Duo Ventures

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Kitchen Makeover: Subway Tile Backsplash Installation

We are almost done with our mini kitchen makeover!  We say "mini" because we did not want to re-do the entire kitchen, as we don't intend to stay in this house forever.  So, instead of investing extra money & time into painting or replacing the cabinets, we decided to simply give the kitchen a mini face lift with a new backsplash & quartz counter-tops instead.

If you haven't been following along, you can check out the previous 'Kitchen Makeover' posts here: ordered countertopspicked out a sink & faucetdemoed our existing backsplash & counters, installed Frosty Carrina quartz & sink, & installed our faucet & drywall.  Phew.

So, here's where we left off in our last post:
Now, it's time to tile the backsplash!
TILE SIZE

First thing we had to do was pick out our tile.  We knew we wanted white subway tile, but we weren't sure which size to go with.  We bought a few individual 3" x 6" subway tiles & a 12" x 12"  mosaic sheet of smaller 1.5" x 3" subway tiles (both were plain white ceramic finishes) & took them home to test them out.  We taped the tiles onto a scrap piece of wood to get an idea of what each option would look like:
Initially, we liked the smaller tiles better.  However, when we looked @ Mel's Pinterest Kitchen Board we realized that most of those inspiration photos had the larger 3" x 6" tiles.

We also took installation, price, & edge pieces into consideration.  The larger 3" x 6" tiles were lower in price ($1.76 sq/ft vs. $2.65 sq/ft) & had coordinating bullnose options (more on that later).  We also felt it might be easier for us to install & make cuts with the individual tiles as opposed to the sheets.  Based on these considerations & our original inspiration photos, we decided to go with the Snow White 3" x 6" Ceramic Wall Tiles.  Once we had our tile, we had to figure some things out & create a game plan.



END OF BACKSPLASH

Our old counters & tile were in line the upper cabinets, but we had an extra 6" added on to our new quartz peninsula.  After some discussion, we decided to continue the tile backsplash to the end of the quartz as opposed to ending at the upper cabinet:

BACKSPLASH EDGE OPTIONS
We weren't exactly sure how we should finish off the backsplash on each end, so we looked online to try to find some inspiration.  We saw some people finished off the edges by running thinner 2" x 6" bullnose tiles vertically, like this.  We also saw edges like this & metal edges like this.  While they were all good options, we were looking for something even more simple, so we decided to play around in the aisle @ Home Depot.

We found coordinating 6" x 6" single edge bullnose tile and 6" x 6" corner bullnose tile.  They weren't the exact size we needed, but we figured we could cut the bullnose tiles in half & use them for the corners & sides, like this:

In the end, our plan worked out & gave us a finished look that we really liked.  However, we wanted to mention something regarding the tile cuts - when we took the 6" x 6" tiles & cut them in half we were left with two tiles that were a hair under 3" tall because the blade itself cut away about 1/16".  It's barely noticeable & grouting helped to disguise this, but we thought it was worth mentioning (if you look hard, you might notice the spacing is slightly bigger between the bullnose tiles).  The finished backsplash still looks great - but moral of the story is to take the width of the blade into account when using a wet saw.

TILE SPACING
Initially, we wanted the smallest grout line & bought 1/16" tile spacers.  Once we got home & started messing around with the tile & spacing, we realized that our tile already had built-in 'nubs' on the sides (called lugged tiles).  The self-spacing tiles gave us 1/16" spacing, but once we saw what 1/16" spacing actually looked like, we were nervous that the grout lines would look too thin (aesthetically speaking):
Our solution was to use the 1/16" spacers that we already had & position them on the nubs - giving us 1/8" grout lines in the end.  Looking back, we probably would have liked the 1/16" grout lines just as much.  Oh well.

Another question we had was regarding the spacing between the tile & countertops.  After reading some online articles & forums, we felt it would be better to add a spacer & caulk the gap as opposed to just resting the tile on the counters.  We just cut off one end of the spacer like this:


DRY FIT BEFORE TILING
Before we actually started tiling, we thought it would be a good idea to do a dry fit first.  This way, we could make sure we were not left with any super tiny slivers of tile in the corners.  We cut it really close on the sink wall (no pun intended) since we wanted full 6" tiles on the end - In doing so, we were left with some 1/2" pieces in the corner:

Close, right?  Any smaller & we don't know if it would have worked.  Once we had a plan in place, we began tiling.

Before we applied the tile adhesive, we drew a level vertical & horizontal pencil line right onto the wall where we wanted the tile to end (forgot to take a picture).  Then we just tiled away - slowly working our way around the kitchen:




For the area behind the oven, we screwed in a temporary ledger board in line with the countertops so the tile would have something to rest on:

After we let the adhesive & tile sit overnight, we removed all the spacers & were left with this:

To be honest, it was more difficult than we thought it would be.  Many of the spacers would fall out as we worked.  Not to mention, Mel is OCD & spent way too much time trying to make sure the tiles looked perfect.  Eventually though, we got a rhythm/method down & the spacers stopped falling out.  Had we not used the extra spacers, it would have been much easier & faster.

