alycechan

What's wrong with the crackled brick subway tile in kitchen?

alycechan
August 13, 2015
We got a glossy crackled glazed brick tile and the grout is 1/4 inch charcoal. After it was done, we were disappointed but don't know why. We wanted a vintage rustic look and the kitchen now looks horrible. Help the tiles were so expensive and we also didn't know we had to seal the bricks before grout so a lot of imperfections are showing up.

Comments (64)

  • Angel 18432

    I think because you did a dark grout, you are emphasizing the grout. I would re grout with a lighter color and do the shelving thing suggested above. Just as a side bar, my tiler had me seal after tile and grout were installed. I wonder which way is correct, or if the type of tile makes a difference.

    alycechan thanked Angel 18432
  • Kirk

    Hello A,

    I have ran into this problem more than once, unfortunately. There is no real solution aside from tearing it off and starting again. The black pigment in the grout is extremely powerful and will stain any porous surface. I agree with some of the comments above, the grout joints are too large and the tile definitely needed sealing prior to applying grout. This said, you would've still had problems with black in the pores, but you probably could have removed the black with a good cleaning (likely needing an acid cleaner).

    Another consideration might be using a complementary (white?) grout stain to cover over the black grout residing in the pores. But, this will be extremely labor-intensive, possibly costing more than replacing. I'm so sorry you're having this problem.

    Kirk, MVH

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  • lejake

    Call me crazy but I like what you have, even the grout width & with a couple of (perhaps time consuming but) cheap fixes you can achieve the desired look.(Yes! It isn't expensive!) I did this on a hideously ugly bright white tile floor with very gross looking black grout. What were they thinking whoever put it down? It just looked like a dirty unwashed bathroom floor. Yuck. I painted the grout white, voila! it was like a new (clean) floor!

    I know you have the grey/stainless thing going on but I would get a colored grout sealer and 'paint' the grout more of a light gold color. Actually there are many colors you could try but I would stay away from grey tones. I think you already have that covered in there. You can also sort of dab it into any areas that bug you to lighten them as well. The contrast with everything else being a cool tone may be just what you meant to do in the first place. I think it will soften the whole thing and add dimension. Then any of these other creative ideas can be added: I like the idea of using it as the backdrop for shelves.

    I wouldn't not despair at all! You were on the right track going for the vintage/rustic look. But look at any very old kitchens in say ... France. They whitewash what looks like a golden pale brick made from the local soil and the edges are golden.

    Best to you. :-)

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  • Kirk

    By the way, I do love your kitchen also!

    And for anyone who reads this post in the future, I cannot stress enough the need to make grout samples on the surface you intend to grout (or tiled scrap piece of drywall) a day or more ahead of time. Let me say it again,

    make a sample,

    make a sample,

    make a sample!

    Kirk, MVH

    ps: make a sample


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  • alycechan

    First mistake: didn't make a sample! Argh. Would've expected my contractor to suggest it though. Half of me wants to tear it all down and start over. Love the suggestions but then I feel like I'm trying to hide the tiles which cost so much. We should've just stuck with cheap traditional subway tiles and not have attempted to go so fancy. Wahhhh!

  • lefty47

    HI - I don't mind the way it looks and you are looking at an unfinished project too. The problem is not the tiles , they are great , it is the grout being too dark and the application of not testing and sealing first . But I do not think all is lost . Wait until the project is finished and after if your still not happy then grind out the grout and seal and apply a lighter grout . Lots of work I know but ...... you do not need to take it all out . You could also just put a lighter latex paint on the grout lines , which is also tedious and a lot of work too. If all else fails then you can always paint it all like a brick wall and just have the texture .

  • alycechan

    Will try the large Art Deco bright colored poster art though. This was the look we originally wanted. Anyone know how the effect was achieved? Thank you!!!!

  • Lila

    I think it was a happy accident. I love the look. Live with it for a while. I think it will grow on you, particularly if you add a few rustic pieces.

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  • PRO
    flair lighting

    floating shelves with the plumbers pipe and reclaimed wood......awesome idea dooo itttt.

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  • alycechan

    Oh here is what we were trying to achieve... thanks so much guys for all the wonderful advice and honesty so far...

  • Depo
    I really don't think you are far off from that look. I wonder if a grout haze remover would get some of the grout out of the cracks if you use a stiff brush? A lot of work though:(((
  • alycechan

    @Depo SD looking up "grout haze remover" now... thanks!

