DIY Kitchen Backsplash (Part 1): Planning a Kitchen Backsplash

DIY kitchen backsplash tiling project

Welcome to Part 1 of our DIY tiled kitchen backsplash project! This first post is about planning a kitchen backsplash.

See the entire DIY kitchen backsplash series:

A year ago we replaced our kitchen’s old with a super nice Staron solid surface countertop from Home d’Pot and planned to tile our own backsplash. Now it’s time to finish the backsplash!

DIY kitchen backsplash planning a kitchen backsplash

To be frank, the idea of permanently gluing little bits of ceramic and glass to our kitchen walls is super intimidating.  We’ve only tiled one thing before (a stripe down our bathroom wall) and that was a messy and intense experience.  You just don’t get much room for messing up when you’re working with tile (but everything went fine in our bathroom tiling project).

our previous tiling experience in a bathroom

It took us some time (and a bunch of YouTube videos) to get the confidence that we could tile our own kitchen backsplash.

Kitchen Ambition

The best place to begin is to determine how ambitious (translation: expensive) the project will be.  This is true of virtually any kind of project you might plan, but it’s especially true when working with expensive materials that the store won’t let you return.

We decided to keep our kitchen backsplash project very modest.  Our backsplash will be 6” tall with varying width tiles, which should allow us flexibility to fill in gaps and avoid cutting tiles. Hopefully, simplicity will pay off in the end.

Why not tile the whole wall?  Well, for one, it’s a trend I just don’t like that much. I think a wall of tile is overwhelming, and it doesn’t let you repaint the kitchen walls (which is something I like doing :D).

Two, it’s expensive.  To tile our entire wall would require 66 square feet of materials, which would cost over $2000 in materials alone.  Our 6” backsplash materials came in around $320.

cost to tile entire kitchen wall is too expensive

Three, we probably couldn’t do a fully tiled wall ourselves.  We would have to remove and re-install the range hood over the tile, and cut the tiles to accommodate the electrical outlets.

So I’ll leave the fully-tiled-wall look to the pros and I’ll stick with what I can actually do myself.

6 inch backsplash is much more affordable

Figuring these things out before you begin is super important.  Knowing the scope of your project lets you estimate costs, which is usually why we DIY these things in the first place.  We got two professional quotes for the kitchen backsplash, and both came at around $650 and $800.  Yeah, thanks, but we’ll pass on that.  Doing it ourselves should come in under $400, for a savings of at least $250.  (I don’t know about you, but I think that stuff adds up.  That’s like, a quarter of the way to another trip to Disneyland!)

I also highly recommend figuring out what you want in terms of color and style before you go to a tile store where you’ll get overwhelmed by the possibilities.  Spend an hour on Google figuring out what you like and what you hate.  Virtually everything looks nice in the tile store, so make sure you know what looks right in your kitchen before you go there.

Determine Your Backsplash’s Height

This part’s easy: how high do you want your backsplash to be?   Some go halfway up the wall, some go to the ceiling, and some are a little more modest and stop about where we’re stopping ours.

We chose 6” because it would let us cut our 12”x12” tile sheets evenly in half and because 6” is slightly lower than our electrical outlets.  Not having to cut tiles to fit around outlets sounds like a good time to me.

6 inch tall backsplash avoids electrical outlets

Determine Your Backsplash’s Width

This part’s easy, too: measure the width of the area you’ll be tiling. In our case, the window wall is 113″ wide and the oven’s wall is 82″ wide.

Calculate the area

Multiply your width by your intended backsplash height to get the square inches you’ll need to fill with tile (in inches).  Divide it by 12 to convert the square inches into feet, and then divide by 12 again to convert into square feet.  (Unless you’re using metric, in which case you can probably do the math in your head…)

I bought one full extra sheet to be safe, so 10 sheets total. (At $30 a sheet, I didn’t want to go crazy buying extra sheets.)

planning a kitchen backsplash

Figure out what you want over the stove

We left the area above the stove empty – it will just be the painted wall it already is.  We chose this to save money (less tile to buy) and because I’m not convinced it needs a backsplash.  We’re daily cooks and I haven’t felt the need for an elaborate backsplash behind the stove yet, so we’ll leave that to the magazines.

If you do want something over your stove (something taller than the rest of your backsplash, perhaps), be sure to calculate its dimensions as well.  If you want it to use a variety of tiles (say, a border or a special design), also calculate the area of those special features.

Any special cases?

Our “special case” is the space between the counter and the window ledge.  The space is just a TEENY TINY BIT less than 4″, so we’re gonna try to make it work with 1″ tiles.

Ready to Shop for Tiles!

With our quantity and budget determined, we’re ready to go to the tile store and see what they’ve got!  I know we’ll be looking for tiles that can fit under the window ledge and match our countertop.

What to bring with to the tile store:

  • Measuring tape

  • Counter sample, if you have one, for comparisons (a painted sample of your wall color and a cabinet door wouldn’t hurt, either)

  • Kitchen measurements

Once the backsplash was planned, the next step was visiting a tile store and choosing tiles.

Budget DIY Kitchen Remodel Progress: July

I don’t think I’ve written an update on our budget DIY kitchen remodel in a while.  Here’s what we’ve been up to these last couple months.

February: I started refinishing the cabinets and tearing out cabinets to make room for the range hood
March: Purchased and installed range hood
April: Spent this month tearing up the many floor layers
May: Popcorn ceiling removed, countertop installed, laminate flooring installed

Unfortunately, I have a crappy tradition of getting sick at the start of summer.  Being sick and recovering knocked the motivation out of me for about five weeks.  During this time I didn’t do jack on the house, but now we’re back at it.

