Monday, February 18, 2013

Tiling our Backsplash: Part 1

This weekend we finally got started on our next project, tiling the kitchen backsplash. Here's where we left off in the kitchen a little more than a year ago.  

For the backsplash, we picked white and gray carrara marble because I thought it would tie in nicely with our white cabinets and steel gray granite counters.  I went back and forth a lot about exactly what shape tile to pick and finally selected a herringbone pattern of 1x2" tiles.  Obviously, this is not an easy pattern to DIY and probably not the one you would select for your first tiling experience, but oh well, we went with it!  
 First we prepped the backsplash by protecting our counters with tape and paper and removed all of the outlet covers (remember to turn off the power to each!).  We had painted drywall in place, so there was no further prep for the walls, but you will want to make sure you have a clean flat surface for the tile to stick to.

We unpacked and laid out all of the tile that we received so that we could examine all of the pieces and use them together. Do this so that you don't run into any issues when laying tile from one box next to another. With natural stone, there are going to be differences across the tile, so we made sure to blend them together.  
Chances are, you are going to need a tile saw for this project, unless you are really lucky and working with very small tiles. We definitely needed a quality saw to cut all of the angled pieces of the herringbone pattern and decided that renting was the best option for us. We were able to rent a saw for the weekend for around $100 and got to use a much better saw than what you would be able to buy at that price.  The wet saw has a diamond blade that cuts right through the tile.
The mosaic tile was a little tricky to cut with the saw, but it worked well to place tape on the tile where you wanted to cut. We also used tape to keep tiles in place that might want to move on the mesh or when the saw hit them.  However, it was pretty easy and once you got the hang of it, you just figure out where you want your cut and line it up.
After we calculated and made our first few cuts, we laid it out on the floor to check that we were correct. Here you can see that we have matching pencil tile as the border for everywhere the tile ends. 
Next, we applied mastic with a v-notch trowel to the wall. If you're not familiar with the differences in mastic and thinset for setting tile, check out these resources here and here. Mastic is an adhesive not a cement-like product and really great option for an area that won't be wet all of the time. It has great sticking power, so you can put heavy marble tiles up and they immediately stick to the wall without sliding down.  
After the mastic is spread out, arrange your tiles on the wall and press them to make good contact with the wall. Use spacers underneath the bottom row of tile on the bottom, so they are not resting on the countertop and use more spacers throughout to keep tiles the correct distance away from each other.  The mastic we used was really strong at sticking but still allowed me to make small adjustments for a few hours until it was completely dry.  
When you come to an outlet, you will want to remove tiles from the mosaic so that you can fit your tile around them.  Use a razorblade to cut the mesh and remove the tiles you don't want.
Repeat, repeat, repeat... Keep cutting tile, spreading mastic, and placing tile until you've covered all of your area.  We had lots of little triangle, puzzle-like pieces that we had to go back in and place after we were done with the bulk of the tile. We were lucky and had plenty of cut tiles to use where the pattern met the counter and around outlets. 

Finally, we were able to step back and enjoy the semi-finished result! 

The next step is sealing the marble tile and grouting!


  1. The tile is stunning! It works perfectly with your cabinets and counter tops.

  2. It looks so good. Props yall did an awesome job!

  3. Oh my goodness, Meredith it looks so so good! I absolutely love it! You make it look SO easy! That wet saw intimidates me, but we will have to bite the bullet and get one for our tiling project. We're hoping to do white subway tiles in our kitchen soon. Thanks for all the tips and for sharing!

  4. Nice work .Thanks for the share. Keep up writing so that we can get more informative blogs like this one.
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  5. THANK YOU so much for sharing this! It looks beautiful! I do have a question for you....when going back to fill in the spaces around outlets and the top of the counter and bottom of the cabinets - what did you use to cut the small pieces of tile? (I know you mentioned you guys had lots of small pieces leftover from the overall cutting but did you need to cut any additional small pieces?) It seems scary using the tile saw to cut small pieces or it seems like the saw might not work well for cutting small size pieces?

    Thank you again for your help!

  6. This is the right blog for anybody who desires to find out about this topic. You realize a lot it’s virtually exhausting to argue with you (not that I truly would want…Ha-ha). You undoubtedly put a new spin on a topic that’s been written about for years. Great stuff, just nice!
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  7. Do you have any after photos? I am curious what color grout you picked.

    1. Hi Jaime, I posted the pictures of the tile with grout here:

      We chose a very light gray grout color, I think it works really well!

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  12. Your kitchen looks great! You may have already said somewhere, and I know it's been a while, but where did you buy the tile at? It looks great!

  13. Oh my goodness, Meredith it looks so great! I completely cherish it! You make it look SO natural! That wet saw threatens me, however we will need to take care of business and get one for our tiling venture. We're wanting to do white subway tiles in our kitchen soon. A debt of gratitude is in order for every one of the tips and for sharing!

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  15. Perfect work! It's look much better in white color. I'm fall in love with your new tile backsplash. The wood stove mount now look too dark, in my opinion. But maybe I'm wrong.

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