What a day! On Saturday’s post I mentioned that this was the weekend the backsplash would be started. And it was.  Let me tell you that it is going to look amazing! Tiling has put this kitchen in a whole other class of awesomeness.

Usually Wade doesn’t want anything to do with yet another DIY project. But something changed and I was not going to question what or why. He was ready and willing to help. We typically don’t work well together, but today we were a well-oiled tiling machine.

The first thing we did was cover all of the countertops. We used red craft paper. This prevented any of the mortar or grout plopping off and drying onto our countertops.  I had previously purchased a large roll of paper at our local big box hardware store and along with it, several rolls of painters tape. This step was simple but a little time consuming.

The next step was to lay out all of the tiles. Laying them out allowed continuity from sheet to sheet. I didn’t want one area to be filled with only one color. I wanted it to flow. Our tiles came in sheets that measured 12×12 inches, but with some under counter lighting, the backsplash area runs 13-14 inches high in most spots.

That means we did A LOT of pre-cutting before putting the tiles on.

A wet saw can be used to make all of these cuts. I found the saw a little intimidating, but after a few practice cuts, it was very easy to use. We borrowed a friend’s saw, but again these can be rented or purchased from your local hardware store. 

After covering the counters, pre cutting our sheets and removing any pieces that might have broken it was time to mix the mortar. Per the mortar-mixing instructions, once it was mixed, you had about 25 minutes to use it before it is too dry. For that reason alone, it is very important to have all of your pieces pre-cut and laid out.

Wade and I choose to mix our own mortar although pre-mixed is an option, a much faster option. Like anything, the more you do it, the easier it becomes. This being our first time mixing mortar, it took us about 20 minutes to get the correct consistency. I had read that the consistency should be similar to that of peanut butter. First, we put water in the bucket and then added the mortar powder. There isn’t an exact recipe for this only because it depends upon how big of an area you are working on and how fast you work. 

We started with about a quart of water and then added around eight cups of powder. From there it was a process of adding more powder and mixing, adding more powder and mixing. One thing we both agreed upon is that a little water goes a long way when mixing your own mortar.

Before applying the mortar we had to make sure the walls were free from dirt, dust and grease. Then we used a plastic spatula (you could use a trowel) to generously apply the mortar to the wall. Another clue I read about consistency, when you put the mortar on the trowel, it will not fall off. But if you gently shake the trowel, it will.

As I took the grooved edge of the trowel and passed over the mortar, the spaces in the edge of the trowel left the proper amount of mortar on the wall. Any excess mortar was left on the trowel. If I didn’t use it, I scraped it off and put it back into the bucket. When purchasing your trowel, be sure to ask a qualified salesperson as to what size of “groove” you would need for the type of job you are doing.

Although tiles come on a webbed sheet backing, (don’t remove your tiles from this webbing) we made sure to gently press each individual tile into the mortar to make sure it had adhered to the wall. If you have excess mortar squish between the tiles, you will need to wipe this off with a damp rag. Also be sure to wipe off all mortar that might be on front of the tiles.

Let me stop here for a second and point out that our tile sheets not only had the webbing behind them, but also a piece of thin plastic so one sheet didn’t scratch another when packed in the box.  We missed removing the plastic on one of the sheets and that was a big mistake. The area had to have new mortar applied and grooved.  Pain in the butt.

The application process is repeated until…well until you are done, out of mortar or tired. We hit tired. This is not a quick DIY. We wrapped everything up around 4:45pm. So factoring in a fifteen-minute lunch, it took us roughly five hours to tile ten square feet, which for us was about half way done.

So here we sit as of last night.

Tomorrow we will continue around the corner and then onto sealing, and grouting and sealing.

It’s gonna be a fun week!

Wendy