When we first moved into our house the floor of our entryway was in poor shape - although it had a pretty cool custom jigsaw floor, it was covered in peeling red paint and a thick layer of dirt. We tried sanding it down and staining it black but it still wasn't quite right - the wood would get covered in dust and dirt and looked grey and dirty.
A few weeks ago I was inspired by an image of a vestibule filled with hexagon tile and fell in love. I already have a few re-tiling projects under my belt so I was able to finish this project in about 5 hours of work (with two days drying time).
For a project like this you'll need the following:
+ tile (and spacers if your tile isn't sold on mesh sheets)
+ thinset mortar (link for a guide on whether to use thinset or mastic for your project)
+ putty knife or notched trowel
+ rubber float
+ 2 buckets
+ tile cutter, nippers, or a diamond cutting wheel for your dremel
The most important rule that I learned from the past few tiling projects I've done is that no house, even new ones, are completely even. Do not assume that your backsplash is exactly 6" high from one end of the counter to the other. Be prepared to have to make odd cuts in order for your tile to all fit evenly, but (second most important rule) don't cut everything beforehand - it's much easier to cut as needed. For my first project I used this great DIY post at thedomesticwoman as a guide.
Once I laid down my tile to measure the space I found that I would need to cut each tile in half to fill along the edges - I bought a snap tile cutter for $20 and it has more than paid off - you can't really use it for custom cuts like cutting along a corner for an outlet, but it'll snap anything in half. If you're tiling around outlets or the like you'll most likely need a wetsaw or a cutting wheel for a dremel.
When I had a game plan of what order I'd be placing my tiles in, I began smoothing on the thinset with my notched trowel in sections - just enough to cover the next section of tile, and then used my rubber float to make sure that the tile was pressed down evenly before moving on to the next section. After all of the tile was in place I cleaned off any areas where I'd put too much thinset and it had squeezed through the spaces between the tiles.
Let the thinset dry for 24 hours. If your tiles are on the floor like mine, try to walk on them as little as possible. Because my tiles were right in front of the door, I laid down a plank of wood when we had to enter/exit so that we at least wouldn't disturb the tiles too much. I also kept my interior door open with a box fan on to help with drying.
Once your thinset is dry you're ready to grout! Use a non-sanded grout if the space between your tiles is less than 1/8" and a sanded grout if the space is larger than 1/8". Working in small sections, load up your rubber float with grout and spread it over the tiles, pressing down to get it into all of the spaces. Then clear off the excess grout off the top of the tiles by pulling your float at a 45 degree angle - this will not remove all of the grout but that's okay. Once all of the spaces are filled go back over with a damp sponge - wring out all of the excess water before using the sponge - you don't want any water getting into the grout. The tiles will still be a little bit hazy even after sponge cleaning but that's okay. Let your grout dry for 24 hours, then buff off any remaining haze on the tile with a cheesecloth or lint-free towel.
I used polyblend's non-sanded grout and was happy with ease of use (mixing, application) but very disappointed in the color - I wanted black grout but once the grout had dried it became a medium grey! Luckily, you should also be sealing your grout and polyblend's grout renew colorant/sealant is very true to color. I find it easiest to use a toothbrush to work in small sections by scrubbing the sealant into the grout and then wiping the excess off of the tiles with a damp paper towel.
I've also used their grout renew (in white) on dingy grout to whiten it up if bleach and water isn't doing the trick.
I'm ecstatic on how this project turned out - the difference that can be made in a weekend on redoing a backsplash or an entryway is pretty remarkable, and is totally easy to do yourself. Or, in my case, to get yourself ready for that faraway but inevitable bathroom renovation.