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Unread 07-05-2022, 06:51 AM   #1
John_M
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Glass subway tile backsplash - help with corrections

New guy here. I could use some words of wisdom and advice.

I installed a glass subway tile backsplash a couple of weeks ago. While cleaning the mortar from the tiles (I let it dry too long), I scratched 5-10 (small scratches, but enough to catch a finger nail). I also leveled them by hand/eye as I was worried about scratching them with the leveling systems or leaving something that might be seen through the tile edges when grouted. I did use 1/8” spacers, it’s just the leveling tile to tile was done by sight. There are 5-8 tiles that I missed when I had the chance, and they are not level to the ones around them - higher on one side than the other by 1/8” as the worst case.

I have ordered a glass polishing system that is supposed to be able to remove scratches and polish the glass back to original finish. But I have not tested it yet to see how hard it is to work on only one installed tile (pad for the polisher is 2”, and the tiles are 1.875” tall).

Questions for your input, please.

1. Does anyone have experience with polishing out scratches in glass subway tile? Tips or tricks you can share? Or should I just remove the tiles and replace them?

2. Will the uneven tiles look terrible when grouting? Grout color is white. I used the mortar by the same company, in white, per instructions. The tile is clear, with a colored backing. I back buttered them to ensure full coverage. I have held off on grouting until I fix the scratched tiles.

3. How do I remove these tiles without disturbing anything else? The tiling surface was primed Sheetrock.

This was my second tile project, and I realized too late that I was in a bit over my head. My wife wants perfection or close to it, and this was beyond my ability to do in the first project with glass tile.
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Unread 07-06-2022, 09:46 AM   #2
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Hi John, Welcome aboard.

I think you'll need to take some close-up shots of the problem areas, but if were I the scratched tiles would be replaced with new ones.
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Unread 07-06-2022, 05:16 PM   #3
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I'd replace them as well. What did you put them up with? When did you install them?

In most cases, breaking the tile into smaller pieces with a hammer and punch will allow you to remove the tile without damaging the substrate.
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Unread 07-07-2022, 07:15 PM   #4
John_M
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Thanks for the feedback, gentlemen.

The product I used to install the tiles was Mapei mosaic and glass tile thin set mixed with water. I used a 1/4” notched trowel, and knocked the ridges down. I back buttered each tile with about 1/16” of thin set to ensure full coverage due to the glass tile. The tiles have a solid backer that is white (or blue - I’m not sure exactly where the color is).

I hung them about 2 weeks ago.

It looks like I just need to man up, and break them. Hammer and punch seems easy enough. Will just tape the surrounding tiles off to try and avoid any collateral damage - which is my biggest fear.

Given this is a kitchen backsplash, how critical is it to get down to the original Sheetrock before setting replacement tiles? Any tools I should use to clean the dried thin set from the wall other than a stiff bristle brush?

Thanks for your time.
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Unread 07-07-2022, 09:15 PM   #5
jadnashua
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If there's a next time, remove the offending tile as soon as possible...after two weeks, the cement in there has reached almost its full strength. With some thinsets, it's hard even the next day.

Wear gloves and good eye protection and be careful with cleanup, as you'll have little bits all over. YOu don't want them scratching stuff when you clean up, either.
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Unread 07-08-2022, 08:52 AM   #6
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You'll want to remove as much of the dried mortar as possible, John. Leave too much on there and you'll risk having the new tile higher than the old. Just be certain the mortar has not skinned over when you install the new ones.

I'd probably avoid the stiff wire brush. A 1", or 1.5" putty knife will probably do the trick.

Flying glass shards won't be much fun. You might consider sticking a piece of clear tape over them before you start with the hammer and nail punch.
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Unread 07-08-2022, 09:37 AM   #7
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You can polish glass tiles and get pretty good results but I don't think you have any chance of polishing on the face of the glass and getting it to match the surrounding tiles.

I think the scratches would be less noticeable than the polish marks.

When removing tiles, the mortar is likely to give at the back of the tile which will leave the thinset on the drywall. You don't have to go all the way down to the drywall but you do have to take it down a bit to get the new tile on.

You might look into some of these types of bits for removing thinset in small areas. Amazon has some too.

Additionally, think about going a row, or two, down into the stove area. A lot of times you can see behind the stove and see that it isn't tile below the countertop level.

I attended a tile trends seminar recently and that color of blue was mentioned as trending. People are liking it!
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Unread 07-08-2022, 07:49 PM   #8
John_M
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Thank you all for this very valuable feedback. I had not thought about taping the tiles to be removed, but that makes complete sense. We did that with phone screens in my last job. Kept glass from going all over the place during disassembly.

