Believe it or not, I didn’t start this project with the intent of installing a split face travertine tile backsplash. The original plan involved the simple task of removing the old microwave and installing the new stainless steel one. But like many of my DIY projects, this one took on a life of its own!
Since we spend so much time in the kitchen, we splurged for all brand new stainless steel appliances. The refrigerator and stove installation went quick and easy, but the microwave… Well, let’s just say, the microwave swap led to an unexpected upgrade for our kitchen!
The plan was to take down the old microwave and prep the area for the new one to be installed. I thought it would be a good idea to remove the backsplash from behind the old microwave before we installed the new one. My thinking was that if I went ahead and did that, I wouldn’t have to take the microwave back down later on when Jacque decided that she wanted a new backsplash .
Here’s a good look at the old backsplash.
I figured I would be able to break the old tiles apart and easily remove them from the drywall… That idea was grand in theory, until I found that over the years, the old backsplash had grown quite fond of the drywall… At one point during my attempt to separate the two, I swear I heard the drywall tell the backsplash, “You go, We go!”
So here I was, the old microwave had been removed, the new microwave waiting to be installed, and an uncooperative backsplash and wall standing in my way. I did what any DIY’er would do… I embraced the situation and I took it all down! And by all, I mean I stripped the wall of EVERYTHING, all the way to the studs.
Now, keep in mind, Jacque thought that my plan was to just swap out the microwaves…She didn’t have a clue about the backsplash demolition or the cabinet removal. As a matter of fact, she lay sick on the couch in the family room about 25 feet from where I was working. She wasn’t kept in the dark too long… It was kind of hard to disguise the sound of breaking tile. Luckily, she’s a trusting wife! I get the feeling that nothing really surprises her anymore when it comes to me and projects! So with her blessing I continued the carnage, knowing very well that I was going to pay for disturbing her much needed rest… After all, we still had to go shopping for the new backsplash!
The remainder of that day involved installing new drywall and mudding the joints. As partial payback, since I had the cabinets off the wall, Jacque asked if I would reinstall the cabinet above the microwave higher then where it originally had been. She had been brainstorming and I knew I was in trouble. That request led to me having to not only raise the cabinet height, but I also had to raise the electrical box and plug for the microwave!
(All of this out because I didn’t want to have to take the microwave down a second time later on… When will I learn???)
After a few days of mudding and sanding on the drywall, Jacque was feeling better and decided it was time
for payback to go shopping. We had seen travertine split face tile at our friend’s, the Johnsons’ house and we fell in love with it! And as luck would have it, we were able to find the tile we wanted at Lowes, literally 5 minutes from our house! Jacque wanted to find something to add that “something special” to the backsplash, so we scoured the isles looking for the right look. I ran across some decorative tiles and after some healthy discussion, this is what we decided on!
Now, on to the how this all came together!
(Unfortunately, I started the installation when Jacque had gone back to work, there wasn’t anyone to take progression pics for me.)
Since I had just installed new drywall, there wasn’t much surface prep required before I began the installation. I did take the time to clean the area of dust and debris by wiping the surface down with a damp cloth. Next I measured and marked out guidelines for my tile. I found the center of the wall and measured out 6 inches on each side, as to guarantee that my first sheet going up would be centered. The only other mark I made was the countertop height, so I’d know where the install the tile to meet up nicely with the countertop.
Next I began to apply the mastic. (the adhesive designed to adhere the tile vertically to the wall). I used a v-notched trowel and spread the mastic on the wall surface in a fan like sweeping motion, covering just enough wall to place 2 sheets of tile at a time. The split face tile sheets are made to be pieced together like a puzzle side by side without a gap, so there were no spacers in between to worry about. Placing the tile was as simple as finding my reference marks and pressing the tile firmly into place. I installed the entire bottom row first and the only cutting I had to do was for the 2 outer sheets of tile to fit against the wall. For most of the project I used a wet tile saw for cutting, but in some instances, I found that peeling off the individual stone from the mesh backing and shaping it with a bench grinder came in pretty handy too! Once that bottom row was set, the remainder of the installation was simply repeating the same process over again.
The next step was to seal the backsplash with a product called Aqua Mix Gold. I went with this sealer because it advertises that it can be used as a pre-grout sealer and a stain protection. There is some debate about whether or not it’s necessary to grout split face travertine tile. Originally, I didn’t plan on grouting the split face tile , but after some reading and discussion with some tile experts, I’ve decided that I will grout it in the very near future. But, for the time being, I went ahead and applied the Aqua Mix Gold with a sponge and waited 24 hours to let it fully cure. Once the sealer had cured, I finished off the backsplash by adding some recessed plugs (So the kitchen appliances wouldn’t stick so far out on the counter top) and touched up the side wall with paint.
The project that started out as a simple microwave swap led to the installation of a gorgeous split face travertine tile backsplash!
Here’s what we ended up with!