Oh, My Aching Backsplash (Part 3)
Picture, if you will, the face of the innocent young Lowe’s employee a couple weeks ago when I walked up to her and proclaimed with a straight and determined face, “I need some caulk.”
And I wasn’t leaving until I got some.
And as usual, by “we” I mean the hubs. The wonderful hunk of a hubs. (Sorry, we went and saw Wicked this weekend – it’s the prequel to The (wonderful) Wizard of Oz.)
Before you can caulk, you need to grout.
I talked about picking your grout in Part 1.
We used a sanded grout that closely matches our tile color. Because we have so many other “expressive” elements going on in the kitchen (busy floors and busy granite), we wanted the backsplash to blend into the background.
Following the directions on your bag of grout, mix it with water.
We used this tool that you stick on a drill to help with the mixing.
Slowly add water as necessary while you mix. You should end up with something close to the consistency of peanut butter.
Once your grout is mixed, use a tool called a grout float to press the mixture into the spaces between the tiles. Don’t worry about getting the grout on the tops of the tiles – it’s pretty much unavoidable.
Make sure you really press it in there good. This is going to completely finish off the look of the backsplash, and you don’t want it cracking later.
Give the grout enough time to start setting before you sponge it off your tiles – but don’t wait so long that it’s difficult to wipe away! We worked in 4-5′ sections, adding the grout and then sponging away the excess.
And that’s all there is to grouting! You might think you’re done at this point.
You will really want to be done at this point. Unfortunately, there are just a couple more finishing touches.
We got sidetracked for about a week (okay, maybe 3) before finishing up our ‘splash.
All we really had left to do was seal the grout and caulk along the gap between the counter and backsplash. Unfortunately, it always seems to be those little things – those finishing touches and small detail projects – that get us all hung up for some reason. Like performance anxiety.
But eventually we got over it when we realized we were more likely to damage the work we’d already done by not completing these few, final details.
So here’s the down ‘n dirty:
First, we used this water-based sealer to protect the grout from stains.
As with everything else, there are several options when it comes to grout sealer. For out guest bathroom floor, we had used a rub-on liquid grout sealer. For this vertical surface, however, we thought a spray-on kind might be easier. Turns out it didn’t matter much because the stuff dripped like crazy. Luckily I was right there with paper towels to clean it up and protect the counters.
Just follow the directions on the can, and spray!
It should go without saying that you should try to avoid spraying this stuff in your outlets. The hubs was very careful.
We let the sealer dry 24 hours before moving on to caulking.
When it comes to caulk, you’ll find you have more options than Tiger Woods when he flips through his little black book. (Low blow, sorry.)
I learned that for caulk that goes between a counter and tile backsplash, it’s a good idea to get something that closely matches the color of your grout. That way it will look like it belongs there. (If you’re caulking between a counter top and the side panel of a cabinet, however, you’d want to get clear caulk so it doesn’t stand out at all. Capiche?)
Lucky for us, the same company that made our grout also made a caulk in a matching color. I found this in the same section.
Now in the above picture, can you see those hardened grout chunks between the bottom row of tiles and the counter? Yeah… those aren’t supposed to be there. When grouting your backsplash, you should be very careful to not get the grout between the tiles and counter.
But if you don’t realize that like us, you’ll want one of these. A grout scraper.
You could probably use a hammer and chisel, but we were worried about accidentally chipping some of our tiles. With this handy-dandy tool, the hubs could scrape and chip away with a bit more control.
He then used a vacuum to clean up all of the dust before caulking.
Once the surface is clean, use a caulk gun to distribute an even rope of caulk into the gap.
Unless you’re a super experienced caulking expert, it might be difficult to control how evenly you distribute the caulk, and you won’t end up with a nice, smooth line.
If this is the case, you might want to get yourself a caulk finishing tool.
This little guy worked wonders for smoothing out the hubs’ caulk line and making it look professional. See the uneven line on the left side of the picture compared to the smooth line on the right:
When you’re finished, make sure you wipe away any stray caulk from your counter or tile faces before it dries.
You should finally, finally have a finished backsplash.
We saved over $500 worth of labor costs, and we kept our other expenses low by choosing inexpensive, ceramic tiles and using a tile saw we already owned. We also returned our unused tiles to the store!
So what do you think?? Leave a comment and let me know. Don’t leave me hanging or I’ll think we suck. :)
Also, the unveiling of our finished (but as of yet un-accessorized) kitchen is coming soon!