Saturday, July 28, 2012

A Penny For Your Thoughts

Take me to Coinstar because I've got some pennies to cash.  We're nearing the end of Phase 1 in our kitchen renovation, which means it's time to tile the backsplash.  And to help explain the penny puns, we selected some lovely mint green penny tiles for the backsplash.  I could keep making coin jokes, but let's just jump right into the good stuff:

Since we tiled the shower in our bathroom last year, we're no strangers to tiling.

After a bit of research we decided that mastic (or tile adhesive) was the best route for us to go.  Thinset is better for floors or areas with high moisture (like bathrooms), and mastic is better for backsplashes and walls.  We read that you shouldn't apply mastic over painted surfaces (i.e., our freshly painted walls), but we also read that a little bit of sanding 'n scuffing would prepare the surface well enough.  So we scuffed the walls a bit with some sand paper and gave them a good wipe down with a damp rag to remove any sanding dust.  Next we prepared our work area, which is essential when working with a time sensitive project like tiling.  We first laid out some red rosin paper over our new oak counter tops and taped down the edges to keep any mastic or grout from touching them.  Then we prepared the tiles.  Chris measured sections as wide as the tile sheets and drew lines on the walls -- these would be the sections that we applied mastic to, section by section.  Then Chris measured, cut, and arranged the tile sheets to fit the wall.  He laid the tiles on the counter in front of their corresponding spots on the wall.
Our supplies.

Mastic of choice.

Area prepped 'n ready for tile.

We cut half tiles and quarter tiles for filling in tight spaces.  It helped to have them separated into little bowls.

Then it was time to get our tile on.  I thought this was a job that I wouldn't get to help with, assuming it was too technical for me.  But I had an itch, and apparently I took over the whole job.  I began by applying mastic to a marked section on the wall using a notched trowel.  My technique was to basically glob it up there, spread it as evenly as I could, then scrape away the excess using the notched side at about a 45 degree angle.  Once my section was notched and had an even spread of mastic, I applied the tile sheets.  Once I got the tile sheet situated where it should be, I gave it a good press with my hands.  Then I took a piece of 2x4 with an old piece of carpet stapled to it and firmly pressed/banged/hit it along the tiles to make sure they were evenly attached to the wall.  Once the tiles were secure, I took a damp sponge and wiped away any excess mastic that may have crept through the tiles.

First apply mastic with a trowel.

Then apply the tile and press it on firmly.

Adjusting small tiles around the edges of outlet spaces with my fingers.

I worked my way along the backsplash until I got to the stove area.  For this area we tacked up a piece of level wood as a guideline to help keep our tiles straight.  Once we tiled above the wood strip, we removed it and tiled down to the floor.  This ensured our tiles wouldn't get wonky with the large area we had to cover.

Ball Tile so hard.

We let the mastic dry for 24 hours before moving on to the next step: grouting.  Before we started mixing grout, we taped a layer of plastic over top of the rosin paper on the counters -- since grouting involves a bit of water, we wanted to make sure the counters were adequately protected.  We also laid some plastic down along the floor in the stove nook to protect the floors.

For the grout we went with a sanded grout mix, as I read that it's better for backsplashes and tiles with small 1/8" gaps.  We mixed the grout in a 5-gallon bucket, as suggested by the grout instructions.  I started with a few cups of grout mix, then added a little bit of water at a time while I mixed it together.  A little bit of water goes a long way with grout.  I mixed the grout until it had a nice sticky and pasty texture.  Then I let it sit for about 10 minutes before applying it to the tiles.

To apply the grout, I found it was easiest to put a glob on my grout float (sort of like a trowel with a rubbery or foamy bottom) and drag it at an angle along the tile.  This technique helped to force the grout in between the tiles, or at least I thought so.  Just like with the application of the mastic, I worked in sections.  Once the grout lines were filled, I dragged the floater across the tops of the tiles to scrape off any excess grout.  After letting the grout set for about 10 minutes, I took a damp sponge and cleaned away any surface grout.  We used two separate sponges and buckets to do this -- one sponge and buck of water for the first swipe (the messiest) and the second bucket for the final swipe (much cleaner).  This made it easy for us to get the tiles clean without wiping excessively.  We worked our way across the tile, taking turns because apparently grouting is quite the arm workout. 

First apply the grout with a tile float, filling in all gaps between tiles.

Clean off excess grout using a sponge.

After letting the grout set for 24 hours, I took a bottle of water and misted the tile to help prevent any cracking.  I did this a couple times a day for about 2 or 3 days.  We read about a grout haze remove that we could use to remove any lingering grout haze, however we couldn't locate any at our local home improvement stores.  Instead, we just wiped down the tile with some cheese cloth, which worked remarkably well.  Seriously, I wouldn't even suggest purchasing chemicals to remove the haze because the cheese cloth works wonders.  We then applied a grout sealer to seal the grout, and caulked the around the perimeter of the tile. 

Some intense tile polishing.

Weird shot of my arm showing off my cheese cloth.

Rounding out Phase 1 of our kitchen reno will be the re-installation of the stove, as well as the plumbing/installation of the sink, dishwasher, and refridgerator.  And that's it!!  I cannot believe we're actually at the end of something in this renovation.  But we've still got two more phases to go before it's all said and done.  Here's the to-do:

Phase 1: Kitchen Essentials Installation -- ALMOST DONE.
Phase 2: Island Installation
Phase 3: Construction of Pantry



  1. Replies
    1. Hi Tiersha! We bought our tiles from - they still have them in stock! I believe if you sign up for emails, you'll get 10% off your order too!

  2. Beautiful job, instructions well presented! What color grout did you use, I'm looking at these tiles on as well for my bathroom.

    1. Thank you so much! We ended up using PolyBlend grout mix in Bright White. We read in an online review that the matching caulk in Bright White did not match the grout. So we ended up purchasing the caulk in both the Bright White and in Snow White, and tried a little of both against the Bright White grout. We actually found that the Snow White matched the Bright White grout much better. So if you're planning on using the same grout color as we did, you might want to consider buying the Snow White caulk - we found it matched much better!