What to Expect When Your Backsplash or Fireplace Gets a Tile Makeover

Updated: Jan 3, 2019

It begins with a mess.

  • Cutting drywall & grout lines, especially if I have to saw, kicks up dust!

  • Be prepared for demo day by removing everything from your counters & cover whatever you may not want to get dusty in the adjoining spaces; flat sheets work well for soft furnishings.

  • For my part, I will paper & tape off the counters to protect the surface & use drop cloths on the floors. If you’d like, I will also tape up plastic drop cloths over doorways, arches, etc. Nevertheless, dust finds a way.

It's going to be loud.

  • Demo day means lots of banging & may require some small saw cutting into the drywall. The saws are loud. The hammering is loud. I wear hearing protection; you may simply wish to leave.

  • After demo day comes the big tile saw. It's really loud, too, but at least it will be outdoors.

Wall damage is likely.

  • If your old tile is really married to your drywall, chances are the drywall will be damaged upon removal. No worries, though! I just cut pieces of new drywall to fit in where the damage was, screw it into the studs, then tape and bed the seams. The fresh drywall mud (the “bedding”) must dry. Tile setting begins the next day.

Without grout & final caulking, tile setting in process isn't very pretty.

  • There will be weird cuts, rough edges, things that sometimes have to be pieced together very carefully, wall or builder imperfections discovered after demo that require compensation during the tiling process. It can be very hard to imagine the finish product.

  • Be patient. Grout takes care of unifying everything & caulking smooths out the seams. It's truly amazing to see how beautiful it all is once the final touches are done, but they are called “finishing touches” for a reason.

I need water, electricity, and space.

  • A wet saw is used to do most of the cuts; for that, I need an exterior water source & a power supply, as close to the worksite as possible.

  • A 5’ x 5’ space on your patio or grass (animal waste free, please) is a must.

  • Depending on the material being cut, quite a bit of dust-like “schmootz” will be left behind in the worksite, but it's all stuff that washes away with a little time or power washing. I don't provide that service, but can arrange for it at an additional charge.

How long is this going to take? The answer to this question depends on a few things.

  • Plan on 5 work days. It's hard to say exactly until demo is done & I know if there are any special surprises hiding behind the walls of your house. Might be a few days more, might be a few less, but 5 is a good number.

  • The weather also plays a HUGE role. Humidity, rain, ice, they can slow me down & they can definitely do down the drying process of the thinset and grout. Run the A/C to pull humidity out of the air. Pull up a box fan. If materials aren't drying, I can't move forward.

  • Fireplaces go much faster, unless I'm tiling the wall around or above it, not just the fireplace itself.

  • How much square footage is being replaced? The more area, the more time.

  • How many electrical receptacles & light switches do I have to cut around? Special cuts are VERY time consuming, especially when working with mosaics.

  • What type of tile material is being used & how big is it? Typically, the larger the tiles, the faster it goes in.

  • Ceramic, porcelain, and most stones cut easily enough & don't require any special preparation, therefore, they install faster, too.

  • Mosaics take somewhat longer. The backs of every mosaic must be prepared the day before setting by “buttering” the back of every sheet with thinset, thereby sealing the mesh to which they are adhered. This important step keeps the setting material doesn't squeeze through & make a mess or make for an uneven installation, but it also adds a day or two to the process, as the thinset must dry before the tile sheet can be set.

  • Also, at some point it's common for me to have to play “Tetris” with most mosaics. Edges & corners always seem to need to be pieced bit by bit; it's simply time consuming.

  • Glass, in any form, takes longer because it can't be cut with the big, fast saw (mixed material mosaics might be an exception, just depends on how much glass there is). It has to be manually cut with a dry cutter, nippers, or a slo-o-o-w table top wet saw with a special glass cutting blade.

What type of exposed edge do you want? There are a number of options here, and it's mostly just a matter of taste. Here are the four main ones: Raw tile edge Metal edging Bullnose, not available for a wide range of tiles Pencil, chair rail, or other specially edging ** For more reading on this topic, check out this LINK **

Regarding Sealing, Enhancing, & Grout Haze

  • I will leave you with clean tile & counters, but it may take a little while for the grout haze to leave you. It is a very natural part of the tile process, but one with which I have no part because much of what may be necessary to rid yourself of it can’t happen until the grout is dry. For some solid information about this issue, read on: HERE & HERE

  • Natural stone should be sealed & enhanced for maximum beauty, but that is also something I don’t do as a part of the normal processes of installing tile. It, too, doesn’t happen until after several days after the grout goes in. HERE is a great explanation of this super simple process.

  • When doing small projects, I always use premixed Mapei Flexcolor CQ, which has some wonderful sealing properties. If you want to do EXTRA sealing, that’s too comes after the grout has cured. Read HERE for info.

Be patient with the process.

  • Firstly, you have chosen to hire ME, not a bunch of workers or subcontractors. I AM the worker bee, along with a few people I bring in to help. I work as quickly as I possibly can. If needed, I do hire subs, but I don't make a habit of it.

  • Secondly, I clean up after myself. I've been through this process several times in my own home, & I know how irritating it can be to have kitchen or living room tied up under construction. But -I'll only be traipsing through your space for a few days. When I'm done, I haul away the trash (or get it to the curb) & tidy up the work area. Sorry, I don't clean the rest of the house though.

  • Finally, all of the touch-ups, caulking, & clean-up work is usually done at the very end of the process. It takes time to go back & check the details when I’m in the thick of working through the above steps, but once the bulk of the work is completed, that is when all the little bits & pieces, trims, edges, get cleaned & sharpened up. I PROMISE!

I hope this has answered the majority of your questions, but if there is anything I missed or other concerns, please, ask!

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