Kitchen Backsplash Install – Pt. 1

You may recall my post on March 4 where I quickly summarized our incredibly productive week prior to our home assessment. One of the biggest projects we completed, and the one I am most excited to share with you, was our Kitchen Backsplash install. But before I get too carried away I quickly wanted to start by giving you a brief history on our kitchen remodel.

Before

As you can see from our before photo (above), the kitchen (like much of our house) was a little out-dated. So back in the summer of 2011 we scraped (literally scraped) off the mis-matched wallpaper and chipped away the remaining pink tiles then painted it a light shade of green. Shortly after, we refinished the cabinets (which I wrote about here) and then there was a lull. Which brings me to my current topic… installing the backsplash.

We purchased the backsplash tile around the same time that we purchased our cabinet refinishing system and since that time we’ve been storing the tiles around the house trying to keep them out-of-the-way but still in sight (however that motivation tactic failed us miserably!).

Backsplash Grid

Peddy started us off by creating a rough grid on the wall behind the stove. Since the backsplash we choose was glass tile we had to make sure we also purchased glass tile mortar (it’s important to use glass tile mortar because it’s formulated to dry white so it will not discolor your tiles).

Glass Tile Mortar

It even got Zeak’s stamp of approval!

Once we had a plan in place we mixed up the mortar, using a drill attachment called a mixing paddle, and made sure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions closely. Once we thought it looked to be about the right consistency (similar to peanut butter) we let it sit for 20 minutes and then mixed it again (according to the instructions).

Our Tiling Plan

Peddy used a notched trowel to apply the mortar to the wall starting in the upper left corner above the stove. He used the smooth edge to apply and even out the mortar and the notched side to rake it prior to applying the tile. We found it easiest to work on one tile at a time, however to avoid gaps in the mortar Peddy made sure to prepare a section of the wall that was slightly larger than the size of a tile. Perhaps you already guessed, but the grid came in extra handy during this step!

Mixed Mortar

Placing the tile turned out to be a lot easier than I ever imagined it would be, however when we got to the last tile in our first row I figured the project was about to get turned up a notch (and perhaps anticipated a snag) because the tile needed to be cut down in order to fit snug against the door casing. We brought the wet tile saw inside and hooked it up to our basement utility sink. (Not the ideal place to set up a wet tile saw but when its 37-degrees outside it’s the perfect place!) I was shocked at how easily it was able to cut through the tile and what a nice edge it left, there were absolutely no chips.

Wet tile saw

However, the wet tile saw didn’t work for all the cuts we had to make. Due to the new switch for the LED lighting project we did in conjunction with the backsplash install (separate post to follow) we needed to cut out a small rectangle from a small portion in the middle of the tile. In order for us to make the necessary cuts we had to use a tool that was better suited for the small/ detail work. So we ran to the nearest Home Depot and picked up these nifty glass tile nippers that turned out to be ridiculously easy to use and did the job perfectly.

Using the glass tile nippers

When we moved onto placing the second row of tiles, Peddy applied the mortar and I took over the tile placement.

Kallie placing tiles

The first couple tiles went on perfectly, but somehow I ended up slightly slanting the third tile meaning the remaining tiles went on with a slant also. Unfortunately this created a gap between the first and second row that grew in size the closer we got to the door casing. It stuck out like a sore thumb but not enough that we wanted to go back and do it over which was mainly due to the time crunch we were on. Another sore thumb was the new light switch we installed for the LED lighting we installed under the cabinets, due to its odd shape it looked a little out-of-place but we hoped that they would both look better after we grouted.

Tile gap and switches

In order to keep the same seam when we started the third row we cut the bottom four rows of each tile off to compensate for the counter top height. When it was time to cut out the space for the electrical outlet we found the easiest method was to detach the lower three rows (which fit perfectly underneath the outlet) and used the tile saw to cut out the notch from the upper portion of the tile. We completed the upper half of the tiling with large scraps (a.k.a. bundles of three – four rows of tile) we had left over from previous cuts we had made. Because of the interlocking design of the tiles, many of the rows did not come all the way to the wall so we had to cut small pieces of tile to fill in the spaces.

 Left Side Tiling Done

Once we were done with this side we moved over the other side, which went a lot faster because there wasn’t as much space to cover. We even had enough scrap pieces to tile a portion of the wall behind the refrigerator (which previously had the pink tiles). When all was said and done we had one spare tile and only about a 1/2 inch of space under a few cabinets that were tile-less (and you can only see it if you squat and look directly under the cabinets themselves). We had to wait 24 hours for the mortar to dry before we could grout but it was already looking 100 times better than before we started.

Stop back soon to see how we finished this project up! Including how we grouted and our unique trick to getting the receptacles to lay flush with the tile.

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8 comments

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    • Kallie
      Kallie says:

      Thank you for your kind words! To be quite honest I had not yet considered having anyone else write a post but if you have some ideas I would be happy to hear them!

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  3. My Tile Gal says:

    Kallie,

    How well did it work to cut the glass tiles with the tile snippers? Was it a clean enough cut? I always wondered if those would work to cut the glass mosaic tiles. Your idea of cutting the mosaic on the back side was a great idea!

    • Kallie
      Kallie says:

      We thought they did a nice job. Not all of the edges were perfect but after we grouted you can’t tell the difference. With a little practice it is very easy to get the hang of. I found that centering the tile in-between the nippers worked the best and left the straightest edge. Basically you want to make sure that the entire width of the tile is between the nippers. I hope that answers your question!
      Thanks so much for your comment!!
      -K

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