Monday, November 21, 2011

Tiling the Kitchen Backsplash

With the granite counter tops in place, we could turn our attention to the backsplash behind them. Originally both the counter tops and the backsplash was one continuous sheet of butcher block Formica. When the granite was put in, they broke out and remove the Formica on the counter top itself, but we still had broken pieces on the back splash.

We looked at a lot of possible tiles, but eventually decided on two. For the bulk of the backsplash an Ivory Silver Premium Travertine from Floor & Decor. This came in 18 inch by 18 inch squares. I went thru their entire inventory and picked out 25 tiles that looked the best (not cracked, broken or ugly).

For the backsplash behind the stove itself, we decided to go with a stainless steel tile. We found these at Lowe's -- a sheet (about one foot by one foot) of e inch by 4 inch tiles. They appear to be white ceramic tiles with a metal stainless steel cap on top of them, giving the appearance of a stainless steel tile. I bought 9 of these sheets to cover this section. The box says "2x4x12 Stainless Steel Mosaics".

The only thing left was to get an tile installation person. Floor & Decor has an installer that they recommended, Perfect Floors. In addition, a guy (Darrell McGuire) picking up tile at Floor & Decor overheard what I needed and said they did tile installs. As soon as he had picked up the tile they needed for another job, he came over and looked at our job.

The main problem was that the travertine tiles are 18 x 18, but the cabinets are 18.75 inches from the granite to the bottom of the cabinets. That's too much space to fill in with grout; but too little to fill in with a piece of tile. We considered several options: Cutting each piece to be 9.25 inches (so two of them, rotating the tiles 45 degrees (making the longest dimension over 25 inches), cutting pieces to different heights (so there is not a constant height joint down the middle), filling in at the top, or bottom, with a different type of accent tile, and so on.

Eventually Linda decided a 45 degree rotation would be best.

The two estimates came in at $500 or at $540 -- not a big difference. A search on the internet found one (positive) review for Darrell McGuire, and a large number of mixed reviews for Perfect Floors. So we went with Darrell McGuire.

They were to start on Friday at 9:00 AM, so the previous night and that morning I cleaned all the counters off, turned off the electricity to the outlets and switches in the area that needed tiling, and pulled the outlets and switches out of the wall.

Once this was all done, I started removing the old Formica while I waited. I stuck a putty knife up under the Formica as far as possible to loosen it, and then just pulled. I should have worn gloves, as I got a couple of "paper cuts" from the sharp edges, but got it all off before they showed up.

They used a "tile mastic" to glue the tiles onto the wall. The main thing they did was to cut all the tiles to fit in place. There were a lot of cuts. Every large Travertine tile had to be cut at least once. Plus many had to have holes cut for the switches and outlets. Even the stainless steel tiles, which are more or less one foot square mesh sheets had to have some cuts to fill in the half piece holes on the edge.

Once the tiles were installed, they had to sit overnight until the mastic had dried.

While the mastic was drying, I went and got a bottle of Sealer's Choice Gold from Home Depot. A 24 ounce bottle was $34.58. At 6:00 in the morning, I wiped it on the Travertine with a sponge to seal the stone. This was late enough to let the mastic dry, but still give the sealer 3 to 4 hours to dry before Darrell showed back up to apply the grout.

The grout was Antique White. Behind the stove, with the stainless steel tiles, he used a Delorean Gray unsanded grout.

Once things were grouted, I could put the electrical outlets and plugs back in place. The wall is now much thicker than before -- it is about 1.25 inches thick. This meant that I need longer screws to put most of the outlets and switches back in place. Once they were back, I put a foam gasket behind each switch plate and outlet plate.

A few of the electrical boxes had been added after the original work when the house was built; they were added when we changed the lighting in the kitchen. So rather than metal boxes nailed to the studs, they were blue plastic electrical boxes. These have little "flippers" that hold the box in place. But these only work for walls less than an inch thick, and so would no longer work in my walls. Home Depot has an "Old Work Switch Box Support" (I see it under different brand names -- Steel City, Raco, Caddy, ...) that is a piece of sheet metal that is slipped into the wall cavity on the left and right sides and then bent over to hold the box back.

The grout for the stainless steel tiles was harder to come by and so was done on Monday morning. At the same time, they applied a thin bead of caulk (again "Antique White" to match the grout) at the bottom of the tile to seal everything.

But by Monday mid-morning, everything was done. I paid the $500 for the work, and can now put everything back in place on the counters.