Hello Herringbone!

See, the thing about me, I know what I like. That can lead to efficiencies. It can also lead to weekend long headaches for my dear, sweet husband. But in the end, I just can’t help that the good Lord made me one head strong, determined little lady ūüėČ Our kitchen was driving me batty, which turns me into bat woman, and bat woman is fierce. Like Sasha fierce, with a power tool. Be very afraid.

We had made some serious progress the past few days (i.e. here and here), but it was still very construction zone esq and I was ready as can be to have some lovely backsplash up so we could call this space good and done. Cue the headache for the hubby. Cause I knew what I wanted, and turns out, it’s a wee bit of a pain … Here is what the kitchen was looking like pre-backsplash. A little rough around the edges.

White Shaker Cabinets

Getting closer, with the cabinets and counters in, but still lacking some fundamental finishing details :)

Since we had already tackled this DIY project in the bathroom, I was mentally prepping him the week before that this was going to be e-asy. Walk in the park. Slice of pie. We can DO this, Jay! But, alas, each project has it’s own twists and turns, doesn’t it ūüėČ Before we get knee deep into this one, let’s get a good look at the before. Remember this kitchen?

Removing Kitchen Tile Backsplash

Unfortunately, it wasn’t really possible to repurpose the old tile, since we intended to wrap the pattern up around the window. Plus, the tile we had before had a green stripe through the middle we weren’t crazy about and it had a few spots where the tiles had been cut to fit cabinets before. Out to the trash pile it went.

Before we started laying the new pattern, we had some general housekeeping items to check off the list. Learning from past experiences, the smoother, and more consistent your wall is, the better your results will be. The last thing you want is a tile popping up because you didn’t prep the space properly. Although you can trouble shoot these areas to a certain extend as you go, it’s much easier to take care of them beforehand, when you don’t have a tile covered in mortar that you have to pop off. We just took a chisel and tapped away in areas that looked raised or particularly problematic.

How to prep wall for tile

To install the herringbone tile pattern, you want to essentially create the triangle shape below, over and over and over. You’ll see it in you’re sleep ūüėČ It’s best if you’re able to center the bottom triangle where you want the pattern to originate, we opted for directly behind the sink. Seemed like a good place to have the eye go to. Since we provided a step by step tutorial on herringbone install during our bathroom renovation post, here, I thought I’d focus a bit more on the unique challenges we came up against with this install for this post, which, unfortunately, were bountiful.

How to install herringbone tile pattern

Hard as you try, especially in an old house, there are going to be inconsistencies in your wall, leading to a pattern that doesn’t always match up the way you want it to. This was our first time wrapping around something (aka the window) where the tile had to match up on the other side. We kind of held our breath, and tried to be as meticulous as possible with each measurement, but much to our utter dismay, as we started to wrap around the window with the pattern, this happened.

See the difference in the gap! Eek! Panicked moments ensued.

Herringbone Tile Backsplash

Before we got to that point, we were just coming around the window, thinking that everything was peachy keen. Singing a song, bumbling along. As we inched closer and closer, it was pretty obvious that the space we had to fill, and the tiles we had to fill it, were not at all compatible. Freakity frack.

Installing Herringbone Tile

A la this photo. Oh. no. Do you see the gap there, not going to work Senor. It was about an inch. When you’re talking tile spacing, that is a lot. Never a good moment when you’ve been slaving for days. Oye.

Herringbone Tile Installation

Sadly, the only way to really fix it at this point, was to back track and remove a good chunk of the tiles from the wall. Whomp whomp. Our basic strategy was to come back through and kind of adjust the pattern by hand through sliding the tiles around so that the gap was at least a bit more spread out, vs. concentrated all in one place with one huge, 1 inch gap. Not the look we were going for.

It definitely wasn’t the perfect solution, but other than removing every single last tile, and starting from scratch, we kind of had to work with what we had. Plus, there was no guarantee that if we did that, that it would drastically improve our lot, given the possibility that an uneven wall surface or window surround (likely) were causing it. Obviously getting to this point in your install and having to turn around is a b-ummer. ¬†But sometimes you just have to role with the punches, my friend.

Installing Herringbone Tile Backsplash

Overall, as we were finishing this wall, the side immediately to the right of the window was a bit of a problem child, but other than that, it was looking half decent. Half. Decent. Jay and I definitely notice it, but in all honesty, it really isn’t the end of the world, right?

