This project has been on my To Do list longer than any other, I do believe. We remodeled our kitchen five years ago, as part of the never-ending renovation of our historic house, and I have had the tile on hand since then.
Here is what the backsplash looked like before I started yesterday morning. (It has looked like this for five full years.)
After I cleared the counters, and taped down resin paper over the counters to protect them, and I gathered my tools. It doesn't take many tools.
Rows of tiles MUST be level, so it's important to start with a level base. If your counters are installed correctly, they are already level ... double check just to be sure.
For backsplashes, I use premixed tile mastic. It's easy to work with, and it's perfect for laying tile on walls. Mastic is NEVER to be used in showers or anywhere that gets wet ... for showers, use thinset. Because my tiles are thick, I used a 1/4" notched trowel to apply the mastic to each tile. You can apply the mastic to the wall instead, but be careful not to work in too large an area, or the mastic can skin over and begin to dry before you get tile on all of it.
The ridges created by the trowel apply the exact right amount of mastic to the tile. When you squoosh the tile in place on the wall, the ridges also create suction which holds the tile in place instantly.
Running Bond pattern simply means that tiles are laid like bricks. Because these tiles are handmade, some of them didn't sit exactly straight ... I used little pieces of folded cardboard as shims, when necessary if things looked cock-eyed.
The second row is laid with the center of each tile exactly over the space between the tiles in the previous row. I use a ruler to mark the center on the first tile, to make sure everything is perfect.
The first two rows went on very quickly. On row three, I had electrical outlets and switches to work around. Here is a quick lesson to show you how I mark and cut the tiles around outlets and switches. (Marking is much more accurate than measuring.)
Before working near ANY electricity, ALWAYS turn off the power at the breaker box and test it to make sure it is OFF!
1. Hold the tile in place and mark the vertical edge of the electrical box on the top edge of the tile with a pencil.
2. Now make a mark on the side of the tile below the screw and about in the middle of the ears that secure the switch/outlet.
4. I cut tile with a wet saw set up in our basement garage. This little saw was probably the best $89 I ever spent! In the 9 years I have had it, this saw and I have tiled countless backsplashes, three bathrooms, and acres of floor.
To set the tile in place, I loosen the screws that hold the outlet to the box, and slip the tile behind the outlet's ears. This brings the outlet forward to the level of the new tile. After the mastic is set, I retighten the screws and replace the outlet cover.
I kept setting tile, working toward the inside corner.
Here's another obstacle.
The last tile in each row must be cut to fit accurately into the inside corner. To turn the corner and start on the adjacent wall, I think it looks best to keep some symmetry by matching short pieces to short pieces and long pieces to long pieces in each row ... if that makes sense. Here's a picture so you can see what I mean.
Almost finished. Each tile on the top row had to have about 1/8" cut off so it would fit underneath the upper cabinets. This was really time consuming!
I finished off the end of the counter with a short side-splash, using bullnose tiles to transition cleanly to the wall. I don't have any extra of these tiles with the bullnose on the long side, and I can't get any more, so I was a nervous wreck while marking and cutting this miter joint.
At the end of today, this is what the right-hand side of the kitchen looked like:
I ran out of mastic, just as I put the last tile in place on the side-splash. Tomorrow, I will go to the store to get more and I will try to finish the tile on the other side of the kitchen ... which I will show you in the next installment of this project ... when we learn how to GROUT!
Tiling isn't difficult. If you have any questions, or want some clarification, be sure to let me know. I will answer any and all questions the best I can.