Posts Tagged ‘backsplash’

Although it took longer than expected, the backsplash is finished!

As was roughly the goal, the backsplash now blends fairly unobtrusively with the rest of the kitchen:

That’s an outright compliment, coming from these:

Before we started

At the end of the first weekend of work, the tiles were in place, and we felt what we later learned was a false sense of being well on our way to finishing.

We grouted the tiles in white, which was our first big mistake.

White grout: fail.

Not only did the grout not cover the thinset (or match it) as well as we’d intended, but it also didn’t match the
old grout lines.  About 1/3 of the way up the grout lines between tiles adjacent to the accent tiles, you can tell exactly where the new grout ends.  It shares a disappointing resemblance with a Clorox commercial.

It took us most of the rest of the week to remove ALL of the white grout, old and new, with a battery powered Dremel that kept needing a recharge, without nicking the white tiles (which are terra cotta under the white enamel).  We redid the grout with gray the second time around:

…which required pulling the stove out, but otherwise went pretty well.  After a day or so to let it set, we sealed the grout lines between tiles, caulked the joint between the bottom tiles and the countertop, and used a brass-bristled brush to scrub the residual white grout out of the shell impressions.  Then — ta-da! — put the kitchen back together after over a week in a disaster zone.

In a hypothetical next time on a project like this, I’d match the thinset to the grout.  I’m not sure why we didn’t the first time — might’ve been that Lowe’s didn’t have a modest sized container of white thinset to go with the original white grout?  I’d also give up the ghost on trying to match old grout to new grout.

All in all, though, we’re glad to have done the project.  It was reasonably inexpensive, and clearly, game, set, and match to the shells.  Such an improvement over than the old flower tiles!  This will make the kitchen a lot more palatable in years going forward.

It does, however, reopen the cabinet discussion:  to paint or not to paint.  And if so, what color…?

Paint chips are Sherwin Williams:
Row 1:  Comfort Gray, Oyster Bay, Sea Salt
Row 2:  Silver Strand, Magnetic  Gray, Unusual Gray
Row 3:  Sedate Gray, Techno Gray, Austere Gray
Row 4:  Escape Gray, Conservative Gray, Wool skein

This, of course, is a project for another day.


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We’ve been thinking about updating our kitchen backsplash for a long time.  It was one of the things that stuck out to us before we’d even closed on the house, as something that would Have To Go:

We’ve been putting it off largely because of indecision.  There were a couple of limiting factors on the facelift:

1.  For reasons unknown to us, the kitchen was done with a snow white tile backsplash, but a bisque enamel sink, counters, and appliances (of which the range and microwave are still standing).  That meant that we couldn’t make the white backsplash ALL white, like I’d originally thought of.  I was envisioning white embossed seashell 6×6 tiles substituted in for the flowers, and gray-green cabinets.  Not with all that bisque, though:

Yeah, I know. I can hear Bowling for Soup's "1985" playing in the background too.

2.  Because of where the flowers are positioned, I didn’t want anything too dark/contrasting, because it would look too blocky.

3.  Since we plan to renovate the kitchen in a few years, we didn’t want to spend much on a “short term” backsplash.  That meant that we would likely only replace the flower tiles, leaving the white.

Yikes.  Picky.

Because of the mounting number of criteria, we’d considered just leaving the flowers alone for a few years, but they just weren’t fitting into the otherwise coastal and earth toned kitchen-and-surrounding-rooms that I’d been working so hard to cultivate.  It was worth the effort and modest expense to change it, since a new kitchen is still quite a few years off (more if I don’t have to look at the flowers between now and then!).

We started shopping at Best Tile, and left when they closed at 4pm on Saturday feeling defeated.  It was like a playground for kitchen redesign, but it was no fun going into a place like that (too many choices!) with such limiting criteria.  It had to be 6×6, look good next to white, look good next to bisque, not be too “square” looking, preferably make my coffee for me and do the dishes…

We ended up at Lowe’s after that, and surprisingly found ceramic tiles there that we’re pretty excited about seeing in place.  But first, surgical demolition.

We had the counters cleared and cleaned and were ready to start around 9:45am, Sunday:

Drilling through the tiles with a masonry bit

Chiseling from hole to hole to crack the tiles. The impact knocked loose most of the grout within a couple inches around the flowered tile we were working on.

Using a pry bar to break the pieces out. As an aside, the raised features of the flowers are pretty visible here. But for that, we would have tried to reglaze instead of remove, but the raised flowers left us few options that didn't involve shattering.

It was a shop vac kind of project.

There were 16 flowered tiles, plus 2 white ones that we were taking out because we thought they’d look better as accents than as white ones.  From about 10am until about 2:30, were were demolishing.

until finally, we were done:

Glue lines. D'oh.