July: Installed the cabinet pulls and reattached most of the doors to the frames.

Here’s a snapshot I took today:

budget diy kitchen remodel progress

To Do: 

  • Paint the interior of the ceiling lighting recess (Dad and Jim installed two LED can lights into here, they’re awesome)
  • Hide the cord from the range hood
  • Hide the range hood’s duct
  • Install wall shelving to the left of the range hood
  • Tile a backsplash around the kitchen

By spreading the work out over a long period of time we’re preserving our sanity (kitchen has experienced nearly 100% uptime through all this work) and putting months between major expenses.  I don’t know how people spend 50-100 grand on a kitchen. Those fortunate people live in a different world than I do.

Kitchen Update, Part 4: Solid Surface Countertop & New Sink

OMG, I super love it!! I didn’t know I could feel this way about a counter top.  Our new counter top by Samsung, under their “Staron” brand.

2013 update: I think Samsung stopped making it.  The Staron website is dead and Home Depot doesn’t carry samples for it anymore. Wtf, why?  My solid surface countertop is AMAZING.

Countertop Before

Old pinkish laminate counter top which was miraculously undamaged, despite our best efforts to “test it”.  Also: crappy two-bowl sink that always looks dirty and is too small for anything.

Countertop After

Our new Samsung Staron counter top is a BEAUTY!  Perfect little white flakes give the surface an almost shimmery snow-like quality.  I especially love the lack of grey flecks.  Most of the “white with flecks” counter top options looked too much like cookies ‘n cream to me.  This one is like gazing into a gorgeous blizzard.

Quick, look now before we crap it up with appliances and dirty dishes:

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Way to diversify your biz, Samsung. TVs, phones, and countertops? Why the hell not…

Solid Surface Countertop Seam

The seam is practically invisible.  I can only find it because I know where it is, but even then it takes me a moment to spot it sometimes.  The “seam-baking” step of the countertop installation was my favorite.

The installers glued little blocks (small Staron samples?) to the countertop then put these strong clips on while the seam “baked”.  Dad and I both were looking at these when one suddenly EXPLODED off and freaked us both out!!  We didn’t go near it again after that.  At this point I thought the seam was huge and hideous, but it cleaned up so nice the seam has really all but vanished.

New Kraus Sink

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LOOK AT THIS HUGE SINK, OMG!!!  It’s a Kraus 31 1/2″ undermount single bowl 16 gauge stainless steel sink and it is AWESOME.  That water bottle holds 20 oz.  Every pan I own can fit into this sink.  

I ordered the sink from Amazon, mostly due to not being able to find anything like it locally but also because it was only $370, way less than I expected to pay for such a gigantic sink.  The sink is very light weight and all I had to do was hand it off to the guy who came to measure our countertop.

All in all, this new countertop is a huge raging success.  The solid surface is beautiful, the gigantic sink is amazing.

Budget DIY Kitchen Remodel: Choosing a Kitchen Sink

With the countertop chosen and a measure scheduled with our installers (The Home Depot), the next order of business in our DIY kitchen remodel was to choose a sink and have it available for the measuring appointment.  Somewhat surprisingly, none of the sinks at the d’Pot really fit our requirements:

  • single bowl
  • huge size
  • under-mount
  • stainless steel

TO THE INTERNET!

On Amazon we found this beauty: a Kraus brand single bowl stainless steel under-mount sink.  70+ reviews and 5 stars?  Yeah, I’m there.

The Kraus sink checks all our boxes (including price – at $300, it left budget for a classier faucet) and it’ll arrive with plenty of time to spare before the measure in two weeks.

choosing a kitchen sink kraus stainless steel

 

We also checked Home Depot’s website, which boasts of its 4000+ sink inventory, but none of those 4000 sinks met our needs, either.  I don’t know how that’s possible.

Some of the things we grappled with while choosing a kitchen sink:

Single Bowl vs. Double Bowl

This was an easy decision: I want a huge sink.

Like, the biggest sink that will fit in this kitchen, because I am done fighting with runt sinks designed for washing nothing larger than a drinking cup!

I have always been unhappy with double bowl setups in previous homes, and I can’t think of a single positive thing to say about them. I don’t do a lot of dishes by hand, but when I do it’s because I’m washing a couple one-off items like cookie sheets… and I don’t want soapy cookie sheets hanging halfway out the sink, dripping water and soap everywhere.

I really didn’t know what I’d do with a narrow bowl or a corner bowl or any of the other oddities I saw on display in the sink aisle.

Sink Size

I got the biggest sink that would fit, and it was completely worth it.  Go big, there’s no disadvantage to a large sink.  Just make sure of two things:

  • You’ve left enough space for a faucet
  • The bottom of your new sink won’t be lower than the drain pipe underneath your current sink

Under-Mount

Under-mount has changed my life. An under-mount sink eliminates any “bump” between countertop and sink, so wiping crumbs off the countertop and into the sink is effortless.  Just wipe and in they go.  Future buyers will love you for your under-mount sink choice.

Also: no caulk rim around the sink edge to get dirty (or moldy).

Stainless Steel

Stainless just looks and functions better.  I’ve lived with two beige colored sinks that must’ve been painted or coated with something to give them that look, and they both looked nasty all the time no matter how much I scrubbed.

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