The final step of the kitchen renovation was installing the tile backsplash. This was a job that I was pretty sure I could tackle by myself. I did a lot of research on the subject and nothing really seemed beyond my capabilities. It would be the first home renovation (involving cutting things) I would take on completely by myself (note: Michelle helped with the grouting).
Michelle and I liked the look of travertine (a type of stone) the best after shopping around many different stores. Surprisingly enough the stuff we liked the most was from The Home Depot. The only problem was that there were stocking issues with the stone and it was not available through a special order. Annoyingly we had to check back at the store regularly to see if they had received any (or found some that they had lost). We ended up having to buy the 42 square feet we needed over two separate occasions as they received shipments. This put our plans of getting the tile installed right away a little out of whack.
We borrowed a wet saw from one of Michelle’s colleagues and I was underway. My plan was to get the tile on the wall over a Saturday and Sunday, and then grout one night during the week. I was calling this my best case scenario which I was sure was not going to hold.
As expected, my Saturday wasn’t as productive as I was hoping since Michelle’s dad and uncle stopped by to start work on putting in a cabinet outlet for the microwave. This chewed up a good chunk of my afternoon. Sunday however went quite well and I probably could have finished, but I thought it would be safer if I stopped. I was super tired and figured I would start making stupid mistakes….like cutting off my fingers.
The grouting didn’t go exactly as we were hoping. A day after applying the grout I noticed some problem areas that had cracks and small pinholes. I wasn’t sure what to do about these and started to get quite worried. After some reading and talking to some friends I just decided to repair the problem areas with the help of a grout saw and fresh grout. It appears to have worked.
After letting the grout cure for a few days I moved on to the final step of sealing the travertine and applying a silicone caulk around the backspash perimeter. Even though I finished this up late on a Thursday night I decided to clean the kitchen and put it back together. I was tired of it being out of commission for the last week and a half. Plus I wanted to wake up to something nice.
Here’s what I learned about installing the tile:
- Wet saws are extremely messy and spray water in your face.
- My knowledge of the Imperial System is terrible, making measuring my cuts go slowly.
- Cutting the stone around 7 electrical outlets/switches, 6 cabinet overhangs, and a window takes very precise measuring.
- Pre-mixed mastic adhesive should actually be sticky. The first stuff I bought was dried out, but I wasn’t quite sure since I had never seen the stuff before.
- Installing 40 square feet of backsplash is a lot, and is hard on your back.
- The mixing instructions on the grout package are not even close to correct.
- Using your fingers to smooth grout lines between travertine tears your skin apart.
- Packing grout between porous and ragged edges of the tiles is extremely difficult.
- Applying silicone caulk sucks.
- The feeling of accomplishment after the job is pretty cool.
You can see more shots of the tile install, and the “after” pictures on my Flickr site by following the links below.
- Backsplash Install Thumbnails
- Backsplash Install Slideshow
- The “After” Thumbnails
- The “After” Slideshow