Full Album: https://imgur.com/a/Slb3gKN
For the May 24th weekend holiday (Victoria Day) here in Canada, my partner and I decided that we should try to install a backsplash in our kitchen. We like the look of a tile backsplash, and the cost of lumber has put some other projects (like a fence) on hold for now.
This project turned out to be quite affordable, even with having to buy several tools.
The tools and materials we had to get were (prices in Canadian dollars, and after 15% sales tax):
-17.5 sq ft of tile. We bought 3” x 12” white tiles with a slight ‘hammered’ look to them. We thought this was a good balance of classic but with some texture. We purchased 30 sq foot, which turned out to be way too much, and will be returning the extra. Not sure the brand, purchased from The Paint Shop. $100
-1 Gal Type 1 Mapei Tile Adhesive from The Paint Shop. $32
-Schluter Strip. We got the Jolly, in Bright White. Also purchased from The Paint Shop, $6
-10lbs bag of Mapei Ultracolor Plus FA grout in Pearl Grey. Purchased from The Paint Shop, for $32
-Tube of matching Mapei Pearl Grey Caulking. Purchased from The Paint Shop for $24
-Tile Spacers. I got 2 bags of 100 with 1/8” spacing. Don’t recall the brand and lost the receipt, but purchased from The Paint Shop for roughly $5
-Tile Cutter. Borrowed from my father, so fortunately no cost.
-Tile Saw. Powerfist Brand that I found on Facebook marketplace. Previous owner used it for two projects and had no use for it anymore. Also came with two new blades. Snagged this deal for $30!
-Grout Float. Bought a medium firmness grout float from Kent for $14
-Grout Sponge bought from Kent for $2
-Grout mixer, bought from Kent for $11
-5 Gal bucket. Could’ve done with a smaller 2 gallon one. Also would recommend having three instead of 1. Bought from Kent for $5
-Assorted other items like garbage bags, painters’ tape, and various other tools that I already had.
-Tile Nippers from Home Depot for $21
-1/4” square notch trowel from Home Depot. I’d recommend a smaller notch for this size tile on a backsplash, which I’ll explain later. $6
Total Materials Cost: $199
Total Tools Cost: $89
Total Cost: $288
First steps were to clear our countertops of everything, wipe down our walls and counter, and then lay some garbage bags and tape them to the countertop as a drop sheet.
My Father came over to help me with tiling, since he at least had some limited experience working with tile before, even if it wasn’t for a backsplash.
Right off the bat, I wasn’t sure where I should start. I knew I should start from the outside of the counter and work in, and we decided to start on the long wall first, but I wasn’t sure whether to start tile at the edge of the counter or upper cabinet. After a quick google search, I found that you should start your tile at the edge of the upper cabinets, which fortunately meant no miter was needed to add a horizontal portion to the Schluter Strip.
We used a level and drew a line straight down from the upper cabinet to the countertop. This line would be the outside edge of our Schluter Strip. I then applied some tile adhesive and stuck on a piece of Schluter strip that I’d trimmed down to size.
From here, we could start applying more adhesive and begin with the tile! I started applying the adhesive and tile, while my father started trying to cut some in half using the tile cutter. It took a few tries, but we eventually got some to cut right down the middle. Once we had that, we used it as a guide for the next few.
It wasn’t long after beginning to apply tiles that we came across a spot where a complicated cut would be required. The tile needed to have a “U” shape cut for a 3-gang wall plate, plus another “U” shape cut for a single wall plate that held a phone jack. We knew this would be difficult since the bottom edge of the tile would end up being so thin, and we had literally no experience at all with the tile saw at this point. I quickly decided we would just cover up the box for the phone jack; It didn’t have an ethernet cable to use for internet, and who has a home phone anymore. Even with this decision made, we still broke 4 tiles trying to get the single 3-gang box cut out… until we decided to use the first broken tile anyways since the break was relatively easy to hide under the wall plate and not very noticeable. If we’d had more experience with the saw, we probably could’ve gotten this to work.
With that one stubborn tile up, and my father now having some feel for how the tile saw worked, we were good to continue tiling! I was attaching the tiles, and marking them for cuts, while my father did the cutting.
