Wednesday, May 9, 2012

DIY Subway Tile: Part 1

I love subway tile! 
Check out these gorgeous examples of white subway tile found in House Beautiful.

via House Beautiful
via House Beautiful
See, gorgeous right?
It's classic, makes a great statement, is easy to install and relatively inexpensive! 
Win. Win. Win. Win. 
So when we began discussing back splash options, I knew subway tile was a must! The only problem was that I have never tiled anything in my life and to be honest was quite overwhelmed with the idea. But after a long chat with a nice man at the big orange, I loaded my cart up and drove home, ready to give it a whirl. And surprisingly, it turned out pretty awesome!
So do you want to put subway tile in your kitchen?
Well, you're in luck! I'll show how! 
Note: I am in no way a tile expert, I am just sharing what worked for me! Tile at your own risk! :) 

Let's start with your shopping list:
- Tiles (I used the basic white subway tile that are .23/piece)
- Wall Trowel (about $5.00)
-Putty Knife for smaller areas
- Tile Adhesive ($6/small bucket - we used 3 for 23 sq. ft)
- Spacers ($7 for a HUGE bag, we used 1/8" but there are other options)
- Tile Float ($3.00)
- Unsanded Grout (if less than 1/8 space - if more than 1/8 use sanded, $13 for a box) 
- Grout Sealer (this is important for a kitchen/wet area, $10 for small one)
- Tile Cutter (we used this one for $20)
- Level. This is optional, we only used it a handful of times.
- Something to cover your counters
 *I bought all my supplies at the big orange, but any hardware will carry it -- and remember, military families can save 10% on every purchase! We spent about $140 on ALL the supplies -- which (i think) is very reasonable, considering the HUGE impact it will have on your kitchen!

Now that you all of your supplies, let's get started! First off, cover your counter tops!! We just used brown paper and painters tape. Oh - and obviously you'll want to remove whatever you had there previously! 
 Our handyman ripped off ours pretty easily, reveling drywall and a lot of glue! We just tiled right over it ... after a LIGHT sand job. Not sure this is necessary, but we did it anyways.
Pick one end to get started - we picked an area that wouldn't be a huge focal point (just in case it took a little while to get the hang of it,  a main area wouldn't look wonky). Spread the Tile adhesive over a small area. We spread with the putty knife (since our space was pretty small) and then used the trowel to even it out and create grooves. 
 Don't go chinsy on the Tile adhesive! :) You want a nice, thick, even, grooved coat.
 Now you can start laying on your tiles. You'll need to decide what kind of edge you want. The stores sell an "edge piece" that they charge $2.00/each for. We calculated we would need about 24 -- which seemed crazy to spend $48 on them since the tiles themselves only cost us about $40. We just used our tile cutter to cut thinner pieces, the same size as the "edge piece" that they sell. Hey, money talks! It was definitely worth the little bit of extra time it took.
 In areas that it was just straight, like above - we would spread a good amount on, as we could work quickly. In areas where there was a socket, or something else complicated, we would only work with about 4-6 tiles at a time.
If you want a brick pattern, then you'll need to cut one tile in half at the beginning. 
(See the picture below)
My advice is to use the spacers! It really does help keep everything straight and pretty. My husband hated using them, but I would go behind him and "correct" his crooked eye (shhh, don't tell). That little big below ($7) was WAY more than enough - I think we only used half of the bag for about 24 sq. foot of back splash! So if they have a smaller one, you could save yourself some money -- I have an idea for our leftovers that I'll be sharing soon! :)

 Now just keep laying the tile ... and laying some more! :)
Around the outlets can get tricky .. especially if you don't have a wet saw. We accepted that it wouldn't be perfect and just did our best to continue the brick patten around the outlet. It's ok if the outlet is a little wonky - as long as everything else on all side still lines up. The grout is very forgiving, it will hide little mistakes - as will the outlet cover. 
So that's part one .... stand back and admire your work! The hard part is done!
A few notes: It wasn't "hard" per say. It was actually much easier than I anticipated. It's just time consuming and requires a little thinking ahead ... it's like a puzzle basically. Well, ours was anyways, because we have EIGHT outlets to work around, a curvy bar area and a lot of curves. Our area was about 24 sq. ft and it took us about 10 hours, but that includes a break for church and Qdoba as well as the general breaks needed for wrangling up our two neglected babies under two. So maybe more like 6 straight working hours - less if you have less crap to deal with. So now you let it sit 24 hours and then you can grout!I'll be back tomorrow for a tutorial on that! Sometimes I talk too much - and other times, not enough .... so PLEASE don't hesitate to ask any questions if something is unclear! 

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  1. Love this! We're thinking subway tile as well. Why do I think we're going to be kitchen twins? Our kitchen is going to involve a little more demo...i.e. taking down a wall and building new cabinets. So we're tag-teaming this summer when Andrew is home for more than two weeks! I keep telling him that if he'll just knock that wall down, I can handle the rest ;)

    1. Oh I can't WAIT to see! The outside of your house almost looks too amazing to be real! So jealous!! You're brave about the demo ... I wanted to add a wall to make the pantry bigger (ours is TINY!) but it would close off parts of the living room and George didn't like that! I think he just didn't like the idea of all that work. haha! :)

  2. The before and after pics are amazing! Great job!

  3. So pretty! I want to do subway tile in the kitchen of the house we're moving into soon so I've been collecting tutorials for references =) Thanks for sharing

    Visiting from NOT Just A Housewife

  4. Nice article and great knowledge about subway tile. I love this story and enjoy with your words!


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