Step 1: This step by step instruction can be used as a guideline for installing beveled arabesque tile. These steps can be modified to fit your installation and they are designed to help you overcome obstacles encountered with this odd shaped tile. The first step is simple protect the counter-top. We use plastic over the counter-tops with a drop-cloth over the plastic for two layers of protection. This is also a good step to outline where the tile starts (centerline under microwave) and where the tile stops (horizontal line between back splash. With the shape of this tile, we don’t want to offset the center line because we want the two corners to be the same size (this is a U shaped kitchen, this is the center wall that the other two walls meet up with).
To level the tile installation you should use the longest level you have for the wall your are working on (48” is common), we use a laser level because it emits a solid line on all walls and can’t be accidentally covered up by the setting material. I don’t recommend using the counter-top back-splash as a level line because it can be out of level (our counter-tops were out almost 1/2” in this example), it is always best to set any tile with a level, failure to do so will result in headaches and frustration. Be sure to carefully set the first rows of tile working vertically and horizontally across the wall. Even with the level, the shape of this tile makes it difficult to maintain a straight line. Time is your friend, don’t get in a hurry.
The microwave has been successfully tiled!! To maintain a clean look, use tile edging that is the same thickness as your tile around cut edges. The tile edge gives you something to grout to, and will set your installation apart from others that skip this important step.
These next few pictures show how to cut around obstacles in the wall. Outlets are the most common, but it is likely you will also have to cut around cabinets and windows. The best way to do that with beveled arabesque tile is to hold it in place and mark it. Since this tile is dark in color, I am using a yellow grease pencil. The other advantage of the grease pencil is the line is less likely to wash off when I cut it with my wet saw (tile saw).
Be safe when working around electrical outlets, it is always a good idea to take a couple of minutes and turn off the breaker. If the breaker panel is not labeled, now would be a great time to label it for later use (at a minimum you should label the kitchen breakers while they are switched off).
Notice that I am not spreading adhesive on the wall for these cuts. I am back-buttering these beveled arabesque tiles (spreading the adhesive directly on the tile itself instead of the wall) to make the tile easier to mark. Using this method I also don’t have to worry about my tile saw getting adhesive on it either.
When you get to the corner of a wall, the pieces you cut off will be the starter pieces on the next wall (start from the cornet and work toward the final edge). You must start in the corner of the second wall to keep the same tile pattern going from wall to wall. The picture below is of these same tiles mounted in their permanent position.
Once all the tile is on the wall and completed you should wait until the following day to grout. Grouting is a messy job and again requires patience. The beveled edge of this type of tile means that we will not have full grout joints we want the grout to be recessed between the tiles so the tiles “pop off” the wall in a 3-D effect. As you can see in the photo, I started out by filling in the grout joints fully as I would have normally, from there we will begin the process of cleaning the excess grout out of the joints to achieve the look we are looking for.
As you can see in this step, much of the surface grout has been removed and the grout line is getting thinner. We will keep wiping the tile with a slightly damp sponge, changing our water frequently, until the grout lines are the desired depth. This step does take a while and will probably be messy. For this step I typically remove the counter-top protection so I can reclaim my grout (if is difficult to reuse grout once it has landed on a drop-cloth). Work in small areas, no more than a couple linear feet at a time to keep the grout from setting up on you.
Our kitchen back-splash is complete. When working with beveled arabesque tile of any shape or size it is always a great idea to take your time until you learn the ins and outs of the tile you are working with. This type of tile is definetely not a weekend warrior type of project and will require many hours of dedication to complete. Once you are finished, the satisfaction of a job well done will be your best reward.
I hope that this has been helpful, if you have any questions or comments please don’t hesitate to ask.