Tuesday, November 3, 2015

A geometric tiled backsplash

One of the things we were busy with last month (resulting in a bit of silence here on the blog) was tiling our kitchen backsplash.

Choosing tiles was the first obstacle, and slowed us down quite a bit. We started with a vision of colour, thinking we could incorporate some vibrancy into our kitchen that way. Unfortunately the range of coloured tiles that are (easily) available is fairly limited, and we couldn't find any that looked right. Since colour was off the table we shifted our focus to texture - and pretty quickly discovered the cool 3D tiles we ended up using.

The tiles are hexagonal, and moulded so that they appear cuboid. This gives an almost Escher-est effect when combined, and together with a dark grout to emphasise the outline gave us a finish we're really happy with.

There are two drawbacks to these fantastic tiles; first is the price - retail is $4.10 per tile. Definitely negotiate, though - we were offered a 15% discount without even asking, and then when we saw them cheaper (but out of stock) elsewhere we went back and asked if they could reduce the price further, so they did - not only matching but beating the other store's special price.

The second drawback is that they're tricky to cut - and because they're not square there's a lot of cutting needed. Due to their raised shape we were advised to use an angle grinder rather than a tile cutter, which worked fine but is a bit more labour intensive.

Prep work - making sure the power points are perfectly aligned

Dad made a nifty little cutting template which held the tiles neatly in place for cutting, and precision in the cutting department was exceptional as a result. There was also excellent efficiency in using offcuts to fill opposing gaps, which meant there was very little waste. We had been told to allow an extra 15% in our tile calculations but we were able to return a full box and still keep a dozen or so spares in case of future breakage.

In terms of how to tile - as ever, online instruction video is the name of the game. Mr Mitre 10 sorted us out this time (well, Dad had done it before but we wanted to educate ourselves a bit too). To get a nice symmetrical finish we started in the middle and worked out. We used 3mm spacers, again to ensure we had a good bold outline of grout, and cut the tiles around the rangehood (the shape of the tiles meant we didn't have the choice to tile behind it as it wouldn't be able to sit flush).

The most time consuming (and frustrating) part was working around the power points - the 3D tiles don't really mesh well with fiddly areas. I think we ended up with a decent finish, but this is definitely the least awesome part of the job, and we might still touch them up later. Luckily the toaster lives in front of one set and the jug in front of the other! We debated whether we would have put them elsewhere if we'd chosen our tiles earlier in the process, but the layout of our kitchen doesn't really give us any other sensible options, so that result was inevitable.

It took about a day and a half to finish - not a quick job - but it looks fantastic, and it's so nice to have the kitchen another big step closer to completion.

Left on the kitchen to-do list is:
  • Plaster around the built in cupboards 
  • Paint built in cupboards and top coat the rest of the room
  • Final coat on the floor 
  • Replace the glass in the overhead cupboards (I inadvertently ordered frosted instead of clear)
It might be the New Year before it's 100% complete, depending on when our plasterer can slot us in (we've decided to outsource that bit), but we are getting tantalisingly close. 

Meanwhile we're starting to finalise the design for our downstairs bathroom, and having some tiling skills is likely to be useful there (note that the building code requires using a professional for wet areas though, so if we tile the shower we won't be able to DIY that). There's just one rule: no 3D tiles!

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