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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Touching Up Grout – Ask THE Handyman St. Louis – Get It Done

I have an area of grout in my shower that is coming loose. Could this be a problem? Can you tell me how to fix it?

Yes, yes, yes! Grout coming loose or any areas where grout is missing can be an expensive problem. If water gets behind the tile, it will cause the drywall to become like wet cardboard. As it does, the tile will no longer have anything to hold on to and will begin to come out away from the wall. Depending on how old your home is, you may not be able to match the existing tile and it is not a good idea to reuse old tile (they never lay flat like a new one). If you can’t match the old tile, you end up having to replace all of the tile in the tub area, or the whole bathroom! Expensive!

To take care of this problem, you’ll first need to remove any loose grout. A grout saw is an inexpensive hand held tool that will do this. The process is to slowly, but with some force, slide the tool along the grout line as needed to remove the grout. Be careful not to scratch the tile. When the grout is removed, brush any dust away. You’re now ready to re-grout.

Whenever grout is touched up, the new color may not match perfectly with the old grout. Besides getting a close color to match the old grout, you need to look closely to see if the grout is “sanded” or “unsanded”. If it is sanded, when you look closely, you will see small bumps within the grout, about the size of sand particles, hence the term “sanded”. If your grout lines are very narrow, usually these will be unsanded. So, when you go to a tile store, you can get the proper color, and each color will either come sanded or unsanded. If your grout is anything other than white, you may want to pick up a grout color chart from the store, take it home, then pick out the color that closely matches your grout.

When mixing the grout, be sure to follow the mixing directions carefully, so that the grouting is done properly. You don’t want to have to do the project again later. With the grout mixed, use a grout float to apply it. This is a hard rubber float, which allows you to spread the grout, going in a 45 degree motion to the grout joints, forcing it in. After the grout is in, again, following the directions, you’ll need to come back with a clean sponge and wipe the haze off the tiles.

I would recommend after 2 weeks, that you seal the grout. This is an easy process of wiping on a clear sealer (which has the consistency of water), being sure to get it not only on the tiles, but the grout as well. Sealing the grout will keep the color true and prevent mildew.

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Removing Wall Tile – Get It Done – Ask THE Handyman St Louis

I live in a 95 year-old house and have several damaged wall tiles in the house’s original bathroom. Miraculously, we also have some spare tiles that have been handed down from owner to owner, so it is possible to replace the damaged ones. I am sure the original ones are set in concrete, so removing them is not going to be easy. Do you have any recommendations on how to get this done? I have a full complement of power tools, including an air chisel, if that helps.

It is a wonder that you still have some of the original tiles! That will make this job much easier.

To remove the cracked tiles, begin by placing a drop cloth or blanket inside the tub or shower. Next, remove the grout around the tiles to be replaced. A hand held grout saw will be fine for this. It just requires “scoring” the old grout until it is completely gone. To get the tiles out without damaging the surrounding tiles, you need to create more cracks in the bad tile, so that it will come out in pieces. A masonry drill bit and drill can work, as well as a hammer and chisel. Be patient and be careful. Sometimes you will want to just break the whole thing in one good swing of a hammer, but this can cause more damage, so just take your time. Also, be sure to wear goggles, and the tile chips can fly into your face.

Once you have the tile removed, you’re going to need to remove some of the mastic or cement that was under the tile, to get the area smooth and level. Otherwise, the new tile won’t lay exactly flat. To do this, a cold chisel is perhaps the best tool, along with a hammer. Again, take your time. You’ll want to remove enough cement so that when you simply place a new tile in this spot (without any mastic), the tile should lay flat and slightly further into the wall than the surrounding tiles. This way, when you add the mastic, the tile will then lay even with the surrounding ones.

Once you have all of the cracked tiles out, use mastic and a notched trowel to install the new tiles. Normally, the mastic is applied to the wall, then the tiles are put in place. In this situation, you may not have enough room to do this, so you may have to apply the mastic to the back of the tile, using the notched trowel. Next, put the tile in place, slightly turning it as you do. Use a slight amount of force, getting the tile in enough so that it is even with the surrounding tiles. You may want to buy some tile spacers, which go between the tiles temporarily to be sure the new tiles are straight and that you have a uniform space between them. Be sure to wipe up any excess mastic that may have come from behind the tiles.

After all the tiles are in wait at least 24 hours, then apply the grout, following manufacturer’s directions.

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