Monday, February 8, 2016

We are Finally Getting Around to Our Back Splash!



Our kitchen renovation has been in progress for longer than we like to admit. I catch a serious case of procrastination when one of my projects looks OK and becomes usable. I need a good kick in the butt to get around to the finishing touches.

We have hesitated completing all the posts about our kitchen renovation because we want some jaw dropping "after renovation" pictures to share. We are finally getting around to the marble back splash and being able to finally enjoy all of our hard work on the remodel!

Jenn and I have been tiling all weekend long, about 20 hours, to get to the point in the picture you see above. I swear Jenn is going to kill me if I ever tell her I'll probably have a project done by the time she gets home from work on Friday again! Getting straight lines on a crooked wall with 3x6 subway tiles is a lot harder than I thought.

We chose marble subway tile from Lowe's that costs $6 a square foot. The problem with this tile is the color variation is huge. To find the 70 boxes of white tile to match the counter top we needed we had to look through 5-600 boxes of tile. That was a lot of trips to Lowe's all over the city before we could even start. All the rummaging through tile worked out though because our other option was $20 sf online which would have put us at $1500 for our back splash instead of $500 we spent at Lowe's.

Picture of the tile we selected from the Lowe's website showing the color variation if the tile is not sorted.

I started the project on Friday with the help of my parents by pulling the range, removing the cover panels from the cabinet sides, and covering the countertops with cardboard. My dad had a the good idea to draw vertical lines marking the start of each row of tile to make sure we kept the pattern consistent and to account for the wall which was 7/8 of an inch out of square from top to bottom. We marked our first vertical line one tile width away from the most out of square section of the wall then marked two more vertical lines at 1/3 a tile width and 2/3 a tile width. This way we didn't have any small slivers of tiles to get to the edge of our crooked walls.


 Once we got the lines drawn we got to tiling. We started to notice the tiles were going on the wall much much darker than anticipated. I read the details on the Mapei Type I mastic a Lowe's associate had recommended and noticed: "not for natural stone". So we sadly stripped our first three rows of tile, cleaned them, and made a second trip to Lowe's for Mapei Premium Mortar for Tile and Stone. This one had a green top, was $50 for a 3 gallon bucket, and said it was specifically for stone. But based on the day's earlier debacle, we thought it would be a good idea to call the manufacturer to confirm we had the right stuff.

A Mapei representative was super easy to get on the phone by the way. After some disclaimers about what the Marble Institute of America recommends, the rep said he has been laying tile for a long time and said if it were him, he would not use the Premium Mortar for Tile and Stone. He said he was holding a dried sample of it at his desk and though it says it is white in color, it really dries a beige shade that could affect the color of the marble. He recommended we use Mapei Large Tile and Stone Mortar in white.

The mortar works best when mixed 4 parts mortar to 1 1/4 parts water.

It looks like we have another day or two of tiling next weekend, then grout and sealer. The thin set behind the tile is still wet so the tile should dry much whiter than in the pictures in the post. Fingers crossed. We can't wait to share our "after" photos with y'all!

Immediately after grouting