Our First Adventure Into The World of Tiling
Written by Lindsay Ropella
You guys – the kitchen backsplash is finally done!!
I can safely say that this project took us about 3 times as long as I thought it would, but I’m so happy with how it turned out!! Eric and I had a really hard time picking out all the finishes for our kitchen. We picked everything from the sink to the faucet to the countertops out at different times and at different stores, so we really had no idea what everything was going to look like when it all came together. We wanted a backsplash that would fit in with the vintage-modern feel of our home (well, what we are trying to go for anyway) but that also was beautiful in and of itself without having to be super bold and take away from some of the other kitchen finishes.
Now that everything is finally done (except those floors…those things haunt me in my sleep) we are super happy that everything looks good together – it seemed like the backsplash was that final piece to tie everything together.
Want to see what it looks like?
Just for fun, here’s a reminder of what the kitchen looked like when we first moved in last summer:
Kind of a big change, huh?
Here are some kitchen details:
We splurged a little for these wall plates instead of just using the normal plastic ones, but I’m really happy we did. For one, I would have been really nervous using the plastic ones because to get through the tile we had to be a little bit rough – I’m not sure the plastic ones would have held up so well. And for two, I think they fit in a little bit better with the vintage feel of the backsplash. They were about $3 a piece, but since we only had 5 to replace, it wasn’t bad at all.
I’m not going to do a whole post on how to actually put up tile because there are a ton of great how-to’s already out there in the internet world, and frankly, I’m not sure Eric and I did everything “correctly.” If you are looking to put up a backsplash yourself here’s a link to the backsplash video Eric and I watched
100 a few times before putting up our tiles. It’s a great “basics of tiling” video.
However, we did discover a few tips and tricks along the way that may save you some time and heartache if you plan to do something like this in the near future. Here’s a list in hopes that our mistakes will save you from making a few of your own…
Tips for Tiling Like A Pro (or at least better than we did)
1. Cover your workspace really well. Since this project will take a few days, make sure all plastic is taped down really well so nothing shifts over the duration of the process. You can tape a plastic grocery bag over and around your sink faucet so that you don’t get any grout or thin-set on it or the faucet handles.
2. If you’ve never tiled before, you will probably want to use glass tiles. They are the most user-friendly and clean up a lot easier than tiles made from other materials. You know, in case your thin-set/grout gets a little messy…
3. The smaller the tiles the less cuts you will have to make. Eric and I choose these larger subway tiles because we really liked the look of them. However, I think we could have completed the backsplash in about half the time if we had used smaller tiles. Because we had to actually notch out the tiles for around corners and outlets instead of just collaging a bunch of smaller tiles together to fit the space, we spent a lot more time at the wet saw than we probably would have with smaller tiles.
4. Test out your wet saw as soon as you get it. Many of us don’t own a wet saw of our own, so you will probably end up renting one or borrowing one from a friend. You will want to make sure everything is in working order and you know how to use the saw before you start the actual tiling process. You will lose a lot of time at the beginning of this project if your saw isn’t working or if you don’t know how to use it properly.
5. Start tiling in the area that you want to be the focal point. Don’t try starting at an end or a place you think the tiles will fit well. You want the tile to be as visually pleasing as possible once it is all done, so set it up to look nice in the area that will get the most visual attention.
6. Use less thin-set than you think you will need. A little goes a long way, and if you use too much it will pop out around the tiles and get into the grout lines. Once it dries it’s a much bigger mess than you really want to be dealing with.
7. You really don’t have to work that quickly with thin-set. Everything I read said you did, but I found that you can manipulate it for a good 30 minutes. Keep up a pace, but don’t worry too much about having to go super fast. Grout however is a different story…
8. Put the tile sheets up on the wall with thin-set, wait 10 minutes, and then go back and straighten/level them out. Eric and I spent a lot of time trying to get the tiles set perfectly right when we put them up on the wall. We realized about halfway through that the tiles we had worked so hard to get straight were drooping a bit because the thin-set wasn’t tacky enough to hold them in place yet. So my advice would be to put the tiles up on the wall with thin-set, do a section, and then go back to the beginning tiles that have now become a little tacky and work to straighten them out/get them level.
9. If at the end of the project you have tile spacers that won’t come out because they have gotten stuck to the wall with thin-set or grout, use a tweezers to pull them out easily and without damaging the backsplash.
10. Don’t try to do it all in a day. Or even two days, really. Give yourself enough time to get the job done right. It’s a big task, and if you try to fit it all into a short timeframe you will just end up stressed and rushed. Eric and I did most of the work between a Saturday and Sunday, and then used two nights the following week to finish up a few things like caulking and cleaning off the tiles.
What home DIY projects do you have planned for this Summer?! Let me know in the comments below!