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New Tile Backsplash in the Kitchen and Bathroom

12/11/2014

Last month Jason did a project we’ve been thinking about since we moved in two years ago—he tiled a backsplash and added under cabinet lights in the kitchen. He spent many nights working from after dinner until long after Ali and I were asleep. He’s such a hard worker. I LOVE how it came out. My only contribution was helping to pick out the tiles, which were a special order from Home Depot, in case you’re wondering. We picked the color and straight-stacked pattern to mirror the exposed concrete block wall that’s across from the kitchen in the dining room. (You can see it here in my grapefruit-belly photo.)

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I haven’t taken any photos of the backsplash in our master bathroom yet but Ali snuck this one on Monday while I was getting ready for work.

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Fireplace Makeover: Removing a Brick Hearth and Retiling

05/24/2011

Here’s our fireplace before. It’s basically looked the same since we bought our house except the walls were builder’s beige and the trim was white. The fireplace is brick inside, painted black, with tan 1 sq. ft. marble around the outside.

The problem is that it sticks out into the living room, right into the foot path. Adults, kids and even dogs have tripped on it. And those corners are SHARP! Nerve-wracking for some of our friends with little ones.

See how far it sticks out into the traffic path of the room?

And it eats up precious floor space.

We could tell the wood flooring had been cut around the fireplace base (referred to as “hearth” from here out) when the house was built 56 years ago, but that the built out fireplace with space above for a TV and marble hearth had been added when the house was renovated just before we bought it 4 years ago. We were curious what was under the tile but it had never occurred to Jason or me that under the tile would be brick…

We’re guessing that this brick slab was originally built into the living room to serve as a platform for a wood burning stove. Our house doesn’t have a chimney or a functional fireplace and based on some neighbors that still don’t have central heat and air, we can assume that our house originally didn’t either. So how do you remove a brick hearth?! You Google it. Then you buy a brick chisel, get out your hammer, put on a dust mask (ASBESTOS ALERT!), googles, gloves and have at it. We also laid down an old sheet to protect our wood flooring and covered our TV with a blanket. It was a dusty, dirty, labor-intensive job. Chunks of mortar were flying. Jason did all the chiseling and I moved the bricks out of the way into a box. The worse part of the chiseling was splitting bricks in half. When I took the photo below, there were still 7 bricks that needed to be chopped in half. Once they were out, reconstruction could begin!

When we got to the hardware store we decided on 4″ tumbled multicolor slate. I love the way the slate tiles turned out in the floor of our hall bath (photo here) and it’s nice to have some consistency throughout the house. The variation of size and color and the rounded corners made these very forgiving and easy to work with. No need for spacers or getting everything perfectly square, at least not for an area this small. Also, they were cheap: only $3.97 per square foot. (This project ended up being 8 sq. ft. I believe.)

Before tiling could start, we had to patch in new drywall around the sides and top of the fireplace. We put tile backer board on the base of the fireplace which is made of cement so it’s sturdy for walking on. We had to glue it down with Liquid Nails (and a little Thin Set tile adhesive) because the subfloor here was uneven concrete. Jason adhered the tiles with Thin Set and a grooved trowel.

As I mentioned, these tiles are very easy to work with. My job was to open the packages and hand Jason the tiles as he spread out the Thin Set and set the tiles in place.

Ta-da! We only had to cut 6 tiles. Natural stone tiles really should be cut with a wet saw but we don’t own one and couldn’t justify renting one just for 6 tiles. So we used a hammer and brick chisel. Not perfect but good enough for us. “Grout covers a multitude of sins,” we like to say. Once the adhesive was dry (after about 24 hours) the tiles were ready for their first coat of sealer. We used a matte sealer that’s made for porous natural stone. This is necessary to do before grouting or the grout won’t wipe off the tile faces.

Several steps happened between the photos above and below but I was too involved to photograph. After the first coat of sealer is dry, 15 minutes maybe?, it’s time to start grouting. Since this was a small area we bought pre-mixed grout. It’s more expensive than the powder bag but obviously easier. Grouting is a two person job. Jason spread the grout over the surface of the tiles and pressed it into all the cracks using a rubber trowel. (You can imagine why it’s important that the adhesive Thin Set is completely dry or tiles will start shifting.) I started wiping grout off with a large, damp sponge and a bucket of warm water. It doesn’t have to be warm but if feels nicer to my rubber-gloved hands. The sponge does need to be thoroughly wrung out though. Too much water will thin and breakdown the grout. It takes many swipes of the sponge to get all of the grout off the faces of the tiles. The grout starts drying and sticking to the tiles in about 10 minutes so it’s a fast moving process. I actually really enjoy this process and I feel like I’m quite the grout wiping expert after tiling our humongous master shower. Once the grout was dry, another 24 hours to be safe, the tiles and grout get another coat of sealer. This time it’s to make sure the grout gets sealed. Jason added simple, square-edge white trim around the sides and top of the fireplace to cover the holes left from the original trim. He then painted it white with trim paint. He also touched up the brick base and insides of the fireplace with black spray paint. (I couldn’t photograph these steps because he did them while I was at work.)

We are soon going to be repainting our living room in Greek Villa by Sherwin Williams so I asked Jason if he’d brush some onto the drywall around the fireplace so we can get a feel for how it’ll look finished. Imagine it without the box of bricks and the blue wall with drywall mud patches on the right.

No more sharp-enough-to-bust-a-head-open intrusion sticking out into the living room.

No more toe-stubbing and tripping on cold, hard marble.


Bathroom Renovation Stage 12

04/21/2010

Bathroom renovation has been slowly coming along the past couple of weeks. Jason hung the new mirror over the vanity.

We hung the “relax” sign made by etsy seller William Dohman. It’s hand cut recycled wood that has been dry brush painted. I custom ordered this because Jason and I both wanted a spa-like retreat and relax seems to be the perfect reminder as I step into the steamy shower and wash away all the stresses of the day.

And the bathroom floors have been tiled! We decided on gray 12″ x 24″ porcelain.

The first 11+ chapters:

Here’s our history:

Bathroom Renovation Stage 1

Bathroom Renovation Stage 2

Bathroom Renovation Stage 3

Bathroom Renovation Stage 4

Bathroom Renovation: Tiling!

Bathroom Renovation Stage 5

Bathroom Renovation Stage 6

Bathroom Renovation Stage 7

Bathroom Renovation Stage 8

Concrete Shower Pan Goes Down Smooth

Bathroom Renovation Stage 9

Bathroom Renovation Stage 10

Bathroom Renovation Stage 11


Bathroom Renovation Stage 8

01/21/2010

Tile is officially HALF done! Yay! We’ve been working hard on it and our goal is to finish the shower this month. (Sorry for the pieced together photos. Couldn’t get it all in 1 shot.)

We started putting drywall up to close off the laundry area with some leftover pieces from another project.

We designed built-in shelves into one side of the shower wall. In order to finish them with cement board so we can tile, we had to put drywall up on the laundry room side.

Jason bought the concrete for the shower pan today. Saturday is the day we mix and pour and level and pray. I’ll try to remember to keep my camera handy during the process.

Phew! We’ve come a long way! Need to catch up?

Bathroom Renovation Stage 1

Bathroom Renovation Stage 2

Bathroom Renovation Stage 3

Bathroom Renovation Stage 4

Bathroom Renovation: Tiling!

Bathroom Renovation Stage 5

Bathroom Renovation Stage 6

Bathroom Renovation Stage 7


Bathroom Renovation Stage 7

01/06/2010

Our master bathroom makeover has been slow moving, mostly because of the busyness of the holidays. But now we’re back at it full steam with a goal of finishing the shower this month. It’s going to be a challenge since we’re averaging about 4 sq. ft. an hour with these little .75″ unglazed porcelain tiles. One wall is almost done.

We’ve got a good system going now where I pop half the tiles off of each sheet in a random pattern at about the same pace as Jason can stick them up on the wall. If I crop out the unfinished parts and you use your imagination with the grout (we’re thinking gray) this picture gives a pretty good idea of the finished look:

Lost? Here’s the process up to now:

Bathroom Renovation Stage 1

Bathroom Renovation Stage 2

Bathroom Renovation Stage 3

Bathroom Renovation Stage 4

Bathroom Renovation: Tiling!

Bathroom Renovation Stage 5

Bathroom Renovation Stage 6


Bathroom Renovation Stage 6

11/25/2009

Moving along on the bathroom renovation one Saturday at a time. Last weekend we put up more of the tile. Eight sq ft are now up. Only 112 more to go. Can you see why this is going to take a while?

Also, we finished up all the concrete board. (I use “we” very loosely here. I wasn’t feeling great but I am excellent at providing moral support.) We covered the curb so now the concrete shower pan can be poured at any time:

On one side of the shower we built in 2 shelves for shampoo, conditioner, soap, shaving cream, etc. (As the woman of the house and the obsessive organizer, I’m taking credit for this idea.)

Things to do in the near future: pour shower pan, install rain shower in ceiling and plumbing in wall, install recessed light in shower, install ceiling shower fan, put up 112 more sq ft of tiny tiles.

Trying hard not to lose momentum here!

Where we started:

Bathroom Renovation Stage 1

Bathroom Renovation Stage 2

Bathroom Renovation Stage 3

Bathroom Renovation Stage 4

Bathroom Renovation: Tiling!

Bathroom Renovation Stage 5


Bathroom Renovation: Tiling!

11/18/2009

I’m not calling this a stage because it’s not really a stage change in the bathroom. The tile arrived over the weekend and on Monday, Jason and I decided to put up 2 square feet to see how it looks. We have 2 different colors of .75″ x .75″ tile that come in 1 sq ft sheets and it’s up to us to pop off 50% of the tiles (112 per sheet) to make a random pattern.

Let me just say that this process sucks. It takes a lot longer than I anticipated and the mesh is like sandpaper on my fingers! But I know it will all be worth it. Jason and I are really pleased with how it looks once the 2 colors are randomized together:

It took us 20-30 minutes to make 2 sq ft. So … multiply that by 60 (120 sq ft total) and it looks like we can plan on 20-30 hours of tile popping. That’s not counting installing the tiles on the wall.

… Putting each tile we popped off back into the other color sheet …

… And making sure they’re all straight and flush. But it’s going to be SOOOOO worth it! I can’t wait to see how it’ll look when the whole shower is done.

Meanwhile we still have a couple of sheets of concrete board to hang and the shower pan to pour. Once we realized how long the tile is going to take we figured we’d better get started right away so we can takes breaks to do other parts of the process.

Yes, I know we’re crazy. Did I mention we got a really good deal on the tile?