Andi's Kitchen: At Long Last, Tile

Renovation Diary

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Name: Andi Forker
Type of Project: Kitchen Renovation — full gut remodel
Location: San Francisco, California
Type of building: 1890's Victorian condo

The Renovation Diaries are a new collaboration with our community in which we feature your step by step renovation progress and provide monetary support towards getting it done in style. See all of our Reno Diaries here.

Our backsplash tile arrived this week. It took seven weeks for these little green gems to be hand-made at the Ann Sacks factory in Portland, Oregon. I was okay with the wait but very grumpy about the $300 delivery fee, which only transported the tile to the curb in San Francisco. I had to take an afternoon off of work to accept the shipment... on the street.

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I used plastic spacers to keep the tiles evenly spaced, and applied adhesive to the wall with a notched trowel to increase the sticky surface area. Note that the cut tiles are not installed on the edges yet, which is not really "textbook" tile installation but that is the way this job unfolded.

I find that tiling is an easy DIY project, especially when it is for decorative purposes (unlike tiling a shower). My basic tips are to measure first and plot your starting rows, use tile spacers liberally to maintain consistent spacing, and step back from the project often to make sure that everything is level and lined up squarely. I have found that minor inconsistencies are nothing to freak out about; grout can hide many errors. My final tip is that tile adhesive is much easier to use than mortar. I learned how to tile by watching a 5-minute YouTube clip a couple years ago — training that has served me well!

Normally it is best to install the cut end pieces of tile simultaneously with the field, but Dean is our resident tile cutter and he was not feeling well last Saturday. I carefully scraped the adhesive off of the walls where future cut tiles would be placed, and Dean rented a professional-grade tile saw the following weekend to finish the job. It worked out.

It came as a surprise that each tile has a slightly different green shade and pattern. We chose the product based on one sample tile, which only reflected one of the colors. Surprise! It is lucky that we find the subtle variation to be beautiful, though it is more farmhouse-y than expected. After laying the tile on the wall, we made a game-time decision to return the white grout to Home Depot and use gray grout instead. We thought the overall look would be more modern with gray grout.

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Ta-da! The tile is complete and range hood installed!

As the final touch, our electrician came in to install the range hood and finish off all of the electrical plugs. We are 99% done! Only a few decorating projects are left — window boxes with plants, new window shades, touch up paint, and cabinet organization. 

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The tile backsplash behind the sink is done. Our old microwave has the most inflexible, sticky-outtie plug on its back. We will have to get a new one that fits in the cabinet.

Our kitchen renovation has been exhausting, fulfilling, frustrating and worthwhile. We are extremely proud of the finished product and have already started enjoying it. I will post more complete “after” photos soon. Thank you for following along on this big project — it was extremely special for us to have advice and encouragement from the Apartment Therapy community along the way.

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The warm floors contrast with the cool grays and greens in the kitchen. The crystal chandelier is a modern shape and casts a dappled light.

Estimated time for project: It has been about 11 weeks? It is hard time to keep track at this point.
Time remaining: 0 weeks!

Check out the full series (so far) and be sure to join us next week for #14 of Andi's Diary.

(Images and diary text: Andi Forker)