Thursday, January 17, 2013


For your viewing pleasure... our long lost kitchen.  We last left you months ago a little something like this:

Beautiful but not yet finished.  As you can see to the left of the stools, we purchased backsplash supplies long ago and never told you.  We ended up getting the most amazing 1" x 1" Hampton Carrara marble hex tile from The Tile Shop during their Labor Day Sale.  These hex tiles are great because they come in 12" x 12" sheets for easier installation.  I also loved the look of a marble subway tile, however, we decided on a smaller size tile since the area of our backsplash is fairly small and a larger tile would look a little weird.

It took about a month to get enough tile in stock for us.  Then about two months later we finally started the install after being nominated to host Brue Christmas.

We started the install by removing the outlet covers and covering the counters in paper.

We also removed the microwave since it is best practice to tile up to the bottom of the cabinets and our microwave hangs lower.

We started installing the tile in the bottom right corner or our tiling area.  Unfortunately that meant immediately dealing with an outlet.  To cut out the outlet area, I measured where the outlet would fall on our first tile sheet and cut out any tiles that would overlap the outlet even a tiny amount.  This was done by cutting the back netting around the tiles needing to be removed with a utility knife.

After the outlet area was removed, I used a notched trowel (the triangle notches are used for backsplashes) to apply the premixed Premium Pro-Mastic mortar and pressed on the first tile sheet.  I made sure to press the sheet firmly all over while making sure I didn't apply so much mortar hat it pressed out further than halfway up the thickness of each tile.

As you can see on the right edge is missing a half tile on every other row.  Our plan was to fill this in with half tiles after all the fill sheets are put up.  I'm not sure if that is the best idea, but it worked for us.  I did try to remove the mortar from where the half tiles would need to go, so it wouldn't dry and cause the future tiles to sit higher than the rest of the sheet.  the same would be done with the partial tiles needed around the outlets.

I actually didn't use any spacers between sheets.  Instead, I made sure to step back from the backsplash after putting each sheet up to insure the spacing was right.  This seemed to work for us since we can't see any gaps between sheets now that everything is finished.

When tiling the line behind the oven, where no counter existed to keep the tile level, we drew a line level with the counters to line the bottom of the tile sheets up to which ensured they would be at the right level when we reached the other counter.

While I applied the mortar and tile sheets, Titus was out in the garage doing the dirty work.  He used a borrowed tile saw to cut any sheets that needed to but cut around the windows or cabinets.  When cutting the tiles, he always applied a piece of masking tape to the tile to prevent chipping.  Marble is fairly brittle and, in our experience, it tended to chip along the cut line very easily when cut.  Titus actually cut all the partial tiles we needed with the tile saw, as well, but said it was difficult to cut any of the tiles smaller than in half.

Since we have a counter overhang that extends further than the cabinet above, we didn't totally know where to end the backsplash.  Some people end it at the edge of the cabinet, some end it at the edge of the overhanging counter, I'm not a huge fan of either.  We remedied this by extending the backsplash to the edge of the overhanging counter, but then extending it up higher near the top of the cabinets to create a more balanced look. I couldn't really find any examples of this on the internet, so I basically was just hoping what I saw in my head would look sufficient.

Along the edges of the tile we installed Hampton Carrara Polished Somserset pieces along the edges of the tile.  Like the right side we just waited and installed half tiles on every other row here as well.

The area between the cabinets and the window were definitely the hardest.  It actually worked out do just cut 2.5 x 2.5 tile  chunks by cutting the backing of sheets similar to how we cut out outlet holes.  We then filled all those missing half tile holes later with half tiles like the other edges.

For the outlet holes Titus cut smaller tiles to fill the gaps, and we added some outlet extenders so the outlets. It was fairly difficult to get these small partial tiles perfect since the wall around the outlet hole is not level either... I did my best... plus the outlet cover would cover most issues.

It took approximately 8 hours to install the tile to our entire backsplash, which was actually much faster than I had anticipated.  Oddly enough, nothing really went wrong, which seemed a bit concerning.  I was so entirely convinced that I would wake up the next day and the entire backsplash would be lying on the counter.

