DIY Kitchen Backsplash (Part 2)

If you’re just now tuning in – check out Part 1 here.

So the next morning it was time to grout. Hannah was home with Rob and I while we worked on this part but she was actually super cooperative (for a year and a half old).

First, like with laying the tile, we covered all of the counters and floors in brown construction paper. We had extra and didn’t mind throwing away what we had on the day before for the tile hanging but you could have kept it too. It was nicer to be able to totally clean up, we thought. Plus the paper got really dirty when hanging the tile.

BUT – after the paper was down we dry mixed the bag of grout. Rob put it in a bucket and mixed it for a few minutes. This is important so it is all blended up and for the color to turn out evenly. Once the dry mix is complete, measure out the appropriate water/grout additive (whichever your using) and slowly add it into the dry grout. Adding a little liquid at a time is key as you don’t want to add to much and over saturate. You want the grout to be thick when its all totally blended. We did all of this blending and mixing outside so the dust didn’t get all over inside the house (especially with Hannah and her toys everywhere).

After its all mixed let it sit for 2 minutes, then stir again for a minute to combine once more before starting.

All of these grout mixing instructions are conveniently located on the side of the grout bag as well. Super handy place for you to check out. Us DIYers aren’t above actually reading the product directions.

For application, use a trowel and apply the grout to the rubber gum float. Slather the grout all over the tile to fill in each of the grout lines. You don’t need to leave it on so super thick that you can’t see through it but definitely don’t wipe away too much as you want to make sure all of the gaps are totally filled. Leaving more on to let dry and clean off as it sets is the better option.

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This is as we were going before we started wiping any grout off.

The regular grout we had (aka not fast drying) even dried kinda quick so Rob and I worked from both ends. Having two gum floats was handy for this. But – whatever you do…

DO NOT BUY FAST DRYING GROUT!

My sister and her husband did and I heard how terrible that was so we avoided it. I wanted to pass that along. I can’t image how fast it dries since I felt our normal grout still dried relatively quick.

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So. Much. Wiping.

Once we had all the grout lines covered we let it sit the time the bag called for before wiping down the tile with a sponge and water. The bag said you’d only have to wipe it like 3 total times and that is SUPER BS. We probably wiped it like 4 times with water/a sponge and 2 times with a dry cloth.

After we got it all cleaned up it was time to let it sit again over night. But it was looking so flipping great.

Once it was totally set/stuck/dry we were able to go back with an exacto knife and paper towel to wipe down the tiles one last time and clear away any grout/tile adhesive that was stuck just in the wrong spot. This was tedious but worth it!

After that we did outlet covers. This little minor task finally made it look so complete!!

Once we seal the edges (still need to get around to that 🤦) we will be all done. ♥️ It needs to be done but isn’t the end of the world that we haven’t done it yet since the backsplash isn’t behind a sink/getting wet at all.

All in all it wasn’t that hard of a job! I’m definitely not scared to tackle our master bathroom remodel next!!

DIY Kitchen Backsplash (Part 1)

For our kitchen, one of the next big projects we had to finish up was our backsplash. We already did all of the shopping for materials (see the list below) and just needed to find a day – lucky for us grandpa came to the rescue!

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The Before

For our backsplash we did a mosaic sheet of white subway tile. It’ll blend well with our busier quartz countertop and give us a timeless look. Also, added bonus, the sheet option will make it a bit easier/less time consuming to hang. Additionally, we plan to sell our house one day and felt that the subway tile would be liked by more buyers vs having to find one buyer who loved our design choice (if it was more outlandish).

First things first. What do you need if you’re going to DIY your backsplash?

Materials:

  • Tile
  • Tile adhesive
  • Spacers – get the ones to match the other gaps in the sheets of tile you buy.
  • Unsanded Grout – we opted for Pearl Gray and only opened one bag. The bag will say how many sq ft it can be used for to gauge how many you’ll need.
  • Grout additive – we decided to use this as it helps the grout be more stain resistant and last longer.
  • Brown Paper
  • Painters Tape – frog tape is where it’s at!!
  • Sponges
  • Paper towels

Tools:

  • Tile saw – ours was a wet saw we borrowed from Rob’s grandpa
  • Permanent marker
  • Rags
  • Bucket (2)
  • Drill
  • Screwdriver
  • Mixing head for the drill
  • Trowel – make sure it matches what size grooves your tile needs.
  • Rubber grout float
  • Level
  • Exacto Knife

After we got all the tools upstairs we prepped the space by covering all of our countertops and floors with brown construction paper. Here is where we used the frog tape to hold the paper to the counters/floors and not damage them. This was super helpful since doing the backsplash was really messy. Also – we have a garage trashcan and bringing that upstairs to work was really helpful in controlling the mess and to not clog up our kitchen trashcan.

