Creating kitchens and baths for finicky customers since 1993

backsplash features inset metal tiles for accent and texture

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Here's how you can lay out tile like a professional - Part One

by Jim Bessey

"Proper prior planning prevents piss-poor performance" --common business adage

tricky bath floor tile layout
View from the doorway--a tricky bath tile layout!
Laying ceramic tile can be a good DIY project. However, before you lay a single tile you need a good tile layout. Some will say you can do this on graph paper. As a professional tile installer, I politely disagree. Paper layouts are no match for an empty room, properly prepared, and the real tiles scattered on the floor in front of you. Ever heard the saying, "proper prior preparation prevents project problems"? This counts double for laying tile.

The beauty of tile is that it's not a fragile sheet good, or a warpy wood product. You can 'play with it' like Lego, shuffling the pieces around until you have them just right. No cardboard templates are required, and you don't have to sort out the bad pieces (usually, anyway). Each tile will generally vary by no more than 1/32" - close enough to make tiles interchangeable.

Where should you start?
You don't want to get halfway through the job and find yourself two tiles short.
Make rough measurements first, on graph paper if you like, and be sure you have enough tile purchased to complete the job. Always allow no less than 10% for potential cuts and waste. You don't want to get halfway through the job and find yourself two tiles short. For one thing, you'll have a difficult time matching the tile lot for small quantities. Mixed-lot tiles can sometimes stand out as if they were a different color, so don't risk it.

Begin with an empty room, free of clutter and vacuumed clean. Typically, remove all existing baseboards. Same for adjacent hallways, if your tile will continue there, too. Have your backer board (or similar tile underlayment) ready and handy, but uninstalled. You'll want to be sure that backer joints and tile joints don't coincide. The only way to know this is by laying out your tile in advance. Decide your grout joint size based on personal preference, and have spacers available. These are cheap, and go a long way toward producing professional results...  keep reading

Reprinted from the original on  copyright 2010 - Jim Bessey
. Read Jim's profile at Helium 
See this story as it appears on 
     For more How-To Guides, see our new How To page, hosted here.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Toilet Repairs: How to fix a troublesome toilet

by Jim Bessey

Troubleshooting common toilet problems

Not a single fixture or appliance in our homes is more crucial to our sanity than the lowly toilet. We expect our commodes to work every time, and we cringe with foul distaste when one fails in its humble mission. Yet a malfunctioning toilet must be fixed post-haste! If the kitchen sink is clogged, that can wait. Not so the potty. And it's all so distasteful: it's damp, perhaps a bit moldy inside, fouled by unspeakable germs and vile gunk no human should touch. The thought of calling a plumber, however, conjures visions of an exorbitant and illegible bill for emergency service.

Here are three secrets, revealed: First, you probably can repair that mis-behaving toilet yourself. Second, toilets aren't nearly as complicated as you fear. And last, except in the case of a truly disturbing overflow of the bowl, your toilet is much cleaner than you might expect. On the other hand, your fears of a pricey service call are well-founded. It's not at all unusual to pay almost $200 for a plumber's visit. For about $50 more than that, you could have a new toilet installed. It's worth your time, worth overcoming your reluctance, to at least give it a look.

Anatomy of the common toilet (U.S. design, residential):

Bird's-eye toilet view
Starting at the top: THE TANK. Although there are endless variations in shape and size, every commode has a water reservoir, usually a separate tank that holds ordinary tap-water used for flushing. A pipe emerges from the wall or floor nearby; most often you'll find a shut-off valve (with a small handle of some sort), which leads fresh water through a supply tube up to the tank. [Some tanks are cast as a unit with the bowl. This is a designer trick which makes repairs and replacement deliberately more expensive.]

Below the tank: THE BOWL. This part of the commode holds a second reservoir of water, necessary for effective flushing and for sealing off the sewer line from the air in your home. Most of us believe the toilet bowl to be hopelessly contaminated with exotic microbes. Unless you never clean it, that simply isn't true. Your kitchen sink almost certainly harbors more hazardous germs, especially if you have a garbage disposal.

The bowl covers the critical DRAIN. This is an two- to four-inch opening in the floor, leading directly to your main sewer or septic line. A clogged drain line doesn't even involve the toilet fixture itself; the problem's in the pipes. If your trouble lies in the drain line beneath the floor, that's the right time to call a plumber.

