I’ve done my fair share of tiling.
In the past, I’ve blogged about tiling our old fireplace in slate, a bathroom in travertine on the diagonal, a laundry room in travertine in brick pattern, and a backsplash in subway tile. And now our current kitchen got the hex marble tile backsplash.
I showed you the before and afters but I didn’t really explain any tips. So that’s what’s on our docket for today…a bit of info for the newish-to-tiling folks who may want to try their hand at backsplashing. If you are a tiling rookie – check out the old posts first to get a good foundation and then come back here for more info…
- Start with a clean slate – or countertop Since we removed the previous backsplash tile, there was quite a bit of junk left over on the countertops…old grout and caulk. We made sure to clean the countertops perfectly before starting our tiling efforts because all that crud will be much harder to remove once the new tile is in place. A putty knife and a Clorox wipe did the trick in removing the really stuck-on stuff. And yes, I was very careful not to scrape too hard – don’t wanna scratch up the granite!
- Use tape to protect the edges. When tiling, you use an adhesive (also called thinset) to basically glue your tile to the wall. That thinset can be messy and drip onto your countertops. I found a couple strips of Frog Tape right next to your tiling surface can eliminate most of the hard clean up after that adhesive is dry. Just pull it up before grouting and you are ready to go. No elbow grease required.
- Lay it out and sort. Since most natural stone comes in different boxes there is no guarantee that they are born from the same piece of stone (most folks will need more than one box of tile when they are tackling projects), we laid out every bit of tile to see what we were working with. Some of our tile was more gray and some more yellow, some more white and some had more flecks in it…it all is different and we learned that mixing it all together was the best way to get a cohesive finished look. We also found that sometimes we didn’t like a certain hex…so we would use that particular sheet of tile as a cut piece. We saved our favorites for the areas that were most prominent – like over the stove top and next to our window.
- When in doubt, buy premixed. This may come as a shock but I have no idea what ‘consistency of peanut butter’ really means. Does it mean creamy or crunchy? Jiffy or Peter Pan? Are we talking a brand new jar or one that’s seen a few banana sandwiches? All these things are confusing to me…I blame the fact that my mom always bought us the natural stuff…you know…the one with the layer of oil floating on the brick of peanut morsels laying on the bottom of the jar…the one that is near impossible to mix. So when I read instructions on how to mix thinset correctly – I get all sweaty. I know the consistency of thinset is really really important in tiling….so instead of trying to make it correctly at the ‘consistency of peanut butter’, I just buy it premixed.
- Step back and take it in. All too often I find myself looking at other people’s tiling jobs to see that the installer didn’t look at the grand scheme of things. They never stepped back and considered what would look best. Is the tile too uniform when it shouldn’t be? Is the color variation looking good? Does everything look even from far away? Do I notice anything that looks badly spaced or unlevel? Taking a moment between tiles to step back and look at the metaphorical trees and forest is a good idea. Wearing a shirt with holes while pregnant…not a good idea.
- Use tape to hold up the unsupported tiles. The thinset does take a little time to dry and set up completely…and you can’t afford to sit there holding up tiny cut tiles in place. I always just wrap a piece of Frog tape around the tile and extend it at least six inches onto the wall to hold it tight. Its like a bra for your tile…cause nobody likes a sagger.
- Use spacers generously. Don’t be afraid to use spacers. I’ve heard horror stories about professional tilers who felt like their ‘eyeballed’ spacing was perfect…and it wasn’t. Let’s be honest, eyeballing should be left to model scouts…not tilers. Don’t be afraid to grab an extra bag of spacers. The more the merrier. Stuff one in any little crack. (yes, that last line was for all you ‘that’swhatshesaid’ peeps)
- Thinset right over seams. Most times you will be tiling on top of drywall or cement board…and there will be seams. If your seams are already filled then hopefully you will have a very level surface. If your seams aren’t filled, then just squish some thinset in there and move on.
- Practice scraping with a trowel. The key to getting a good scrape is to have the right size trowel (here’s a chart that I love to reference) and to practice getting your 45 degree on. If the humps of thinset aren’t right, your tile might not stick the way you want. Just a few swipes at the correct angle will teach your wrist what position it needs to be in…it’s called muscle memory
- Spacer at the bottom and push tile till level. First of all – put a little spacer between your countertop and the tile. If your countertop or bottom cabinetry move – the space will allow for flex and not jack up your backsplash. Also – make sure you push your tile till it’s level. Use an actual level if necessary to double check. Rub your hand over all the finished and in place tiles to make sure nothing is sticking out too far. It’s a simple step that helps!
- Get scrappy! Those little bits that you trimmed off can be saved and possibly used…don’t forget to keep them. You can always cut them for around outlets and in weird areas. And if you don’t like a certain tile in a sheet…just cut it out with a blade and replace with a spare.
- Invest in a wet saw. Our wet saw has been one of the best under $100 tools we could ever ask for. It’s been used at least a dozen times (for our projects and for friends and family projects) and still is going strong. The blade has been replaced once which is kinda pricey (my dad did his entire master bathroom and shower and wore the diamond tipped blade down) but this thing has paid for itself ten times over. Put it as close as you can to your project area but in a space that can be sprayed out with a hose (we put ours in the garage and clean up is a breeze!).
Any other tips you have heard that saved your tiling project? Any tips that made it easier or less of a headache?
I missed Frog Tape friday the first few weeks of this month…you know…keeping the tiny humans fed and changed and all…so I’m doubling up this week. This is a sponsored post brought to you by FrogTape. The opinions are completely my own based on my experience. Oh and yes, Santa knows I want a big box of Frog Tape. BIG. HUGE. Like the size of my head