A Kitchen Remodel 7: Tile Backsplash and Faux Textured-Tin Surface

My wife wanted to install an 18 inch  band of glass tile  between the countertop and the cabinets to create a durable and attractive backsplash in our new kitchen.  While we looked at tile at several places, once again, we turned to “Big Blue”.  She found a Surfaces Elida glass tile (Nocturnal Multi Grain) that she light.  While I was worried that it was a little dark and that it might end up too busy, I let her choice stand. This tile comes in 13″x13″ sheets and consists of a random distribution 3/4″ tiles in 6 types (cream,  amber fleck, Charcoal fleck and 3 variations of metallic copper & gold).  The individual tiles are secured on the back with the mesh typical of mosaic tile sheet.  After determining the area to be covered and estimating the number of sheets of tile needed to cover it we made the purchase.

East wall of kitchen cabinets showing backsplash

West wall of kitchen cabinets.

To begin installation I worked one section at a time starting with the wall with the range and the microwave/range hood.  After making sure that the wall was clean and free of loose paint or uneven areas I scratch-sanded the wall with 100 grit sandpaper to give it tooth and to allow the mortar to adhere better to the eggshell paint finish.  I  de-powered the circuits to the outlets and switches around which the tile backsplash was to be installed, removing the plates and pulling the outlets and switches out of their boxes so that the outline of each wall-box was fully revealed.  Then I laid out the tiles for that section, cutting sheets to the right height and cutting openings in sheets as needed to account for outlets and switches.

Then I mixed the mortar.  Even though these are glass tiles, they don’t require special adhesives or handling sometimes necessary with glass tile. I purchased the mortar with the tile from Lowes.  I used  a white Mapei Ultraflex 2 polymerised mortar  and mixed it with Mapei Keraply mortar latex additive instead of water.  In my experience the latex emulsion gives the mortar extra hold (though it requires more work to clean off the tiles during installation).  Pay attention to mixing instructions when mixing the mortar.  Do not add too much liquid.  If the mortar is too thin, the tile will have a tendency to slide as it is drying (and that is not good)   I followed mixing instructions, but still felt that the mortar was not quite as stiff as it should have been.  It should be thick enough to stick to the trowel when held upside down without  dripping.  Had I to do it over again, I would mix about 3/4 the recommended liquid first, then add only as much of the remaining 1/4 of the liquid as needed to achieve the proper consistency.  Do also pay attention to the mixing instructions.  Mix the liquid and dry mortar thoroughly (I used a drill motor with a joint compound mixing wand) for 5 minutes.  Let it “slake” for about 10 minutes, then mix again for another 2 minutes.  Apply the morter with a 1/4″ square-knotched trowel. The mortar has about a 2-hour open time so work quickly and methodically applying the mortar only to as much wall as you can install in that time.  I needed every second of that for the approximately 15 square feet of my first section.  I started in the corner and pressed each sheet of tile into its place aligning and spacing joints by eye. Once the sheets were in place I set them firmly with a damp (but not wet) sponge and firm pressure.  Then I lightly tapped with a hammer against a block of 2×4 to  set them even more firmly.

Once the mosaic sheets were installed, I thoroughly cleaned the face of the tile to remove any stray mortar that had squeezed between the tiles or been deposited on the face of the tile.  Once this was done, I still had a few areas around each outlet and switch box that required cut pieces of tile.  Mosaic tiles can be cut with a wheeled tile nipper.  I custom cut and fit each piece around these areas and carefully applied mortar to the back of each piece and pushed it in place.  Extreme care needs to be taken to prevent the mortar from getting on the face of these individual tiles since rubbing to clean them while the mortar  on the front is still wet will dislodge them.  This first section (about 40 percent of the overall project) took about 4 hours of work (plus another hour of cleanup). I proceeded on the following 2 days to finish the installation on other sections of the project, each time spending 4 or 5 hours total.

Glass tile backsplash and faux tin soffit

The mortar must cure for about 3 days before the grout can be applied between the tiles.   After waiting 3 days, I applied the white Mapei Keraset/Keraply mortar.  I followed the instructions on the product (similar to those for mixing the mortar). Again, it is important that the consistency be very stiff.  After wetting the surface of the tile, I applied the grout with a rubber grout float, rubbing it diagonally across the joints in several directions to push the grout firmly in all joints and working on a 4 -6 square-foot section at a time.  After applying grout to a section I used a damp grout sponge to remove excess grout from the face of the tile, rinsing the sponge frequently but taking care not to let it be too wet and being careful not to “scour” the damp grout from the joints.  Once again, the grout has a fairly short open time, so I mixed only as much as I judged that I could apply in an hour.  If the grout becomes too stiff, it is time to discard that batch and mix a new one.  It took about 3 batches and another 5 or more hours to do the grout.

My wife has long admired a faux tin texture that her step-mother installed in the kitchen of her childhood home.  While my wife wanted the glass tile for our backsplash, I decided to use a similar product that I found at (you guessed it, Lowes) as the covering of the soffit over the microwave/range vent.  The product is Fasade Decorative Thermoplastic Panels. As the name implies, the product is very like the vacuum-formed styrene sheets that are common used for decorative details in theatrical scenery. It can be applied with construction adhesive or with a high-bond double-stick tape.  It comes in many patterns and several different metallic finishes.  I chose the “Brushed Silver”. It was easy to cut with heavy scissors and easy to apply.

Next time, I’ll finish up describing the remodeling of my kitchen by describing the way I crafted custom molding to finish off the cabinetry.

That’s enough for now! Have fun!  Be safe!




3 Responses to “A Kitchen Remodel 7: Tile Backsplash and Faux Textured-Tin Surface”

  1. Cheryl C. Says:

    Thanks for your post! It could not have been clearer. I’m using that in my kitchen picking up the cream for my cabinets. You have been a big help ’cause I hadn’t a clue on getting started.

  2. |
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