Next, once we finished setting up inside, Rob set up out on the back deck and got the tile saw ready. Luckily he checked it because the water pump wasn’t working and we had to run to Lowe’s to replace it. Fountain water pumps for the win. It wouldn’t be a Ruwe DIY if there wasn’t a pain in the ass hardware trip involved. smh.

Once we were back from the store it was time to actually start. Only a few hours later than we originally intended. Ugh! But anyways… The internet says to “start with the side of your kitchen that is most visible”. Or whatever that means… I feel like the whole kitchen is visible. Kinda the point of an open concept, right? But, with that in mind we picked the part that is longer and will be over the oven.

We started lining our tile up on the counter and seeing where we’d have to cut. The first cut is easy to make the tiles line up flush against the wall. From there we were able to do one full sheet and a little shy of half a sheet on top.

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Here you can see the amount of adhesive we’d apply as well as the spacers in action.

After a few sections were measured, it was time to get the tile adhesive out and start putting them up and measuring/cutting as we went. The tile adhesive is ready to go so no prep needed there. When applying mastic – only put up a little at a time so it doesn’t dry. We found it easiest to put up enough to do one tile sheet wide with a half sheet above it at a time. The trowel isn’t small so it is hard to apply the adhesive if you only have a tight space to work with but too much space and it will dry.

When the tiles are lined up and spaced properly on the wall smush each individual tile into the mastic. You can roll the tiles once the spacers are out so the are all evenly pressed into the wall. As you press them into the wall you need to clear away the extra adhesive that squeezes out. You don’t want it to dry in-between or on top of the tiles.

When it came to the outlets we would eyeball where to cut (since it didn’t have to be perfect and would be behind an outlet cover). We would hold the sheet up to the wall and mark the outlet box size on the tile in permanent marker. Each tile impacted by the outlet box cuts we removed from the tile sheet and cut individually on the tile saw. Using a flashlight to look through the tile sheet helped to see where to mark for the outlet box.

We tried to use tile nippers and they were the biggest waste of time. Even if we scored or tried to cut tiny pieces off at a time
THE TILE NEVER CUT STRAIGHT.

Working around the outlets was the hardest and required the most spacers and we had 5 outlets to go around. Though this was the hardest part it wasn’t that hard really. When doing the outlets be sure to:

  • unscrew them from their boxes
  • and have the power off

Having them loose will allow you to screw them back in when your done but on top of the tile so they aren’t deep set behind the tile.

As we started getting them up it started to fly. To keep it level over the stove we used our level and just made sure to keep the gaps even. As the tiles started to set, I went back and started cleaning them off and getting the grout lines cleared while Rob did the cuts. You need to wait until they dry a bit before cleaning them since they’ll wiggle if you press on them too much. Also, don’t forget to remove the spacers as the tiles set.

Overall getting the tile up took about 6 hours. It looked so good when we were done!! We let the tile dry overnight before grouting.

Pre-grout status

Best Way to Hang a Gallery Wall

Alright internet.
I have to share.

Tuesday night Rob helped me hang up our living room gallery wall and – not only am I in love with how it came out BUT I am also in lovvveeeee with how easy it was to do!

With the walls all painted and cured after the reno, hanging the pictures needed to happen. *Yay for knocking more off our “wrap up the kitchen reno before thanksgiving” checklist!*

But no really, it took less than 2 hours to go from table layout to on-wall reality. Even with an emergency trip to Kroger’s for more command strips.

I celebrated.


To start you obviously need pictures & frames (duh!) and then I layered in other non-photo pieces as well for more dimension/texture/general fun. For hanging the pictures you’ll need…

  • A level (we have a small one that’s like 6” and it was perfect)
  • Something to serve as your minimum distance measurement (I used thick painters tape and it worked great)
  • Picture Hanging Command Strips (like these)
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This was stage one – I realized I needed more wood/metal frames and didn’t want to include the blue one. Plus who doesn’t love a Hobby Lobby trip!

For brainstorming/layout ideas I first organized the photos on our dining room table. For the wall I wanted to use a mix of natural wood looking, solid black, and rustic metal frames. Laying them out ahead of time on the table helped me see what kind of mix I had and how many of each style I still needed to snag from Hobby Lobby. **Be sure to do the same size spacing in your planned layout (so it’s more to scale) or the one on the wall will end up a lot smaller/bigger. My spacing on the table was way smaller than what I actually planned to do so that messed me up a bit but I winged it.