Definitely a little more gap action than we’d normally go for, but by George, it was done. Plus, in an effort to minimize the glare of any of our mistakes, we opted to use a white grout, which will hopefully help those gap-a-rific areas, to be a bit less noticeable. Craft camouflage, following me?

Herringbone Subway Tile

For all the grief the sink side gave us, the backsplash behind the oven was a piece of cake. We worked together laying the tiles and in total, it took about an hour and a half. Wootie woooot!! I would slather up the tile and hand it off to Jay for placement, and help adjust each piece as we went. Cooperation makes it happen.

How to install subway tile

Before we knew it, we had this beautiful little backdrop, that was only in need of a few periphery cuts to get us donzo. Granted those take the longest, but we developed a pretty good rhythm by the end where Jay would measure and cut, while I would lay each tile in place.

Herringbone Tile Installation

With no obstacles, save the end of the pattern, we were able to get this side looking pretty swakified if I do say so myself. I pretty much want to kiss it every time I walk in the kitchen, bare minimum high five it. The grout lines feel a lot tighter on this side, which makes for a beautiful little backsplash. Since the space was so small behind the stove, it was pretty straight forward, and difficult to have enough deviation in the pattern that it would lead to a noticeable gap.

After a full weekend of slapping these tiles up, the hubster was one happy camper to smack that last bad boy on the wall. Done.

How to Install Subway Tile

Here is a sneak peak of how the oven side turned out. Fancy pantalones.

DIY Herringbone Backsplash

I gotta tell ya, this turned out beautiful once we added grout and sealed it. I’ll have all the after pictures in a kitchen reveal post, tomorrow, which will include a cost breakdown of how much this kitchen reno set us back. It’s going to be epic. :)

Check out lots of great other DIY projects over on Liz Marie’s Blog!

Liz Marie Blog

My Love Hate Relationship with Herringbone Tile: Part II

So, yesterday we showed you some of the play by play shots of this whole bathroom remodel delio, but for those that want to try tackling herringbone themselves, I thought a wee little tutorial might be in order. Overall – I’d say it’s an 8 on the toughness scale, but by George, it’s a beaut when your done with it!

When I’m starting any project around the house, pinterest is usually the first stop. Lots of inspiration, and often, actually helpful stuff! We found this amazing tutorial on pinterest, and I whole¬†heartily¬†encourage it’s use. Here is a picture from the tutorial that sums up your basic first cuts that will set the stage for the rest of the pattern.

How to install herringbone tile
Herringbone Tile Pattern

So per the recommendations, we got a Speed Square and got to workin’! Overall, these are the tools of the trade that we used for the herringbone cut on the tile:

  1. Speed Square $10
  2. Pencil (cheap!) ūüėČ
  3. Ryobi Tile Saw ($150,  we have this one)
  4. 40 square feet of subway tile $64.00
  5. Mortar $14.37
  6. Grout $9.88
Supplies for tile installation
The Goods

It took a few cuts to get the hang of this whole triangle cutting process, and there were a few tile¬†casualties¬†along the way. That being said, subway tiles are .22 each, so it’s not the END of the world if you¬†nick¬†a few up. ¬†I told Jay he was lucky we¬†weren’t¬†doing marble tiles! ūüėČ First, we measured out the triangle with the speed square, to cut off the edge.

How to Cut Herringbone Tile
How to Cut Herringbone Tile

Things we realized along the way. You pretty much have to do this cut free hand. We tried using a guide that the tile saw has on it, but it actually landed up creating more issues, with the tiles getting all jagged, and inconsistent on the edges. Here is the line up of the first few that got added to the scrap pile.

How to cut herringbone tile
The Land of Misfit Tiles

Many of these were useful later on down the road, but with their clipped corners and uneven edges, we had to put them on the shelf for later use. As we continued to move across the wall, additional cuts were needed. Once the tile was placed up on the wall, we just used a pencil to mark both where the start of the tile should be, and where the tile should end with the grout line. This helped us to make sure we had a really good guide for the exact line to cut once we had it up on the tile saw.

Installing subway tile
Making the Cut

After you have carefully measured and marked your tile, just line that baby up with the blade and let er’ rip! I practically closed my eyes for this part each time (note – I was NOT cutting), since it made my arm pits a bit sweaty to see Jay’s hand that close to a quickly moving, sharp blade. Happy to say we made it through the bathroom remodel with all fingers intact. :)

How to cute subway tile
Cutting the Tile

Jay and I had high hopes of busting this tiling job out in a weekend, and let’s just say it took more like a 2-weeks + ūüėČ Namely, since once the weekend is over, we just have evenings to work on it, so the schedule gets pushed back quite a bit. Overall, it definitely took extra time, extra patience and extra energy (I may, or may not have actually DONE all these things, ahem, patience) to do the herringbone tile, but it was SO worth it in my opinion!

