Saturday, May 31, 2008

Granite Tile Backsplash

I've been slacking on the counter top work for a while. Too many other little projects took up my time. I've really wanted to get working on the backsplash, since the design I'm doing is a little different than I've done before.

On the previous backsplash I did I just used a 4" tall tile with a bullnose edge. I wasn't happy with the finished result because the whole backsplash just looked too thin.

For this backsplash I'm using tile cut to 4" tall, but capping it with a pencil trim all the way around.

At the corners I'm cutting the pencil trim to 45 degree angles. The gap between the vertical and horizontal surfaces will be filled with caulk.

To create the little gap I'm looking for and to keep the tiles from sliding down the wall I taped some washers in place. A benefit from having done so much metal fabrication work is that I've got a good selection of hardware like this in various sizes and thicknesses.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

New Microwave Install

Part of the kitchen remodel includes an over-the-stove microwave. This will free up a lot of counter space. Earlier in the work I installed a new electrical line specifically for the microwave, and also marked the stud locations on the wall behind the microwave.

The install kit includes bolts for securing the mounting plate to studs as well as hardware for mounting to the drywall.

The strongest method is securing the plate directly to the studs. In my case, the stud locations only allowed me to use one of the two studs. The right side of the microwave (the heavier side, by the way) is secured with three screws into the stud while the left side is secured with three drywall butterfly bolts.

As I was deciding which cabinets to order I was worried about the final height of the microwave. I'm around 6' 3" and didn't want the microwave blocking my view of the stove top because of it being placed too low, so I went with a slightly shorter cabinet above the stove than was recommended. After the cabinet was installed I could determine what size spacer would be best used between the cabinet and microwave. In my case, about 4" was ideal. 4" was also the height of the toe-kicks that I got for the lower cabinets.

A spacer was made with the toe-kick which works nicely to space the microwave where I want it. I need to do a little custom work for the mounting bolts now that go through the cabinet, because the bolts aren't made to handle anything longer than a 3" spacer. I'll go with longer bolts if I can find 'em.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Grout - It's not Just for Breakfast Anymore

I used a color called "charcoal" for the grout. The flash of the camera really makes it look lighter than it is. Under normal lighting it blends in well with the rest of the tile.

I'm also very happy with how the pieces I fabricated for the front corners turned out. I used regular flat tile and cut it to size on the tile saw. Then the angle grinder was used to rough the pieces out to about 95% of the final size. A couple of different grits on the sander took it to the final size.

A couple of coats of polyurethane later and the cut pieces blend in perfectly with the regular tiles. They're not perfect, but they don't stand out in any way, which is what I was aiming for.

The backsplash is next.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Surprise, Another Post on Installing the Counter Tops!

I broke out the tile saw today to get things rolling. I got this saw at Home Depot a couple years ago for around $90.00 or so. So far, it's performed well, although the fence is semi-useless as it's extremely hard to get it set up properly. Either way, I haven't had any real problem cutting straight lines with it. The final cuts aren't as perfect as the factory cuts on the tiles, but they're pretty darn good.

It's got a deep enough cut to be able to go through the trim pieces in one pass.

As mentioned earlier I am laying out the tiles on these two tops to have the center piece be full-width. The top and front are cut and installed, but I still need to do the sides and backsplash. I'll take care of these after the adhesive for these tiles is completely dry. I could do it while the adhesive is setting, but I think I'm better off waiting

I picked up a corner trim piece. The other option was to use two straight sections and miter the ends at 45 degrees on each. I did that once before and don't like how it looked compared to a pre-cut piece.

Done for the day. Tomorrow I'll try and get the edging done.

Coming up I'm going to need to get creative on some of the edges. The main surfaces are glossy and smooth while the edges are dull and slightly rough. Two corners by the stove will have the rough edges exposed, and they'll stand out like a sore thumb. That is unless I find a way around it.

I picked up a disc for the angle grinder that is supposed to easily cut & trim granite.

I took a standard edge and tried rounding the corner over, similar to a bullnose corner. As you can see in the picture it's now rough and really stands out.

I used some clear polyurethane to coat the rough edge and it did a great job in mirroring the shine. The edge of the tile is still too rough and needs some sanding with a very fine grit, but it's a good way to verify that it'll work.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Counter Top Tiling

To date I've used granite tile to finish one kitchen and two bathrooms as part of a remodel a few years back. That was my first experience at tiling and there are a few things I would now do differently.

One thing which I wasn't happy with was a slight unevenness in some areas. We rushed the job a little and didn't spend enough time making sure everything was as straight as possible. From a standing position it wasn't noticeable, but when you ran your hand over the top you could feel it.

I wanted to make sure that didn't happen this time around. Mainly, because I'm living in this house - it's not a flip.

What I'm trying this time is setting the main full-size tiles as a starter row. I'll spend extra time getting this row as perfectly flat and even as possible so that when I add the rows on either side I'll have a good base to work from.

The two full size tiles and edge trim were stuck down, and the edge trim was shimmed into place with folded heavy paper (alright, junk mail) to get it exact. After these dry I'll work on the rest of the top without fear of accidentally moving these starter tiles.

To make sure the tiles are flat I'm using a couple of different techniques:

First I eyeball it to make sure the edges are lined up. Gentle tapping is used to help seat the tiles and to get the top surfaces even with each other.

Next, a straight edge and level are used to make sure they are also nice and flat over the full depth of the top.

