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Kitchen Herringbone Marble Backsplash: Installation

June 20, 2014

Kitchen Marble Herringbone Backsplash Part III

Want the whole story? Part I & Part II

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In order to prepare for the installation I put brown paper on the countertops and secured it with painters tape. The floor was draped with plastic, and I set up the tile saw in the garage (quick access through the wonky upside down door in the kitchen).

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Look at that gleaming jewel of a faucet. :) I guess you know which one I picked.

I removed all of the plug/ switch plates, and adjusted the electrical boxes with a screw driver so they protruded from the wall a small distance which was the same thickness as the tile. This way, when the backsplash is installed the boxes will be flush with the installation and the plate covers can be easily put back on.

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  • I used a white, no-sag, modified thin-set specially intended to be used with natural stone. I mixed small batches at a time in one of those cheap 5 gallon buckets they sell at the big box store. It’s almost impossible to mix this type of thin-set without using a drill with a mixing paddle. Also make sure the drill is charged if you are using a cordless because this type of use will drain the battery quickly. A corded drill would be ideal because multiple batches will need to be made, and you don’t want your drill dying on you half way through installation.
  • I also purchased a brand new blade for the tile saw. I had a lot of marble to cut, and natural stone dulls the blade much more quickly that ceramic tile. A dull blade is dangerous to work with and also can result in chipped rough edges. I didn’t want any danger or crappy craftmanship in this project, so I went ahead and purchased a pricey $40 blade.
  • Lastly, I used a 3/16 in v-notched trowel for the installation. The trick is to spread the thin-set on the wall with the flat side first, and then to scrape off the excess with the notched side (trowel set against the wall at a 45 degree angle).

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I would be lying if I said it went up quickly. It took a long time to cut all the small tiles to go around the edges/ perimeter.

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I made sure to open all of the boxes of tile and mix them together so that the color and veining of each sheet looked random and blended seamlessly together. Some of the sheets had really dark brownish tiles, so I cut those out with a utility knife and swapped in a pretty grey or white tile.

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I used the chair rail pieces under the windowsill and the pencil molding to frame out the corners of the tile that didn’t run into a cabinet or the countertop. Nothing fancy here. I did 45° degree angle cuts with the pencil molding to make frame out/border the field tile, and a few straight cuts on the chair rail pieces as an accent under the window. The Builder Depot has all of these extras in a polished or honed finish. I went with honed because our countertops are honed and so is the field tile in the backsplash.

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It sure was a messy process. It took 2 days to set the tile, about 6 hours each day. It took a lot of time to measure and cut each sheet. Please see crazy kitchen chaos below.

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I allowed 24 hours for the tile to set before grouting. Prior to grouting I sealed the tile so there wasn’t any chance that it could be stained by the grout. Sealing is really easy to do, the consistency of the product is water, so I used a soft clean cloth dampened with product and wiped it over the surface of the tile. I made sure to have complete coverage. After drying overnight, I wiped off any haze and was ready to grout. The sealer appears dry within minutes, but the tile guys advised me to wait at least 12 hours.

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I decided to use a grout additive to hasten the setting time. I normally use Grout Boost (pictured below) when grouting tile because it seals the grout in one step. I decided to use the Flexible Grout Admixture for this project because it’s supposed to have really good stain resistance which is important for white grout. It doesn’t seal the grout though, so I will need to do this once the grout is dry.

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I used unsanded whisper grey grout from the Tile Shop.  The grout was mixed in small workable batches. The benefit of using mosaic tile sheets is that you don’t have to set each tile individually, the downside is that there are A LOT of grout lines to fill.

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I have done a lot of tiling, but never a backsplash before. I was surprised at how awkward it was to lean over the counters and apply the grout on a vertical surface. The upper and lower cabinets really restrict how you are able to move around.

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After grouting the marble did darken, only temporarily. It’s because the stone absorbs some of the water in the grout. The grout also looked much darker right after application before it dried. Within 24 hours it has lightened up to it’s final color.

One more post to go! I will reveal the finished caulked and sealed backsplash. I waiting on a sunny day so the pictures will turn out well.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. erineeb permalink
    June 20, 2014 4:50 PM

    DAYum Rachel, DAYum! Lookin’ good girl!

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