Friday, March 29, 2013

Cutting and Installing a Kitchen Backsplash

After quite a few set backs, I finally rented a small MK Diamond wet (tile) saw from The Home Depot after work on Thursday.  The price listed was $46 for 24 hours.  I chose to pay 10% of the rental cost, $4.60, for damage protection, which means that if I accidentally damaged the tile saw, I would not be billed for replacement.  With tax, the amount I owed for rental was $47.02.  However, a $100 deposit was needed, so I used my Home Depot credit card, the first credit card I got to afford our kitchen counter and pay it off over 6 months.

The smaller wet saw was perfect for me: it was less intimidating, possible for me to carry compared to the large rental, and could fit in the back seat of my brother's car.  I forgot to ask how to set up the tile saw while I was signing the rental contract, so when I got home I watched videos about tile saws.  Here are some I found most helpful:
Cut stainless steel fronted ceramic subway tile with a wet saw
After a few trial runs, I found folding my tile in half (along the mesh backing) and essentially doubling the layers was the best way for me to cut the thin tile.  I chose to set the subway pattern on the vertical, so I needed to cut off the staggered portion off one end.  If you have tile that is more than 6"x 6" without a mesh backing, I would recommend renting the larger MK Diamaond Saw.
Cutting 16 tile squares, including cutting out sections that would hug around the windows and outlets in our kitchen, took me about 3 hours from set-up to clean-up even with a steep learning curve.  Even so, paying for a 24 hour rental window was worthwhile, which included not feeling rushed while operating a spinning diamond blade for the first time.  =D  When I returned home on Friday, it was about 6:00 pm.  Instead of installing tile, I spent the rest of my Good Friday with my family.
On Day 2 - Saturday
On Day 2 - Saturday
I am not a professional tiler, so again, I recommend these videos for installation instructions:

I turned off the power at the circuit breaker and removed the outlet plates before adhering the tile to the walls.  I was weary of losing the screws, so I cut pieces of painter's tape to hold them in place.  I also later covered the outlets themselves with painter's tape to prevent adhesive from getting in the outlet holes.
We also had leftover Bulls-Eye tile spacers that I used for this installation.
As the tile were laid in a stagger pattern, I decided to cut the spacer into individual pieces.
I used a 1/8" trowel that we used in laying the granite and pebble tile in our bathroom.  I spread the mastic on the wall using the flat side, and then combed it at a 45 degree angle to create grooves to evenly disperse adhesive.  I used the dove-like cut spacers between the mesh sheets of tile.
I used a float, not the notched trowel, to apply even pressure to the tile faces.  It helps ensure that the tile is level and firmly pressing into the mastic on the wall.
After the bottom layer of square foot tile was adhered to the wall, I measured 15 3/4" up from the counter and marked where the tile should stop and the kitchen shelving should go.  I used my dad's old level, dust and all, a yardstick to check the level line for height accuracy, and then I carefully marked the lines with blue painter's tape.  Now, the area where the shelves will go will be clean of mastic and grout, but also, since the tape is about the same thickness as the shelves I'm building, it gives me a guide and visual of where the shelves will be.  :)
To check to make sure the shelves would allow clearance of a standard tall appliance, I borrowed the blender I purchased for my mom.  I did not install 3 of the tiles I cut with the wet saw because they required more detailed cuts for the other two outlets on the south window wall of our kitchen.  I'll use my new Dremel 3000 Rotary Tool for that.  :)
I had purchased only 20 sheets of tile, so to maximize my purchase, I used the remaining 4 sheets by cutting them into individual tiles or "buddy tile" for finishing the rest of the wall up to the shelf line.
As the sun started its descent into the horizon on Saturday before Easter, I laid the "buddy tile" and my tile with square "half" tiles on the counter with two spacers per group.  I wanted to ensure that everything would be ready to go once I returned to finish adhering the tile, spacers included.  :)

Logged work time:  ~ 5 hours (includes 2 hours to lay first course of "whole" tile)
Transportation time:  ~ 2 hours (to and from Home Depot to rent and return tile saw)
Dremel cuts and completing tile adhesion to the wall

On Day 1 - Good Friday Rental Return Day.

I used folding metal saw horses to create a stand for the wet saw, using scrap plywood as a top.
I went to work cutting straight edges on the side that would be placed parallel to the counter until I had little tile squares leftover for filling in the staggered pattern later.

Logged work time:  ~ 3 hours
Transportation time:  ~ 2 hours (to and from The Home Depot to rent and return)


  1. I have never attempted a back splash myself, yours is looking great.

    1. Thank you, Lois. :) I hope to finish all the steps by this Saturday.

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