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UrbanHermit

Adding ceramic tile

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The Executive Department didn't like the mirrors on the walls between galley counter backsplash and wall cabinets.  They were on the coach's side wall and the wall between the galley countertop and the refrigerator.  That wall is thin, flimsy, and flexible.  So, once the replacement tile was selected -- 12" squares because we didn't find interlocking tiles that she liked -- The process was this:

1.  Put up a 1/8 aluminum plate over the entire flimsy wall surface to be covered by the tile (less 1/8 inch on the horizontal measurement, something I didn't do but should have for a reason to be explained).  I went to an aluminum fabrication shop I've used before and for $10 they cut me a piece 17" (the vertical dimension) x 20" (horizontal dimension from the corner to the outer end of the backsplash), into which I drilled eight small holes with countersinks made with a drill bit slightly thicker than the heads of the small screws (3/8, counter-sunk, stainless, self-tapping) I used to attach it to the wall.  Put it in place, poked starter holes in the wall with an ice pick, and sunk the screws.  That gave me a rigid surface to which to mount the tile.  The inner surface of the coach sidewall was already rock solid.

2.  Bought a cheap tile saw, under $50, because I'd recently thrown my previous cheap tile saw away. 

3.  Be aware that 12" tile squares from Overstock.com come with three straight sides and one slightly wavy side.  I assume that is industry standard.  Cut the uneven sides straight and perfectly parallel with the opposite side, taking off minimum material, about the thickness of the blade.

4.  Cut the odd-width piece -- for me, 20" less 12" x 2 = 6") and use white Loktite or equivalent mastic to stick it in place in the corner of the refrigerator wall, flush against the top of the backsplash.  Lay a thin trail of mastic U-turning it about 2" apart, back and forth across the whole back face of the tile and keeping an inch away from the edges.  Press firmly into place and keep the pressure on for a minute or so if you've detected any bow in the aluminum place (it'll probably go on perfectly flat). Do the same with the two 12" squares. 

3.  Measure the vertical distance from the top of the tile to the bottom of the wall cabinets.  Reduce that by 1/8 inch for safety and cut four or five strips, as needed, of that dimension from the remainder of the third tile and mastic them in, starting at the outer end, carefully lining up the outer edge with the tile below, and work into the corner.   

4.  Decide where you want the long tile run to end, making sure you have enough tile to cut the top strips, and repeat the process, again starting from the corner and working out so that the seam between long tile and short tile is as far back and as inconspicuous as possible.

5.  You'll have visible vertical hairline gaps between tiles.  From the tile department, not the paint department, of Lowes or Home Depot or similar, get a tube of water soluble colored caulk that will best blend with your tile.  Lay very fine beads over the gaps and work it in with your fingers until the gaps are well filled.  Don't neglect the gap in the corner.  Clean off the excess first with a dry paper towel, then a wet one, and finally scrub the surface well with the coarse side of a wet 3M dishwashing sponge.  This last step will remove the sheen that cleaning the caulk off will leave.

6.  Remember that 1/8" reduction in the horizontal dimension of the aluminum plate?  The edge of the plate will now be recessed 1/8" behind the tile.  Fill that groove with the colored caulk and you will hide bright edge of the plate. Smear the raw edge of the tile with the colored caulk and clean any that gets on the surface of the tile as described above.

6.  If you want to guild the lily, there are numerous sources for 3/4-inch outside corner molding, which is just right to cover the raw edge of the tile. On-line sources offer a wide variety of finishes so that this trim can match or nearly match the carpentry of your coach.  Very carefully cut that to length (I recommend a hack saw to get a clean edge).   You will need to strip away some of one side of the piece for the tile that is not backed by aluminum to reduce the inner dimension to the thickness of your tile; it should be just right without trimming to cover the thickness of the tile plus the aluminum plate at the end of the short run. Stick the trim pieces in place with a minimal amount of mastic so as not to generate an annoying clean-up job.  If you've got a top edge too you'll have to make a really good miter joint for best appearance.   As I had done some previous woodwork that required staining raw wood to match the cabinetry, I cut my own corner molding from stock on hand and stained it with the custom color stain I'd had a paint store mix, and then varnished with semi-gloss.  I glued the mitered ends of the two pieces together with Elmer's wood glue, in a miter clamp that held them firmly together at exactly right angles and in full contact.   Such clamps are available from custom wood working tool shops and maybe from Lowes or Home Depot, are cast pot metal, and so inexpensive buying to use once is reasonable.

NOTE:  Order at least 20% more tile than you think you need.  You'll need it/them even if you don't make mistakes.  I ordered one extra and had four pieces 2" by 4" left over.) 

 

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