Herringbone Subway Tile
Bathroom | After

I feel like my bathroom tile is a work of art now. Like a¬†Louvre exhibit. That is either highly insulting to Rembrandt, or highly complementary to my hubby’s handiwork ūüėȬ†Here is a snapshot of how it looks all up, sans grout. I’m just so stinking happy it’s done. That mother was a beast! Check out the little niche we built-in for storage. I’ll have a post with the play by play on that soon.

Herringbone Subway Tile
Bathroom | After

And a final shot of the whole shabang. Yes, one tile popped out along the bottom. Jay will pop it back in, soon. :)

Subway Tile Herringbone Pattern
Bathroom | After

Now all we have left to do in this room is:

  • Paint
  • Install the new floor
  • Install the trim
  • Grout the tiles
  • Install the new built-in shelf
  • Install new lighting
  • Install new sink


My Love Hate Relationship with Herringbone Tile

Oye. This one was been a doozy. Yeah, I know, I’m¬†supposed¬†to say how easy this is, and that all you have to do is pick up a trowel and you’ll be well on your way to the chicest bathroom known to man. At least that was what I was envisioning when we started this project. Turns out, there were a few more twists and turns along the way ūüėČ After 12 straight hours of slaving away, this is what we had to show for the tile laying portion of the project. It moved SLOW. Slow as¬†molasses.

Herringbone Subway Tile Install
Herringbone Subway Tile Install

After doing lots of measuring and using the level to make sure we were marking the lines correctly, we decided to start the pattern right in the middle of the tub¬†surround, just seemed like the best place to start. That being said, this did land up requiring a lot more cuts than we had with the conventional, brick laid subway tile, and you are less likely to be able to use the scraps, more on that later. The red line up the middle marked the very center of the tub, which helped us keep the pattern centered. The horizontal line was to keep everything level. In theory … ūüėČ

How to install herringbone subway tile
First Tile!

In addition to putting one line up the side for the border tile, we also used the level to put a line all the way around the tub surround to make sure that the pattern was staying at a consistent height throughout. We did this namely after realizing that our tub was in no way level (lovely) so we quickly realized we would not be able to use it as a guide.

How to install subway tile
Creating a Level Line

On our first house, we had laid down subway tile in the conventional pattern, like brick laying, example here. Very basic. Quite straight forward. I wanted to up the style factor a notch in this bathroom and do a herringbone tile, and although I knew it would be harder than the basic pattern we utilized last time, I thought it wouldn’t take quite so long. For starters, I knew that we did a few things considerably more correct this time around with some of the prep work (referenced here and here), so in all honesty, I thought that would eliminate some of the issues we bumped into this time around. Probably our MOST¬†noticeable¬†boo boo came in the form of a hacked off tile. Since Jay didn’t work straight across, but rather started at the bottom, and had tiles creeping in from both sides, we found that when we went to place one row of tiles, it just didn’t fit. Yikes! Case and point below:

How to install subway tile
A Case of the Misfit Tile

Ummm, yeah. That wasn’t good. After putting our heads together on it (ok, it wasn’t THAT calm, he he) we decided to just let er’ be. With the way this pattern is laid, it was really hard to tell that there was a difference in tile size, unless you took a measuring tape up to it. Jay kept telling me – look – it’s just like an optical illusion, no one will ever notice! ūüėČ At this point, we were just willing to accept that some things wouldn’t be perfect. After this case of the mis-fit tile(s) we were definitely EXTRA¬†diligent¬†to check every.single.row to make sure it was level on all accounts, since we wanted to avoid reliving that whole kit and kaboodle, if possible.

How to remove mortar from tile lines
Mortar Time

Another lesson learned the first time around is to not to put too much mortar on the back of the tile, since it will seep out and cause issues with your grout. Last time, there were little bumps up in the grout lines, were you could see dried mortar through the grout. This looks really bad in my opinion  so we made a hard core effort to minimize excess mortar this time around.

I’ll be back tomorrow with the play by play on how to¬†actually¬†DO the herringbone tile installation (cuts, etc) and some AFTER pictures! :)