There’s no way it should’ve taken 4.5 hours for two people to remove eighteen 6×6 tiles — but unfortunately for us, the installers didn’t use thinset mortar like they probably should have.  They just glued them to the wall!  Ooft.  That made them much harder to break off.  But finally, and with no major casualties among the neighboring white tiles to speak of (our biggest concern), we were ready to install the new tiles.

Stirring the thinset was probably the least fun 10 minutes of the day.  It’s like making bread, or cookies without a Kitchen Aid.  With multiple batches.  In one bowl.  And somebody was heavy handed with the flour.

Smearing the thinset was pretty messy. The trowel was cumbersomely large for the space.

But up went the tiles!   Ta da!

1/8" spacers between the tiles

Thinset mortar, but no grout yet - curing overnight

Looking at it installed, I think I’m pleased.  I like the colors.  It’s warmer and more earthy than the flowers were, and the cream colored ceramic squares and rectangles tie the backsplash in with the bisque fixtures better than before.  The larger, patina ceramic squares have a glossy finish that works with the glossy white tiles.

It’s not perfect — the bars of accent color against the white don’t blend quite as well as I’d pick in an ideal world.  But for redoing only part of the backsplash (and only buying ~25% of the tile it would take to do the entire backsplash), I think it’s a pretty good 5-year plan result.  I also think the white grout that will go in tomorrow will help lighten up the blocks of accent ceramic, which will help it flow better.

It also helps to just zoom the camera out a little.  Once the coffee pot, bean grinder, toaster oven, drain board, canisters, etc. return to their usual homes, the backsplash will blend behind them.  Under those normal, every day circumstances, I think I’m going to really love the change.

Tomorrow we’ll plan to grout, seal, put back together, and then post the before’s with completed after’s.  Here’s to hoping we like it!

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While we’re back in the kitchen…

Completely unrelated to the dishwasher itself, I noticed in the photo in the last post how prominent the flowered tiles are on the backsplash.  I think I’ve been tuning them out for the past 8 months (when we first saw the house, I identified them as a higher priority change than they’ve turned out to be).  As we replace the appliances with stainless steel and work toward a more modern look, the flowers are going to look more and more out of place.


Our existing kitchen backsplash - picked out by previous owners

Those flowers run all the way around, over the sink, on either side of the range, and on either side of the fridge.  Don’t get me wrong, I love flowers… but I like them to be part of my yard posts.  Not my kitchen posts.

I’ve been thinking about what kind of tile backsplash I’d like to replace it with – something fairly neutral/earth toned and warm, with blue and/or green accents.  The existing white feels too sterile, frozen, and snowy to me.  I’d also like it to be visually interesting.  There are really no (or very few) good places to hang any pictures or anything in the kitchen, because all 4 walls have doorways to other rooms.  The backsplash is going to be a good way to add some color.  I’m not sold on any particular tile shape or material.

Brainstorming session commencing… now:

Not unappealing, but not exciting.

It’s sort of like what I’d choose to put in a kitchen if I needed to redo the backsplash to be happy with the house, but I wanted to keep it pretty neutral because, e.g., we were planning to sell the house in a few years.  As far as I know, though, that isn’t our situation, so I’m thinking I might like something a little bolder.



I keep coming back to this one...

I like the combinations of tile sizes in this design.

I like the combinations of tile shapes in this design.

Usually the rectangular tiles are oriented the other way - I think this is an interesting variation.  I kind of like the colors, too, although I don't know if it would be too dark for me.

Pretty! Maybe a little dark for our kitchen, though.

This is really, really basic - I'd probably dress it up with a band of colored tiles in place of one row of rectangles.  But it's definitely a solid starting point to consider.

Ceramic subway tile



No idea what I'd use this with, but it reminded me of ocean waves.


Thumbs down to the checkerboard, but I like the colors.




The glass tile designs are a much different look. I might be a bit concerned about the grout getting dirty...

I really like this color, although I'm pretty sure (I think) that I don't want to commit so strongly to a single color.

I really like this color, although I'm pretty sure (I think) that I don't want to commit so strongly to a single color.

Photo:  Earth and Wood Creations

Photo: Earth and Wood Creations

Photo:  Earth and Wood Creations

Photo: Earth and Wood Creations

Something like this design (above) would allow us to leave the existing white tiles, and only replace a single band that includes the flowered accent tiles.  This could be a short term winner!

Green glass subway tiles

Green glass subway tiles, photo courtesy of Country Living

I'm not dead sure I'd ever be neat enough for all white, but it's pretty nonetheless.

Plugging a row of these in place of our flower tiles would also be a huge improvement!

Photo: DIY Network

I don’t so much care for the embellishment over the range, but the band around the kitchen is pretty!

Photo:  mlive.com

Photo: mlive.com

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