Things that can go wrong, and can be fixed:

Your shut-off valve can become clogged over time. If the tank seems to take an eternity to fill, the valve may need replacement. There's a second shut-off inside the tank, too: the one that sometimes doesn't stop running after you flush. For most toilets, that part costs less than $20 to replace. A typical brand of tank-filler is "Fluid-Master," sold in every hardware store. If you can shut-down either your water main or the valve with the handle below the tank, then you can do this job yourself. Cures most slow-fill or won't-stop-running issues.

Sometimes the "flapper" fails to function. In this case, water continually seeps or gurgles into the bowl (possibly wasting hundreds of gallons a week). Jiggling the handle is a common short-term solution. However, while the flapper's design varies from brand to brand, most home-owners can handle replacing that part themselves. Turn off the toilet's water supply for this chore, too.

The most humbling and distasteful problems come when the drain becomes clogged. If your handy plunger fails to clear the clog, go ahead and call a plumber. You could try "snaking" the drain yourself, but that's not a job for the faint-of-heart. Clogged drains can usually be blamed on some variation of "too much toilet paper." Prevention, and education of blissfully ignorant family members, is the only way to avoid recurrence.

The critical point: try not to be afraid. It's only a toilet. You don't have to be a rocket scientist to show the commode who's boss.

  Reprinted from the original on   copyright 2010 - Jim Bessey 
Read Jim's profile at 
See this story as it appears on 
    For more How-To Guides, see our new How To page, hosted here.

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

New How-To Guides page added to Kitchens & Baths by D'Zyne blog

Added today: How to build a storage shed and How to install a GFCI receptacle.

Helium's How-To Guides zones page system offers pics, articles, and more!
Earlier this year, Blogger added a nice little Pages system that allows us to display stand-alone web pages within our blogs. I've wanted to add my recent How-To Guides to the blog, but didn't want to clutter things up with clunky posts. Now all I have to do is post screen-shots from the guides for easy reader clicking. Nice and simple, huh?

Please notice that you are welcome to leave comments and questions whenever you visit a zone-based Guide. I do pay attention, and always answer questions within a day or two. Hope to see you there!


During the coming weeks, I'll add more Guides for helpful how-to information. Got a topic you'd like to see covered? If so, please leave a Comment here and I'll see what I can do.

You can see all of my current zones and guides on by visiting my Zones home page.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

DIY Tile Pic of the Week: Tile Shower Base

By Jim Bessey, editor

When you want an all-tile shower enclosure, there's no substitute for the real thing and no shortcuts to great results. 

2 by 2 porcelain tiles imitating an earthy "wood" look make a great pattern
Most of our ceramic tile shower remodeling projects use some type of high-end precast base, rather than real tile as pictured here. Why? Because forming and installing a ceramic or porcelain tile shower base is a real pain in the behind. Not only that, it's very easy to make a crucial mistake that will be very difficult to address when the inevitable leak emerges days or weeks later.

On the other hand, none of those expensive cast bases can even attempt to imitate the beauty of an all-tile base. Unfortunately, the best way to achieve results like this uses methods alarmingly similar to those of the original Roman Spa builders. A good DIY tile project? Not really; but if you're patient and aren't afraid to work with water-proof membrane, mortar mix, thinset, and ceramic (or porcelain) tile -- well, it's a job you can do one step at a time, carefully. 

We'll talk about that process in a future column. I've included a number of more basic DIY Tile Tips in earlier posts.

What tile projects have you tried? Your ideas for future posts and pictures are always welcome. For more tile information, see my DIY Tile Zone, hosted on Helium.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

DIY Kitchen Tile Backsplash: Good idea or bad idea?

Should you consider doing your own tile backsplash in the kitchen?

smaller tumbled marble tiles make a great backsplash
A recent online article offered this encouraging advice: DIY kitchen backsplash tile is an easy project you can do with basic tile tools.

Allow me to politely disagree.

Ceramic tile projects do have certain aspects that lend themselves to DIY efforts. Working with tile can be similar to playing with Lego blocks: you do it piece-by-piece and you can undo your mistakes easily, at first anyway.

On the other hand, errors left unfixed for more than a day or two are all but permanent. Furthermore, the tools you'll need for professional results almost always include a wet-saw -- not a 'basic tool' in my opinion. Why will you need a water-cooled tile saw? To cut around the inevitable electrical outlets above your counter-top. And let's face it, many DIY enthusiasts shy away from electrical work, with good reason.

