Hello! I’m back!
John and I completed a very exciting project this month- we installed glass subway tile backsplash in the kitchen, and we did it without any help!
The kitchen is really coming along! Besides waiting for my range hood to come in (12/29 delivery date womp) and finishing a few more rows of tile over the stove (we didn’t know how far up to go without the range hood), we are extremely close to wrapping up everything other than the floor.
I wanted to share what products we used and the process of installing glass subway tile as a backsplash (which I’m assuming is slightly different from installing it in a shower). This is a lengthy post, but it was a lengthy process! This post only covers laying the tile, but you can read about grouting/finishing the tile here.
Note: We did not partner with, nor we were given discounted/free materials from any of the companies/products mentioned in this post. As always, any products mentioned are for the sole purpose of narrating the process or because we just really liked the product.
I spent more hours than I would like to admit searching Pinterest and the Internet for what I wanted. Glass subway tiles caught my eye, especially when paired with dark cabinets like ours. I kept coming back to this 4×12 Smoke Gray Glass Subway Tile from The Builder Depot. It’s over-sized, which John liked since it would be an easy tile to lay for our first backsplash project, and it’s modern enough to work in our kitchen. It has the classic lines of subway tile, but being glass and slightly larger make it a little unique.
Guys, let me tell you how much I love The Builder Depot. Everything about ordering and doing business with this company was amazing. First, I ordered some samples. They send you 2 full tiles for only $5.00. Now listen carefully.
Shipping is free. Shipping is free on EVERYTHING you order from this company. Whether it’s a $5.00 tile sample or $500 in Carrera Marble, its FREE SHIPPING.
This was a game changer for me because even though some companies sell a similar tile for a buck or so cheaper, it’s usually over $100 in shipping. By default, The Builder Depot price beat every other retailer I saw online.
It was $9.95 a square foot. For 35 square feet of our kitchen it ended up being $348.25 (and we had a lot of tiles leftover, better safe than sorry!). If you follow us on Instagram @thehappyhouseproject, you know that I ordered my tiles on Monday and they arrived by Wednesday. How is that even possible? Did Santa drop them off? Was the Tooth Fairy involved somehow?
It took another few weeks with me travelling for work for us to finally get started on tiling. Here’s what we used:
- Wet Tile Saw. We purchased SKIL 3540-02 7-Inch Wet Tile Saw (affiliate link) from Amazon for $79. We honestly had no idea how long this project would take and we plan on doing the 3 bathrooms in this house at some point so it seemed worthwhile to just buy a saw instead of renting one. Truth be told, John did all the cutting, but he said this saw is great for the price and for DIYers!
- Spacers. 1/4″ mm wedge spacers, to use between the counter and first row of tile, and 1/8″ T-Spacers to use between the tiles.
- Brown contractors paper and lots of painters tape to tape off counters and walls. We still had lots of paint touching up on the walls to do anyway, but we made sure to cover the brand new counters thoroughly!
- Mussel Bound Adhesive Tile Mat. These are $27.98 a roll from Lowe’s. Funny story, we actually bought thinset to do this project the traditional way, but John just happened to be watching an episode of This Old House approximately 4 minutes before we starting tiling and they were using this stuff so he promptly did some research online, watched some tutorials and dramatically proclaimed we must return the thinset and use this stuff instead. It ended up being the BEST IDEA EVER. I was skeptical so we did a test with one tile and let it set before trying to pry if off the wall by hand and with various tools. When we finally got it off, it came off with a chunk of drywall still attached to it. Good enough for me!
After taping off and covering counters, John framed out the kitchen window using 2 1/2″ trim from Lowe’s, a miter saw and finishing nails. I went back later and caulked the gaps and painted it. It think the trim really opens up the window, plus we had something to butt the tile up to instead of dealing with raw edges.
Then, we started unrolling the Mussel Bound Mat (which is basically a large sheet of double sided tape). We started by sticking the mat to the wall and pushing down with a baking roller to get it nice and stuck. Whatever works.
We sliced the mat with a utility knife to expose the sticky side only enough for one row of tile at a time. We used the 1/4″ wedge spacers between the first row and the counter. Even though I watched the guys who installed our counters level them, we double checked the level again before starting. Since the counters were already perfectly level, we didn’t have to do any funky spacing on the bottom row. On the oven wall we started with the center tile, so that when we made cuts on both sides they would be uniform.
We used the T-Spacers in between the tiles as guides and also to make sure tiles didn’t sink before they were fully set to the mat. I also used a quarter as I was going to make sure that the rows were staying level from tile to tile. A flat quarter sitting between two tiles = level tiles. We took our time with each tile and made sure to correct any wonky tiles as needed by cutting out the mat with a utility knife and re-laying a new strip to try again. I marked the tiles to be cut and John was in charge of cutting. Because we used glass tile, I just made my marks with red sharpie which wiped clean later.
We couldn’t believe how nice it looked when we were done! (Don’t worry we changed the outlet to white, I just had the cover on to make sure it would fit over John’s cuts)
The process was pretty similar on the other side. We started with the right hand corner instead of starting in the center. The corner will most likely always be covered by my KitchenAid mixer. The cuts ended up being almost a half tile on that side anyway. It was sheer luck we had hung the open shelves at exactly the right height to fit four full rows of tile underneath them. The shelves were hung way before we picked the tile so I guess the tile angel was sitting on my shoulder as were eyeballing the placement of the shelves!
As you can see, we worked until it got dark. We started at about 11am and finished around 5:30pm. Even though it took a long time, I’m extremely happy with the outcome. I am happy John and I worked on this project alone since we were able to take our time and I felt like I was in complete control of the placement of each tile. It sounds silly, but this was a project where less hands were better! Stepping back, I can’t find one tile that I am unhappy with the placement of. (Type A people put your hands in the airrr).
Keep a look out for my part 2 post about this project- including grouting and some better final reveal pictures! I really need a camera! *hint hint Christmas gift*