Sandra & Justin's Kitchen: DIY Tiled Backsplash

Renovation Diary

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Pounding in the tiles.

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Name: Sandra & Justin
Type of Project: Kitchen remodel
Location: Arlington, Texas
Type of building: Single-family home, 2,450 square feet

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.

Now that we have countertops and plumbing we are washing dishes in the sink and cooking in the kitchen. We still haven't completely moved in — we still have to do all the little things like lining the drawers and cupboards before that can happen, but even so, it is good to be back. The kids had been asking for anything baked for ages. I am so glad to have an oven again; it has been a long two months' wait. We are glad to be back in at any level at all.

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Trimming tiles with the wet saw.

This week we hired a handyman to help us do the tiling. Our handyman-teacher, Steve Groesbeck, was amazing. He gave us a 45 minute whirlwind course in basic tiling. He showed us how to use the wet saw and place the tile, checked our technique, and then left us to work. It was so helpful to have the hands-on professional instruction. 

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Measuring the tiles.

Steve guided us to start the tile at the countertop and work our way up, putting the cut side up at cupboard level where the line is not as noticeable. I really enjoyed using the tile saw — it was easy to work and fun. Setting the tile was not hard: smear on the thinset just so and bang the tile on the wall, and slide it into place. 

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Carter grouts the tile.

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Wiping the grout.

When we finished setting the tile about two and a half hours later, and called Steve to come show us how to grout the tile, we called in the kids to help. Grouting was more time consuming, and it took time to get it as smooth and bubble free as I wanted it. When we finished a few hours later, Steve the Handyman came to collect his equipment, and we paid up our bargain fee of $100 for the instruction and use of equipment. We were so happy with our tiling decisions. It was so nice to have someone who knew what he was doing show us how, give us everything we needed to work with, and then come back and inspect our work. We felt pleased as punch when he said it was good work, and even better when he told us how much it would have cost to bring someone in to do the work for us. We saved again, and we love the results. We love the crisp subway tile; the kitchen is looking slick.

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Cutting the drywall back open to add supports for the vent hood.

Unfortunately, this week, just before we were about to tile we realized we needed better support to mount the ventilation hood. So Justin had to cut back into the drywall and add another cross beam of wood or so to bear the weight of the appliance. That was aggravating — cutting drywall felt so 6 weeks ago. We were happy to close it all back up again to get ready to mount the hood.

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Marking for the pendant lights.  

We also marked the place where the pendant lights are about to be installed, just to be certain we were happy with the positioning. I've been nervous about getting that wrong, so I was glad to have the strings there so we could get used to the height and location, and to help with my decision about what lights to purchase for the space. I settled on some glass ball pendants from West Elm that work nicely with the Hoyne Wire Ball style pendant we bought to replace the very dated porcelain and brass one in that room that is now very open to the new kitchen. I really wanted loud light fixtures to add personality and style to the two rooms. We are looking forward to those being installed, along with the new hood, for the big reveal next week. It is about time. 

We are so, so ready for this.

Estimated time for project: 10 weeks
Time remaining: 1 week

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

(Images and diary text: Sandra Jergensen)