The tiling alone took us a couple of days to finish - working a few hours each day.  It was not a terribly difficult project, but it was definitely not super easy. We don't know how the pros do this on a day to day basis - our backs & necks were killing us.  Of course now that it's done, we can say we're glad we did it ourselves - but it was tiring & we were living in a disaster zone for awhile:

OK.  So let's remember where we started in January:

And where we are now:


Even though we are not quite finished, we think it looks much better.  The light quartz counters & white subway tile reflect more light & make it feel so much brighter now.  We are so happy that we were able to update our kitchen without painting the cabinets!



Up next, grouting!



Mel & Nader

:)

29 comments:

  1. Very nicely documented post. I found it very informative and useful. Thanks a mil. I have been looking at options for finishing the edges of my subway tiles.

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    1. Thank you David! That's awesome to hear - good luck on your backsplash!

      :)
      Mel & Nader

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  2. Looks great! What did you use to cut the U-shapes into the tiles for the outlets?

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    1. Thanks Jessica!

      We used a wet saw to make all of the cuts. We would make several cuts in the same direction - creating several small sliver of tile. Then we would break off the slivers of tile with a pliers. Here's a video that more or less demonstrates how we did it:
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dLTfPec-NZg

      Hope that helps!
      Mel

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  3. Great job! This is my first time on your blog and I think I'll keep it as one of my favorite so I can revisit it. Wondering if you would share where you bought your track lighting (brand)? I've been looking for the past year to find the perfect piece for our kitchen which is similar to yours and I really like the one that you picked out. Thanks

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    1. Aw, thank you! :) You know, I'm not exactly sure where we bought the track lighting from since we installed it several years ago (before the blog). I do know that it was either Home Depot or Lowe's though - and we bought it right in the store (no special order or anything). They may not have the exact fixture anymore since it was so long ago, but I did see one @ Lowe's that looks similar: allen + roth 4-Light Bronze Fixed Track Light Kit - Item #: 198320

      Hope that helps!

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    2. I was organizing our manuals & warranties today & I came across the manual for our kitchen track light..which made me think of you! It is from Lowe's - Allen + Roth. ITEM #217351

      Looks like they still sell it too - here's the link:
      http://www.lowes.com/pd_217351-76219-GHY2304H_0__?productId=3151699

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    3. What a coincidence! I just pulled up your blog so that I could give YOU that information! My family and I were travelling earlier today and made an unplanned stop at an out-of-town Lowe's and I happened to see your light! I hope it looks good in our kitchen because I bought it! (I recently bought a different one online from Home Depot and I'm not happy with it - not to mention it costs more, so I was super excited when I saw YOUR light and the price!) Thanks for thinking of me!

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  4. Very impressed with your work and the truthful retelling of the difficulty level. So often after a project like this all that is left is the warm after-glow from the pride of doing it ourselves that it can be misleading to others just how difficult it was. This post is encouraging that you can do it yourself while still indicating the challenges you'll be facing (sore back, messy kitchen for days, etc.). Thanks!

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    1. Thank you Gina! Appreciate that! Yes, we know exactly what you mean & we're glad we were able to show the reality of the ups & downs of such a project. Thank you for reading! :)
      Mel & Nader

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  5. Thank you so much for your detailed accounting of your process! The ledger board at the stove is brilliant...
    How did you handle the area around the window? I have a deep, large window to circumnavigate, which is currently framed with molding. I want to tile the sill area as it is a natural place to put detergent, plants, etc (about 10" deep) and will get wet. Should I replace the trim with tile? Run the tile up to the molding and tile the sill separately?

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  6. Thank you so much for your detailed accounting of your process! The ledger board at the stove is brilliant...
    How did you handle the area around the window? I have a deep, large window to circumnavigate, which is currently framed with molding. I want to tile the sill area as it is a natural place to put detergent, plants, etc (about 10" deep) and will get wet. Should I replace the trim with tile? Run the tile up to the molding and tile the sill separately?

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    1. Thanks for reading! That's a good question, we are by no means tile experts, but we did look up some different examples on Pinterest - these might be of help if you are visual - most people seem to use one long slab of stone on top of the sill, as opposed to individual tiles:

      https://www.pinterest.com/pin/157555686936517534/

      https://www.pinterest.com/pin/435652963924709650/

      https://www.pinterest.com/pin/319263061058472914/

      There are all sorts of different bullnose cap tiles & edge pieces that you could play around with. The type of tile you choose will dictate how many of those options are available though. Hope that helped a little :) Good luck

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  7. Hi, Melissa! I'm very curious about the six inch overhang on your counter. Have you found it user-friendly? Are you happy with the length? Do you wish you had done it differently? We have a very similar layout. I'm trying to decide whether to go with a smaller overhang like the one you chose or go with no overhang at all. One that is twelve inches or larger is going to interfere too much with our eating area. I would love to hear your thoughts. Thank you! -Lisa

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    1. Hi Lisa!

