Tile Tile Tile

Nothing gets me off my arse like a sale.

We have a good assortment of tools in the Storefront Garage, but one tool we were missing was a tile saw. I mean a tile saw of any kind. We didn’t own a wet saw, or even a simple tile break.

I know I know, you’re shaking your head at me. We have a drill press, a table saw, TWO miter saws, a scroll saw, and a plethora of other tools but we don’t have a simple tile saw? You see we haven’t had to do any tiling in the Storefront. When we moved in, everything was freshly tiled, and thus, no need.

Well kids, that was until we tore off the kitchen backsplash. We drywalled, taped, mudded, primed & painted the backsplash so that it was usable, but it really needs some tile (both for aesthetics & durability).

As you know, I am a very budget conscious lady, and to run out and buy a bunch of new tile, mastic, grout, spacers, float, trowel AND a new saw, it was quite a bit of coin to drop when we had a lot of other things on our kitchen wish list.

So I waited…for a sale…and THIS came on sale this week at Canadian Tire.

Mastercraft Wet Tile Saw
Mastercraft Wet Tile Saw

$159 wet saw on sale for $44? 70% off??

HELLS YEAH. I love you Canadian Tire.

(For my American friends, Canadian Tire is this crazy store that carries automotive parts, has an auto repair shop, a gas station, sells their own brand of  tools, lighting, plumbing, kitchen wares, work boots and dog food to name a few things. It’s a Canadian staple, and El Granto even has a coffee mug that says I (heart) Canadian Tire. )

So a new wet tile saw will be making its way to our home this week, which consequently makes me want to get off my butt and start tiling.

In my kitchen mood board you will notice that I have subway tile listed.

Kitchen Moodboard

We decided early on to do a basic white subway tile for a couple of reasons. It was timeless (which worked well in our Edwardian home) as well as it was a nice neutral backdrop for other things in our kitchen (like the concrete counters), and would brighten up the kitchen.

We have lived with a showy (albeit ugly) backsplash for the last two years, and want something a bit more classic.

Lucky for us, white subway tile is also one of the cheapest options.

Now we will soon have a saw, have decided on a tile, there are only two decisions left.

Tile Pattern & Grout Color

Traditionally a subway tile would have been laid in a brick pattern. Which I love. It’s classic and would have been what the Storefront had when it was built (although probably in a colored glazed finish of green, orange or brown.)

I love the brick pattern, and that’s what I’m leaning towards, but what do you think? Should we break out of our box and try something new?

Which pattern is your favorite?

Subway tile patterns (Source unknown)
Subway tile patterns (Source unknown)

Then the next big decision is grout color. Do we go white, or something a bit more fun like a gray or black?

White will make the backsplash all one tone and visually it will fall to the back a bit. Gray or black will make the tile stand out, and really make a statement.

White Grout
White Grout
Grey Grout
Gray Grout

Do I want a statement? Or do I want the tile to play a supporting role to the concrete counters and the farmhouse sink?  What are your thoughts?


Author: Kristen

Kristen & her husband El Granto & their Vizsla Odin live in a converted Storefront in downtown Toronto.

11 thoughts on “Tile Tile Tile”

  1. Okay, we’ve got some advice for ya!

    We did the running bond and are quite happy with our decision. We used the standard 3×6 subway from one of the big boxes. They were quite a good price and think they look great installed. http://www.oldtownhome.com/2012/9/17/Swearing-and-Tiling-Tiling-and-Swearing/. We had much internal debate about the pattern we should use when laying it out. In retrospect, we’re certain our decision to use classic running bond was the right choice. The main reason, beyond the giant pain in the ass it would have been to install it in another way, the amount of space of a normally sized backsplash is just too tight to have anything other than something simple. If it had been something installed on an angle, or with an oddly repeating pattern, we think it would have been oddly busy for the small space, which could have looked haphazard and just plain wrong.

    One thing we did that was dumb was to use spacers. We wanted a tight 1/16″ grout line, so we used 1/16 spacers (that we ended up hating). The think is, the tile had lugs on them that allowed us to but them right up against the other tiles and still maintain the 1/16th grout line. We didn’t know this until well after we installed everything and grouted. That was dumb.

    As far as thinset, use a 1/8″ v-notch trowel to apply the thinset. The v-notch tends to work best with an intermediate sized tile like the subway. As I said on twitter, stick with the mix type rather than pre-mix. It is more difficult to work with but lasts longer etc.

    For grout, we used a “warm gray” color. This allowed the statement you are looking for but still remained somewhat subtle in our more traditional kitchen. It worked with our walls, but going darker wouldn’t have been the worst thing. Regardless, definitely a small grout line with an unsanded grout. If you want extra stain resistance, us epoxy grout, but it’s 10x the cost and somewhat difficult to work with. Not so sure it’s worth it in the kitchen.

    One mistake we made that we still need to remedy is the transition from the butcher block counter to the tile/grout. Due to the counter’s contraction/expansion/tendency to absorb water the line has cracked. We really should have used a color matched grout caulk for the transition area. Might not be as much of a problem with your tops since they are concrete, but worth at least looking into.

    Oh, and definitely seal your grout once on the wall.

    Hrm, what else? Buy lots of sponges, a good rubberized grout float, and tape down plastic on your tops while you’re grouting or tiling. You can always clean it later, but it’s a pain, especially if you end up with grout haze on your counters.

    Good luck and can’t wait to see what it all looks like when done. If you have any mid project questions, be sure to hit us up. We’re more than happy to help. 🙂

    1. Thanks for all the advice Alex! Our tile too has those little lugs, so I think we will be skipping on spacers. It should give us the nice small grout line we’re after! If we run into problems, we’ll be sure to bug you. You’re our old house partners in crime!

  2. Brick pattern and a soft grey grout. White gets dirty, yellows, stains over time. Also, with the stainless appliances and ikea cabs, would be nice for more visual interest. Brick pattern is perfect. The other patterns are are too busy, me thinks….

  3. I’d say brick and grey. seems like any other tile pattern would introduce personalization and negate any sense of timelessness.

    What was it you didn’t like about the previous tile? I bought the same tile saw when i moved in 16 months ago when it was only 50% off at CT. I was interested in a glass brick shaped tile (rather than square), but have yet to finalize. might choose subway tile as well.

    I like the seeing real life examples:

    1) Ruby Eats

    2) Cafe Plenty:

    I went to a Home Depot workshop on tiling 16 months ago, but if you could, can you do a post on tiling? thnx.

    1. Hi Jim,
      Thanks for the vote!
      What I didn’t like about our old backsplash was how poorly it was installed. It was unevenly spaced with a large sanded grout line, uneven tiles and poor cuts. I also didn’t love how dark it made the kitchen feel, and every single water spot or fingerprint showed. Have you ever owned a glass dining table? They are a huge pain to keep looking spotless, and the same went for the glass tile backsplash (especially behind the stove & sink). The tile we had was also an unfortunate color. It looks better in the photos than in real life!

      We will do a tiling post for sure. Hopefully we’ll have some tiling to show you in the next few weeks!

  4. White on white and I’m surprising myself by saying brick pattern. I often like to try something different but I agree with you on this, the brick pattern is timeless and classic!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *