DUSTY ROGERS blogger at

Outlines how she upgraded her builder grade sheetrock backspash by DIY-ing a stone and glass mixed mosiac.

All Things G D
I really should have been more nervous about slapping tile up on our kitchen backsplash for the very first time, but for some reason I wasn’t at all.
Not even a little bit.
Maybe it was thanks to the fantastic (and free!) DIY tile class I took at The Tile Shop to prepare myself.
All Things G D Kitchen Before1
Or maybe it was because this isn’t our “forever house” so I knew I wouldn’t have to live with it for the rest of my life if I messed up.
Or maybe it’s simply because once I decide to do something, I dive right in and do it – no second guesses, no worthless worries.
I started by rounding up my arsenal of supplies from The Tile Shop and clearing off the three things that live on our kitchen countertops (the knife block, our fruit bowl, and my coffeemaker). Next came the decision to reduce the number of white plastic rectangles that would be interrupting our gorgeous new tiles by removing (and patching over) our kitchen phone jack. I’m all for putting pretty over practicality (I’m looking at you, 4" heels) but this was actually my husband’s idea – and one I originally resisted! We haven’t had a land line in years, however, and there are other phone jack sources in the house, so in the end we went for it knowing we wouldn’t miss it. In additional “taking our kitchen into 2013 news, we decided to replace one of our standard outlets with a USB outlet, allowing us to plug our iPhones and iPods right into the wall to charge – no adapter needed.
All Things G D Kitchen 1
With the prep work done, it was time to get started!
All Things G D Kitchen 2
The project was slow-going on my first day – mostly due to figuring out how to trowel the thinset on in such a small, cramped space at night with limited lighting. By Day 2, however, I was hitting my groove.
The tile we chose is Riviera Beach – a mosaic mix of travertine stone and gorgeous shiny glass. My husband wanted stone and I wanted glass, so this was a great compromise for us! The dark glass tile pieces are my favorite – I found myself trying to place it in all the most noticeable spots in the kitchen so I’d see it more often!
All Things G D Kitchen 3
In addition to tiling over the phone jack, another somewhat controversial decision was to disregard trimming out the end of the backsplash. I had some very nice tile pencil trim to finish out the only exposed edge in our kitchen, but as I got closer to the end, I realized it just wasn’t my style.
Instead, I decided to finish off the edge of our tile backsplash with a straight, clean tile line; no trim necessary. To make it work I cut my 12 x12 mesh sheet of tile with the wet saw to get a straight edge at the end. Then I used a box cutter to cut out the very last tile at the end of each row, and turned it around so that each tile at the end of my backsplash would have a smooth, factory edge finish (versus the sharp and potentially dangerous edge that a wet saw cut produces if it’s not grouted). It was the most time-consuming step of the whole cutting and tile setting process, but I’m so glad I did it – I love the contemporary look of this clean, multi-colored and multi-textured edge!
The first half of this DIY tile backsplash process took me about eight hours, split across two days. I tackled the shorter back wall that our stove is on (7' long, 2 outlets) first, which took me four hours, and the next day I did the longer wall (10.50’ long, 4 outlets) which also took me about 4 hours. It was slow-going to start as I got used to the process and working in hard to reach areas like the corner and around pulled-out appliances, but by the time I moved to the sink wall it felt like a breeze because I could reach everything so much easier!
I did the majority of this tile project myself, but it was still a family affair with my husband Greg cutting tiles with the wet saw in the garage, and my two-year-old daughter Kate dressing the part in her Tile Shop construction worker costume! (And let’s not forget my BFF, Chardonnay – never far from my side when it comes to a home improvement project.)
Overall, this first step of the project was just as easy as I thought it was going to be, although admittedly a little more time consuming than I had anticipated. (I believe my short arms and ridiculously detail-oriented nature are to blame for that.)
All Things G D Kitchen 4
With my tiles set, it was time to start grouting!
After attending The Tile Shop’s DIY tile class, I learned a lot about how to properly grout tile. For starters, you need the right sponge and you need to learn how to wring it properly to get it just barely damp. (Remember – water is grout’s enemy!) You then make one swipe over your just grouted section of tile with the sponge at a 45 degree angle to your grout lines, using medium pressure, and then you turn your sponge around and make one swipe over that same area using light pressure.
All Things G D Kitchen 5
And guess what.
That's it.
That section of tile is now as wiped as it should be, and your sponge is now cashed and should be rinsed thoroughly and wringed properly before continuing on to your next section of tile.
