So here’s a quick rundown of the overall timeline for this project:
Just putting up the tile (not including grouting) took 3 1/2 to 4 weeks – not working every day of course: I would wait at least a day between rows, and sometimes put the project on hold for other priorities and a holiday.
Vertically speaking, there were five rows of tile… and I think I remember breaking the project into 6 sections (to avoid sagging):
– the 1st bottom row & 1/2 row under the cabinet
– the top row just above the cabinet
– the small bits around the window
– the large blank area near the range hood
– the rest of the top row against the ceiling
– the small bits on the left & right edges
So, that’s probably six different application days with dry time, measuring, and using the wet saw in between. I let the thin-set dry for at least a day, because once I tiled a section and waited the minimum amount of dry-time, I really didn’t have enough time to start again before the end of the day. Each “section” as I call it, involved some bit of cutting tile: the first row had all the outlets, the window involved all small pieces, the “large empty vent area” was minimal except for the angled cuts around the hood, the top row involved special pieces to fit up against the ceiling, as did both sides against the walls. I probably procrastinated a tiny bit between sections because breaking out the wet saw just wasn’t that fun or efficient – this was one of the first times in the whole renovation that I lost momentum.
Measured and marked pieces of tile for around the window. On the green frog tape, “X” is for the cut off side & when cut, the location markings will still be intact on the correct side. The tape not only allowed for notes, but it also helped keep the tile together after it went through the wet saw. (Sometimes pieces fell off of the backing). I cut the 12 inch long sections of tile up into very small sections because I found that it was easier to control smaller bits of tile. The mesh backing wouldn’t stay rigid and would collapse/push together when using the saw.
Making sure the fence is straight and the saw lines up with where I needed to cut the tile. This needed to happen for each different cut. The shim to the side in this photo was used as a push stick so my fingers were far from the blade. Also, as a side note, I couldn’t trim pieces too small (say if I mis-cut something and then needed to refine it a bit) or they would fall down in the gap by the blade.
This was not an expensive wet saw. Marble is soft & our project wasn’t huge, so we purchased the least expensive saw at $60. It worked, but definitely didn’t have the bells & whistles. A negative was that it was difficult to change the water tray without spilling. (I should note that a wet saw works by using a water bath to cool the blade as it passes through the water & it also reduces dust – but the water quickly gets gunked up.) After I learned a little bit more about wet saws, I found out that some have a platform that carries and supports the tile through the blade – something that would have worked better for mosaic. But this was an example of time versus money. And we went less expensive in exchange for more time.
Here’s an example of a larger piece of mosaic being cut in the saw. You can see that the pieces near my fingers are starting to push together from the pressure. The backing on the mosaic just couldn’t keep the sheet rigid enough when being pushed through the blade. In addition to this happening – sometimes the longer sheets would get wedged between the blade & fence… I’m guessing this would happen if the fence wasn’t at a super perfect 90 degree angle… but I’m not quite sure why this happened. The way to solve both issues was to just push shorter sheets of mosaic through the wet saw. (Though this did take more time and attention to organization & labeling.)
Because of the tile material – marble – I did need to use a wet saw for this project. I figured If I had used a different material that only required tile nips, then I wouldn’t have had the clean up time or back and forth that the saw required. I tried to measure, mark, & organize a good amount of tile up in the kitchen before bringing it down to the wet saw set up in the driveway. With larger stacks of tile, it was easier to mix things up and loose track than it was for just doing one sheet at a time, but for efficiency, I tried to cut larger amounts.
I only applied thin-set mortar in the areas I would be immediately working on. I used a v-notch trowel that was an appropriate depth for mosaic tile. We had a larger & smaller version of the trowel, but honestly, I ended up just exclusively using the smaller one. You are also supposed to use a float to help flatten out the tile against the wall, but the support cardboard just got in the way & I ended up abandoning the tool at some point during the project.
I was able to tuck these tiles (and a electrical wire for under-mount cabinet lights) behind the cabinet edge because it coincidentally sat away from the wall the perfect 3/4 thickness of the tile. I did this even though I knew I would be adding a glossy panel on the side of the cabinet – just to make sure you wouldn’t see a gap & so it looked like the tile continued behind the cabinet.
…and rolling it into place. Just to add pressure to the whole project… my cuts for the window needed to be very precise: I was intending on leaving the edge raw and not framing out the window with trim – for a more modern look.
…and basically repeat this process a bunch of times.
Above the window, I added a board to support the tile – but when I removed it, some of the mortar squished out below & it doesn’t look very clean… I’m still thinking of what to do about that.
I apologize for not having an overall wide photo of this stage of the project – but you’ll see a better view in the grouting post!
As an overview of aesthetics:
To break up the pattern, I sometimes flipped the tile upside down and cut quarter or half strips off of and rearranged the sheet of tile. Before that point even, I mixed up tiles among the different boxes – because they weren’t all guaranteed to be exactly uniform. When applying the second group of tile, I realized that I had straight lines horizontally across the wall between 12×12 sheets. moving forward, I started to cut out a few sections of the mosaic and stagger a few sheets. As for color, I paid attention to and did not use pieces of individual mosaic if they had too much yellow or had a random spot of unusual pigmentation. I also tried to distribute the white and darker grey pieces evenly across the wall. It would bother me when I would see a professional tile job (in person or on tv) where joints were not aligned, so I paid special attention to making sure that all my lines were straight. I admit, I was not the most efficient tiler in the world.
On another note, practically speaking, the ceiling was not level.
I needed to get the tile as close to the ceiling as possible, while leaving a space for a full tile (there were three heights to choose from) to fill the gap. Sometimes this meant creating a whole new vertical row of individually mixed tile (with appropriate spacing) to get near the ceiling while looking natural (and not suspicious). I did not want to trim tile horizontally – my fingers would just be too close to the blade (I don’t think it was possible) and it wouldn’t be representative of any tile occurring anywhere else on the wall. Even though the mosaic was on 12×12 mesh, most of the last 12 inches of tile up by the ceiling – across the entire wall – was individually placed.
A good portion of the reason I broke this project up into so many sections was fighting dry time. I was still in “go go go” mode from pouring the concrete countertops and, since I had never used mortar before, I wanted to be very careful. (Insert skeptical side-eye at the mortar bag here). The thing is, there is always a weird balance in any project between racing against the wet/drying subject (mortar/concrete/paint/whatever) and then waiting around for it to dry. This is especially compounded when considering using both the product and also having to clean equipment. (I’m still thinking of the concrete & sprayer here: paranoid!).
Anyway, next I’ll break down the tools & materials needed for this project along with how much everything cost!