  • summery
    I was looking at your original photo of your kitchen....

    Any chance you could take out the little cabinet above the microwave, and replace it with a shelf or two? That way the shelving could wrap around the corner and along the tiled wall, and look more as if it was part of your grand plan all along.

    And I was looking for posters on Houzz - how about something like this
    Art & Soul of America: Olympic National Park Gallery Print · More Info
    or this
    "Oppening Night" Canvas Wall Art · More Info
    - not sure if you're better with "portrait" or "landscape" orientation...but I was looking for images that would draw the eye into the image, so with some depth and perspective.....and away from the tiles. Hope that makes sense!
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  • alycechan

    @summery Wow thanks for taking all that time just to find me some art work! Thinking portrait would look really cool. And I do like your idea about removing the cupboards above the microwave. Still thinking about redoing the whole thing though but incorporating all the comments from the board here. Thank you!


  • Angel 18432

    Just a thought, if you get a couple of new really fab lights over the counter, it would draw your eye away from the wall.

  • clsarah

    I actually don't mind it and it is growing on me the more I look at the pictures. I think once some shelves and artwork are adding life to the space it will be fine. The extra thick line of grout at the ceiling is the only one that really bothers me.

    alycechan thanked clsarah
  • renoitwell
    Personally, I think it's the brick itself, it's an odd narrow size so the grout lines become more visually distracting and very sharp lines vs. rounded edges to boot. I'd look at getting some brass rod shelving etc. to soften it up a bit. Bring in some butcher block counter and brass like finish faucet.
  • renoitwell
    Also, black vintaging the cabinets would help tremendously and turn some into chalk boards..
  • Karen D

    I'm with Clay Aragon on this one. I think adding open shelving will simply finish the look you started. Also, finding some industrial pendants/lighting will look great.

    I think your tiles are gorgeous and you have achieved a vintage rustic look. The only thing that I would have done differently is used a lighter grout-perhaps a light gray opposed to a charcoal grey.

    I'm not sure about the expense of re-grouting, but I think they make pens that you can use to paint or stain the grout lighter as suggested by Charlee.

    Hope these pictures help inspire you to finish the project you started. It will look fabulous.

    The Farmhouse · More Info

    Richmond Terrace · More Info

    Rustic Reclaimed Chestnut · More Info


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  • renoitwell
    This is from houzz to give you an idea.. I couldn't figure out how to link a houzz image.
  • alycechan

    Thanks @Karen_Dumont those pics are really inspiring!

  • lefty47

    HI -- You know you think you made a mistake but I think this is a happy accident that actually has a lot of character ... I like the way your tile finish turned out !

  • ninigret

    i think it looks pretty close to exactly what your inspiration photo looked like, grout line wise. not sure now where the unhappiness is coming from.

  • alycechan

    Okay gang, here is my consensus. I don't think I can live with the stained crackle on the tiles. My contractor didn't seal the tiles before grouting and now the bricks look like they have hideous gray veins. Also, they did a poor job around the oven so we are still doing the rustic barn yard shelves and iron piping and hanging a large colorful art deco poster. LOVE THESE SUGGESTIONS! BUT we are going to have our contractor tear down the entire wall and redo. QUESTION: any good suggestion on what kind of stainless steel gas stove we should get to match? Preferably 30" width or smaller. tHANKS!

  • Kirk

    Wolf is one of the best for the money.! I am sorry you had this problem. Remember, SAMPLES, SAMPLES, SAMPLES!

    Kirk, MVH

  • renoitwell

    Oi. Can of worms talking about stoves. 1st get a dual fuel ie gas top electric oven. Wolf ovens re notorious for hot spots and fluctuating Temp oven wise. Depennds on budget, look u want. Since you are redoing it, make sure u really like that narrow long brick. Narrow means more horizontal grout lines. Also, make sure u like the untumbled edges too if your going rustic shelving as it will clash. It's subtle things like that the brings looks together vs disjointed design.