All Things G D Kitchen 6
Something I didn’t know until I took The Tile Shop’s class (and something that was so hard for me to actually put into practice!) is that it’s okay to have some haze left on your tiles after you wipe it down (just twice!) with your sponge. In fact, if you don’t have haze over your tiles after this step, it’s pretty much a guarantee that you’ve over-wiped your tiles and therefore exposed your grout to a lot more water than you should have (tsk, tsk).
All Things G D Kitchen 7
I waited the oh-so-hard 24 hours to let the haze dry before cleaning it off. At that point, I could have just taken my big yellow sponge to it, gave it a few good swipes to clean it up, and call it a day – but you and I both know that’s not how it played out.
Instead, I hand-wiped, washed, and buffed each individual tile until I was confident it was haze-free and my grout lines were perfect.
Each. Individual. Tile.
I’m not going to lie – it took a while. I’m not sure how long exactly, but I finished buffing my tiles sometime in October, and I started sometime in September. . . of 1982.
You do the math.
All Things G D Kitchen 8
Once my tiles were perfectly buffed, it was time to seal those bad boys to make sure they stayed looking perfect. Sealing is significantly less time consuming than buffing, and I knocked this step out in less than an hour.
All Things G D Kitchen 9
Last, but not least – caulking!
Just when I thought my tile couldn’t look any better. . .I caulked it, and it did.
All Things G D Kitchen 9
You wouldn’t think a simple little thing like caulk would have such an impact, but it has that same kind of effect you get when you underline text or frame your Instagram picture – it gives a good thing that little extra pop!
After all this, I’m thrilled to say that our kitchen backsplash project is finally done! It blows me away to see what a difference our new tile backsplash has made to our kitchen! I thought it looked great after we upgraded our countertops to granite a few months ago, but the depth and warmth of those gorgeous glass and stone tiles takes our kitchen to a whole new level!
A great big, HUGE, thank you goes out to The Tile Shop! If it wasn’t for their help and guidance I’d probably be in the middle of a kitchen demo right now (ripping down my foiled DIY attempt), but instead I’m sitting in my kitchen, sipping wine and sighing proudly over this beautiful transformation.
All Things G D Kitchen After 1
All Things G D Kitchen After 2
All Things G D Kitchen After 3
Riviera Beach Blend Glass & Stone Mosaic Pro-Bond Non Sag Thinset Ivory Unsanded Grout
Riviera Beach Blend Glass & Stone Mosaic Pro-Bond Non Sag Thinset Ivory Unsanded Grout
Flexible Grout Admixture Travertine Sealer Kit
Flexible Grout Admixture Travertine Sealer Kit
1. Use a level (we have a little 9" wide one that worked great for this project) to ensure your tile is level as you’re applying it – don’t trust that just because it’s on a mesh grid that it’s going to apply evenly! It moves around as it sets into the thinset, just like it moves around when you’re holding it. This brings me to…
2. Use long, thin finishing nails (or wire nails) to nail your mosaic tile grid to the wall once you’ve applied it. This primarily needs to be done underneath the top row of the tile to keep them from sagging, but in the interest of being thorough, I hammered in little nail supports all around my tile grids. Be sure to not hammer the nails in all the way; insert them only as far as needed so you’re easily able to remove them with pliers the next day after your thinset has dried and your tiles are locked into place.
3. Use the smallest float you can find to apply your grout in tight spots. The smaller the better, in my opinion! I’m talking dollhouse size if you can find it – the kind Barbie would use if and when she gets the itch to upgrade the molded plastic backsplash of her Dreamhouse to tile.
4. Apply and wipe your grout quickly and in small sections. My first section of tile that I grouted was left with crusty chunks of grout all over the tile because I worked too slowly. I spent way too much time applying my grout (and trying to get it all Dreamhouse perfect) that by the time I got to the “sponge it off” step it had already started drying. The good news – for all my fellow perfectionists out there – is that even if this happens, that crusty dried-on grout will still come off your tile. I assure you. My kitchen looks so awesome today that Barbie just made us an offer.
5. There’s no need to spend your money on a special caulk tool to get a perfect caulk line – just use your finger! Apply your caulk in a long straight line, and then run your finger along that caulk line at a 45 degree angle to finish it to perfection.
Pro Float V Notch Trowel Giant Sponge
Pro Float V Notch Trowel Giant Sponge
Margin Trowel Bucket Wet Saw
2 x 8 in Margin Trowel Buckets 7 in Wet Saw
Mixer Bar
Mixer Bar