The tile installed and ready for grout.
Having tiled with ceramic tiles, I expected using glass to be very similar. That expectation was met. The reading I did beforehand (This Old House and DIY network were especially useful) suggested special care to avoid scratching the tile’s show surface and to accommodate glass’s translucent characteristic. In practice, I found the glass tile not especially prone to scratching, and the opaque color applied to the back meant my thin set lines didn’t telegraph through the tile, so quickly gave up on knocking them down. The one place I did take special care throughout the project was when cutting tiles–they seemed more prone to chip out than ceramic tiles, so when making cuts, I would cut in from one edge slightly then flip the piece over and finish the cut.
Layout is perhaps the most important aspect of a tiling project, and the kitchen set up made that task easy for this project. I worked in from each exposed edge toward either a corner or bank of cabinets and was able to run 7 full courses of tiles up the wall. The irregular vertical positioning of outlets made for some awkward cuts, but we were still able to install the entire backsplash, grout, and caulk over four days.
Tools and Materials
The renovated kitchen in my sister-in-law’s kitchen included a wall paper treatment featuring marbled burgundy and floral border. Image via Zillow.
Over the holidays, my wife and I installed a glass tile backsplash in my sister-in-law’s new house, replacing the wallpaper installed by a previous owner as part of the kitchen renovation. Although labor intensive, it’s not too technically challenging a project. It helped that they’d stripped the wallpaper and scuff sanded the sheetrock beneath to provide tooth for the thin-set we used to adhere the tile.
Once the wallpaper was stripped and the sheetrock scuff sanded, the backsplash was ready for tiling.
After three years and approximately 10,000 dishes washed by hand, we finally decided to install a dishwasher. We’d always planned on it–had, in fact, left a bank of drawers empty in anticipation of replacing them–but it was a low priority. The space available wasn’t quite large enough for a 24″ model, limiting our search to 18″ models. As it turns out, the pool of candidates was limited to one cheap model, one mid-range model, and two ridiculously expensive models. A cost-benefit analysis showed spending the money for the mid-range Bosch was worth it for a stainless steel tub, hidden controls, and quiet operation. Continue reading
The white vinyl floor didn’t look terrible, but it was vinyl. So it had to go.
We successfully ignored the vinyl floor in our kitchen for two years. It wasn’t offensive (although the white did tend to show dirt quickly). It even matched the tile backsplash. But floor in the living room appeared to run interrupted underneath the vinyl, suggesting the fir continued into the kitchen. While my wife was out of town for a week, I pried up the transition strips, slid a putty knife under the vinyl and tore up a strip while hoping the fir didn’t end butted up against a sheet of plywood or had rotted. Continue reading
Inset leaded glass doors replaced solid lipped doors.
I was hanging the second of my newly built kitchen cabinet doors, a simple frame-and-panel, paring a hinge mortise when I realized the full weight of the task in front of me. One door hung, one more that would be hung . . . eventually. I shaved off another paper thin layer of wood, then looked up and counted the number of doors that needed to be hung. Only fourteen more to go. I swore quietly to myself and checked the fit of the hinge in its mortise. Continue reading
Our intention to leave the kitchen remodel for a later date didn’t last much beyond the death of the expiring range a couple of months after we moved in. We bought a new stove and matching OTR microwave. Since there was no cabinet over the wall, I built a couple of plywood boxes and applied a face frame. With the cabinet (the door would wait for a while) and appliances installed, the kitchen looked even more depressing. Fresh paint could go a long way towards lightening the space, but there was still the beige backsplash. And the counters.
We contemplated a staggering array of yellows and the best accent stripe color for the new white subway tile backsplash. I wanted to do soapstone counters since soapstone can be worked with woodworking tools, but the lead time and cost suggested another alternative, one we found in Bungalow Kitchens. Wood counters are period appropriate, and IKEA offers different species at reasonable rates.
With materials and colors selected, we demoed the old backsplash and underlying plaster, installed concrete backerboard, installed the new backsplash using a budget wet saw, removed the old counters, installed new counters, sink, and garbage disposal and painted over the course of a couple of weekends.
The ailing original stove and pot rack.
New cabinets increase storage and provide a place to anchor the microwave.
New counters, sink, and backsplash. The cabinets still need new doors, and the curlicue trim above the sink must go.
The west wall of the kitchen with a nook for the fridge.
House listings share with résumés an attempt to put the best light on the subject, and when writing either, it is easy to slip from positive spin to exaggeration, and to outright lying. The listing for our house claimed a recently updated kitchen, but “recently updated” here turned out to be some newish paint, a sheet vinyl floor less than a decade old, and new knobs on the cabinet doors. About the only thing that could be said for the kitchen when we first looked at the house in 2007 was that it didn’t feature cherry cabinets, granite counters, and stainless steel appliances. That particular look palled quickly as we scanned listing after listing and saw that 95% of all updated kitchens featured cherry and granite. By comparison, the gray walls, laminate countertops, and out-of-scale beige wall tiles were less than inspiring, certainly, but not a deal breaker. We could live with it for a time while we tackled more urgent projects–painting over the garish, glaring “designer colors” elsewhere in the house. And at least we wouldn’t have to feel bad about replacing a new kitchen.
The west wall of the kitchen. Note the built-in ironing board at left.
Sorting some unfiled photos and found the following from Bungalow Kitchens. It was one of the primary inputs as we considered options for updating our neglected kitchen. We especially liked the painted cabinets, nickel hardware, use of glass in the upper cabinet doors, and the wooden counter top. The cabinet latches are unduly bulky, though, and we prefer inset hinges to the surface mounted ones used here.
One of the Craftsman kitchens featured in Bungalow Kitchens.