burtnyks

Final Backsplash Decision Help

burtnyks
2 months ago
last modified: 2 months ago

I have a few final decisions to make before I order my backsplash and am having trouble deciding. Cabinets are being refinished in the spring to a more neutral brown. Left is a 3x6 tile (seems a bit blocky so looking at 3x9), disregard right side as it’s the 2x4 which is now ruled out. Layout will be herringbone.



1 - Crackle or plain? Crackle is on the top and it’s very subtle. I feel like either would be fine. No price difference. I do have a Kohler sea salt sink which is almost like a crackle finish.

2 - 2x6 or 3x9 tile? I have been advised by the tile shop not to go with my original plan of 2x4 because it will look too busy. I was also told a larger tile will make the space look larger.

3 - Grout color....the countertop is a warmer color and I am using white tile so I’d like to warm up the backsplash a bit with the grout. Leaning towards standard white, pearl, or sterling. Sterling was recommended to me by the tile shop but the woman seems to keep steering me to grey and I explained I have more warm tones going on. She told me Sterling was warm, I don’t find it to be warm.





Comments (93)

  • PRO
    Beth H. :
    2 months ago
    last modified: 2 months ago

    burt, look at Wayfair or HD online, and search 'Ivy Hill Tile'. both sites carry similar tile.

    narrow the search by color and/or size. then order some samples. Plenty of the handmade look white tiles you like. for your herringbone, just make sure you stay in the 2x8, 2x10, 3x9, 3x12 or similar range.

    check here too. Is this the right color?


    Alaska White herringbone Tilebar. already comes in a sheet like this

    order some other samples here too. Look at Manchester, Nabi,, maybe Montauk.

    https://www.tilebar.com/backsplash-styles

    oh, DiscountGlassTileStore has many options too.

    https://discountglasstilestore.com/kitchen-backsplash/

    burtnyks thanked Beth H. :
  • burtnyks
    Original Author
    2 months ago
    last modified: 2 months ago

    @Beth H. : The Alaska White you shared might work. My only hesitation is size. The woman at the tile store told me not to do 2x4 herringbone tile because it’s going to be too busy. This is even smaller. I did order a few samples from Tile Bar one being Montauk. I went through all of Tile Bar’s whites and creams. On Wayfair I think I got through page 17 of 84 and stopped.



    I’m just going to throw this out there....I’m pretty sure it’s a NO. The ”designer” that came out from the kitchen remodeling company for the refacing estimate must have been bored, he lingered around and wanted to help me with backsplash advice. I use the word designer loosely because apparently he was also an anthropologist, Arabic translator and comedian...... This is a sample he had that he recommended....on the left. I’m thinking no way. It’s marble ( I don’t want to upkeep or risk of etching) and too much going on with the stripes. The color is nice though.



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  • PRO
    Beth H. :
    2 months ago
    last modified: 2 months ago


    I looked it up. Here's the Fonte.







    Yeah, No.

    I just saw this one. is it too gray? (if you do decide to paint or go w/diff wood, this may work)


    https://stoneandtileshoppe.com/collections/chevron-mosaics/products/ascend-m109-candid-heather-vein-cut-1x6-large-chevron-marble-mosaic

    It's not cheap, but at least it isn't $70 a sq foot!


    if you want to go with a gray, I really think that yellow wood has to go. You could opt for a creamy white tile, and that would be ok w/the current cabs though. Up to you.

    BTW, some of the samples you ordered are carried under Ivy Hill tiles on Wayfair, and at Home Depot, online. I don't know if they're in stock at HD, but if you need more than one tile, you know where to look.

    for the busy chevron one I posted, yes it's small, but the color was pretty uniform. I think it would work better if you cabs were white, and not the wood. just another option to consider.

    What big city are you near?

  • burtnyks
    Original Author
    2 months ago
    last modified: 2 months ago

    @Beth H. : I bought 13 more samples from Tilebar. If it had what looked to be the right color I ordered it, even if I didn’t love it online. I am about 45 mins north of Detroit, MI (Macomb Twp, MI) and I think I have been to every tile store in a 30 mile radius. We have a few chains that just repeat in different cities. There is a big Design Center Mall about 20 mins away that I went to last week but it seems to cater to very high end (Ann Sacks, etc). I have walked around Home Depot but they only seem to stock the very basics by me. I really want to find something and just get it done, but if I need to wait I can paint the wall for now. I already painted half of the former backsplash area because my old backsplash went to the floor in 2 places.

