Tiling a Backsplash – Part 1

Scary, exciting and well worth the adventure with Monica and Heidi.

I have a galley kitchen with a little eating nook at one end. There is an earlier post describing how we economically transformed my existing kitchen cabinets with a little paint. However, I wanted this area (on the other side of my galley kitchen) to be an accent and have some punch. I wanted a happy place.

Step 1: Sketch it out.

We sketched it out in the computer using a design program (InDesign), but you could easily go old school – take a photograph and trace it. Or just draw freehand – accuracy isn’t important at this stage. After you trace or draw it, make several copies. Then use colored pencils to color different options until you get something you are happy with.

The point is to have an overall idea first. Use it as a reference guide throughout. Keep it handy as you go along.

Step 2: Selecting the tile and design.  It was so much fun going to the tile store and looking at all the possibilities. And then again, it quickly got overwhelming. My tip for you is to stay focused. Keep that sketch at hand. I found something I liked on my first trip to Art Tile, but because I am who I am, I had to make sure there wasn’t anything better out there. So we scouted around online and at one other tile store in town. Both had great choices and selections, but I kept coming back to my first choice – 1×1 glass mosaic tiles by Moda Vetro. They come in 12″ x 12″ sheets with a mesh backing that holds the tiles together. There are standard color blends, I chose “forest blend”, made up of greens and grays. But I really wanted some blue and white tiles in there too, to tie into the rest of my kitchen.

So before I bought the tile I took my sketch with me to Art Tile to ask about integrating other colors into the stock color blend that I had chosen. They were great advisers and assured me that not only was it easy to integrate other colors, but it was fun and that I should install it on the wall myself, too. With fear in my eyes I asked the women at Art Tile to repeat a few “how to” instructions regarding installation. There was humor, encouragement and some sarcasm in her voice as she said,  “Listen, you are making this way more difficult than it needs to be. It’s easy and you can do it.”  I walked out emboldened and scared to death with excitement! So again, I called in the Hammer Girls to help work up some courage and a plan.

Step 3: Ordering the tile:  The first thing we did was to loosely measure the area so I could get the tile ordered.  Art Tile suggested I order 10% extra and helped me figure out how many sheets of blue and white I’d need to make my custom blend.

Step 4: Final measuring and marking the wall.  Because my door trim on one side of the tile wasn’t yet installed, I had control over the width of where the tile was going to be. I planned the trim measurement and placement so we would not need to cut any tiles where it would meet the trim.

Using a level, we drew on the wall exactly where we would be placing each sheet of tile once we began the install. The install is for another day. We needed some lunch!

Step 5: Have some lunch.

Step 6: Lay it all out. Using blue tape for the border guide, we laid the tile sheets out flat on plywood and saw horses. Now it was time to incorporate the blue and white tiles. The design tip that Art Tile gave me was to lay out the tile and to “Make sure that the integrated tiles look truly random. It’s not about perfect, but random. Make sure there are same colors side by side as well as singles. And don’t make it harder than it needs to be.” With that in mind, we placed white and blue tiles on top of the existing tiles until we were happy with the blend. After that, we used ½ of a clothes pin to carefully pry off the tiles we were replacing from the mesh backing. There probably is an official tool, but the clothes pin worked just great. We plucked and replaced existing tiles colors with the blue and white tiles – working left to right. It was a little bit like factory work or some might say meditation. Because I’m picky, I just let it sit in my kitchen area like this for a few days. So, once I was sure I liked it (I fussed a bit, but not too much) I began securing the blue and white tiles in place with Elmer’s Glue, keeping equal spaces between tiles.

Step 7: Breathe and wait for the girls to return for Part 2! ; )

3 thoughts on “Tiling a Backsplash – Part 1

  1. Its so beautiful! I can’t wait to see the finished product! When I first started reading, I thought, OMG this is going to get confusing…but after breaking it down and then taking a lunch break, it makes sense :)

  2. I am thinking of doing something similar for my kitchen … hmm..can i install tiles on formica wall? taking it down first seem to be so much work….=) thanks for the idea..!

    • Hi Anna. I agree. I wouldn’t want to tear out that Formica, either. I like the idea of tiling over it. You may want to give Art Tile a call or stop by. There is a link in the post. I took pictures and brought them with me when I went seeking information from Art Tile. Good luck, let us know how it goes and send a picture or two.

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