Let's look at the cons of doing your own backsplash tile, first; then we'll consider tips for doing the project if you decide to go ahead.
  • Kitchen projects are highly visible, and the backsplash is at eye-level.
  • Laying out the tile pattern can be problematic.
  • As with all tile projects, surface preparation is critical to getting good results.
  • You'll be working over-top of a two-foot surface and beneath the overhead cabinets -- it's an awkward angle, at best.
  • The topmost row of tiles will almost always have to be cut to fit the upper cabinets.
  • Using thinset mortar around finished wood and polished counters can make a big mess.
  • You will have to work with and around electrical outlets and switches.
  • This all but requires using a wet-cutting tile saw.
  • Exposed ends will need proper finishing attention, or the project will look amateurish.
  • Grouting to the counter-top and up to the top cabinets isn't fun. Expert caulking is important.
Can a competent do-it-yourselfer overcome these drawbacks? Sure. Here are some tips specific to backsplash tile jobs, to help smooth the way.
  1. Choose your tile carefully, with a designer's eye to the relatively small space involved. Take some measurements, and look for tile sizes that might suit the numbers. In general, avoid choosing tiles larger than 8" square.
  2. With your counter-tops completely clear, protect the surface with paper or cardboard. For each wall area, physically lay-out the actual tiles. This will help you spot cutting problems at outlets, ends, and corners. Be sure to consider the spacing required for bull-nose edging tiles or other tile edging materials at every open end.
  3. Remove all remnants of wallpaper or loose paint. Repair any large gouges and smooth any existing rough surfaces, using plaster-based wall products, rather than vinyl joint compound. Consider priming the entire area for improved adhesion.
  4. If possible, use mastic adhesive or double-stick plastic sheets (at most big-box stores now), rather than thinset mortar. Less mess, and easier clean-up for both methods.
  5. Use full, uncut tiles as your first row (at the counter-top). To allow for an expansion joint, use strips of standard cardboard (not corrugated) between the top's surface and the bottom of that first row. Remove spacers before grouting.
  6. Rather than disconnecting outlets and switches, carefully pull each fixture out of its box (to at least 1/2" away from the wall surface), and use electrical tape to cover all exposed screw connections. For the safest approach, turn off ALL circuits involved until the electrical devices are safely taped.
  7. Can you avoid buying or renting a wet-saw? Yes, but the alternative involves using a diamond-coated grinding wheel and making a big dust mess -- not to mention the dangers to your fingers when cutting individual tiles. Your best bet is to place every uncut ("field") tile that you can -- first -- and then rent a professional tile-cutting saw for as little as a half-day. Be sure to follow ALL safety directions for using wet-saws.
  8. Use care when cutting around outlet openings, so that the new tile will support electrical devices at the new surface depth. You can re-install those fixtures before grouting, if desired. (Use masking tape to protect them during grouting.)
  9. Consider using a wood molding in place of any final, cut row of tiles just below the upper cabinets. If your last row would be 1 1/2" or smaller (fairly typical), this might even be your best option -- and it will save a lot of cutting, tricky/awkward grouting, and caulking.
  10. When you're ready to grout, be sure to follow the directions on the package; but tackle the job one area at a time, even if you have to make multiple batches of grout. Don't worry, as long as you keep using the same bag or box of dry grout, the grout color will remain reasonably consistent. You can easily clean grout that wanders onto adjacent surfaces in the first hour after application, so don't worry too much about the mess.
  11. After the grout has dried, carefully caulk the joint between counter-top and row one with a high-quality, silicone-based caulk. Use clear, translucent, or a color-matched product. Be sure to use the least amount possible, rather than trying to wipe big smears from finished surfaces.
These tips won't make the back-numbing angle of the job any better, but they will help you avoid other typical tile problems associated with backsplash installation. Most projects of this type can be completed in a single weekend. You'll save significant dollars versus contractor labor, and still achieve professional results. Don't forget to take before-and-after pictures!

copyright 2010 - reprints available upon request
What tile problems have you encountered? Your ideas for future posts and pictures are always welcome. For more tile information, see my DIY Tile Zone, hosted on Helium. 

Thursday, June 17, 2010

How to install ceramic tiles next to other surfaces: comment and follow-up

What happens when ceramic tile meets carpet or hardwood?

ceramic tile uses metal edge transition to carpet
Today's design trends call for a mixture of flooring choices in our homes. This inevitably leads to tricky transitions between ceramic tile and other flooring materials. We began this discussion some weeks ago with this advice article:

How to install ceramic floor tiles next to wood flooring

Readers were quick to comment, probably because there is always more than one way to address these unlike-materials transitions.