Last, I take a 5" drywall taping knife and stand it up on edge on the tiles near the joint. I slowly push the blade towards the adjoining tile to make sure it slides easily onto the next tile without getting hung up on an uneven joint. It's run both ways over the tile and at a number of points across the length of the joint. If it doesn't get hung up the joints should be pretty damn close to perfect.

By contrast, when I do the travertine flooring I just use my hand and run it across the tiles to make sure I'm happy with the heights. In my opinion, the flooring is nowhere near as critical as the counter top.

In the picture you can see the 1/16" spacers between the tiles. The tiles which will flank the full size tiles will be about 6-1/8" wide each.

The last time I did the granite tile tops I just used the 4" bull-nose edge across the back for the back splash (shown here upside down). It worked well, but looked a little plain.

This time around I'm going to cut 4"x12" strips from full-size or scrap tile to use across the back. I'll cap it with the pencil trim shown here. These pieces are just taped in place for now to see how they'll look. I think it'll add just enough "extra" to make this top look "complete".

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Granite Tile Counter Tops

I wanted to start building the counter tops yesterday, but I made the mistake of meeting with our company's personal trainer and he proceeded to destroy my arms for the day. By the time I got home, there was no way I was going to start screwing around with plywood and power tools. I got out easy - a senior VP he was also working with at the time said she could barely move after they were done.

That left the counter top work for today.

I'm sort-of making up the final sizes as I go along here, and the first piece I do will be the smallest of the counter tops. During the creation of this first top I'll figure out what kind of layout I want for the grout lines, how big the tile spacing will be, etc.

So far, I'm measuring, thinking, measuring, drawing out my options, measuring, and then cutting the plywood. I'm starting things off with two layers of plywood totaling 1" thick combined (3/4" and 1/4"). On top of that will be 1/4" of cement board. That 1-1/4" will match the thickness of the edging I am using and will make the tile look like a thick slab instead of thin tiles.

The tile I am using is called Green Mountain. I've used it before in a renovation with the same color combinations we have in this kitchen and really like how it looks. I'm adding lights under the upper cabinets which will really show off the color and sparkle of the tile.

I a hoping to be able to use the layout shown below, but the overall cabinet width that I need to cover is probably going to be about 1/4" too wide to pull this off due to the side panels I added to dress the cabinet up. If I try putting the tiles like this I'll probably end up with wide grout lines, which I don't want. If I run a full-width tile in the center of the cabinet and approximately 6-1/4" wide tiles to each side of it I should be OK. I might waste more tile, but such is life.

Monday, May 5, 2008

A Counter Top Decision has been Made

For months we've been kicking the options around regarding the new counter top. Solid surface or granite tile. Solid surface has a lot of features we really like. It's non-porous, it can be fixed if a corner is broken off, it won't stain easily, no grout lines, etc., etc., etc. Granite, on the other hand, just looks fvcking fantastic.

We decided to go with looks and deal with the extra work - we're going with granite tile.

I picked up the material yesterday to do the first two small counter tops, the ones which flank the stove. One cabinet is 25" wide and the other 31". I had 8 of the 12" tiles in the Mountain Green already from a previous remodel project, so I was able to save $80.00 right off the bat.

As with most tile purchases, the standard square pieces without special edge work are the cheapest. When you get into the trim and edge pieces you often have to dig deep into the wallet, cause that stuff is damn expensive. A 12" pencil trim piece 1/2" wide is the same price as a full 12x12 tile. The thick edge treatments can easily run $30 or more per linear foot.

For these two tops, I'm going to end up spending about $500 in material, including the grout, thinset, and base material. The larger counter top on the other side of the kitchen (the half of the kitchen I haven't started tearing apart yet) will probably cost twice that amount. I'm kind of afraid to put pencil to paper to figure out what it'll cost...

Overall, that's about what I'd spend for a solid surface counter from the company I work for. I'm sure I'll take a lot of crap from co-workers when they find out I went with granite instead of a product we make, but I have to live here, so I might as well be happy with the way the place looks. So screw 'em.

Over the next couple of days I'm going to get the plywood and cement board for the base and get things rolling. By the end of this coming weekend I plan to have the counter tops done. Then I can focus on the 30 other little projects which still need to be done before I can start demo on the remaining half of the kitchen.

Oh, and since I did the trim-work since I last posted a picture of the kitchen, here's how it looks now with some of the lower molding and door handles. I've got all the food put away and found that I've got a LOT more room than we had previously. I also really like the drawers instead of doors for the lower cabinets. Since they pull out all the way I can make full use of each drawer's room. The cardboard counter tops in this picture are just temporary (I hope).

Friday, May 2, 2008

Kitchen Cabinets - Finish Line is in Sight!

Being the dedicated remodeler that I am, I skipped going out with some friends tonight to work on the kitchen. I really want a stove for the weekend!

First job was to put a hole in the floor for the gas line. I had to go through the travertine tile, cement board, linoleum, and the sub-floor.

A hole saw designed to cut through tile worked great. I went through to the sub floor and then used a regular 1" bit to finish off the wood. The little donut of travertine is pretty cool - I might see how long it lasts on my keychain.

Fast forward 90 minutes and the gas line is run and stove is hooked up and running. This is my first time ever using a gas stove, and I think it'll work great for lighting my cigars.

By 10:00, I'm done for the day. There is a little trim work that needs to be done still, including adding the door handles. I can get that taken care of tomorrow, and then it'll be time to get rolling on the counter tops.

The work is done for the day, I've been without a stove for a couple weeks, and I'm hungry. I haven't installed the microwave with the exhaust vent yet, so I can't make anything too messy. Eggs it is for the stove's maiden run. Tomorrow morning, it's time for pancakes!