When we last left our heroine, she had confessed to her fall down the money pit of kitchen upgrades, moving from this:
to this, with the addition of a new countertop, sink, and faucet:
I’m here to chronicle more of the fall. Is that a high-pitched scream I hear?
Anyhow, those fancy new countertops left behind a pretty darn ugly brown strip covered in dried glue. The old counters had a 6″ backsplash but I really didn’t want the same thing with the new countertops. I wanted a proper backsplash that would go from the counters all the way up to the base of the cabinets. The walls of our kitchen are almost entirely knotty pine wood paneling (that has long been painted). You know what I’m talking about, right? The paneling that you’re just about guaranteed to come face to face with when you enter a ranch house from the 1950s or ’60s (and maybe even the ’70s). While I really hated the paneling when we first moved in, I’ve not only come to tolerate it, I actually sort of like it now. I think that’s because I really love the look of beadboard in older homes and if I squint, I can kind of convince myself that the painted paneling is beadboard. What I don’t love, however, is that the wall behind our countertops is wood paneling. I just couldn’t love the look no matter how hard I squinted. So after the countertops were installed, Mark and I pretty quickly decided that the next upgrade would be a backsplash.
While I would love to report that Mark and I DIYed that sucker ourselves — believe me, I would LOVE to report that — we didn’t. We wanted to do it ourselves, but we did a lot of online research and realized that we’d be in over our heads. We only came to this conclusion reluctantly however because homeowners on HGTV tile backsplashes all the time and I figured if they could do it, so could we. However, we had one obstacle that we found difficult to overcome: the wood paneling. We did a lot of research to try to figure out what we should do about the paneling. We searched online and we talked to a lot of kitchen and bath people. The consensus: there was none. All we got was conflicting advice. That advice took three different forms:
- Tile directly over the wood paneling.
- Cut out the wood paneling and install backer board in its place.
- Put backer board over the wood paneling and tile over that.
The problem with the paneling, according to some, is that wood tends to contract and expand depending on temperature and humidity. Thus, if you tile over wood paneling, the contracting and expanding might crack the tile (or the grout around the tile).
So we hired a tile guy to come do the backsplash. He decided to install backer board over the wood paneling. He took two days to do the backsplash. The first day he installed the backer board.
Mark and I took an agonizing amount of time trying to decide on tile for the backsplash. Mark really wanted something colorful. That was his only requirement for the backsplash (actually, that’s pretty much his only requirement for the kitchen in general). He didn’t want to feel like we had an all white kitchen because our cabinets are white as is our new countertop. Personally, I love an all white kitchen, but I don’t live here by myself, so I felt I should listen to Mark’s opinion. So we talked about backsplashes, then we looked at photos of backsplashes, then we visited the tile store many, many times. Fortunately, our local tile store lets you bring home samples of tiles you’re interested in so we borrowed a ton of different tiles and tried them out in our kitchen. You might think that after all this effort we would have ended up with something surprising or otherwise original. Nope. Not at all. Here’s what we got:
And another “in progress” shot of the other side of the sink:
That’s 3″ x 6″ white subway tile, otherwise known as perhaps the most ubiquitous backsplash choice. Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely love it, it’s just that we looked at A LOT of options and it seems strange that we ended up with this. We almost got this really lovely 1″ x 9″ pale green tile that we would have used in addition to the white subway tile, running the green tiles as a single stripe about 2/3 up the backsplash, wrapping all the way around the backsplash. It would have been gorgeous. It also would have cost an additional $200-$300 so we reluctantly ditched that idea. I can’t say I regret it because I really love how the backsplash turned out (and I’ve promised Mark that we’ll add color in other ways).
This backsplash cost us $625, and the majority of that was for labor. We could have saved a bunch of money if we’d done this ourselves, but in addition to not knowing how to tile a backsplash, doing it ourselves would have presented other problems: it would have taken us at least twice as long as it did the professional, wouldn’t look as nice, and probably would have caused marital strife. So I have no regrets about hiring out the job. We’ll DIY the next big kitchen project: painting the cabinets. In fact, if you look closely at the backsplash photos above you’ll see all the paint swatches we brought home to try out on the cabinets. And we’re really close to picking one of those colors. Should just take a few more weeks. I’m kidding! We’ve actually already bought one of the colors (there will likely be two colors), so we’re halfway there. Stay tuned.
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