Our New Kitchen Remodel: Part 1 – Tiling

After living in our house for more than 10 years, we realized would just couldn’t take it anymore. The kitchen, that is.

After the economy did us all a huge disservice a few years ago –and the fun just keeps happening– we found ourselves in the middle of CostCo looking at a palate of two types of tile. One was boring white and the other was a mix of glass, travertine, marble, limestone, & glass. We weren’t looking into remodelling the kitchen, hell, we never really talked about it. Our standing joke was that if anything needed replacing (the dishwasher for instance) it would require a wrecking ball and a bulldozer.

My eyes transfixed on the beauty of tile combinations: 3 tones for colored glass that included travertine, marble, and limestone. My dream unactualized, I was ready to walk. My adorable husband said, “Wait a minute, this box is only $20. That averages about $4 per 12″ sheet -that’s a good deal.” Yes, I’m sure it is I murmured. We paused and I could hear the hamsters on the wheels of motion quietly turn with ideas inside his shiny head.

Motionless, we each stand with potential ideas building and brewing. “You know, this could be my birthday present,” I state. “We’ll just do behind the stove like we’ve talked about.” Andrew suggests that a stopping point from the stove to over the counter would be gangly and that we should consider moving the tile around to the window as a back splash for the whole kitchen. I knew that but didn’t want to get greedy –we’re on a budget.

Quickly, we add up the math for the square footage and the required boxes of tile to complete the project. Five minutes later, we estimate that it will take about 5 boxes to complete the project and then we take a step back. I calculate the date the tile arrive, how even the two palates are (one all white vs the multiple mediterranean that I love so much) and can see that the Mediterranean tile is moving much more quickly. Also knowing what week day we’re starting to think about this and the fact that because the price is so inexpensive (compared to Lowes $10.98 per sheet), contractors could get wind of this and clean out the rest of the palate in just a few days. So, I suggest that we buy what we need and go home to recalculate the area we need to fill. There should be at least one box available for us the next day should we need it.

Original Sin

Original Ugly Kitchen

Andrew bought the house in 2000 and I moved in 2001, promptly painting nearly everything in sight. He insisted that the kitchen be not red, but green. Damn! I love red. Reluctantly, I painted. I was okay with the green since psychologically, it infused calm and serenity. I assured myself that I would not gain weight since red was a hunger inducer. Just so you know, I gained weight under the influence of green.

While we were waiting for the time to hire the bulldozer in the Summer of 2003, Andrew was going to re-face the doors with maple. Nice plan, Hayden. He started this project only 2 weeks before he began a new job, which inconveniently, was 2 weeks before our wedding and after several months of unemployment. Why not start now? Seemed reasonable. The cabinet door prototype (on the opposite side of the hanging cabinets below) positioned there for years. I threatened to just paint the damn cabinets to match the maple wood color but just didn’t want to touch the dingy 60-year-old wood.

FACT: Do you know that ‘old people’ smell has now been classified? It’s true. Did you further know that old people smell is trapped in old wood cabinets? Also true. So when you’re visiting open houses as we often do -just out of simple curiosity- and you smell that new classification, you know you’re in for a treat when it comes to remodelling. Ack!!!!!!! I didn’t realize this until I tossed the cabinets outside during the remodel and they began to ferment in the rain for a few days.

Original kitchen with hanging cabinets.

Granted, we’ve seen other homes in the hood that had the same layout and we appreciate ours the best. However, in theory, these hanging cabinets are to allow light through and create the ‘transitional’ home, but they were a pain in the ass when it came to entertaining. Most of our tall friends, psfth! What am I saying? All of our friends are tall. Our friends were try to be gracious but found themselves ducking under the cabinets to talk with us. I felt like we were on floor 7 1/2 (Being John Malcovich reference) -so awkward.

Above you can see we began to affix the tile in space. Already I can imagine how much I’m going to love it.

To be appreciated, you have to capture a close up.

My birthday dinner in process so we must have affixed the second part of tile the night before. The stove still awaits for its beautiful transformation.

Behind the Scenes

We trace and cut templates from the white board support for each sheet of tile. Very helpful when understanding how much tile is needed at each location.

Numbering templates is crucial to timing. Apply the mastic and then affix the sheets quickly as there is only a short span of time.

Double check the cuts to make sure our plan is accurate.  ;D

Sanity Check

Outlining #2 – Around switch plates.

Wonders of Technology

We borrowed a dreamy piece of equipment from my friend Amyzon. It was quite a soaking experience and later learned to cut from the side and not the front. Be sure to keep plenty of water beside you because as much as this tile cutter eats tile, it drinks water like a fish.

Who gets to cut? Rock paper scissors solves all!

I win!! I win!! As Andrew applied the sheets, I was running in and out of the back door with small bits to fit available areas. I felt like a little kid bringing in things from the backyard to apply to the walls. What a better way to spend my birthday week!!

Drying Station + Old towels

Separate drying from cutting to allow tile to dry before affixing. You gotta be quick to the drying station because the glue that keeps the tile on the sheet isn’t that strong.

Applying Mastic (Adhesive) to Walls

We used the large float as a palate and pulled off the mastic in small doses with the putty knife. It worked wonders for tight spaces.

Small parts were buttered on the back and then applied.

We worked the second half of the kitchen after the learning curve with the first part. After all, it’s likely that this is the part many people focus on anyway.

Spreading the mastic to affix the tile sheets.

Andrew affixed the tile sheets while I cut pieces and parts

This was the first time either one of us had tiled anything in our life. Once we circled around to the stove area, we pretty much had both the mastic and grouting mastered.

We were pretty heavy-handed (read: Andrew -haha! Just teasing) when applying the mastic (initially, it oozed thru the tiles) and we realized we didn’t have to apply so much.

Cleaning mastic from between the tiles. Not a fun job.

Kitchen Porn

I couldn’t help myself, I had to share one of the best pairs of legs around. A ball player all his life, Andrew’s legs would win best kilt contest. STG.

Grouting Lesson

Grouting lesson. Add just a bit more water, otherwise it feels like drought mud, not grout.

Did I say we pretty much had the grouting mastered? Yes, but it doesn’t really show until we finish grouting the other half of the kitchen.

The wonderful thing about this age is the variety of glorious grout colors!

TIP: If you’re using a stone tile, it will most likely be porous. So use a grout color that is the same value or lighter because it will seep into the dimples and never leave -no matter how much you scrub.

Initially, we thought we’d use a black grout (because no one else does) but my friend Amy suggested otherwise. While she applauded our aversion to using white (because everyone else does), her suggestion about going lighter than black is appreciated. Thanks Amy!

On Washing

TIP: Bring in a large bucket filled with water and use that to rinse your sponges. You don’t want to use the kitchen sink because the grout could harden like arteries and create a huge mess for both you and the city.

Wipe once with each side of the sponge, otherwise you’re just adding more mud to the surface. Then rinse and repeat a gazillion times.

We also found that near the end, dry paper towel buffs the surface of the tile and glass into a gorgeous sheen.

Quality Control

It’s best to keep pets locked away in a secure room with food and water during this process. It’s very chaotic and unnecessary to have kids and pets underfoot. Chardonnay was merciless in his howls throughout the afternoon and I finally brought him out when I was finished with the tile cutter outside.

Quality Control: Chardonnay finds his spot to oversee production.

I realize that I have many more photos to show you and have decided to split them up into parts.

Stay tuned for exciting cabinet doors and drawers!!


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