Floor tiles guy said... Great article, it would be great to see a follow up article on advice with what to do when you are tiling from your kitchen up against a carpeted surface. Thanks 

Robert said...  Floor tiles are commonly used in home renovations today. Your post discussed the two possible scenarios when tiles are installed beside hardwood flooring. Among the two cases, the one with uneven levels is problematic. I agree with Floor tile guy that a follow up about repairs in those instances would be very useful to your readers.

In our case, spared us of such problems when we renovated our house. We have a maple hardwood flooring for the living area and used ceramic (Brandon) tiles for the kitchen. The floor looked neatly done because we had ample time to plan and discuss details like sub-floor foundation. In any case, a renovator must be very keen on details like measurements of the sub-floor and thickness of the tile to achieve a fairly even floor for his house. 

"Fairly even" is the key to making good tile transitions. Robert is exactly right.

The minimum recommended thickness for ceramic tile installation is about 5/8" -- and that's using a minimal 1/4" tile backer-board or the newer Ditra-brand substrates from Schluter. Fortunately, this thickness works well with most installed carpeting.  Typically, carpet plus padding adds up to about 5/8" -- although the type of carpet and the thickness of the selected pad can vary this measurement.

When tile and carpet are of nearly identical heights, you can use marble thresholds (bathroom) or simple square-finish tile edges. In both cases the carpet is stretched and tucked using the standard tackless strip. If the carpet is somewhat higher than tile, Schluter offers stepped edges to 'clamp down' thick carpeting.

Many times, however, porcelain tile installed over a thicker substrate like 1/2" Durock from USG will add up to a floor that's nearly one inch thick, not including the original house subfloor. That extra thickness puts the finish tile substantially higher than the nearby carpet. In this case, you have a couple of good choices:
  1. Use a "Hollywood" style marble threshold, which has a long bevel on one side to lead back down to carpet level. This works fine in a Master Bath off a carpeted bedroom, for instance.
  2. In high visibility common areas, a better choice would be a ramped metal Schluter edge (as mentioned in the original article about transitioning to hardwood floors). You could even consider a softer plastic-edge for a more subtle effect.
As Robert mentions, when you have time and opportunity to plan ahead, you can adjust all the flooring selections so that they'll add up to similar numbers. For stronger, modern subfloors you can use the thinner tile substrates to avoid high-tile problems.

Or, attacking the problem from the opposite direction, make the carpet thicker! It's easy and relatively inexpensive to add 1/4" to carpet thickness, merely by first installing basic luan underlayment before carpet is installed.

With tile transitions, as with so many things in life, the best answers usually come down to proper planning and preparation. Taking a little extra time to look ahead before you begin the installation -- and also to consider using specialty products designed for tricky situations -- can mean the difference between mediocre results and professional finishes.

copyright 2010 - all rights reserved * reprints upon request
What tile problems have you encountered? Your ideas for future posts and pictures are always welcome. For more tile information, see my DIY Tile Zone, hosted on Helium. 
See the earlier article as it appears on

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Ceramic tile: Tips for choosing the right size for your project

It's just as true for tile: "size matters"

by Jim Bessey

tile tub surround uses four tile sizes for effect
how many tile sizes do you see here?*
What's more fun than doing a tile job? - choosing the tile!

Shopping at tile stores is a sensory experience. So many shapes, sizes, textures, patterns and colors to choose from; it's enough to make you dizzy. At first it's easy:

"Love that! Love those! No way I'd use them!" But then comes, "- oh, I like those, too. These would look great in our bathroom. So would these, over here."

And that's just in the first five minutes of browsing the tile displays. When you consider the combinations and permutations, there are actually more tile choices than there are paint colors at Sherwin-Williams. One way or another, you have to...

Narrow the field.

Most folks start with a color scheme and a budget. That cuts the possibilities by at least half. Still leaves a couple thousand potential selections. Move on to texture: smooth or "natural" surface? Glossy or matte finish? Now you're down to just a few hundred possible tiles.