    I am leaning towards a cream either way since I likely will not paint the cabinets (never say never....). When I try some of the warmer tile colors that are in the countertop like the darker greens or browns I get a Tuscan vibe which is not what I’m going for. I like Farmhouse, but I don’t live in a Farmhouse so I don’t want to go overboard.

  • roarah
    2 months ago

    a bit long but have you looked at colors similar to Manchester fawn


  • burtnyks
    Original Author
    2 months ago

    @roarah I did order a sample of the Manchester Taupe color but not fawn. Not sure why I opted not to get Fawn but maybe I can take another look at it.

  • roarah
    2 months ago

    On my pc the Manchester Taupe read greyer so I leaned towards fawn but I did do a mock-up of MT too.

    burtnyks thanked roarah
  • burtnyks
    Original Author
    2 months ago
    last modified: 2 months ago

    @roarah Thanks! I will have a better idea once I get the taupe sample. It’s so hard to tell on a monitor.

  • Missi (4b IA)
    2 months ago

    I don’t think your cabinets look bad-but I do think if you put a lot into the counters and backsplash, and leave the cabinets alone, it will look out of place, like they were forgotten.


    I did see a pin on Pinterest, when I was trying to figure out what to do with our stained and discolored cabinets (thanks for the advice to use varnish dad argh), that used Rub and Buff...not sure if that’s an option, but it made the cabinets look a lot better in the blog I read.


    We ended up painting ours ourselves, snd buying new unfinished cabinets from Menards that we painted to fill in the extra cabs we needed. They’re not great by any means, but livable bc of budget constraint.

  • roarah
    2 months ago

    I restrained oak in a dark mahogany over 15 years ago and it really changed the kitchen in a great way. Painted oak is not always a better option just a more popular one. I think a medium to dark walnut refinish will look lovely with your counters.


    I like the middle sample a lot.

  • PRO
    Beth H. :
    2 months ago

    I think if you want to stain and have them look like that ^, you will need to completely strip them down to raw wood. It's a ton, (and I mean a ton) of work. I refinish a lot of wood projects. If you're really in love w/those cabinets, have at it!

  • roarah
    2 months ago

    Funny I find fully sanding and re staining wood so much easier than properly cleaning, lightly sanding, priming, drying, lightly sanding, painting, drying , lightly sanding again and painting. I also find the finished product more durable as well.

  • PRO
    Beth H. :
    2 months ago
    last modified: 2 months ago

    hah. well, you're missing a few steps in the wood process too! it's almost identical to the painting process, minus the 2nd coat of paint. you still have to clean and sand, apply a pre-stain condition, lightly sand again (because it's going to raise the grain) apply stain, let dry, and a few coats of clear coat, with wet sanding in between those (to get a super smooth finish). of course spraying a lacquer varnish would give better and longer lasting protection. (but even that requires wet sanding)

  • RedRyder
    2 months ago

    It’s hard to choose a backsplash tile without knowing what color the cabinets will be. Are you going to leave them as is? Stain darker? Paint? Personally, a darker walnut could give them a more updated look if you don’t want to paint. But as Beth said, it’s a lot of work. If you’re up to it, go for it.

  • burtnyks
    Original Author
    2 months ago

    @RedRyder Not sure is you saw my comment a few posts up. I am playing around with wood toning where you apply a tinted water based topcoat. It only requires cleaning and scuffing with a scotchbrite pad. Then you spray 2-3 coats. it’s fast drying so only 2 hrs recoat time. Sounds way easier than fully stripping and same or easier than painting and can achieve subtle color change. If I don’t opt to reface I am going to tone. This is a before/after of someone who did it. Not my starting color but gives an idea of what can be achieved. I’m doing a few sample boards to test out colors given my starting color.



  • burtnyks
    Original Author
    2 months ago

    @roarah I also like the middle cabinet door you showed. It was one of my inspiration photos. I believe that was a gel stain in antique walnut but I’ve heard the gel stain is kind of a pain to work with. I think I can achieve a similar color through toning.

