I keep saying our kitchen is almost done, but it's finally true. The one last step was to install a white subway tile back splash. First off, our new sink. It's the same as the old one, but shiny and new. The lip of the old sink was warped slightly when it was removed to move our cabinets during the flooding fiasco. It's an Elkay Neptune, from Lowes. It's stainless steel with 8" deep double basins.
When we replaced our old counters, the new built-in counter backsplash was more than one inch shorter than the old backsplash, exposing lines and bumps in the wall from paint, caulk, adhesive, etc. We knew we needed to cover this horizontal blemish someday. That day finally came.
The next few photos are to show the Before shots of where we want to install tile. We decided to cover the entire wall, up to the base of the upper cabinets, calculating a total of ~25 square feet.
After consulting our handy Home Depot Home Improvement book and several online guides (1,2,3) we set off to Lowes to purchase all the necessary materials. We needed tile (of course) and chose the smaller 2"x4" white subway tiles, pre-assembled in square foot increments. We needed 22 square feet of those sheets, grabbing 25 for some extra. The brand is by American Olean and was about $3.64 per square foot.
We also purchased unsanded grout (Adhesive and Grout), mastic (Floor & Wall Adhesive), a Skil tile saw, spacers (3/32", to match the prespaced tiles on the sheet), a notched trowel (with notches to match the specs recommended on the mastic tub), and bullnose 2"x6" and rounded edge 2"x2" pieces of tile for the exposed edges.
The portion of the wall behind the stove shows a bit of left over wall paper that the original owners had put up. Isn't it lovely? We had painted right over it instead of trying to peel it off.
We removed this paper towel holder and removed all the outlet and switch cover plates. We also ended up replacing the beige outlets and switches with white ones (another post).
The very first step was to wash the walls with TSP substitute or other good cleaner, then we sanded the walls with 80 grit sand paper to provide a substrate for the mastic to grab.
We measured the wall, finding the midpoint to be at the edge of the counter abutting the stove, so started there. We slapped some mastic on the wall, spread it enough to cover one square foot panel of tile, dragged the trowel notches through at a 45 degree angle, and put up the first tiles, and pushed. We used spacers to leave a small gap with the counter.
To cover the gap behind the stove, we drew a straight line across as a guide, then repeated the mastic-scrape-tile step until we bridged the gap.
We used spacers between each section of tiles, to keep spacing consistent (even though the spacing between tiles in a section were surprisingly variable).
We cut out individual tiles to fill in the areas close to the wall, but left the small "partial-tile" spaces for later.
The lines on the right mark where the tiles would end. The far-right line is the exposed end, for the bullnose tiles. The line to the left is actually two parallel lines, marking the left end of the bullnose, and the end of the regular tiles, so that there would be space for grout.
We continued with the tile sheets to the corner and along the other wall.
Once all the full tiles were in-place, it was time to start cutting tiles for custom fitting. We went with a wet tile saw because there were several spots that required notched tiles, and the "entry level" score-and-snap tile cutter got awful reviews.
That being said, there were several downsides to using a tile saw:
1) Water can suppress only so much of the glass-sharp shards (maybe better saws cut more cleanly?)
2) It's loud and slow, and needed to be used outside.
3) Being sprayed with water when it's near freezing outside is not as fun as it sounds.
That being said, it got the job done. Here's a pair of outlets with a couple of partial tiles left to fill. You can see a notched tile to the bottom-left of the switch, as well as a couple of straight-cut tiles around the outlet openings. Notice the gap at the top of the image, which required me to "rip-cut" a whole series of tiles; I put that off as long as possible.
You can see here how little space we left around the outlets, because we didn't want an unpleasant surprise when we put the outlet covers back on ("Could we fill the gap with caulk?"). Be sure to hold onto all the leftover fragments, because they will come in handy around outlets and against walls.
Here's an almost-finished corner.
Several cut tiles, drying on an old diaper cloth. They also needed to be wiped down to remove tile dust and shards.
Here's the standard Pearson work site mess, with the orange Home Depot book for quick reference.
A finished wall! The dark gaps looked pretty great, and made us consider a darker grout. But there were several places where the tiles were too close together, and most of the cut pieces were chipped by the saw at one corner, so white grout would be much more forgiving.
After cutting tiles lengthwise (rip cuts), we took on the last section: the areas immediately under the cabinets.
Here's one section, spaced and setting.
The left-most section, with the cabinet-adjacent pieces and wall edge pieces being spaced to set.
Stay tuned for the finished kitchen!