Man Cutting TileDealing with upgrading a tiled installation by adding decorative tile and or trim. Since these installations will be existing, removal of tile will be necessary.

Always use the appropriate safety devices when removing ceramic or stone tile. Small pieces of debris can not always be controlled.

In the following set of photographs, the owner of this kitchen wished to upgrade her 6″ tiled splash to a full height splash starting at the deck tile level and extending all the way to the base of her overhead cabinets.

In her design, 2″ x 2″ tile would abut the deck tile, then a row of diagonally set wall tile, followed by a hand painted 3″ x 6″ decorative tile, and finally a diagonally set course of tile to the base of the cabinets. The joint size was already established by the existing installation of 1/16.”

The first step was measuring the areas in which the tile would be set to establish how much tile, trim, and materials would be needed. Measurements were also needed to determine how the layout would proceed.

The next step is to insure that the deck tile is level and square. Also, check the drywall above the deck to determine if it is straight and in plane as required. This is especially important, as the intended substrate for the tile is a backer board product.

Note: If a backer board is to be used, it will tend to bend and form to whatever shapes it is fastened to. Meaning that if the supporting wall material, in this case drywall, is not straight, neither will the backer board be straight.

Note: Be sure to note or mark the location of the wall studs behind the drywall. The backer board will be fastened at those locations.

Next the removal process starts with cutting the grout or sealant joints above and below the 6″ bull nose tile splash. This step minimizes the chance of unnecessarily damaging adjacent drywall or tile.

Next don the safety glasses, a hammer, pry bar, and a block of wood. Work the edge of the pry bar under the tile with the hammer. Use the wood to equal out the rearward pressure on the drywall while prying the tile. Pop the tile off the wall. Be careful when handling the tile as the edges can be sharp. Gloves would be a good idea for the inexperienced.

Continue to follow this process until all the tile is removed. Clean up the project area removing the chips and residue.

The holes and voids left in the drywall surface can be filled with drywall compound and allowed to dry. In this case, the small holes were filled with thin set mortar during the backer board installation.

Next precut and dry-fit the backer board units and ensure that the appropriate gaps are left between sheets per the Manufacturers instructions. This product can be scored and snapped like drywall or cut with a dry cut off saw as in this photo.

For electrical outlets, a masonry drill bit in a drill can be used to establish the perimeter of a necessary hole then the hole can punched out with a hammer.

In these photos, we see an electrical hole being “back cut” into a panel with the same dry cut off saw.

The product being used here is a fiber cement board that is just under ½” thick. The other type of backer board is a glass mesh unit in which concrete mortar is sandwiched between two sheets of a fiber mesh.

This product worked well in this installation with some minor variation in the written installation instruction. There were two differences. The first involved the fasteners. The double threaded backer board screws in the appropriate length of 2″ were not available to us. We therefore had to use the alternate fastener of 2″ galvanized roofing nails. The nails were problematic when an attempt was made to drive them through the board into the stud.

Pre-drilling the panel in the intended location prior to hammering in the nails solved this problem. Also, there were not sufficient studs behind the existing drywall for solid fastening. While the Manufacturer did not recommend using a bond coat for the product use on walls, it seemed like a much more solid installation.

Therefore, once the panels were pre cut, they were back-buttered with a latex modified thin set mortar using a ¼” notched trowel, put in place, pre-drilled at the stud locations, and fastened into the studs.

The back buttering of the panels served another purpose. It tended to help eliminate any voids between the backer board and existing drywall.

You will note that there is only one joint in the field of the backer board. This joint was necessary as this longest wall was in excess of five feet. When a joint is necessary, the joint should be placed over a stud. In this way the each panel can be nailed into a stud at the joint.

Joints in backer boards are treated in accordance with the Manufacturers instructions. In this case the joint is first coated with thin set mortar.

An alkali resistant tape is placed in the fresh thin set bed.

Then the joint is smoothed and leveled with the same thin set.

In this case the joint was allowed to cure overnight. The tile installation started with the sponging of the area of backer board to be tiled per the Manufacturers instructions. This pre-moistens the area and helps to remove any powdery residue from cutting that may adversely affect bonding.

Latex modified thin set was mixed per the Manufacturers instructions and was applied to the backer board using the flat side of a ¼” x ¼” notched trowel. This process “keys in” the mortar into the substrate.

The mortar is then “combed out” using the notched side held at a constant angle approximately 45 degrees to the surface to allow a consistent setting bed.

A small area is trowelled out so that the mortar will not skim over before being covered with tile. If the mortar is allowed to skim over and is not re-combed or re-trowelled, the tile will not adhere properly.

Tile Doctor Tip: On kitchen counter backsplashes involving decorative trim, try to have the necessary cuts completed prior to the application of bonding mortar. There is very little room beneath the overhead cabinets and re-trowelling or re-combing mortar is very difficult.

Note: While using this particular product, it was noted that the thin set and subsequent tile established an “initial set” very quickly possibly due to the very dry nature of the product even after pre-moistening. This simply means that the installer needs to be more cautious when applying the mortar and does not get ahead of him or herself by applying too much surface area too soon.

The tile is placed into the fresh mortar bed and is beaten in and then aligned. This process is repeated down the length of wall.

Remember that on a diagonal layout like this, the tiles cut at the 90 degree corner are then placed on the adjacent wall. This continues the diagonal pattern making a much nicer appearing finished job.

Once the field tile is set, the trim pieces can be installed. In this case the trim is 6″ quarter round or A-106. The piece is back buttered and set in place.

The excess thin set that oozes out is cleaned off. Subsequent pieces are measured, cut, and installed in a similar way.

The other walls are tiled in the same manner and the trim is set. Care is taken to clean any excess thin set out of the joints at this time making the grouting process much simpler later.

Tile Doctor Tip: When setting small tiles like these, use a straight edge to align them properly. This trick works well on any installation where vertical tile meets horizontal tile.

If you want to be a pal to the electrician, cut your electrical openings like this to allow the switch or receptor something to rest on when fastened. It takes a little extra time but it is worth it.

The next day the grouting process begins. The area to be grouted is wiped down with a wet sponge to moisten the joints. Do not allow standing water to stay in the joints. This is especially problematic with vertical installations.

Mix the grout per the Manufacturers instructions. Work on a small area at a time. The grout is forced into the joints using a rubber grout float held at approximately 45 degree to the surface.

Once the grout has been forced into the joints cut off the excess grout using the same float.

Wait the amount of time recommended by the Manufacturer to allow the grout to set up. “Tool” the joints using a good quality grout sponge thoroughly wrung out.

“Tooling” means moving the sponge in a circular motion without exerting too much pressure. The idea here is to make the joints a uniform depth and appearance without pinholes or voids.

At this point carefully sponge off the tile diagonally to the joints using a clean sponge with each pass. This is your final wipe especially if the grout is non-sanded as in this case.

Once the grouting is completed, allow the grouted area to somewhat dry out exposing a haze on the surface of the tile. Clean this haze off using folded cheesecloth without digging grout out of the joints.

Allow the grouted areas to cure following the Manufacturers instructions.

Remember to fill the 90 degree joints with a sealant not hard grout.

Fill the dissimilar joints with a sealant also. Hard grout will crack in these areas due to expansion and contraction and will become unsightly.

The completed project!

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