Several more annoying cuts came up, including underneath the upper cabinets because the walls came down further than the back, and around the windowsill where we decided to try cutting out part of the sill to slide the tile behind on one side, and deciding to try cutting a rounded edge around the sill on the other side (cutting a notch from the sill provided a cleaner look). Unfortunately, all of the tiles underneath our cabinets and windowsill also had to be cut in half the long way.
We finished the wall, got some pizza for lunch, and then tackled the shorter wall behind the stove. We should have started with that wall in the first place. It allowed for significantly more full tiles without any cuts, and the cuts were simple. It would’ve been a much better wall to start off on when trying to learn the tools and materials.
And with that, the tiles were up!
That night, I washed down the tiles several times and scraped away any excess adhesive in the gaps or on the face of any tiles. I wasn’t sure if we would have a chance to do the grouting the next day or not, and didn’t want to let the excess adhesive set up too much before getting around to grouting.
The grouting didn’t happen the next day, so the day after that we got to it; this time without my father, it was just me and my partner.
From watching videos and reading online, I was very worried about using the Mapei Ultracolor Plus grout, since I’d heard it sets up so quickly. I’d read that the Mapei Keracolor U was a better grout to work with as a first-time tiler – I looked around at a bunch of the hardware stores, and nobody carried the Keracolor line so I was just going to have to make do with the fast-setting Ultracolor.
I mixed up a half bag at a time since I was told to only do one wall at a time due to the speed that it could set up. We started with the short wall this time since I realized it would be easier to learn on. I applied the grout, while my partner sponged off the excess.
Honestly, I think the warnings I’d read about this grout were overblown. We didn’t end up waiting a full 15-30 minutes like the package said because of those warnings, but I was easily able to apply all the grout to the first wall, then help my partner to clean it all off with a second sponge. By the time we cleaned up the first wall, I probably could’ve still done the long wall based on the consistency of the grout. Since I’d only done half of the bag though, I wasn’t sure if there was enough left in the bucket and I wanted to make sure the colour perfectly matched if the pigment wasn’t distributed evenly in the bag. I scraped out the remainder of the first batch of grout and put it in a plastic bag as an emergency backup, and then mixed the other half of the bag. We applied this to the long wall, which proved to be more difficult as expected. With all the small spaces, the grout float and sponge were both too large to move around everything. It would’ve been nice to have a smaller float and sponge for these spots.
With that, the grouting was basically done! I’d come back a couple of times to wipe off any excess haze, but that was it! Much easier than the negative reviews made that grout sound like it would be.
To be fair though, I didn’t turn the heat on so it was probably only 17 degrees C (62 F) inside while we worked, which could have slowed down the curing process.
Also, a tip… Make sure you don’t lean onto the stove knobs, turning a burner on. It’s especially bad if you’ve got garbage bags laid over top, and a bucket of water also on it. Fortunately, we realized early enough that the only damage caused was the garbage bag being fused to our water bucket.
Next up was caulking. I hated this. Easily my least favorite part of the project.
I thought it would be like doing the corners of a tub or shower, and I’d just lay down a bead, wet my finger, and run it along getting a perfect curve. But nooo, try doing that and it smears all over your countertop and tile and since it’s a contrasting colour, you see every imperfection!
So I tried doing the tape trick. Piece of tape along the wall, and piece along the countertop, then run your finger across, and pull up the tape. I’ve got to admit, this did work well! But was best where you have long straight lines. On the many awkward corners I had in small places, the tape trick didn’t really work. I’m not happy with how some of them turned out, but they’re doing to have to do for now.
Overall, we’re very happy with this project! It makes a huge difference to the look and feel of our kitchen, and was quite affordable, especially for the difference that it makes!
Tiling isn’t that difficult if you get the tools for it, and I would recommend taking on a similar project yourself! Neither my partner nor I have much DIY experience, and we’re still happy with the result, even knowing about all the imperfections.
Feel free to ask any questions about the project, or give some tips and tricks to make it look better next time (if there ever is a next time). I’ll be on and off throughout the day, and will try to respond as I can.