Noted on the putty knife and depth to clear the thin set.

One contractor who has not yet come on-site has suggested it may require a full tear out. He will come out next week one day.

I think I’ll put another couple of days into getting it to a point where my wife says if she wants a clean slate, or if mine works.

Again, thank you to everyone for the suggestions and feedback. I have learned a lot through this.

One last question - if I were to ever do this again, how should I ensure the tiles are level to each other? I avoided the systems that I’ve seen for showers and floors, as I was worried about scratching the tile faces, or the pieces that snap off being visible through the glass edges. I used a 6” ruler to level them to each other, but I think my problem was my mortar thickness was not as consistent as I needed it to be.
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Unread 07-08-2022, 10:41 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by John_M
…if I were to ever do this again, how should I ensure the tiles are level to each other?
Start by preparing your substrate flat. This requires either altering the studs before the substrate is on, or patching the surface of the substrate after the substrate is up.

Then, ensure that you evenly and consistently comb the thinset mortar onto the wall.

Then embed the tiles using the same way for all the tiles and pressing them onto the wall with a flat float or something similar that spans 2-3 tiles so they are embedded flush to each other.

If your tiles don’t have spacing lugs, finish by spacing the tiles equally from each other.

I like using a non-sag mortar on the wall because it will reduce the amount of fighting you have to do to place a tile exactly where you like it without it sloooooowly oozing down the wall when you’re not looking.

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Unread 07-09-2022, 08:24 AM   #10
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Another thing, instead of spreading thinset on the wall, you can spread it on the tiles. That way you can take more time setting them without the fear of the thinset drying out. You can also draw lines on the wall to follow. This really helps.
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Unread 07-26-2022, 08:06 AM   #11
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Good morning gentlemen,

My wife asked me to see about hiring a tile guy/company fix what needed to be fixed. I have been unsuccessful in getting anyone to come out, as I suspect it is too small a job given the market (Nashville), and other alternatives the good guys have to fill their days. One guy wanted to cut it out at the Sheetrock, and start over…

My wife asked me to grout it, and then she will see if she is ok, or if we need to go more drastic. The flat areas are simple enough to grout (I believe). But how should I approach the unlevel tiles? Is it simply just a smaller float that I should use, and focus on filling the gaps between the tiles to smooth any felt lippage at those intersections between the tiles?

Any advice here on how to not create more of a problem than I already gave is much appreciated. My fear is that I will have to work quickly with the grout, and I am not skilled enough to do it quickly. I have around 28 square feet of tile to grout.

Thanks in advance.
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Unread 07-26-2022, 08:53 AM   #12
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John, I don't think switching to a smaller float is really going to help much. You might need to "tool" the grout for those uneven (lippage) tiles with your finger. You can let the grout set up longer before tooling and cleaning, which may help you keep the joints full, but the trade off is it'll be more difficult to clean.

As for working quickly, you can alleviate some of the pressure by mixing small batches of grout, or using one of the pre-mixed single component grouts. But since you're backsplash is also behind your cooktop I'm not sure a single component would be the best choice due to the heat. If you go with a cement based grout then only mix up, say, 1 pound of grout at a time. Using a kitchen scale to measure the weight of the grout and water will help ensure you get the proportions correct from batch to batch, thus greatly reducing the chance of color variations in the grout.

But whatever grout you decide on, be sure to test it on some left over tile to make sure it won't scratch the glass.
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Unread 07-26-2022, 06:06 PM   #13
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Before mixing the grout, get everything prepared. Get your bucket of water, cover up and tape off anything that needs it and make sure to use cool water for your mixing.

I agree with Dan, making a sample board to practice on helps.
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Unread 07-28-2022, 12:38 PM   #14
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Thank you! I’m going to give it a shot tomorrow morning. I have the Mapei unsanded grout that is the same color as the mortar, so I think I’m good with the risk of scratches due to that process. I will do 1 pound at a time, and will start where the tiles are all pretty plumb and flat to each other.

One last question - I have the matching caulk for the point where the backsplash intersects the counter, in the corner where it meets the wall, and the where the backsplash meets the cabinets behind the stove. Should I caulk and let it dry before grouting? Or does the caulk come last? I was thinking it would be easier to caulk first, and that way I know that joint is all caulk before grouting.
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Unread 07-28-2022, 02:32 PM   #15
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You'll want to grout first, John, then caulk.

If you end up with some grout where you don't want it, just let it set up for a couple of hours then use the corner of a putty knife to rake it out.
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