Oh how I miss seeing grass out my window...

As you can see, we did not install tiny triangles along the bottom edge of the tile since, as I mentioned earlier, it was pretty much impossible for us to cut a tile smaller than half.  We also tried to cut the tiles with one of those tile clipper dealios, but the hex tiles were so much thicker than glass tiles it just didn't work (they pretty much chipped into jagged pieces).

Just look at that thing shine.

The next morning I woke up, and by some miracle the backsplash was still standing.  So, after 24 hours of mortar curing I was allowed to start grouting.  We chose an unsanded grout since we liked the look better, sanded grout can easily scratch marble, and we didn't need the added durability of sanded grout.

I prepped by applying painter's tape to all the edges of the tiles.

Including the cabinets.  

I then mixed up some grout according to the directions since we made the poor decision of purchasing the non premixed grout.  To apply the grout I used a float trowel that has a foamy pad on it.  I basically threw a bunch of grout on the tile and pressed it into the cracks at many different angles, while scraping off as much excess as possible.  I only mixed enough grout to last me about 10 minutes, then, went back and used a wet sponge to wipe off as much excess grout from the surface of the tile as possible.

After I had used up the first tub of grout, I started mixing the second tub, which was clearly a different color than the first tub I had used up.  It turned out the people at the Tile Shop had given me one tub of the wrong color grout; I had wanted white, but they gave me one white and one dove gray.  Devastation struck when I realized that I had used the incorrect dove gray first...  When first mixing the grout I had simply assumed that the grout would lighten upon drying instead of actually checking we had the right color.  Assumptions are unintelligent.  By this time, it was too late to run to The Tile Shop to get another tub of the wrong color grout to finish the botched job, so I just moped the rest of the night waiting to go back.

The next morning I woke up to a Sunday miracle.  The grout had indeed lightened overnight and appeared almost white.  It turned out to be quite a blessing in disguise since I actually like it more than the white I had seen in the showroom.  Below you can see the difference between the grout dried (on the right) and wet (on the left).

Grouting took about 4 total hours which was a lot longer than I had estimated.  I was also surprised how much haze was left on the grout when I was done.  Luckily I had picked up some haze remover from The Tile Shop when I picked up the second tub of wrong color grout.

I waited until the next day to use the haze remover since the grout should be dry before using it (FYI: the grout gives instructions on how to let the grout dry slowly by wetting it each day etc, but we did not do this... hopefully that works out... it has thus far).  The haze remover worked great and was super easy to use.  After it had dried our tile was sparkling again.

It looks pretty much amazing.  Admittedly slightly less amazing than I had pictured.  I mean, I really like it, but for some reason I always feel like it looks a little more bathroom than I had expected.

After another day of drying we put the microwave back up.  I had cut out tiles where the microwave screws needed to go into the wall when installing the tile sheets under the microwave.

You may also remember that our new oven has sat a few inches away from the wall ever since we got it.  This was because the outlet was further over than the special outlet cutout area in the back of our new oven, therefore the plug got in the way of the oven moving back.

Titus and I had actually planned on moving the outlet ourselves, but when we removed the cover it ended up being more difficult than we had thought.  So we hired our favorite electrician Andre who came over that night and made a fancy outlet move.

He ended up just moving the outlet to the other side of the wall stud (which is what we figured needed to be done).  It was easier for him since he had the huge stud drill tool needed to do this.  I also love how he calculated his drywall cut so he could just flip the drywall rectangle 180 degrees so we didn't need to patch anything when he was done.

Now we have a beautiful backsplash and an oven moved all the way back to the wall.  Crazy biz.

I love the marble so much.  Probably the most attractive natural stone the big guy ever made.

The variations of color are pretty awesome.

We actually installed the backsplash right after Thanksgiving with hopes of applying the grout sealing before Christmas (but after the 30 day waiting period), however, we still haven't gotten to it.  We hope to apply it soon so we don't get any permanent spaghetti stains along the way.

Until then, here is the pretty nice before:

And the beloved after:

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