Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Makin' a Splash

... a backsplash, that is.

Just when I thought our tile would spend the rest of its natural life sitting in boxes on our stairs, we got motivated to actually stick it to the walls. Crazy, I know!

Brett told me that once we got started tiling, it would go really fast. I must admit that I didn't really believe him. However, despite a few snags, overall he was right.

Art in progress.

First, we laid out all the tiles in pattern on the counter. Then we mixed up some mortar, and started troweling it onto the wall in small sections. The trowel has teeth in it to make a pattern in the mortar, which helps it grip the tiles. 

Beat that, Mondrian.

I call this one "Still Life with Shop-Vac."

Then we laid the tiles on in a staggered pattern, using 1/8" spacers at each corner.

Fitting the spacers in perfectly is oddly satisfying, especially when they fit so perfectly that they make a little clicking noise going in.

It's the little things.

 This all has to happen pretty quickly, as Brett learned when he was working for Habitat for Humanity. The mortar that adheres the tiles to the floor or wall starts drying out as soon as you mix it, so the useful window to apply it is short. Once, when Brett was being too much of a perfectionist tiling a bathroom floor, his supervisor kicked over the whole bucket of mortar. I imagine him saying "You have five minutes!" and then walking away with maniacal laughter. I'm sure it didn't have that super-villain ring to it in real life, but I enjoy my mental origin story for Brett Barbakoff, Tile Ninja.

However, Brett's experience was all with floors, and a backsplash has some unique challenges. We had to squeeze into a lot of irregular and small spaces and work around four outlets, which meant spending extra time getting the mortar right and cutting a lot of tiles into odd shapes. Even with the tile saw we borrowed from the neighbors, this ended up being harder than we thought. Several broken tiles later, our mortar dried up halfway through. Whoops.

Behold, the dreaded outlet.

By the second wall, though, we had it more in hand.


There are some imperfections that really bug me. Our counter tops aren't perfectly flat (though considering that our floor is so sloped that Hermione can play fetch with herself if she drops a ball in the right spot, it's a miracle they're as good as they are), and those teeny fractions of an inch here and there resulted in some gaps that aren't a perfect 1/8".

I know nobody else will notice them, but they make me a little crazy. When we add the white grout (that's this weekend's project), it will camouflage those spots pretty effectively. That's a secret, though - don't tell any prospective future house-buyers.

Hermione's not talking.

I'm counting down the seconds until I can put my kitchen back the way it belongs!

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