I’m back to share all the details of how we installed the backsplash! In case you missed it, here’s how the backsplash is looking these days all finished.
And just to compare, here’s where we started, way back when. Dark and drab.
And now the backsplash. Improving on the big improvement.
There’s still some things left to finish (peninsula trim, crown molding, lighting), but this really helps the kitchen seem more complete.
We stared and stared at the samples, and finally decided to go with the Hampton Carrara Satin 3×6 subway tiles. The grout is Unsanded Whisper Gray, but we didn’t decide this until after we laid the tile. More on that later.
I went all over the place looking at marble tile, from Home Depot and Lowe’s to what seems like every local tile shop. The local shops had some beautiful tile and some were great prices, but the one thing I didn’t like was that all the shops I talked with, you have to special order it and there are no returns. You order a little bit extra to account for irregularities and if you mess up cutting, so if you have any left over you have to eat the cost. The Tile Shop lets you return tile as long as it’s a full box, so that really sold me.
We ended up ordering 40% more than our square footage. Why? Because I’m a tad tile crazy. The sales person was very nice and in fact very enabling of my tile craziness. I was worried we’d end up with a bunch of tiles that had all sorts of irregularities and colors I didn’t like, so he said we could just order a bunch extra and return the boxes we didn’t use. Sounds good to me.
The tile came in and was not, in fact, irregular or oddly speckled or anything like that. I still liked having the choice of tiles. First thing I did was start choosing the tiles I liked and laying out a pattern. I wanted it to look natural and varied, but in an orderly way. See, tile crazy.
I really liked this tutorial from The DIY Show Off on how they installed their marble backsplash, so like them I used OmniGrip to set the tile.
Start from the outside, or more visible side, and then go in. You want to end the tile on the least visible part of your backsplash.
Spread the Omni Grip on the wall with the flat end of the trowel, then scour it with the pointy end. Then push your tiles on, wiggle them around a bit, and use spacers between tiles. We used 1/16 inch spacers. We ended our tile where the cabinets ended. I used a level to make sure they were nice and straight.
Use a wet saw to make any cuts, and just cut really slowly. Pushing the tiles along the saw too quickly causes more chipping. The great thing about marble is that even if there is some chipping, you can sand it out. Marble is a “soft” stone, so it doesn’t take much to sand it.
This is what an edge looks like after cut.
This one isn’t too bad in terms of chipping, but original edge of the tile had a slight bevel, so I wanted my cut edges to match the bevel on the other three sides and be nice and smooth. I wrapped some 220 grit sandpaper around an old sanding sponge that had lost its sandiness (good way to reuse those sanding sponges!), and lightly sanded the edge until it looked more like the original beveled edge. It doesn’t have to be perfect since once you grout, you won’t notice the edges that much, but again, I’m tile crazy so I did this to all my cut edges.
It was only about 20 seconds of sanding which I think is worth it to give it a more finished look.
Get all your tile set, and admire your work.
Let it dry 24-48 hours before removing the spacers.
Seal the tile with a good stone sealer since marble will pick up the grout color and stain. We used TileLab Surface Guard Sealer.
I’d recommend making some sample boards of grouts you are considering. This is what you can do with all your scrap pieces of tile (you’ll end up with a bunch). You can also test out your sealer to make sure it works.
This is bright white grout that my parents had on hand and let us test it out to see how white looked.
This is the sample board I made for the Whisper Gray from the Tile Shop. Let the grout dry 24-48 hours before deciding because grout looks A LOT darker when it is wet.
We liked how the gray blended better with the tile and thought the white looked a little too stark against the tiles, so Whisper Gray it was.
Mix up your grout and use a grout float to spread it on the tile. I used a mud pan rather than a bucket. It’s easier to work with. I mixed up a small amount of grout at a time, just enough to use within 20 minutes or so.
You’re supposed to use a 45 degree angle to spread and a 90 degree angle to scrape off any excess. I’ll admit I never got the hang of the angles and just kind of spread and scraped it off using whatever angle seemed to work best :).
Don’t grout the space between the tile and the counter or the tile and the cabinets. You will want to caulk this to allow for any slight shifting or movement in your floors and walls. If you grout these seams they can crack.
Use a sponge to wipe any excess off the tiles. You can use the corner of the sponge to clean go over the grout lines so they are smooth and clean. With marble, you want to get it cleaned off as much as possible because you can’t use any acidic grout haze removers on marble. I used clean water from the sink rather than a bucket for the sponge to help with this.
Don’t worry if it looks dark after applying. It will lighten up considerably when it fully dries.
Caulk between the counters and tile and the cabinets and tile. We got the matching Unsanded Whisper Gray caulk. I taped off where I caulked so it would be a nice thin line that resembled grout.
Seal your grout. I used the same Tile Lab sealer that I used to seal the marble since it is also recommended for grout sealing.
Enjoy your new backsplash!
Update: Check out our finished kitchen! You can see all of my kitchen posts here.