A Backsplash Backstory

Last week, I learned a few things about installing a backsplash while helping out with a DIY kitchen makeover. But before I share the how-to (or not-to-do), a little back-story:

Kate Wheel of Fortune

A few years ago, my daughter, Kate decided it might be fun to be on a game show, specifically Wheel of Fortune,

Wheel Of Fortune

because a co-worker had mentioned that she had been attempting to get on the show for years, and never got the call. Kate recalled that as a very young child, she had watched it with her grandfather and tried to guess the turning letters. My father’s tease was naming Vanna White in whatever color gown she happened to be wearing: Vanna Yellow,

Vanna Yellow

Vanna Purple,

Vanna Purple

which always delighted her (Kate, not Vanna). So she signed up online, got called almost immediately for an audition in NYC (much to the chagrin of her snubbed co-worker), made it on to the show, flew to LA, wore her lucky red shoes,

Ruby Slippers

and she won! See if you can guess the bonus round puzzle-it’s a thing.  +++


When you see a game show hosts tell a contestant “this $50,000 is life-changing money” and you scoff and think its not, think again. Following Kate’s victory (and once she received her winnings), she got one of these:

Bartlet Puppy

resigned from her job and was accepted to law school

Gaveland simultaneously purchased a 2 bedroom condo in the burbs of Boston with her boyfriend. Since purchasing that condo, they have slowly made significant improvements, including tearing out old beige carpet and installing hardwood floors, painting the rooms and making it their own-all DIY projects. The kitchen, most likely last updated in the 70’s, was functional but not so pretty. But starving (lol) law students don’t typically have the means to gut and renovate a kitchen, even if they do win game shows, so that was tackled piece-meal, changing out hardware, adding new appliances (some DIY, installing the microwave and disposal and faucet themselves) as the old ones finally sputtered and died, and finally adding granite countertops (not DIY) and the backsplash (cue how-to). So these are the lessons we learned:

1. Installing a backsplash is not as easy as it appears on all of those DIY shows where the host hands the trowel over to the homeowner and say “Here. Finish this tonight for homework while I go back to my hotel and sleep.” Make sure you assemble all of your necessary tools first before you begin the grouting process!

Grout Supplies

2. Use the cardboard backing from the tiles squares to mask the countertop and provide enough space for the caulk to fit once you have grouted.

Masking Cardboard

3. Use a level. Repeat. Use a level.

Backsplash cardboard

You have to make sure that ground zero (that starting point) is perfectly level and vertically straight or you will install the equivalent of a disco ball on your wall. Disco Ball

Which may not be a bad thing if you’re feelin’ a little groovy…

4. When you are installing stainless steel squares, either do not remove the protective plastic until you are finished grouting, or use unsanded grout to make sure you don’t scratch the steel. (After all, it’s called stainless steel, not scratchless steel!) If it doesn’t say unsanded on the package, it’s sanded. Lesson learned a bit too late.

Scratched Stainless Tile

5. Once you have discovered that the float with the grout is scratching the tiles, you switch over to the finger painting method, making sure you firmly press the grout into the cracks without scratching the steel tiles.

Backsplash Fingerpainting

Yucky work, but had to be done. Used these wipes to clean up the tiles, which worked very nicely.

Stainless Wipes

6. Make sure you protect all of the surfaces surrounding the backsplash, including your new granite countertops, because the grouting is messy and grout globs fly all over the place. And grab them before they hit the floor, so the dog doesn’t eat them!

Taping off for caulk

7. Have a BIG wet sponge handy to wipe up all the excess grout you are dropping and smearing all over the place. Better yet, cut the sponge in threes and keep a constant wet one handy to wipe and clean as you go.

Grout Supplies

8. Make sure you account for the NEW DEPTH of the electrical outlets. Because there was no backsplash when the plugs were installed, they were flush to the wall. We were part way around when we discovered this error-woops. So we ended up cutting off these little corners so the tiles would fit snugly. Not sure what those are for anyway…


9. Make an appointment with a nail salon upon completion. You are going to need it.

10. Stand back and admire your sparkly new backsplash-the jewelry of the kitchen!

Backsplash Reflection

11. In the overall scheme of things, it’s fun, and cost effective to attempt DIY projects. But in the future, all tile installations will be left to the pros. But for now, what a beautiful, shiny, sparkling backsplash!

Backsplash Completed

Kind of looks like one of Vanna’s sparkly dresses, yes?

Vanna Silver

And if you ever decide you want to be on a game show, but think, no way, that will never happen, I just can’t do it, do it anyway. You never know where your wheel might steer you! Hope you are having a great long weekend everyone! Susan

+++ JOKES AND PUNS  (I know, right!?! How did she get that!?)




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