Making a ‘Splash

We’ve been watching a lot of the Olympics this past week, so I thought my title would be appropriate with all the water sports going on. As we were sitting in the living room painting cabinet doors and watching, we remembered the London games were on during our first summer of refinishing furniture. Hard to believe we’ve been at this DIY stuff for over 4 years!

The ‘splash I’m actually referring to is of course our backsplash, which we finally got started on this past Sunday. Saturday was semi-productive, with a much needed trip to the Durham dump thanks to our friends and their pickup truck (now we can now easily walk through our garage!), however Saturday’s productivity digressed into an early afternoon tour at the Mystery brewing company in nearby Hillsborough, NC followed by a rescheduled babysitting adventure with my friend’s toddler (very fun, but toddlers are exhausting!).

So Sunday we got started bright and early and Nik measured and cut all the quarter round for the kitchen floor trim while I made some progress with cabinet painting. Then we made a big trip to Lowes to buy tile supplies. We ended up going with the smaller subway tile (3×6″ tiles) even though we went in thinking we liked the 4×8″ tiles – the reasoning is all the bullnose edge pieces of tile matched the 3×6″ size and using these edge pieces on the larger tiles just didn’t look right. We spent about an hour sitting on the floor of the tile aisle at Lowes lining up tiles and assessing the look, and finally made our purchase of 320 tiles plus 32 bullnose edge pieces! That’s a lot of tile – but it only came to about $30 for the edge and corner pieces and about $70 for the full pieces. (The 4×8 tiles would’ve been about $110 so we saved a little going with the smaller, more-standard tiles).

Then we ended up getting pre-mixed mastic, which is basically thin-set mortar, easy to use and you only spread a thin (3/16″) layer of it with a v-shaped comb trowel. Then comes the grout…I want a very light gray grout, to show the definition of the subway tile, but not look busy since our counters have quite a bit going on with them. Unfortunately, the grout we want that has sealer built into it only came in white and a medium gray as the next darkest color. Conundrum. I stared at it for a good 15 minutes, upset that I wouldn’t be getting my nice light gray I wanted, when Nik finally had a stroke of genius and pointed out that we have dark gray grout at home in the same brand, so if we bought the bright white color we could mix in as much dark as we want to get the perfect shade of gray! Apparently my PhD training was not enough to instill this type of intelligence in me, but I’m sure glad Nik’s was.

So on to some pictures…we figured we had enough time Sunday night to get one wall started, just to see how easy the process would be with lining up the tiles, cutting them neatly on the tile saw, and using the mastic. I wanted to do this first wall without error, so I insisted on making a wall template on the floor and pre-cutting all the tiles to fit that, then just popping them onto the wall.

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After lining them up staggered, we could measure what needed to be cut and piece it all together before moving to the wall. This worked perfectly, but it was quite time consuming to do it this way, so I’m not sure we’ll replicate this process for all the walls. I think we determined cutting the tile with our saw was a breeze, and the mastic has a decent amount of workable time before it hardens, so we may just cut-as-we-go for the rest of the walls.

Here’s the precut design:

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And then Nik started spreading the mastic:

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We used pennies to space the tile off the granite, and we didn’t have to use spacers between the tiles because the tiles have built in spacers all around each edge that give you that perfect subway tile spacing.

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And here’s the first wall all done, with the edge pieces and corner in place:

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I think it looks pretty darn good…and I can’t believe how easy it was! This week we’re working on making more progress with the cabinet doors, and on Saturday Nik is on his own since I’m making a quick trip to my parents to get my wedding dress fitted, so I’ve tasked him with nailing in all the floor trim that day. I’ll be back on Sunday so we’re hoping to get the remainder of the backsplash up that day. The grout will have to wait a few days for all the mastic to cure, and then we’ll be spreading that on, with a final step being to caulk all the tile edges.

I haven’t mentioned our gardens in a while, and while we’re still getting cucumbers practically by the bushel, our tomatoes are about at the end of their season. We’ve found a few hornworms on them which are huge and squishy and amazing to look at up close (this healthy one was a good 4″ long!)

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I just bought a bunch of seeds to sow a fall crop, including beets, 2 types of pickling cucumbers, buttercrunch lettuce, kale, collards, and brussels sprouts. We should get these fall crops going soon as well, so this might be another task for this weekend.

We also have a pretty plum gold variety foxglove that started blooming, so I have a picture of that to leave you with.

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2 thoughts on “Making a ‘Splash

  1. drsrjacobs

    I’ve been day dreaming for a while about installing a backsplash nearly identical to this… maybe this winter when I can’t do anything outside anyway!

    Reply

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