The backsplash — the portion of wall running between the countertop and the top wall cupboards — is a prominent place for showcasing the delicate texture and colour variations of tumbled tile. Using tiles cut from natural stone, such as marble, limestone, travertine or slate, the tumbling process wears off sharp edges to produce the timeworn appearance of antique stone. Although it evokes a rustic charm, frameless tile is much more of a challenge to install because of its slightly curved, irregular edges and often porous, pitted surface.
Lay down drop cloths to protect the flooring and countertop. Switch off the power to any electrical outlets or light switches in your back ground area, then eliminate their cover plates using a screw driver. Lightly sand painted drywall with 80-grit sandpaper to roughen the surface and allow to get a much better bond to the tile. Wipe dust off the drywall using a clean, moist cloth.
Measure and mark the middle of the wall right onto the bottom edge of this wall — where the wall meets the countertop — using a pencil. When organizing your tile layout, line up the middle of the initial tile on this mark to make certain the backsplash is centered on the wall.
Gauge the tumbled tiles and draw level, or flat, and sloping, or vertical, reference lines on the wall, using a carpenter’s level. You do not have to draw in every tile, just one line for every couple rows and columns of tiles to guide your installation. You do need to take into account the width of grout joints between tiles. Although you can install most stone tile with a 1/8-inch grout joint, installing tumbled tile often requires using a wider grout combined — usually 1/4 inch into 3/8 inch — to accommodate its irregular borders and slight variations in size.
Expand a bed of tile adhesive on the wall using the right edge of a 3/16-inch V-notched trowel. Comb out the bed with the notched edge of the trowel while holding the trowel at a constant 45-degree angle to form ridges with a uniform height. Apply only a small sections at a time, say a 3-foot-by-3-foot place, to prevent the adhesive from drying out until you put in the tile.
Cut one of the four prongs off a tile spacer working with a utility knife. Cut a prong off another tile spacer. Put both spacers along the upper edge of the countertop on either side of the middle line to the wall, separated by about the width of one tile. The spacers will leave a gap to get a grout joint between the countertop and bottom of this tile. Put a tile on the bottom center of this wall, then butting its lower border against both spacers. Adjust the spacers so that they fit snugly against the bottom two corners of the tile. Put a tile spacer on each upper corner of the tile. Press the spacers and the tile firmly into the mastic.
Keep putting the remaining tiles in the row. Establish the tiles flush against the spacers to create even grout joints. Leave room to get a bead of caulk at any corners involving walls. Wipe off excess adhesive squeezed up between tiles.
Put the remaining part of tile, working upwards to the desired height or till the tiles reach the top cabinets. Cut tiles to fit around cupboards, electrical outlets and light switches using a score-and-snap tile cutter or a motorized wet-cutting diamond saw. Use tile nippers to nibble away at the edges of a tile to create a curved or irregularly shaped cut. Smooth the edges of a cut tile with a grindstone or tile sander. Leave room to get a bead of caulk between the backsplash and the top cabinets. Permit the mastic to place for at least 24 hours and then pull out the tile spacers.
Apply a thick coat of multipurpose penetrating stone and grout sealer on the front faces of their tumbled tiles, using a foam paintbrush. Avoid getting the sealer into the joints between tiles. Work with only small areas at a time — around 4 to 6 square feet. Immediately start rubbing the sealer into the stone surface using a clean, white cloth. Allow the sealer soak in the stone for three to 10 minutes, depending on the specific type of sealer you’re using and its application directions, then wipe away the excess with a clean cloth. Avoid leaving the surplus on for more time, or it might dry and leave a deposit. Allow the sealer dry fully. Since tumbled stone is porous, applying sealer prevents stains and keeps the grout from sticking into the front face of the tile during installation.
Scoop a small number of cement-based, sanded tile grout on a rubber grout float and pack the grout deep into the joints between tiles. Sanded grout is composed of frequent grout with sand added to increase the strength of their wider joints. Do not receive any grout in the seam between the tiles and the countertop, between the tiles and the top cabinets, or at the corners involving tiled walls. Try not to get too much grout on the surface of their tumbled tiles; it can get stuck in the pitted surface.
Scrape excess grout off with the grout float. Gently wipe a clean, damp sponge over the tiles to clean grout off the front faces of the tiles. Rinse and wring out the sponge often in a bucket of clean water, changing the water often. Wipe diagonally to prevent pulling grout out of the joints. Wait 30 to 40 minutes to let the grout company up slightly, then wipe the tiles again to eliminate any remaining grout residue. Allow the grout set for 48 hours.
Brush a coat of multi purpose, penetrating stone and grout sealer over the whole backsplash. Use the identical method you used together with the first coat of sealer you applied before you grouted the tiles, but this time apply the sealer above the grout joints too. Allow the sealer dry fully.
Squeeze a bead of mildew-resistant silicone caulk along the seam between the backsplash and the countertop, and also the corners involving tiled walls and along the joint between the seams and the top cupboards. Smooth the caulk with a wet finger to give it a rounded profile.