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  • Kivi
    Do samples with differing sized grout lines this time to ensure you are getting the look you want. I'm guessing your contractor has learned a lesson about doing sample boards....and following sealing instructions.
    alycechan thanked Kivi
  • PRO
    JAN MOYER

    Paint ! The entire thing, splash, above splash, and the wall.. Primer and a white, or pale gray. Get OUT of the house to have it done, it is a strong/ toxic smell due to the primer. You'll lose the crackle, but the tile will still have it's texture within the space, and the busy busy busy will be gone

    https://www.sherwin-williams.com/property-facility-managers/education/styles-and-techniques/sw-article-pro-resuscitateold.html

  • Angel 18432

    If you read the article about painting tile, it says to avoid kitchens.

    alycechan thanked Angel 18432
  • renoitwell
    Not sure where the comment about painting is coming from. That would look horrible. Painted grout on brick looks cheap. Fine for old fireplaces but zero chance it would look even acceptable let alone good in this case.
    alycechan thanked renoitwell
  • summery
    Which stove? Depends on your budget, whether you want gas (commercial style or residential style, ie closed or open burners), or electric (regular rings or induction), one or two ovens, etc.

    I'd avoid Wolf - IMO overpriced, and "popular" because it's a brand heavily promoted to....and thus by.....designers.

    I'd go with an induction top and two ovens. Induction because it's FAST, cheaper than regular, easy to keep clean, no live flame, etc. two ovens because.....why wouldn't you!

    Use A J Madison's website to search - they have a great search engine.
  • Kate Middleton
    Maybe paint the ceiling a bright orange/red/yellow. Also paint lower cabinets, get a colorful light fixture
  • renoitwell

    If u do decide to try and clean the brick, look at oxo soap hard bristle brush drill hack. I did it, worked awesome on cleaning some semi glazed tile and sanded grout that had darken due to embedded dirt. Really really really handy and cheap drill attachment like 10 dollars tops for deep cleaning grout and tiles.

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  • Kirk

    Thanks for the tip Renoitwell!, I have considered doing something similar with a rotary wire brush, but afraid it would damage the surface. It sounds like OXO has come up with a good compromise.

    Thanks again,

    Kirk, MVH

  • renoitwell

    It's not oxo ready, you have to take the oxo dish brush apart and insert a bolt, washers etc so that the dish brush can be adapted to as a drill bit. It works nicely. Way better then hand cleaning or wire brushing which would damage the brick.

  • Kirk

    Got It!

    Thanks again,

    Kirk, MVH

  • adobeabode
    I think the tile looks great, actually. And I think the veining / crackle gives it that rustic vibe you're going for. The cabinets and pendant(s) lend to a more modern look, which is confusing your aesthetic goal. As the others commented, I believe your kitchen is lacking accessories. It needs color and warmth. Woods, mixed metals, new light fixtures and color will turn this from a nice white canvas to a really great looking kitchen. You're on the right track.
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  • PRO
    BeverlyFLADeziner

    The tile you used is not the proportion of a subway tile and because of that you actually have more grout per square foot. The grout lines are too large. If it were me, I would tear it down, but it's not my money.

    Maybe you can break it up with objects on top.

    alycechan thanked BeverlyFLADeziner
  • PRO
    River City Tile Company

    Unfortunately there's not much that can be done about the grout line size, however there are remedies for the colour! I would recommend colour-matching the grout to a softer grey using a grout restoration company. There are a few good ones in the city we live in; I assume that if you live in a larger centre there are likely a few in your area as well. These companies specialize in re-sealing grout, but in some cases they will change the colour entirely using specialized products. The process is relatively inexpensive and non-invasive, but best left to the pros. Scratching out your current gout and re-grouting yourself is going to be far more trouble than it's worth.

    I do agree that the space could use some colour and accessories. I love the idea of hanging a large painting over the wall. Go bold! Good luck with your project.

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  • Angel 18432

    I think she's already decided to tear it down.

  • alycechan

    Ok. Gang. We are starting all over except this time, leaving behind the fridge and above cabinets alone (so no tile there). Contractor will be tearing it down and we'll have to order more brick tile.

    My question is this: should we go with the same type of brick tile but obviously seal and then thinner and lighter grout? Or should we go with a cheaper alternative and go with regular subway tile? OR does anyone know where we can source the tile from this cafe? WE love it but have not had any luck finding this. Any insight would be so appreciated! Thanks so much!

  • Kirk

    Hello Aly,

    I am sorry that things have turned out the way they have for you. I do like the tile you've selected and the cheaper alternatives will likely not give the same feel. I suggest you have your tile contractor either take some of your leftover tile (assuming you have some) or order a new box, and make a SAMPLE. At first he needs to make samples consistent with his normal setting and grout cleaning technique. And, he can adjust technique on subsequent samples as required.