These are the frame styles I used from Hobby Lobby:


When planning this design my main concerns were:

1) Avoid having big holes
2) That the minimum space between items is equal (not the max.)
3) That lots of frames don’t line up in a row


So, after the layout was all decided-ish on the table and I knew I had the right pieces/frames, it was time to measure. I measured the size of the gallery on the table (roughly 60” wide and 38” tall) and then I took those measurements and eyeballed where I wanted them on the wall (aka how high up/left/right). I marked the highest most left point and…

  1. stuck the command strips to the back of the frame like a little velcro sandwich
  2. peeled off the command sticky strip protector for the wall side
  3. leveled the photo at the spot I marked
  4. smushed the frame into the wall super hard

Once that first one was up the rest was total cake! Rob was amazing and helped me and we knocked it out. I ended up switching the layout quite a bit on the fly but I think winging it still worked. Planning is nice to spur ideas and make sure you have enough resources but some flexibility in the end result can be totally worth it. Plus less stressful.

So… that was a really long way of saying:

Anytime I hung an item, I used the tape to measure the minimum distance between items around it, picked the spot to hang it, leveled, and BOOM done.
I’m so happy it only took 2 hours and totally wasn’t a headache at all.

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Using the tape was such a great idea. Yay husband win! So much easier than using a tape measure and marking the wall up!

Sometimes the items are as close as they can be and other times they’re a bit off. I think the flexibility in that regard makes the whole gallery feel like it fits together more naturally. 

Remember: spacing is key in a gallery wall. We all have that one friend who posted a smashed together photo blob on social media and called it a gallery wall and, when we saw that, it pained us. Each and everyone one of us. Don’t be that person. Plan it out. Look on the internet/pinterest for inspo/tips!

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We were able to get so many cool pieces on the wall – I love how the blend worked out.

Also – added plug for those command strips. If you’ve never used them to hang pictures then you’re crazy. The frames don’t get knocked around/out of level and your walls don’t get damaged. Hell, now with this method that I used, you hardly use a measuring tape at all. #winning

So try out this method and let me know your thoughts! I’m planning to do it again for the pieces I’ll hang going up our stairs.

Floating Shelves

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I started a DIY project for the house and set out to build two sets of 3 “floating” shelves for our bathrooms (both the master and the half bath). The shelves are a white stained wood with white painted L-brackets. Both bathrooms majorly needed the extra storage!

First, the shopping trip. I went to Lowe’s by myself (always interesting) and attempted to buy everything I needed on my own. I did cave and call Rob once but that was a dud so I just braved through and found all the crap on my own. Except I can’t count and ended up having to go back for one more bracket (smh). For this project you need…

Materials:

  1. wood for the shelves (I used 2x10x10s – 6 shelves, 24″ each)
  2. stain (I used white minwax)
  3. polycrylic (I used the spray kind)
  4. short wood screws for joining the bracket to the shelf (mine are 3/4″)
  5. anchors to join wall & bracket
  6. spray paint for the screw heads and brackets (I used white)
  7. brackets (2 per shelf)

Tools:

  1. sand paper
  2. foam brushes
  3. gloves
  4. electric sander (awesome)
  5. table saw
  6. tack cloth

For the project the Lowe’s guy cut the shelves to 24″ for me so that part was already done. It took FOREVER to wait for him to come and cut them but it was a necessity since the massive piece of wood would have been a pain to put in my car. Anyways, after they were cut, at home I was able to cut them to the right depth. I went with the 10″ wide board so I could custom cut the shelves to the maximum depth I could get. One set it 8.5″ deep and the other is 8″.

Once I got everything home the first step was cutting the shelves to the right depth (8.5″ or 8″) and getting them all sanded.

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I totally recommend using an orbital sander if you have one. We have this one and use it for everything. The electric sander saves so much time! I was able to sand, wipe off all the dust, and get some stain down in my first evening. To wipe off the dust I’d recommend a tack cloth as they’re awesome but – if it’s not a big deal – a brush down with a dry paint brush will do the trick. For this project I brushed them off with the paint brush to get the dust out of all the nooks and crannies. I wanted to use wood with more knots and holes for a more “rustic” look. You’ll see some of the cracks and knots I’m talking about in later pictures.

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love the one with the big crack down the center!

I applied the stain generously with a foam brush and let it dry overnight in between coats. Since the wood really drank up the stain I was painting two coats in one sitting (go around and paint them all once and then once more before letting them dry overnight). Be careful around the edges to not let any stain drip as it will dry as a drip if you don’t wipe it. I had a drip on one of my edges (I’ll just put this side against the wall) but it’s definitely something to be careful/mindful of so you don’t ruin a side you need to expose!

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You can see where the stain dripped over the edge and I didn’t know it. This part won’t be exposed as I’ll put it against the wall but a good reminder to pay close attention!

