Saturday, March 20, 2010

DIY project: Kitchen backsplash steps 3 and 4

It's a beautiful almost-spring day, and because spring cleaning is done over here, it's time to return to the kitchen for our DIY backsplash installation.

Forgive me if I sound like I am writing a series of entries for "Backsplashes for Dummies," but frankly Matt and I are serious home improvement dummies, so I think it's best to chronicle our successes and failures in a detailed manner. Also, since announcing that we would begin installing our backsplash, at least five friends who read this blog asked me to write about it in great detail because this is a project they plan to tackle themselves. So, let's continue...

Yesterday we visited Home Depot for step 3: make our final equipment purchases before we set out to lay some tile today. We are also accomplished step 4: pre-treating our tile to make it pretty and make our lives easier during the installation process.

Step 3: Have your materials all lined up.
First, what materials do you need before you set out to install a backsplash? Here's what!

Our pre-ordered materials from Circa Tile:
  • The tile itself, which came in about a week and a half ago and we picked out at the start of March. Here it is, all laid out in our garage, getting ready for step 4.

  • Grout.

Our Home Depot materials we picked up Friday:
  • Tile sealer. Ours is one quart of SurfaceGard Stone, Grout and Tile Sealer ($29.49...expensive, right? It's the cheapest one they sell!). It "repels dirt, oil-based and water-based stains" and is intended for "marble, granite and other stone; grout tile and masonry."

  • Adhesive, for getting the tile to stick to the wall. Ours is one gallon of AcrlyPro Ceramic Tile Adhesive (which is the title, but it's also intended to "set porcelain, ceramic, marble and stone tile," and we're working with stone) ($11.97).

  • A notched trowel, for spreading the adhesive on the wall. Ours is a 3/16 x 5/32" V-shaped Notched Wall Trowel ($2.97).

  • Two putty knives for spreading grout. Get ready for this: we made a crazy last-minute substitution last night. We were planning to buy two grout floats, the weapon of choice most grout-installers use, but our Home Depot sales associate looked at our tile (which we brought to the store) and said we would be better off with putty knives for getting our grout in all those tiny spaces given our specific type of tile. Ours are Hyde Flexible 1.5" Putty Knives ($5.97 each).

  • Two sponges, for cleaning up grout ($1.97 each).

  • Two giant buckets, one for mixing grout and one for rinsing with water ($2.34 each).

One item we borrowed from our ever-so-generous neighbors Paul and Mimi (who may have borrowed it from one of their parents), this tile wet saw for cutting tile:

If you do not have such generous neighbors, there are some other possibilities for getting this item. Besides buying one yourself, you can rent one. We discovered that renting one of these would cost $65 per day, and if we planned to use it more than two days (and there is a distinct possibility of that happening for us) it would make more sense to purchase one ourselves. Another possibility is to take your tiles to Home Depot. They will charge $1 per cut. Yet another option was for us to take our tiles to our sales associate at Circa Tile, but he did not specifically say how much he would charge, but instead said, "I mean, I am not going to cut a whole bunch, but I can cut some for you." Then I wanted to ask, "Do you mean cut some for free?" but I stopped myself. Thankfully, we get to borrow this saw and hope that when we return it Matt and I still have 20 fingers between us.

Step 4: Seal the tile.
Because our tile is natural stone, it is necessary for us to treat the tile twice -- once before we start our project to protect the tile during installation, and again when our project is complete, approximately 72 hours after we have finished grouting.

This is an easy step, one I accomplished last night in between glasses of sparkling wine while Matt was finishing making our homemade pizza (on the grill!) before we watched "Precious." So, pretty easy. With the tile all laid out in our garage and my bottle of SurfaceGard handy, I got to work.

The SurfaceGard bottle's instructions recommended that I test the tile before applying the sealer. So I took one of our 17 blocks of tile and sprayed the tile all over. It looked pretty saturated, and I freaked out a tiny bit. Then I rubbed it with one of the sponges and came back five minutes later as instructed.

When I returned the tile still looked really wet. I feared I had turned our slate tile black. So I kept rubbing it with the sponge, trying to remove any excess sealant as the bottle instructed. Then I decided to apply the sealant to the sponge instead of spraying the tile and try that trick as I worked on the rest of the tile. This plan was much better than my original idea of simply spraying the tile. Once I changed my approach it took me about five minutes to seal the remaining 16 blocks of tile. Finally, I came back five minutes later to remove any remaining excess sealant.

By that time, the pizza was ready and the movie was in the DVD player, and I prepared to cry several times during this heart-wrenching movie. At least my book club read "Push," the novel on which the movie is based, last month, so I had an idea of what I was in for. Still, the movie felt more brutal than the book, which was pretty brutal on its own.

Horribly depressing movies aside, this morning we woke up to find some nice-looking tile in our garage, desperately waiting to be installed. Now the real test begins. The kitchen countertops are cleared, the materials are ready, but I do not know if I am ready. I will keep you posted!

Next between tiling, I'll tell you about my favorite tank tops.


  1. Love the tile! Great choice!!

  2. Yay! I feel famous since you called us out on your awesome blog! I'm glad you guys still have 20 fingers. Paul said the the back splash looks awesome and from the pics I have to agree!

    Now I suggest you blog about grilling, specifically grilling pizza! Do Share!