper Grey could be a touch darker, but not wanting to use Dove Grey for the blue undertones.
Seeing our indecision, the manager at Tile Shop recommended that we go with Whisper Grey, and if we find that it’s too light, he suggested that we use an oil based enhanced sealer which will naturally darken the grout! Say what? Below on the left is the typical water based sealer that will keep the grout color true and on the left is the enhanced sealer:
He then went on to say that all we’d need to do is wet the grout with water and note the difference in color. On the left, the grout is untouched, and on the right, the grout was wiped with a wet towel:
We loved both, but in the end, we opted to stick with the lighter color. They were both so pretty, but the true color had already won us over. However, never having heard of the grout and tile enhancer, we still wanted to share this with you!
Finally, we used a color-matched caulk to trim the edges of our tile – where it meets with the cabinets, walls and pocket door. Oddly enough, this was the most stressful part of the job for me! We had made it so far, and the caulk was messy – like, messy messy. I’ve caulked my fair share of baseboards (boy, have I!), but the mix of tight spaces and grout lines put me in a panic. I survived (barely), and just like I would when caulking baseboards, I smoothed my lines with a wet fingertip and used a damp paper towel to wipe away excess.
Despite my overreaction to the caulking, the tile is beautiful! You’ll have to excuse these tighter shots, but we’re so close to completion (not counting the back door wall, arugh!), and I’m looking forward to sharing the much larger picture (literally!) as we bring in all the final adjustments – baseboards, patio door, art and a touch of greenery.
Later this week, we’ll be tying up our partnership with Rejuvenation, and we cannot wait to share those details with you!
Our tile backsplash is in place! We had about 50 square feet to complete, and our goal was to set the tile on Saturday and enjoy a day of nothing-ness on Sunday – and we did it! We still need to finish the job with grout, caulk and sealer (one night this week, if all goes well), but for now, we’re happy to bask in our almost completed backsplash.
With a handful of tutorials readily available on the web, we want to share which ones worked for us, but perhaps most importantly, how things go down when nothing in your home is level. Or when your floors are crooked! And when your walls are a nightmare! Despite patches of new drywall and intense cabinet and counter leveling from the pros, we ultimately ran into a roadblock or two, but in the end, I’ll say that we’re really satisfied with the work we put in and how far we’ve come.
We referenced these guidelines from Houzz and This Old House the most, and we were able to get by with a small shopping list and a lot of tools we had on hand. Although we tiled our entryway flooring last year, I convinced myself the backsplash would be incredibly hard (it really wasn’t) and take forever (it sort of did). Sure, a floor requires leveling, but a backsplash has outlets and switches and peaks and valleys and, well, you know. As novice tilers, the entire job of setting took us a solid 8 hour day, but again I say, we did it!
SETTING TILE: SUPPLIES USED
3″ x 6″ matte white subway tile
Pre-mixed mastic (1 gal/50 sq ft)
SETTING TILE: TOOLS USED
1/4″ v-notch trowel
tape measure and/or small ruler
WHAT WE DID: First and foremost, setting tile is a messy job. We took a good 30 minutes to set up our work space, laying and taping rosin paper to our counters, draping plastic over the hutch and creating a zone with additional plastic for the wet saw. I laid out all of our tools, stacked tile within reach and scattered piles of spacers.
With everything in order, we started by drawing a level plumb line behind our focal point (the sink) on the wet wall. Using our trowel, we spread enough pre-mixed mastic to cover about a square foot of tile to start, and we placed our first tile to the left of the plumb line. We then worked out from that starting point, making our way left, then right, spreading mastic as needed and applying our 1/16″ spacers for consistency.
Over time, we learned that a little mastic goes a long way! Too much would ooze between the tiles, and it would cause them to slip about (even with the spacers). Tip: For extra tight spaces, you can purchase a smaller v-notch trowel. Because we didn’t have one, we found that using a small putty knife to apply the mastic worked just as well! Once the mastic was applied, we dragged the short end of our large trowel to create the grooves that are necessary for suction.
As we placed each tile, we’d give it a little push up and down until settling it into place. When moving on to the next row, a small ruler helped to ensure the simple pattern stayed on track.
We fell into a rhythm where I’d spread the mastic and set the tile, and Scott would follow behind with end cuts and the more intricate measurements around the outlets. For all of his intricate cuts, he used the wet saw exclusively. We also purchased tile nippers and a (score-and-snap) tile cutter, both of which we personally found were unnecessary. Scott found that working with the wet saw gave him the most accurate cuts, and he was the most comfortable sticking with that. Our wet saw is a small tabletop version, but keep in mind that they can be rented, too.
As we completed each row, we were mindful to take a moment and make sure we were staying level, which, on the wet wall, we were! Although the wet wall required the most time, we were in the zone and it was, surprisingly, smooth sailing.
That is, until we moved onto the stove side! Our cabinets and counters, while independently level, were off by a very small amount with each other. Our floor does slope, causing the cabinet on the left to be slightly (and I mean slightly) lower than that on the right. We started by screwing in a dummy board below the surface of the counters taking into account this seemingly minor difference, which would help to give our tiles a place to sit and stack upon each other:
As our tiles continued to grow towards the upper cabinets, that insignificant difference in level magnified more than we would have liked, but you know what? We’re going to go ahead and call that one Old House Charm. No amount of fussing or pulling off tiles and reapplying tiles seemed to better the situation. Simply put, there were too many differences competing with each other – the downhill floor! The imperfect drywall! – but once the tile is grouted, the itty bitty curvature of the pattern will be (almost) non-existent.
