I recently shared that I surprised Dana with a new back splash (there’s some closer pics at that link):
Before I proceed with the first of two posts on how to do a project like this, let me start with a warning: I am a novice. A newbie. I have never done anything like this before and can’t guarantee even my own results. I did ask a lot of questions, relied on the knowledge of others and learned/ used some tricks that were ideal for a beginner. Use these posts with caution – but know that I am sharing because though my experience is small, I believe in the results.
Laying tile is not complex. Here’s the general steps (they are spread out over a few days, more detail tomorrow):
- Measure everything. Lots.
- Buy tile, adhesive, grout and other supplies (details below).
- Clean wall.
- Apply adhesive, apply tile, cut tile and apply adhesive.
- Let dry.
- Apply grout.
- Wipe with sponge.
- Let dry.
- Wipe with sponge to get final details off.
- Seal grout.
Not a big deal really.
However, the most important step isn’t in the list above: planning. I knew that by the time I’d get adhesive on the wall that I’d have to know what the next steps were without thinking. The actual application of the tiles, grout and sealer took 3-4 hours (at most) while my planning took closer to 20.
Here’s a few of the decisions/ steps I made in planning that made this project relatively easy and are my essential tips for starting a project like this:
- Measure everything 2-3 times. “Everything” includes the width and height of the space your covering as well as exact locations of outlets or anything else that may get in the way.
- Calculate the square footage (the number of feet wide x the number of feet high) as well as square inches (multiply the first number by 144). You may need to convert to metric depending on the product you buy.
- Use graph paper to draw the layout you’re trying to cover, including outlets and other pieces. This is critical – it allows you to ‘bring the wall’ to the store.
- Head to the store, browse options but make no decisions until consulting with a pro who works there. If the person doesn’t appear to be knowledgable, move on.
- Decide on a tile. Don’t choose only based on looks. This step can make a project like this super easy or beyond difficult. Here were the key decisions I made:Decision #1 – Tiles with Mesh
I opted to buy tiles that were already on a mesh background and in 1 foot square sheets. This meant that I had to lie 12 sheets (6 full, 6 partial) to cover my wall and not lay individual tiles. It was more expensive but saved hours of work and meant I had to align far fewer things so my final results would look much, much better:
Decision #2 – The size of tile
Once I knew I was using mesh, I had to decide on what tiles I liked. My ideal tile was white subway tile. Subway tiles are staggered which means that there would be a LOT of cutting involved – cutting on each end of the back splash as well as around the power outlet. Experienced people will laugh at me shying away from cutting tile but the truth is that I didn’t want subway tile badly enough to take on the increased work and research (and possibly mediocre results of a novice tile cutter) associated with the decision. So I decided on these tiny half-inch by half-inch tiles (they are made of stone and glass):
The only cutting I had to do (the power outlet as well as cutting partial sheets for the lower part of the 16 inch high back splash from the 12 inch sheets) was done with scissors – simply cutting the mesh.behind the tiles. This allowed for less custom equipment and a lighter learning curve.
- Have an equipment list. I involved the person at the store who was pleased to help me choose:
- The right number of tiles
- The right adhesive (based on the tiles)
- The right sized tile trowel (based on tiles and adhesive) – I wish I had purchased a small one to make applying the adhesive and grout to the larger trowel
- Tile spacers (this determines the amount of space between tiles).. If you’re using mesh tiles like us, two notes:
- These may be optional. We had a small space and were laying 12 sheets. Even though I bought spacers I found I could do this by eye.
- There are different sized spacers so you’ll need to make sure yours match the space already defined on the mesh.
- A large sponge
- The right grout (we used pre-mixed to skip a step and ensure we had the right consistency).
- Grout sealer
- A sponge brush for the grout sealer.
- A grout trowel (it’s like a very firm sponge instead of metal).
- A last tip for today: if your tiles come in a box, keep the box handy. As the box was essentially the same size as the tile it was really handy for quick approximate measurements and far easier than holding a sheet of tile up to see how much space it would take.
Tomorrow we’ll share the blow-by-blow.
Any tips you would add?