Oscar the Grout

We’re already shared our crown moulding progress.  Now that we’ve installed and grouted the marble subway tile kitchen back splash, we’re ready to share the details.  Ben likes to use pre-mixed mastic for small jobs like this.  Our tiles are relatively small (3 by 6 inches), so a 1/4 inch notch trowel worked perfectly.  For the most seamless look possible, we used 1/16 inch spacers.  Ben borrowed a wet saw from work to get the job done.  Before grouting the tile, we waited a week to give the tile adequate time to set up.

We had white unsanded grout left over from our bathrooms, so we used what we had.

Before mixing the grout, I taped off the cabinets and counters.  Grouting is a messy job and we wanted to protect everything as much as possible.  Then Ben mixed up some grout in a large stainless steel bowl.  Like nearly everything mixed material in home improvement, you want the grout to have the consistency of peanut butter.

Using a foam float, Ben applied the grout, smooshing it in the cracks and wiping the extra off quickly after.

Be careful not to wipe off too much, though.

For the tighter strips along the window, Ben used his fingers to push the grout in the cracks.  After finishing up the wall, Ben sponged most of the grout off the tile surfaces and the window trim.

Next up, the stove side tile.  Again, the float was too wide to get this tile, so Ben applied it with his hands.

And now waiting for the grout to set up.

Here she is, all grouted and lookin’ pretty.

Here’s my favorite shot, showing almost every kitchen detail:

Everything except the awful soap color.  Why does Palmolive make their soap glow in the dark green?

Any suggestions for pretty dish soap?  Hand soap is easy enough to find.  I like that this pump holds two different kinds, but I’d like something prettier.  But doesn’t the grout make everything look so much better?  And finished?  And preeeety?

The Big Splash

Warning!  This post is filled with over enthusiastic commentary and gratuitous tile pictures.

Along with installing most of the trim, we’ve finished another item on our long to do list.  Along with the drawer fronts, I think the marble backsplash has made the biggest difference in the kitchen, making it feel more finished.  I guess it kind of almost is finished.

First, take a look at our old back splash.  A four-inch tall piece of oak topped laminate.  Not. Pretty.  And, it didn’t function well protecting the wall from water.  In fact, the laminate covered a piece of particle board.  Particle board and water are not friends.  When wet, particle board swells more than my feet when I was pregnant.

So, we decided to make our new back splash pretty and functional in a wet area.  And that’s why we chose 3 inch by 6 inch marble subway tiles (from Home Depot), taking the tile up to the ceiling.

Before I get to the big back splash, lets take a look at the smaller one behind the stove.  We had to approach this one a little differently.  You see, our floors aren’t perfectly even, so the space between the counter top and the bar top varies about 1/2 inch from the far left side to the right end.  The wood tops are 3 1/2 inches apart.  If we had used the same 3 by 6 tiles, this difference would have been much more noticeable because the cut slivers would vary.  Luckily, Home Depot also carries four packs of 6 by 6 inch marble tiles.  The perfect solution to our uneven problem back splash.

Now for the install.  We started by measuring and marking the center of each wall space and the first tile.

Back butter the tile, line up the marks, and press firmly into place.

Because our first four tiles tuck behind the stove, we decided to leave them the full 6 by 6.  Then Ben measured each opening, cutting one tile per side, installing, then measuring for the next.

I’m guessing the marble tile cuts like a hot knife through butta because Ben made very nice detail cuts, like these around the outlets.

And he joked the he’ll start carving chess pieces from marble when we finish the house.  Here’s another shot of the tile behind the stove.  Once it’s pushed back in place, it won’t look any different.

Bright and pretty, just the way I like ’em.

Now that we’ve gotten the little ‘splash out of the way, let’s get to the main event; the back splash behind the sink.  Our starting process was similar, but Ben had some cutting to do first.  We agreed the first full row of tile should start at the counter, so Ben had to cut pieces to fit in the lower sink area.

Thanks old back splash for leaving so much ugly junk behind.  That’s why water and particle board are a bad combo.

With the sink row cut, things went up really quickly because Ben installed the full tiles, then moved to the smaller, detailed pieces.  Here’s a little space under the window sill.

And after, with the tiny pieces stuck forever.

Tons of one inch pieces on each side of the window and we made it to the top.

Instead of back buttering each tile for the part above the window, Ben spread the mastic on the wall.

Putting in some of the final cut pieces.

Because we’re putting crown moulding along the tops of the cabinets, we decided we’ll continue the crown across the front of the marble, covering the gap near the ceiling.

Before going to work the next morning, Ben pulled the spacers so I woke up to this pretty wall ‘o tile.

Pretend all the shelves are painted and we’ve got crown at the top, okay?  Oh, and pretend we’ve got doors on the upper cabinets, too.

Is it wrong that I want to stare at it all day?  Maybe I’m turning into a tile stalker.

The blue-gray works so well with the stainless, gray cabinets, and the warm wood counters.  Which is why I love this shot.

Just a detail shot of the cuts around the sink.

Now, a before and after for added drama.  Before:

After:

Ahh, the magic of the internet.

What do you think?  I’m in love.  Like seriously, in. love.  I’m just visualizing this shot with trim and doors and I have a dopey, just-fallen-in-love smile on my face.

Of course we still have to grout the tile, so we’ll be back to share more info on the install and pictures when we’re done.