Sunday, February 28, 2010

DIY project: Kitchen backsplash step 1

Matt and I have talked about installing a kitchen backsplash for the past two years. We moved into our house three and a half years ago and we are the house's second owners (the house was built in 2002).

This is why we want a backsplash. Our kitchen is very white: white appliances, white cabinets, light wood floors, and a granite that is light (and not our favorite).

Two items to note in the photo below: 1) Doc's insistence on a cameo appearance, and he is feeling normal-ish after his health scare this week. 2) The flowers on the island are what Matt bought me on Valentine's Day. Buy your flowers at Whole Foods! Cheap and last not buy them at Costco, they die overnight.

Here's a close-up of our granite to help you see what we're working with:

So kitchen backsplash step 1 is figuring out what you want your backsplash to look like and ordering the materials. I am happy to report we placed the order for our materials Saturday aftenoon.

Here's what we went through to make up our minds:

1) In December I spent several hours looking for online inspiration. I couldn't find many photos of kitchens with backsplashes that looked much like our kitchen. Not too many people have white cabinets, or if they do, they are not posting their home-improvement projects online. I finally found one look that I liked that included white cabinets and our granite color, and the backsplash was made up of dark tiles.

2) In January Matt and I visited the Mosaic Tile Company in Chantilly, Va., and we worked with an incredibly helpful sales rep. She picked out a sample of our white cabinets and a sample of our granite and played around with color combinations. She agreed with us that we needed a dark tile color and ideally a non-busy pattern or even just solid color because we're trying to complement some busy granite. Thirty minutes and many tile-combinations later, we found an awesome look: rectangular slate tiles of different lengths that fit together like a puzzle. The varying lengths of tiles made for a very modern look. The tile comes in square-foot sheets. The downside: a sheet costs $27.15, and we're covering about 16 square feet. So, not too cost effective.

3) In mid-February Matt and I visited Home Depot. The Mosaic Tile Company puts Home Depot to shame. Home Depot has increased its ceramic and glass tile selection, but you're still not going to find nearly the variety you'll get at a specialty store. After about 30 minutes of searching, though, we considered these incredibly economical black subway tiles ( a 3"x 6" tile costs just 57 cents, or $4.56 per square foot). Still, we weren't in love.

 4) Three's a charm: yesterday Matt remembered that hidden behind a shopping center near our house there is a store called Circa Tile. The showroom is only about one-fourth the size of Mosaic Tile Company's massive and beautiful showroom, but Circa Tile still has great selection and, in our experience, better prices.

It was at Circa Tile that we found this little gem, rectangular slate tiles of various lengths. Sound familiar? It's almost identical to what we found at Mosaic Tile Company, but this tile costs $16.99/square foot rather than $27.15/square foot.

So the nice sales rep at Circa Tile let us bring this sample home to try it out in our kitchen.
We were sold. We went back over our kitchen sketch and triple checked all our measurements. We basically have five sections where we will be adding our backsplash.

Here's the whole kitchen sketch, and you can see where I added in red our triple-checked measurements:

And here are the five areas in our kitchen where we'll be adding a backsplash soon:

Area 1: to the left of the sink (coffee maker zone!)

Area  2: tiny space between the sink and the ledge (dead zone)

Area 3: to the left of the sink (canister land #1)


Area 4: to the left of the fridge (canister land #2)

Area 5: to the right of the fridge (toaster oven province)

Our total square footage for the backsplash area is 15.8 square feet, so we'll round up to 16 square feet.

We hopped back into the car at 1:40 on Saturday afternoon, which was good timing because we did not realize the store closed at 2 p.m. Our friendly sales rep informed us that the company that sells our tiles has started making the tiles in 5 square foot sheets and charges customers $6 for broken cartons (a response to the bad economy). You're supposed to order about 10 percent more tile than you need to account for breaking and human error, but our tile is somewhat unique because of all the tiles' different widths and lengths that allow you to more easily fill in gaps. So we were originally just going to order 17 square feet, but there was the possibility we would have to buy one more square foot while we were in the midst of our project, and then we'd have to pay another freight charge and another broken carton charge. 

It made the most economical sense to get 18 square feet at once and only pay the broken carton fee once and the freight charge once. We also went ahead and bought our grout because the tile store has much more selection than Home Depot and the price is the same. We went with a grout that is several shades lighter than our tile, which will help accentuate the patterns of our tile.

Here's the price break down right now:
  • Midnight Random Strip Cleft and Honed (the tile) 18 square feet -- $305
  • TEC light pewter sanded 25 pound grout -- $21.95
  • Broken carton charge -- $6
  • Taxes -- $16.69
  • Total: $350.46
We will have to pay the freight charge when our materials arrive, and that will be about $30.

This is by no means cheap. If all goes according to plan this entire project should cost around $425. Doing the installation ourselves will be a test of wills, but we already got an estimate for the installation from a contractor, who told us he would charge at least $600 for installation alone. When we originally dreamed up our backsplash a couple years ago, we imagined our total costs staying below $500.

For this project, we went with a high-end product, though we could have gone even higher. Our philosophy here is that, unlike paint colors, which are easy to switch out, a backsplash should last for a very long time. Also, our kitchen is so white right now, and we do not plan to change the cabinets, and while we do have plans to install stainless-steal appliances, that will be a slow process we'll handle as appliances stop working or we outgrow them. For now this investment will be something we'll enjoy in our home and we hope the future owners of our home will also enjoy.

Our tile arrives in a week, and then when we have time on the weekend we will start the installation process. 

In the meantime, we're getting educated about installing tile, and we'll share that info tomorrow.

1 comment:

  1. good luck guys! I'm super excited to see how this turns out for you since we want to eventually tackle the project too! We have a wet saw from when we did the tiling in the condo, you can borrow it to cut the tile if you need one.