Monday, March 18, 2013

Inexperienced Tilers at Work

After weeks and weeks of delays due to missed appointments and scheduling conflicts our contractor finally came a week ago and installed the backerboard for the backsplash. He brought us thinset & trowels, but left us on our own to install the glass tile backsplash. He was very uneasy about cutting glass tile. We are using 6"x12" tile, so they are a bit large. My husband took a few days off work and we've spent 4 days working so far and have only finished the first wall. 
First we needed to put in some aluminum edging to cover the backerboard where the tile ends because we didn't find any matching bullnose for our glass tile. The first strip we cut by hand with a hacksaw. Since we no longer had the miter saw, or a hand miter box, my husband thought we could use the tile saw to cut it. We have a portable wet saw (picked it up at a yard sale for $20) and a diamond blade for cutting the glass tile. But hubby wanted one with a sliding tray because he was concerned about scratching the colored backing that comes on the glass tile. So we went out and rented a tile saw and tried cutting the metal trim. That didn't work too well, the metal heated up from the blade & left an edge at the cut. So we had to go back to hand cutting with the hacksaw & trying to make clean 45 degree cuts. Ended up taking the rest of the day to install the trim & get the skim coat of thinset on the backer board. 
Next day, we needed to figure out the best placement of the tile under the windowsill and around the electrical outlets so that we would have the simplest cuts possible. Laying them out was also a bit difficult with two faucets at the sink sticking up in the way. After a bit of debating, we finally settled on the placement and went to make our first cut. Well the blade on the rented tile saw chipped up the edge of the glass all along the cut. We should have tested it the day before... come to think of it, we did with a sample tile of a different brand & it looked OK, but our first cut was unacceptable. So we gave it a try on our wet saw with the diamond blade and it was a nice clean cut. Of course, at that point we looked at the clock & it was passed closing time on saturday for the rental place. So we'd wasted 2 days rental on a saw we didn't use. Lucky for us, when we did return it, the owner was very generous & only charged us for one days rent. Anyway, since neither of us have much experience with tiling, we decided to start with just the small batch of tiles centered under the windowsill first. After we got those cut, thinset mixed, notched troweled on the wall & buttered on the back we mounted our first tiles. Those little tile spacers are a pain, they keep falling out, especially when you try and sponge the thinset off the face of the tiles and out of the grout joints. When we finally finished that, it was getting too dark so the next morning we cut the ones to the left of the window. We laid them out like subway tiles but in a vertical direction, so each column had 1 full tile and a bit less than 1/2 a tile. The hardest cut was the 'U' shaped cut out for the outlet. Since the glass is so easy to crack & chip, the best recommendation we found was to cut parallel strips to the bottom of the 'U' and then break out the pieces. The first time we didn't get the 'U' quite deep enough. I suggested using the tile bit on the dremel to cut it a little wider. Unfortunately the dremel slipped and the bit scratched the front of the tile. Then I suggested that he try to just bring the tile down over the saw blade at the bottom of the 'U' not necessarily cutting all the way through the tile but to help break away the strips. I think he misunderstood what I was getting at - he tried the cut on another tile, but didn't cut the sides of the 'U' first and the tile cracked in two. Then on the third try, he cut the side lines first & then laid the bottom down over the spinning blade & it worked. The corners did chip out a little in the back (as the blade is curved) but the cover plate for the outlet is big enough to hide it. 
So after we mounted those on the wall we got to repeat the same process for the other side of the window. But we didn't get the last section mounted until today, after returning the rented saw. The next problem was deciding how to space the tiles so we only had to cut one tile each for the 2 outlets on the next wall. I spent a few hours shifting them around so that we wouldn't have too thin a strip to cut on either end and by the time we settled on the proper spacing it was getting a bit late again, so now we have to squeeze in the rest of this tiling around our work schedules. The fun of DIY!


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