    1) Using the same setting materials that will be used on new wall, install tile (perhaps 18"X18") on a sample of the backer you will ultimately be setting over (NOTE: Set tile with the intended grout joint size); 2) Then pre-seal the tile with a sealer (grout-release) the tile manufacturer recommends (NOTE: try not to get excessive sealer in the grout joints); 3) Grout the tile with the selected manufacturer's grout, product, and color; 4) Cleaning wet grout off the sample; 5) Finally, use the same final cleaning process intended. 6) And, if you intend on sealing the final product, have them include this step also.

    Assuming, you like the final product (and you probably will), tell them to get started! If you still don't like it, be grateful for the money, time, and frustration saved while moving on the your alternatives.

    Remember, samples, Samples, SAMPLES!!

    I hope this helps and keep us updated with your results,

    Kirk, MVH

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  • Karen D

    Did you say you are having trouble finding more of this tile? My understanding is that you are planning to leave the tile behind the cabinets and frig as is. Since you are unhappy with the large grout lines and dark grout color and plan to go with a lighter grout color on the newly installed tiles, how will you like it when the grout colors do not match? Are you planning to re grout behind cabinets and frig with a lighter grout color, as well, so that the tiles will look the same on both walls?

  • PRO
    Metro Home Design
    Yikes, hi Alycechan, I have a sample piece of this beautiful tile you used and came across this thread while looking to see what others have done with it.
    1) I'd be concerned about a contractor/installer who did not know this expensive, unique tile either needed to be sealed nor brought it to your attention prior to grouting nor understood the ideal grout size for this application. However, I did see a beautifully done kitchen done very similar under
    2) as a designer, I've had learned to turn mistakes into successes (and sometimes brilliant attributes) as contractors don't always grasp or envision others ideas. Before you through in the towel and re spend money, I would would suggest the following, and if it doesn't work out you can still install these pieces for the new install. My number one concern is you will likely need to re-drywall the entire kitchen too.
    Dilemma: You have a small area w/a large, 'commercial looking' un-utilized wall and are in my opinion just missing organic features that soften this look and highlight 'vintage'..
    a.) to soften the hardness, trim out the tile edges with wood trim in a warm stain of your choice; the perimeter of the kitchen; ceiling, wall edges, cabinet/wall/ ceiling.
    b.) install a wall pot rack (see pics below)
    c.) install small (8") deep skinny wood shelving (a few pic options) to hold spices, etc.
    d.) make a child's space at floor level up using a chalkboard, burlap picture pinning space
    e.) maybe change out the cabinet hardware
    f.) maybe install a niche or two in that wall

    Without any utilization of the wall I'd take some of these steps first.

    Best, Sherri
  • sandradclark

    Since it sounds like your contractor is going to make this right for you. Answering some of the questions you have: I would go with the typical least expensive subway tiles. Either have them butt up tight or use a 1/8 space. Then use a light grey grout. Seal as it should be sealed. (Not sure a glazed plain porcelain subway needs sealing prior to grouting, however do check that out.)

    Personally I would not have had them installed above the cabinets or on a whole wall as they end up looking like brick & if you want brick, just use a product called Z- Brick. Purely my personal preference, sorry.

    I do, however love the idea of the galvanized pipe & wood shelf installation that Clay Aragon suggested. What a great idea Clay. Also like the mural idea. If you plan to use it check out Great Big Canvas for Wall Peels & you can choose your size too. They are removable when you want a change & won't leave markings.

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  • sandradclark

    As far as gas stove brands go, check them all out on their websites. If you get one make sure you have a true exhaust vent system installed to the outside & not just relying on the microwave self venting system. Good luck with these dilemmas.

    alycechan thanked sandradclark
  • PRO
    Aggie dba Aggie Designs

    Love Clay Argon's Idea.


    Set an "etagere" style shelving unit on the counter and affix it to the wall for safety, you should be golden.


    http://www.wayfair.com/Safavieh-Carol-Etegere-AMH6590-FV20862.html


  • tandem42

    Hello Alycechan, I stumbled across your thread while searching for a crackle finish tile, and now I wonder how your kitchen re-do turned out! Can you post the "after" photos? My two cents worth was going to be recommending that you cover that "problem" wall with colorful kid art (since I saw that little head in the corner of the one photo) that you could tape in place and change as the artist matures!!

    alycechan

  • PRO
    Joni Koenig Interiors

    Your grout is too dark; Here I did a cream tile with a med grey grout; I suggest talking with your tile installer and seeing what the options are.

    https://www.houzz.com/photos/urban-traditional-transitional-los-angeles-phvw-vp~25879685

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