While the stain set I laid out all my brackets on some cardboard and sprayed them white. I’m lazy and didn’t perfectly peel off each bar code sticker so the sticker sides will go against the wall! The spray painting was super quick and easy but important so the brackets go unnoticed and help to create that “floating” look.

Once the stain was dried and all 6 sides of each shelf were painted I moved to the top coat. Since the stain is white and water based polycrylic is my go to. Polyurethane would make the white appear yellow. The polycrylic spray is super easy and, since these shelves aren’t going to be super high traffic, it’s a great fit. I did two coats of poly on each shelf.

To hang the shelves we marked and measured each shelf/wall. The brackets we did a foot apart and then we centered the shelves above the toilets. It seemed about 19 inches above the toilet was comfortable so that was what we went with. Each shelf we did 11.5 inches apart. Measuring and hanging the shelves was totally a two person job so I was super happy Rob was able to help me for that – yay husband win!

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before
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so ready to see this go!

For the first set we hung up the ones in our master bathroom. The original cabinet was super ugly so I couldn’t wait for it to go. Plus our master needs all the extra storage we can scrounge up! We still need to come back and paint/patch the walls from the old shelf but – since we’re going to totally redo this bathroom at some point – I’m letting all that slide.

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Once all of the things are on the shelves you get the “floating” look but the brackets are nice and sturdy and hold a good amount of weight *bonus*.

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Plus there is still so much room left to be used!

Next up were the shelves downstairs in the half bath. I love how they both came out!

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Yay for not only bathroom storage but also a nice easy upgrade to each bathroom! I love how versatile the shelves are and how much storage they add. Definitely a fun DIY project that’s actually really simple!

 

 

 

In Progress: The Kitchen Reno

Our biggest project to date: the kitchen. Since the kitchen renovation started/so much happened prior to the blog starting I don’t think I’ll rehash every little thing we’ve done thus far. But, as an overall recap:

We had to expand our deck, get a sliding door installed, cover up a door and window, move plumbing, have lots of electrical done, and, oh, gut nearly our whole upstairs before putting it back together again. Since our house is a split level this renovation impacted the landing/entry, the upstairs hallway, the dining room, the kitchen, the living room, and the back deck.

The reno started the day after Hannah’s birthday party and the kitchen became functional (all appliances in use, cabinets, counters) 6 weeks later.

This was the night before the demo started. We spent that day cleaning, packing and getting ready to go. The dumpster came the following Monday morning and we had it for ten days. We had lots to put in it from the kitchen along with scrap wood from other projects (and even that crappy old white fence 😳). Getting the dumpster was baller and totally a necessity. It was amazing to be able to throw away so much crap. Definitely recommend the company we worked with. They’re called “Bin There Dump That”.

We removed two walls (shown above) and, by covering the old back door and window, (which you can kinda see in the bottom right with the sunlight showing through them) we gained so much more counterspace and cabinets. The walls weren’t load bearing (we had a structural engineer come out) so we were able to completely open the upstairs and put the island and some barstools where the walls were.

This is kinda where we’re at now. New cabinets/countertops, new engineered bamboo floors, a new sliding glass door, new recessed lighting, and our amazingly massive sink. Don’t mind the super mess above as we’d just been getting moved back into the upstairs in the picture above.

Here’s a kinda-maybe-comprehensive list of what we have left to do:

  • Touch up paint (ceiling, walls, trim)
  • Painting/Installing the rest of our new baseboards/trim
  • Hanging the vinyl house siding (backside of house)
  • Vent the microwave vent through the roof
  • Install the backsplash

The first tasks that we plan to knock out are the backsplash and painting the trim upstairs. I’m planning to have the project completely done in time for Thanksgiving so we can host at our house this year (speaking of Thanksgiving I can’t wait to decorate for fall!! 🍁🎃 – another post for sure).

The backsplash we’re doing is white subway tile from Lowe’s (yay for timeless and resale 💸). We already bought the supplies and are borrowing a tile saw from Rob’s grandpa. I’ll be sure to follow up with posts as we finish up the to-do list and get to decorate!

Decorating is one of my favorite parts so I can’t wait for that and will post some before and after pictures! 😍 We’ve been slowly getting some of the new pieces we want for the upstairs after the remodel and I’m loving getting to see it all come together. I snagged some cute wall art off Amazon (1 & 2), a 4 pack of barstools on Amazon, a jute rug on sale at Target, a coffee table and end table off Wayfair, and might get this rug on eSaleRugs for the living room. I can’t wait for it all to be complete and done up for fall and then it’ll be my favorite holiday: Christmas! 🎄

So we’re not done yet and we still have a few things to do but I’m excited with how far we’ve come and how it’s all turning out! Yay for the #homerenolife 🏡