20 Jun 2012

The Kitchen: Tile Backsplash

After two days of tiling (during Fin's naps and after she goes to bed only - not full days), we managed to get our new backsplash installed. I am not going to make you read through the whole post to get to the big tile reveal.  I'm giving it to you right now.....

What do you think? 

Thanks for all of your opinions when I posed the question on if we should go straight set or offset.  I posted the question over on Hometalk as well and the answer was a resounding offset.  I have to be honest, I was leaning towards straight set but after so many people said to go offset, I was swayed.  It was important to us that we do something that will appeal to a buyer down the road, so in this case majority ruled.

Remember what it looked like before? Thank God that one row of ugly white tile is gone.

Big change, right? I think so!  The paint on the bottom cabinet doors is still on the to-do list.  We haven't managed to get much painting time in over the past few days, so we still have 2 coats to go (the priming is done) and then the 5 days of curing.

There are a million videos on youtube on how to lay tile, so I am not going to repeat all the steps here again.  What I am going to share, are some of the tips and tricks that we have learned - all through our own trial and error.  Tiling isn't as easy as it looks (or at least I don't think so).  When you watch DIY shows and they just slap up a tile wall in about 4 seconds it looks like it's totally a piece of cake.  Let me tell you - it doesn't happen that fast! There is tons of cutting and measuring....and if you are sleep deprived parents like we are, that takes a lot of brain power and math skills we haven't used in a very long time.

Hopefully these tips will save you some frustration if you are embarking on your own tiling project.

First up is planning.  It's important....really important.  You first have to decide what the focal point of your space is, and then make sure that the tile is centered there.  I hate this step - it causes me a lot of stress.  Mr. Swell and I plan things very differently so we often end up each doing our own thing and then hoping that they match when we show them to each other.  In our case, the focal point of the room is above the stove, so we wanted to make sure that the vertical grout line was centred in the opening below the hood fan.  We actually drew out the whole wall to scale on graph paper.

Yes, we did this old school.....no computers.

Then we marked the centre of the opening with a pencil line and made sure to line up the start of each row along that line.  We worked from the pencil line out to each of the corners.

Cover your countertop with a drop cloth and tape it around the edges.  It may seem like a waste of time since most everything will wipe off of the counter, but believe me, this is a huge time saver in the end.  When you slop thin set on the counter you can just ignore it and move on without worrying that it will dry and you will be scraping it off later (I've scraped...it sucks).

If you have any area that doesn't have countertop (like behind our stove), screw a board in level with the countertop so that you have something to set the tile up against.  This will save you from worrying that the tile is going to slide down the wall (trust me, I have willed tile not to slide down the wall before and it's no fun!).

Do everything in your power to get your hands on a tile saw.  They are priceless.  This is the first tile project that we've been lucky enough to have access to a saw for and it saved us tons of time.  It's much easier than using a tile scorer and nibbler tool.  The saw makes the cuts for the plugs way easier and saves having to deal with splicing together tile.  You can always rent one if buying isn't in the budget.

Template, template, template.  Our tile came with tissue paper between each tile, so it was there and handy to use when I needed to template around a plug or window.  You can use the tissue paper to mark the opening you will need to cut, and can then flip it over and place it on the back of the tile to draw your cuts. 

And lastly, if you have a big area to grout, make use of 2 people.  One person can apply the grout and then the other person can follow 15 minutes later and sponge.  We had a pretty big area to grout, so it took longer than 15 minutes to apply all of the grout.  Having the second person follow behind with the sponge saved us from having to break from applying the grout and risking the mixed grout drying up.

Oh, and also....try not to get too much grout on the walls (clearly we were failing at that).  Grout and wall paint don't mix great and it's a total nuisance to get off if it dries even just a little bit.

Just for fun, here's a few pictures showing our tiling progress over the 2 days. 

I am so happy with it.  This little kitchen of ours is starting to look like something special!

Linking to: Remodelaholic


  1. Wow - I just saw this posting on Hometalk.com and decided to take a look at the blog entry. Thank you for posting this! I love the kitchen transformation.....weve got the white cabinet fever too. :)

    Youve included tips for things I hadnt even thought of already. Our house is very much a work in progress and we have lots of projects going on - our kitchen tile [beveled white subway tile] has been waiting on us for installation since April a year ago.

    I hope we will be able to complete it by the end of this summer. But really, thank you I had never previously considered how we would manage to maintain a level line in the space behind the stove, or covering the countertop while we worked. You have saved us time and several headaches I am sure.

    Thanks - Erica

  2. Thank you so much Erica! I am glad that the tips could help. Good luck with your own project. Send me a pic when youre done. I LOVE seeing transformations.

  3. It came out great!! Makes such a difference...I saw your post on Hometalk and came over to see the results. Amazing! Now following you too on FB and look forward to going through your blog. Thanks for sharing.

    1. Thanks so much Pat. It really is amazing what some paint and tile can do. I still cant believe that its our kitchen.

  4. that is so super sleek, i love it.

  5. Do you know the brand style and color of this tile?? I LOVE it!!

    1. Hi,
      We bought it Rona. Its by Ceramax. Heres the link. http://www.rona.ca/en/ceramic---wall-ceramic-63786496--1
      You might be able to find it online somewhere.
      Hope it helps!


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