Here is our kitchen before:
And, here is our kitchen after (even more appropriate that it is messier):
As I mentioned in my previous post about this, Jess came home with backsplash materials one day. We looked at a bunch of online designs and decided to have a go at it ourselves. In the first installment, we installed the extruded aluminum edging that boarders the tile. This time we will talk about the tiling itself.
The toughest part of this whole ordeal is figuring out a good pattern for your tiles. We spent hours trying to get a good random look in the tiles we used. We went with the glass and stone tiles that come on a 12×12 inch netting material. Most of these pieces are in a nice random pattern, but some are not. We had to manually cut out some pieces and replace them with other colors to keep the pattern pseudo-random.
Once we had our pattern laid out, we prepared the wall for the tiles. First, turn off all the breakers that power the light switches and outlets in the area you will be working. Remove the light switch and outlet covers and check to make sure the breakers have turned off the power to those areas. Breakers may be labeled incorrectly as I found out when it shocked the $#!+ out of me… so I highly recommend getting an electronic sensing pen like this one to use to make sure the power has been turned off. It works without having to be in the circuit. Just place it near the hot wire (black or red wires) on the sides of the outlet or light switch boxes. If an electric charge is detected, it will turn the tip of the pen red and beep at you. Once you’ve ensured the power is off, go ahead and cover these with masking or painters tape. When we go to grout these areas, we want to make sure they don’t get all clogged up.
It’s important to note that tiling isn’t as hard as it used to be. Instead of having to put layment on the wall to stick the tiles into, we used these sheets that are basically like 2-sided tape. The flat portion sticks on the wall and the other side had what looks like hot glue in a grid pattern on it. The hot-glue-looking stuff is a pressure activated adhesive so to place tiles you simply press them into place on this material.
You can see the glue in the background in these pics:
We started our tile design at the bottom of the wall, where it meets the counter top. this is a good place to start because people will see this part more than directly under the cabinet. In our house, the cabinet and counter are not perfectly parallel. Starting with a full-sized tile at the bottom where the wall meets the counter will ensure any half-cut tiles or extra space will be hidden under the cabinets. Also, we have about 1/4 and inch of play since we used the metal edging. This will allow us to fudge a little if we need to.
We began with the shortest wall we had as a test. We had a 2 x 1.5 foot section of the wall we wanted to test on. This was critical to the learning process! We learned how to lay the tiles so the ends match up with the corner of the wall well as well as how to hide the edges. We also figured out the best method for cutting the tiles around an outlet in the middle of this small section. I suggest practicing like this on a small area before doing a big area.
For cutting the tiles, we bought a tile cutter. (This little guy looks reliable too. There are lots of $20 options and in our experience, it did the trick. I don’t plan on needing a tile cutter often so I didn’t need a workhorse.) Don’t use a tile nipper if you are using glass tiles because they will shatter or crack unpredictably. It helped to cut draw out where the outlet met the tile sheet, then laid the entire sheet in the manual tile cutter. Scoring and snapping each tile separately produces the best results. We did find that sometimes the natural stone cracks on veins of impurities rather than the scoring line. In most cases that was OK since it can be filled in with grout later, but sometimes we ended up cutting that tile out and replacing it once the sheet was on the wall.
When using the sheets of tile, you need to make sure you grout it within 24 hours from when you set the tiles. Otherwise the tiles can fall off the wall due to their own weight.