Change Your Backsplash – Get It Done – Ask THE Handyman St. Louis

I just moved into a home and have a lot of items on a “to-do” list. One of them would be to tile my backsplash above the kitchen sink. Can this be done easily?

Congratulations on the new home! It sounds like a normal move-in, where there are many things to be done on the wish list. Tiling an area above the sink can be a great way to add character and dress up the area. Tiling a backsplash is not a very hard job to do. The hardest part of the job is cutting the tile, but we’ll get to that in a bit.

First, I’m assuming the area above the sink is drywall or plaster, and is in decent condition. If so, you’re ready to go. Begin by choosing the tile you want. Most backsplashes consist of 4” tile, but any size can be used. Generally, you’ll want to lay the first course of tiles just above the counter top and sink. Starting at one corner, spread the adhesive with the smooth edge of a notched trowel.

Next, using the notched side of the trowel, go over the same area to create the ridges from the notches. As you begin, just run the mastic to go slightly above the first row of tiles, for one or two feet. Press the first tile into place, giving it just a slight turn both ways as it goes on. Be sure the tile is straight and don’t just depend upon the corner wall being straight, because chances are, it isn’t.

Next, place two plastic spacers on the top of the tile and two on the side. This allows for perfect spacing between the tiles. Continue on to the end of the row, but if the last tile needs to be cut, leave it for now. It’s much easier to do all of the tile cutting at one time. Go on to the second row, remembering the spacers, and continue until all of the full tile areas are done.

You’re now ready for the cutting of the tiles. It is much easier to use a wet tile saw for this. They can be rented from most larger hardware stores, or from a flooring store. Get some instructions from wherever you rent the saw. Make your cuts and install them in order. It is best to make each cut, or only a couple of them and install them, rather than cutting every tile at one time.

Once the tiles are up, you need to let the mastic dry, usually for about 24 hours. You’re then ready to grout the tiles. Be aware, any color of grout can be used. This is an easy way to add a distinctive color to the scheme. Follow the instructions on the grout carefully when mixing the grout. Then, using a grout float, apply the grout to the tiles. This will at first seem like a messy job, but basically, you’re just working it into the joints, in a circle fashion, to be sure it goes in well. As you do this, remove any large amounts off of the tile. Follow directions as to when you can sponge off the haze from the tiles. This will usually have to be done a couple of times.

Once the grouting is finished, you’re ready to caulk the area along the counter top, top, and corners as needed. The coloring of the caulk is up to you, but will usually look best if it matches the grout color.
Sealing the grout and tiles is a good idea, but you usually have to wait for a week or so before doing it. It is an easy process, and the sealer can be purchased wherever you got the tile.
Be sure when you’re all finished to pat yourself of the back!


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Repairing A Wood Floor – Get It Done – Ask THE Handyman St Louis

We have hardwood floors that will need to be re-stained, but we’re trying to put it off for a while. Is there any way to touch up some small areas without refinishing the whole floor?

Generally, this is a job for a flooring company, and they will usually recommend doing the whole floor. However, when the situation calls for a temporary fix, you might be able to get the area looking better than it is. However, without experience, you’ll likely be able to see the difference between the original finish and the one you are doing. So, a word of caution: if you attempt this repair, you may not be completely happy with the results.

To start you need to remove the finish and stain off the area where you’re making the repair. You’re going to want to use a fine sandpaper, such as a 120 grit. Using a sanding block (the sandpaper wrapped around a block of wood), sand the area so that the urethane finish comes off, then continue sanding so that the stain comes off. If this isn’t working, try medium grit sandpaper (80 to 100 grit). Once the area is cleared of the stain and finish, go back to the fine grit paper so that everything is smooth. Then vacuum and wipe the floor to remove all the dust.

The next step is to apply the stain. The process itself is easy but matching the original finish can be tricky. The color of the floor may not be an exact color of stain that you can get off the shelf of the hardware store. So, you will most likely have to mix different colors to get the shade you need. This is just a matter of trial and error. I would suggest having a piece of hardwood for a sample, then attempt mixing colors into a small bucket (remembering to start with only a small amount of each, since this is only a test). Stir the stains together (never shake a stain) and apply it with a rag or brush onto the sample. Continue this until you feel you have the right shade. Then, apply the stain to the area you’re repairing with a clean rag, being sure to wear gloves. Once the stain is on, let it dry overnight.


The next step is to apply a urethane finish. The existing finish could be either water based or oil based, and it is recommended that you use the type of finish that was already there. However, you may not have a clue as to which was originally used. If this is the case, I would recommend a water based urethane. This can be purchased, along with the stain, at a hardware store. The urethane can be applied with a brush. Let the first coat dry per the manufactures’ directions. Then, slightly scuff up the finish with a fine sandpaper, and add a second coat of urethane.

Remember, this should only be done if you are willing to try a job that might not turn out perfectly.

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