Home Zone: Tile backsplash help


INDIANAPOLIS-One of the best bangs for your money for home renovations is to renovate your kitchen.

If you don’t want to renovate the entire kitchen, you may want to consider a nice new tile backsplash. It can actually set off cabinets, stoves and sinks. I contacted contractor Monte Fields to show us how to do it like a professional.

Level me up

“The first thing you need to do when starting your tile backsplash, aside from choosing your materials, is make sure you have a level starting point. I like to use a laser level. I take a whole tile and put that on each end of the wall, where the backsplash will go.If necessary, use a piece of tape to stick them to the wall.The laser, pointing at the top of the tile will tell me if the countertop is really level, but in most situations, the counter is not, ”said contractor Monte Fields.

Photo of one of the Monte Fields projects

You can buy different levels of laser online or at a local store. A variety of decent laser levels can be purchased for approximately $ 100.

If you don’t want to buy a laser level like Monte uses, you can use a regular level and make a level line on the wall at the top of the tile. Fields counter is working on the sloped down to the left, so he marked and cut the sliver of tiles that stick very high in the first row. He then flipped the cut tile upside down so that the edge of the cut was at the bottom near the counter top.

“The reason for that is because there may be a rough edge of the broken tile, even using a wet saw. If the cut edge is sitting on the counter, it will be hidden by a thin line of silicone. And now that the first row of tiles is perfectly level, the rest is next, ”Monte said.

Placing is everything

The next step is to determine the right to left placement of the tiles. Don’t just start at one end of the wall and go to the other end. You can have a very thin final tile as opposed to something more symmetrical.

“You can do a few things. The first step is to find the center line of the wall and mark it. From there, you’ll see if you should use that center line to place your tiles in each direction with the grout line. in the dead middle. Or you can use the mark on the middle wall to put a tile in the middle of it and then move left and right with your tile. Either way, you lay it on the wall first without using mortar, ” ordered Monte.

Mix, mix, mix!

Once you have figured out the best layout, you can mix your mortar or thin set. Most tile manufacturers or tile sellers will recommend what type of mix you should use for their tile. Here is the specific mortar Monte used.

Be sure to read the bag mixing instructions in full and start with less water than what is called in the instructions. You can always add water, but you can’t remove it.

“I want to add a little more water to get my mix ratio right. And my mixer buckets have lines inside, so I know how much water is in. Another thing to keep in mind is when started you mix the mortar, it will start to dry on you.So if you are only making a small space and you know it will take you a little time, mix the small batches.It is always easier to go back and mix more, ”Monte advised.

Applying mortar

Before laying tiles, many tiles have glue grids on the back or very thin nets on the front that are hard to see. Manufacturers put it there as a buffer to prevent scratching or breakage when the tiles are assembled. Make sure you slowly remove any glue or netting before you place the tile on the wall. If there is material on the back side of the tile, it also does not stick to your wall.

How much mortar should you use? Some people place a thin set or mortar mix on the wall and on the tile. Monte said he only puts mortar on the back of the tile when they are smaller.

“There’s no need to put it on the wall, and it’ll take you more work. If you put the mixture on the wall, it will be squeezed between the tiles when you push the tile. Then you just need to clean the mixture before it does. dry. Save the hassle by just applying it to the tile itself. I also use an appropriately sized notched trowel to spread the right amount of mixture on the tile, “Fields said.

Trowels for smaller tiles usually have a ¼ inch notch. Your tile manufacturer must specify which size spoon to use. After you apply the mortar to the tile, touch the wall tiles where you marked to start. From there, you will need to space your tiles to keep them consistent with the walls. The smaller spacers used by most homeowners work, but they are not what many professionals use.

“As you set those tiles using smaller spacers that fit into the 4 corners of the tiles, the mortar can start to deviate and start to move that tile a bit. Instead I use these thicker and larger horseshoe -shaped spacers. Just cleaner. Simply placing them in the center of the tile will give you two good contact points, depending on the length of the tile. As you stack the tile, it really matters. If you are level below, traditionally, you will also be level upright, ”Fields said.

To make cuts, use wet jigsaws, dry jigsaws, or hand tools. Follow the instructions and wear safety glasses. Generally, a cheap wet saw is all you will need. I found a high rating wet saw for about $ 85.

Not all spacers are created equal

And don’t forget the outlets and switches when tiling. If you just started with a painted wall, the outlets will be reduced due to the thickness of the tiles. In most cases, you won’t even make contact with the screw holes of your outlet when you put the cover plate on because it’s so far apart.

“So it’s very important to get outlet spacers. A lot of hardware stores sell them. They’re small pieces of plastic that are very cheap. You can stack, tear, one two three, whatever works for you to bring the outlet almost flush with your new tile, ”Monte said.

If you are going to use spacers, you will need to use screws of a different length than the ones that come with the outlet because they are likely to be too short. Most outlets will use the same 6/32 ”screws, regardless of length, so getting packages of different lengths is a good idea depending on the thickness of your tiles.

Do not count the grout

Finally, let’s talk about grouting. Get the right type and color for your tile and follow the instructions. You usually wipe and push the grout using the tile float at an angle.

“Using a grout float at a 45 degree angle gets grout between the tiles, but the grout doesn’t drag it back out. After about 15 minutes, wipe the tiles with a clean damp sponge and possibly a second time after a while. That way, no grout haze is left on the tile, ”Monte said.

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