      Good questions - I think that we did make the right decision with the 6" overhang. Any farther out, and it would have been too tight (which is too bad, b/c I would have loved to have bar stools for extra seating). However, I would definitely recommend going with the extra counter length because it gives you so much extra counter space overall. I love using the peninsula to prep when I'm cooking, baking, & making Christmas cookies. Plus, we have used it several times as a buffet/serving area when we have gatherings. So that extra space is very useful for us. I'd say go for the small overhang! Hope that helps! Let me know how it works out :)

      Mel

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  8. First time on your blog and I love it. Thinking about whether I can tackle doing our own kitchen tile back splash. Just a quick question, you managed to have no gap between the tile and the drywall. I'm dealing with that exact issue where my tile will extend outside of the cabinets and it's an open wall. The last time I tried this, you could see the layer of mortar between the drywall and the tile on the edges. Is there a special tile adhesive that you used? Did you have a special technique when working with the mortar and laying down the tiles, so that the mortar layer wouldn't be so obvious? Not sure if my question comes across but thank you.

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    1. Thank you so much for reading! I definitely think your could tackle it on your own! :)

      We used AcrylPro Ceramic Tile Adhesive. The key to the thickness of the adhesive is the size & shape of the trowel you use to apply it. Do you remember what you used the last time? I believe most tile pros use 1/4" Square notch trowels for 3" x 6" tiles.

      I think we actually ended up using a 1/4" V-notch trowel, but I think most pros would recommend this size trowel for smaller mosaic tiles. All I can say is that it worked out OK for us in the end. We didn't use a special technique, but we made sure not to spread too much adhesive towards the edges so it didn't ooze out the sides.

      We also added some grout along the edges of the tile using painters tape to create a straight line & finish the look off - you can see some photos of that process in our "Grouting" post:

      http://duoventures.blogspot.com/2014/03/kitchen-update-grouting-caulking-subway.html

      I hope that answered your questions! Here's another website that might help:

      http://floorelf.com/using-the-proper-trowel

      Mel

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  9. Wow! So detailed and so helpful! Photos really help. I've been scouting around the Web looking for a post that would help me with my white subway tile project in my galley kitchen. I am so glad I finally found your blog. Thanks!
    Chuck
    PS I rarely take the time to thank someone for a blog post, but yours really deserves it.

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    1. Aw, thanks Chuck! That's very nice of you to say! We are glad it helped! Good luck on your project :)
      Mel & Nader

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  10. Thanks! I've watched so many videos and read several blogs on installing a tile backsplash. Yours is the first time that explained what the little nubs on the edges of the tiles were for though! I learned something new this morning. Thanks!

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    1. Thank you for reading Laurene! The built-in spacers really make tiling so much easier! Glad the post was helpful for you! :)
      Mel

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  11. We bought our tiles at Habitat for Humanity ReStore, for 10 cents each. So we sorta had to just get what they had and there wasn't a lot of choice. Thanks for posting the info and details about how you did it, and also for posting your reasoning on why you made the choices you made.

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  12. Thanks for taking the time to document your tile job. Your info is very helpful. I'm about to begin my tiling with subway tile like yours. I can't decide between 1/16" and 1/8" grout lines. It seems that most people have gone with the 1/16", which I prefer the look of, but this is my first tile job, and I'm wondering if 1/8" would be more practical and give me a little more room for error. I'm using a light-colored grout. Any thoughts?

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  13. Thanks for taking the time to document your project. You've given me hope that I can put up my own subway tile. I'm almost ready to begin work, but I'm wondering about grout lines. My tile doesn't have built-in spacers (I wish it did). I really like the look of 1/16" lines, but I'm wondering if it might be more practical for me to go with 1/8" to give me a little room for error. My tile cutting skills aren't great. Are you happy with 1/8"? Any thoughts?

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    1. Hey Liz - you can definitely do it yourself! I don't necessarily think the 1/8" grout lines will give you more room for error. If you like the look of the 1/16", I'd say go for it! It's really too difficult, providing you start out with a level horizontal plane. Ours was a little more tricky, only because we had to place all the spacers on top of the built-in nubs. Tile cutting isn't too bad either - there are some good videos online that show how to make cuts around outlets & such. We do like the 1/8", but I think we would have liked the 1/16" just as much. Go with what you love! :) Hope that helps & let us know if you have any other questions. (also, did you post the similar comment above, or is that someone else? I didn't know if I should respond to it also...thanks!)

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  14. Did you tile around the inside of the window or use a bullnose on the outer edges?

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  15. Neither - we actually left it unfinished. Our intention was to add trim around the window, but we just never got around to it.

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  16. This was so helpful! I had bought the exact same tile for a tub/shower surround and for various reasons, didn't like the 2" vertical bullnose I bought to go with it. Cutting the 6x6 in tiles in half is genius! Found this just in time because I begin tiling tomorrow. Thanks!

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    1. That's so great to hear! It's an inexpensive & simple way to finish off the edges for sure! Good luck on your tile job! :)

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