How to Install Stone Tile – Otago Kitchen Backsplash

We love hearing about our customers experiences with our products.  Good or bad they all help us to better inform people about the tile they are going to be installing.  What is even better is when we get to see our customer’s experiences.  Enter first place installation contest winners, Cindy and Jess from Arkansas.   They ordered a sample of marble tile in November and were ready to purchase one week later…40 sqft of Otago Black Marble Tile to complete their dream kitchen.

All the pictures they sent us of their backsplash installation were so much fun to look at and absolutely perfect for a DIY how to post.  So thank you Cindy and Jess for sharing your experience and beautiful kitchen remodel with us!

Here is what the kitchen looked like pre backsplash install.

Kitchen Remodel Before

Kitchen Remodel Before

The first step to installing any of the stone tiles is sealing them.  This is an important step that cannot be overlooked.  Natural stone is very porous and if the stones are not sealed before they are grouted the grout will penetrate the stone, leaving a light haze on the tiles and obstructing their natural beauty.

Sealing the Otago Black

Sealing the Otago Black

We have always recommended a company called Miracle Sealants for sealing products.  They have a variety of options and we have always had a positive experience with them.  (If you have another company you have used and liked in the past definitely let us know so that we can pass it on to others.)

Grout haze does happen and it is not fun.   But it is not the end of the world, there are options to try and fix some of the damage.  You can use an acid wash and specific removers, but I highly recommend consulting a professional installer.  Using products like acid wash can be more damaging than the actual haze and speaking with someone who has a larger understanding of building materials will be helpful in making the right decision for your installation.

When you seal the stones you will see them darken a little bit.  The picture below looks like it was taken when the sealer was still wet so it is darker than the Otago Black will actually end up.  If you are looking to get a deeper tone like the look below you can use a sealer with an enhancer.

Natural vs Sealed Stone Tile

Natural vs Sealed Stone Tile

Once you have the stones sealed (The manufacturer’s directions should have the appropriate drying time noted).  You can get ready to install them.  Most of our stone tiles have an interlocking system on the sides so that you can create a seamless look.  But because they are handmade tiles the interlocking system is not an exact science and we recommend laying out the tiles before you install them to make sure you get the least amount of seam lines possible.  Also this way you will be able to see where you will need to make cuts to fit the tiles or to go around sockets.

Laying Out The Tile

Laying Out The Tile

To cut the stones for areas like light sockets and ends, you will need a tile saw.  Most tile saws are wet saws which minimize dust and keep blade heat down.

Cutting the Tile with a Tile Saw

Cutting the Tile with a Tile Saw

Obviously if this is a onetime project you do not want to buy a tile saw.  You can rent them from your local home improvement store to get the remodel done.  Plan the timing when you will be doing the cuts so that you will only be renting the tile saw when you will be using it.  That way you do not have to pay for tile saw just sitting there.

Here are some examples of places that need to be cut – light sockets, corners, and ends.

Installing Around Light Sockets

Installing Around Light Sockets

For the area around the light socket, remove the tile pieces where you will need the hole.   Measure the areas and make the appropriate cuts to the tiles to fit them back in.

Same for the ends and corners, just remove the tiles that do not fit, measure what they should be, and cut to fit.

Placing Cut Piece on Ends

Placing Cut Piece on Ends

Corner Installation

Corner Installation

The next step is to back butter the tiles with thinset to adhere the tiles to the wall.  You should use a high quality thinset mortar which you can find at any home improvement store.

Applying the Thinset

Applying the Thinset

It is important that each individual part of the stone is embedded in adhesive, however they should not be pressed deeply into the adhesive.   Select a product suitable for application with a 1/4″ or 1/8″ notched trowel and apply no more than three square feet of adhesive at a time.

First tile up!

First Tile Up!

First Tile Up!

More Otago tile up…

Backsplash Right Wall

Backsplash Right Wall

Backsplash Left Wall

Backsplash Left Wall

If you think that it would be easier to seal the stones once they are all on the wall you can do that as well.  It definitely works better with a wall or floor installation rather than a backsplash where the cabinets can make it a little difficult to get to the tiles.

Once you have the tiles up and sealed you can start grouting.

Grouting the Tile

Grouting the Tile

The most important part of grouting stone tile is using a sanded grout.  Make sure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions for drying time and when to remove excess grout.  Obviously removing more grout will create a more three dimensional look, while removing less grout will flatten the look. In this picture Jess is using a float to apply the grout.  You can also use this to remove excess grout or a brush.  And lastly go over it with a wet sponge until you reach your desired look.

Close Up of Grouted Otago Black

Close Up of Grouted Otago Black

Once the grout has dried you are going to want to seal the whole installation one more time.  This keeps the grout from getting stains and is an extra protection for your stones, which is very important when you are installing it as a backsplash where liquids may be getting on it.

And that is the end of it.  See, it’s simple, but enough of a challenge that you will feel great about yourself and your kitchen after.  When you do it yourself it makes it that much sweeter.

Here is the finished project!  A beautifully updated kitchen!

Otago Black Kitchen Backsplash

Otago Black Kitchen Backsplash

If you have an amazing kitchen transformation out there we would love to see it.  And you can always enter our installation photo contest which we run every three months.  You can enter by emailing info@design-4-less.com

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2 Responses to “How to Install Stone Tile – Otago Kitchen Backsplash”

  1. [...] As the pebble tiles have become more and more popular we get less and less installation questions.  When we first started most contractors and home owners were unfamiliar with the pebble tiles and needed direction on how to install the tile.  Now there is a plethora of installation videos online as well as countless home improvement shows that have used the tile showing how easy it is to install them.  Most installers and DIYers are familiar enough with the material now to tackle it on their own and have accomplished beautiful installations.  Just take a look at our photo contest winner’s DIY project. [...]

  2. Beth says:

    It’s nice to read a quality blog post. I enjoy many of the blog posts on your web site.

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