Size matters... keep reading

copyright 2009 Jim Bessey - all rights reserved ~ Reprint rights available at
This guide to choosing tile sizes for your DIY tile projects recently tied for second place in Challenge 21: Your best advice, hosted in Betaville on 
Your can find more tile advice from Jim and other Helium authors on the DIY Tile Zone, also hosted in Betaville. See this story as it appears on Helium.
If you have pictures of a recent DIY tile job you completed, contact me by Comment or email to share them here on K&B by D'Zyne.

* answer: there are four distinct tile sizes shown in the picture: 12x12, 6x6, 2x2, and 12" by 1" gold metallic 'rope' as an accent band edging. The tiles laid diagonally are the same 6x6's as in the horizontal row below the accent band.

Saturday, June 05, 2010

Adventures in tub tile: Fun with shapes and accent pieces

Photo by Jim Bessey
tile tub surround uses FOUR tile types!
Four distinct tile sizes and types combine for a stunning design
 Late last fall we tackled a tricky bathroom filled with interesting tile, including the tub surround pictured above. The central design uses 13"-square porcelain tiles with some rather aggresive shading and swirling. The designer added the same selection in a 6"-square for accent, then went even farther by including a gold-metallic border rope surrounding a 2-by-2 mosaic band. Next, above that accent band is the final touch -- the same 6-by-6 tiles laid diagonally.

Is this design too busy for your eye? The homeowner loved it, and was pleased with my attempts at both random and small-pattern layout. This is demanding work, using so many sizes and placements of different tiles in the same small area. You have to be careful doing this sort of design because you know that people will be looking closely every time they shower! (One of the 6-by6 tiles actually had to be chiseled out and replaced due to a minor but noticeable spacing issue -- that wasn't fun at all.)

Photo copyright 2010 Jim Bessey * Reprints with attribution, unaltered.
Want to know more about ceramic and porcelain tile for floors, walls, tubs and showers? See my DIY Tile Zone hosted on

Friday, June 04, 2010

Bathroom floor tile adventures: "I see patterns ... everywhere?"

Forming floor tile patterns can be risky business --

Our customer's initial response was "rip it all out!" I'm not kidding. Then the homeowner thought about it overnight. This bold pattern was permitted to stay put.

12x12 floor tiles in pattern
Rarely does a ceramic or porcelain floor tile lend itself to pattern-forming as well as this one. A large majority of installations call for careful randomizing (which certainly does sound like an oxymoron). Most tile instructions insist upon box-mixing and random rotation of each tile, or conversely require that the tiles maintain a given orientation specifically to avoid patterns.

close-up of floor tile pattern
tiles combine light and dark shading
This tile was different. It's shading and pigment variation was so pronounced that it was easy to visualize a wild assortment of pattern-matching. My design may have started accidentally, but once my eye saw a way to create floor-art I had to keep going. Of course there was an inherent risk in laying the tile artistically -- the homeowner was dead serious in his original dislike of the results.

zoom-in on floor tile pattern
closer view of 8-tile pattern
Notice that it took eight full tiles to form the base image for this floor. That's a lot of tedious tile selecting. Then, in order for the concept to "work" I had to keep going -- a similar yet complementary image is formed to the left, and is partially covered by the toilet and vanity. However, if there had not been a way to continue the theme, I'd have had to abandon the idea.

I'm not sure how well this earthy sandstone tile would have looked "randomized." With such enormous variation and contrast in tone it would be tough to achieve something that looked 'unplanned.' Some of these tiles actually display a mirror-image of another tile -- a visual stunt that can ruin any attempt at non-patterned designs.

shower tile floor and walls checker-board
Large & small tiles using random mix
One of our more recent tile jobs also used an extravagantly-varied tile surface; each tile seemed to have 'grain' and this had to be taken into account. In this case, we all agreed it was important to use two methods to randomize the overall tile image -- we used 'checker-boarding' and made sure that similar tile faces were never adjacent (which might sound easier than it is in practice). Notice how crucial the lack of patterning becomes for the 2x2 shower floor tiles.

Whether your floor tile lends itself to patterning or not, it's always smart to mix boxes and dry-set a large area just to see how the finished work will look. This is also an easy way to double-check your intended layout for cutting or other visual problems. Good planning makes for great results.

copyright 2010 - all rights reserved * photo reprints with attribution, unaltered
Would you have insisted on having the patterned design removed? Would you even consider buying a tile with this much variation in shading? How do you like the wood-look tiles, laid in a checker-board pattern -- too eye-boggling? 

