Even though I really didn't like working with cement board, installing it on the area to be tiled is a must. I've seen kitchens that have had buckled backsplashes, probably due to the house sinking a bit, so the cabinets press down on the tile. I didn't want that to be an issue, so I cut the cement board slightly smaller than the area, leaving a quarter inch gap all around the perimeter.
I needed a few shims to keep the board in place, so I reached in my pocket and grabbed the first available thing - a couple of dollar chips from the Hard Rock Casino.
Once the board was propped into place, I marked the studs and screwed into them, using these screws, which are made specifically for cement board.
Their head is a little wider and flatter, and the threads are made for this type of installation. I also glued this sucker down - using a whole tube of Liquid Nails. Once this board has mastic, tile and grout on it, it's going to be fairly heavy, so I didn't want it pulling off the wall. Can you imagine?
Last thing to do before starting to glue the tile was to cut and oil some wooden strips to be used for edging. I used Cherry, as the cabinets in this kitchen are Cherry. Notice how the cabinets have darkened over time, Cherry will do that with exposure to sunlight. The strips will eventually darken to match.
The bottom strip was left off for now, as I wasn't completely sure where it would end up going. Once I started laying the tile in place, I would be able to determine the proper location of the bottom edging strip.
Here are the tiles, perfectly laid out next to my work area. You don't want to be in the middle of gluing them in place, and lose your place. I always have a layout predetermined.
I like to use mastic that's already mixed up for wall tile. Gravity can be your enemy when laying wall tile, so I like a quick setting product. There were a few tiles that had to be placed first - the corners, in this case. So I started with the corners, and worked my way down.
It's easiest to work in small areas, spreading some mastic, laying tile, and then doing it again.
That way, the mastic doesn't start setting up too quickly.
Once the bottom corners were finally in place, they determined the final location of that last piece of edging.
I marked the stud location, and pre-drilled it for a screw. I couldn't see taking any chances with splitting that piece when I was in the middle of laying the tile. Things are hectic enough without having that happen.
Just as I was getting ready to screw it into place, I noticed a huge dip in the wall. Those #$%& drywallers! So I put a small shim under the piece of edging, to keep it relatively straight. I know - if I hadn't of added the shim, I'm the only person in the world who would have known about it. I just wanted to be able to sleep at night, so I had to make it right.
Notice how I used some paper to mask off the wall? I have a huge roll of kitchen kraft paper in my studio, and take pieces of it to jobs like this. It's perfect to masking off areas that I need to keep clean. And trust me - it's easy to make a mess when doing something like this.
Here, I'm almost finished. It'll take at least a day for the mastic to cure. This isn't a good time to rush things. And - know this - before the tile is actually grouted, the area looks like crap. I kept looking at it, criticizing the layout I'd chosen, or the size of my spacing. It's easy to lose your mind at this stage. If this happens - step away from the project! Go drink a beer or do a shot or something.
Grouting is the messiest thing in the world, so it's really important to do some prep work and take some precautions. Mask the area off, and find youself some latex gloves. Working with this chocolate brown grout would have stained my hands for days, and I had a meeting with a client coming up, so I didn't want to look like a freak when I met him for the first time. It's happened before, and it's sort of weird to shake someone's hand when your hand is so odd looking.
So... GLOVE UP!
All the precautions in the world don't prepare your for accidents, although prep work can minimize the anguish. I was in the middle of grouting this when my masking paper fell off the wall, causing a cascade of grout to cascade down the wall and onto the floor. I wish I had a video of that for you, it would have been comical, to say the least.
Cleaning the excess grout is messy, but by then, you start to get an idea of how well the area looks. Make sure you change the water in your bucket often, as the particles of sand in the water can scratch your tile. I probably changed the bucket water two or three times. Here's where you start to get excited, as the area starts looking really nice.
And finally - here's a final peek at the backsplash.
Hope you've enjoyed following this project as much as I have blogging about it.