Looking back at these photos now, I’m realizing that we may have gotten a bit too caught up in the details (me? No way!). All in all, we’re pretty thrilled with our DIY job! Our favorite part may be where the tile meets our pocket door, which was trimmed with the same molding we’ve been using throughout the home. We brought the tile up to the same height as the nook above the sink, capped it with a bullnose, and we continued it down to the baseboard:
We ended the tile at the corner, which feels clean and uncomplicated (hi, CC!):
And the matte finish? It’s so subtle! So pretty!
Remember when we were planning on using charcoal grout? That idea has been nixed completely, and instead, we’re moving forward with Whisper Grey. (Thank you for your input on that, by the way!) In the end, we felt that the soft color would feel more casual and lend a home-y vibe; I mean, that makes sense, yes? From there, all the edges will get caulked, and we’ll check tile! off the to-do!
See how we grouted, sealed and caulked right here!
As much as we love the stone we chose for our counters, I’ll start by saying that I was a little confused after the fabricators left. I snapped some photos for Scott (they’re done, and they’re gorgeous!, I texted), but the more I looked at them, the more I felt they were – too high? It seemed as though they were floating above the cabinets, leaving too large of a gap between our drawers and counters. I showed Scott what I meant when he came home, and at first we thought, well, this is just us not being used to having counters, right?
I’m shooting down low so you can see what I mean, but here is how they looked after installation:
It doesn’t look terribly funny, but it just felt a little off to us, and after looking through way too many kitchen photos online to see if we were losing it (totally possible, by the way), we realized that – surprise, surprise! – there was miscommunication between us, our cabinet maker and the fabricators. This is why:
- Our cabinet maker created the measurements based on our old laminate counter. That countertop had a lip, which brought the front edge down by an additional 1/2″ – at least.
- We didn’t think or know to tell him that our new counters wouldn’t have a lip, and I imagine there was the assumption that we would be mounting new stone in a similar way. As a result, while the spacing between each drawer and door is 1/4″, he left a sizable front face at the top – approximately 1″.
- When we hired our fabricators, we wanted the most simple edge available. They said, great! And when they came to measure, we let them do their thing.
- The installation went as smooth as possible, but I was called down once to confirm that yes, our floors are sloped a bit. (Our floors are just plain, old crooked. There’s a difference of almost 1″ from the left end of the wet wall counter to the right, plus a little dip in the middle for good measure. This isn’t visible in person, but it’s very noticeable with every single DIY!) They let me know they’d need to shim more than normal to keep things level, and I agreed. The cabinets were also shimmed from below, so imagine a shimming bonanza to keep everything straight and level.
- This new countertop edge, as you can see, comes straight out from the cabinets,with no lip. As a result, we have a look that felt as if it was “floating.”
You can see the most shimmed section of counter here, which is only visible if you’re, say, of the four-legged variety (while you can see the shims in this photo, it’s caulked behind clear silicone):
All this to say, this is no one’s fault, it’s just something we didn’t know to point out or ask of anyone. We could absolutely let this go, but we really think that it’s all in the details (hello, 5%!). We’re sharing this because while it may not be the most obvious in photos – especially if you’re taller than 3’! – we thought it might be helpful for anyone else who doesn’t know all the questions to ask. Every single decision in this room has been heavily considered more than we delve into here (we’re sparing you, we promise), and as with any renovation, there will be slips – and that’s okay. The good news is that we were able to fix it inexpensively with a little trim in an afternoon!
First, we picked up a 1″ x 4″ x 8′ piece of select pine, and we ripped it down to thin sections on our table saw. This had to be done in a few sections, with some needing to be 3/4″ tall and some being 5/8″. A quick dry fit ensured we were on the right path.
Our cabinet maker gave us leftover touch up lacquer, which is only meant to be applied with a sprayer. For ease of use, we went to a local Benjamin Moore location, showed them what we had, and they recommended a quart of INSL-X Cabinet Coat in the same color (Distant Gray) and finish (satin), which could be applied with a brush or roller.
After I painted all the strips, we used our nail gun to put them in place. We realized that the thickness of a paint stir stick was the closest match to the drawer spacing, so we used a couple of them as a guide during the install.
A dab of spackle and paint covered the holes created by the nail gun, and then it was time to caulk. In the lowest spots, there were still some 1/4″-or-so gaps between our trim work and the underside of the counter, but caulk backing is a time saver for things like this:
The backing helps to fill any gaps that are abnormally large (this would also be a great way to fill any space between your floor and wall before baseboards!), and it allows the caulk to have a place to rest. This also prevents the need to apply layer after layer of caulk.
Once that was in, I used white silicone caulk to create a seamless transition from trim to counter. The biggest difference is the former blank space above our dishwasher; that alone felt worth it! Despite the additional trim, the dishwasher can still be pulled out in the future if necessary, and all the drawers and doors open and close no different than they did before.
We chose to stop the trim where the drawer ends, rather than carry it around. Below on the left is without trim, and on the right, you can see how that finished end looks:
This was purely an aesthetic change, but one that helped to pull those counters back down! If we hadn’t done a thing, we doubt anyone would notice, but now that we’ve finished the task, it feels so much better to us. You know how baseboards finish a room? These little strips finished the cabinets, er, counters. Both, really!
With the exception of some finicky under cabinet wires, we’ve almost completed the lighting, and next up? Tile!
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