If you'd like to learn more about home tile applications, have a look around at the DIY Tile Zone hosted on See also:  A Hard Look At Ceramic Tile.: An article from: Flooring

Thursday, June 03, 2010

Tile tub surrounds: Finding your niche

Tub surround tile niches are cool, and each is unique.

Niches are formed using an opening in the wall, a manufactured metal "pan," and a variety of tiling methods to blend with or accent the rest of the tub-area tile work.

Why choose a niche, versus other types of soap dishes and shelving? Design and aesthetics give niches the first-place vote. They do not intrude on the tub's space, and they don't interrupt the flow of the tile the way corner shelves do.

On the other hand, a niche adds substantial cost to the job -- mostly in added labor. One niche can easily add an entire day's work to a five-day job. There's extra time spent on careful layout, more time in cutting and re-framing the opening, hours more added for tile cutting (usually more than 20 added cuts!), and more time lost while grouting and caulking. It all adds up; but the pay-off is so high... well, just look at these pictures!

elegant tile niche

Simple and elegant: this one combines a partial picture-frame effect with interior bullnose finish, all using the same tile selection and carrying layout lines cleanly through the niche. For accent, this homeowner designed a band of two-by-two tiles just above the niche frame.

basic tile niche

Even simpler: this niche displays no picture-frame effect and blends beautifully with the surrounding tile. Notice how the grab bar aligns perfectly with the centered niche.

fancy tile niche

Jazzy and artistic: one of our most recent, this is also the most complicated. It uses a double-picture-frame design and adds smaller accent tiles in the back wall for an eye-popping finished product. The accent band above the niche uses a third ribbon-tile of the same finish.

modified niche design

Blending styles: our final example uses a modified picture-frame with a 'window sill' effect, and also includes accent tiles applied to the back wall. Notice the matching band of these same accent tiles at eye level. The accessory you see below the niche is a preformed corner seat.

Tiling a tub surround and adding an integral niche is typically beyond the skills of do-it-yourselfers.

When you're contracting professionals to do a job like this, however, it's nice to know you have plenty of choices. In addition, once you have an idea of the extra work involved, you might not be quite as easily shocked at the prices quoted. Keep in mind that a tile niche can be expected to last 30 to 50 years, same as the rest of the tiling in your remodeled bathroom.

All photos copyright 2010 by dzyne -- reprint with attribution please. _______________________________________________
Which niche looks best to you?  Do you prefer the simplistic approach, or like it better when the niche becomes a design focal point?

If you've had your bathroom remodeled using ceramic or porcelain tile and would like to share a picture of it here, please contact me via comments or my email link. If you'd like to learn more about tile topics, see our companion DIY Tile Zone hosted by

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Tumbled marble makes a magnificent backsplash tile choice

tumbled marble tile backsplash
Tumbled marble tiles, natural stone cut to 4" by 4" squares, pre-sealed for easy handling.

Henrietta NY: A kitchen customer recently updated her ugly old laminate counter tops to natural granite. She called us in to add the finishing touch -- a gorgeous tumbled marble backsplash. These little squares add a warm, distinctive look without any need for fancy borders or decorative inserts.

Tumbled marble is natural stone, cut to size and softened by abrasion. They are supplied pre-sealed for easier grouting and a longer-lasting luster. Every tile is distinct, though many are similar. Patterns emerge randomly, creating real eye-appeal effortlessly.

natural marble tile backsplashInstallation is a breeze, with careful layout preparation. We used the same tiles at the edges as for the rest of the field, simply choosing best-quality pieces for borders. Before beginning, we mixed all boxes randomly to ensure smooth blending. We used 3/16" spacing for sanded grout.

Marble tiles have to be cut with a diamond blade, typically water-cooled. These are fragile because of natural veins within the stone itself, so sometimes they just break. That's one of the reasons it's important to order a couple of extra square feet. We had THREE full tiles left over when we finished.

Our customer was thrilled with the finished product. She was concerned about blending granite and marble in the same space, and rightfully so. As you can see, each complements the other nicely. The two natural products provide a rich, yet earthy tone that doesn't overpower the room. This job took less than two full workdays, keeping the labor well under $1,000.

Reprints available on request.

For many homeowners, a tile backsplash makes a great DIY tile project. It's a small area, and one that doesn't disrupt your life the way a new floor might. Preparation for wall tiles is also less extensive than what's required for floors.

For more DIY tile information, please visit Jim's DIY Tile Zone hosted by