  • PRO
    Beth H. :
    2 months ago
    last modified: 2 months ago

    burt, I've used aniline dye. I believe that's what the other poster is referring to? it is a water base. I'm wonder how that water base dye/toner is going to actually penetrate the current oil base stain that's already on there. you still have to sand off that clear coat. completely. if you're not careful, you'll sand off some of the underlying stain too.

    If you could strip your cabs down to this bare wood, and then apply a nice dark walnut, I think it would look so much better.


    or, why don't you try this one? She has been around for awhile and is very knowledgeable. tells you exactly how to do it

    https://www.pneumaticaddict.com/2014/08/how-to-make-wood-toner.html

    she adds the colorant to a poly and brushes it over the oak. worth a try

    Try it on the inside of one of your lower doors.


    another option

    https://www.woodweb.com/knowledge_base/Toning_Oak_Cabinets_in_the_Direction.html

  • roarah
    2 months ago
    last modified: 2 months ago

    Fifteen years ago I took all my cabinet doors off, 22 in all, and marked them to make sure I replaced them properly. I then thoroughly sanded them and the boxes. I then followed the directions on the stain I used which was cheap minwax in red mahogany. I used a rag to apply. This is them fifteen years latter very little wear. I am redoing the kitchen with quartersawn oak wood cabinets with lower drawers but am a bit sad to see these go. In real life they are not shiny that is the flash and lighting in the room tonight.

    I have used gel stain but honestly it is not easier to use. I used it on a fiberglass door and it looks great but it was a lot of work and drying times are long and then it needed a top coat. And on real wood it is quite opaque and can look like paint in certain instances. Here is my door and an armoire I gel stained to compare

    I stripped a painted tag sale table with layers of green paint and used a lovely oil based stain on that but the fumes were too much for me to consider using in my house for the boxes but it does a more professional job. This is the table I refinished with watco danish oil. We eat here everyday no placemats or coasters this finish has been indestructible. I believe the wood is walnut so oak would look very different of coarse.


  • burtnyks
    Original Author
    2 months ago
    last modified: 2 months ago

    @Beth H. : I went to a Woodcraft store (might be a chain) to get some supplies and their “expert finisher” was working. He was super helpful. As long as oil based topcoat dries for 72 hrs you can put water based over it. And supposedly you don’t have to completely remove the clear coat. It will just sit on top. It’s not meant for drastic color changes which is fine because that’s not what I’m going for. General Finishes has quite a few videos on prep. The guy at the store suggested first trying a layer of 5% blue or green dye stain to topcoat to neutralize the orange which may be enough. If not he said bring my samples back and we can see what can be layered over it to get the color I want. It’s all hinging on me finding the right color blend to adjust what I currently have. It’s a big science project. I’m going to check out those links you shared. There isn’t a whole lot of info out there on the toning.

    In other news, my fridge broke lol! So now I have to replace that. I’m not heartbroken but was hoping to wait till summer. Really struggling with depth. A more flush look where I lose 2 cu ft (sitting 2” back) or the same size I have today that sticks out 2” more and costs $500 less. It’s always something!! Thinking of going with the more flush option as I have a fridge in the garage and deep freezer in the basement and it’s just me. I think I’m a bit of a hoarder.



  • burtnyks
    Original Author
    2 months ago

    @roarah That color looks great. How many hours do you think you put into the cabinets? If I did decide to completely strip them I have a guy that can sodablast my doors and crown so I would only have to sand the boxes. Im just a little hesitant because it is possible to get some warping. I’m more worried about getting a nice consistent color if I completely strip.

  • PRO
    Beth H. :
    2 months ago
    last modified: 2 months ago

    burt, I went from a 28cu in down to a 22 with my counter depth! I do have a fridge in the garage to handle excess.

    as for consistent color, you will use a conditioner before staining. you are more likely to get blotchy coloring if you don't strip or have an even base to start with. ( like the large armoire roarah just posted. sorry roar, no offense, but I can see issues w/the application. same w/the kitchen cabinets. I can see blotchy spots.) This is why I said you just can't apply stain and call it a day. (well you can, but it's going to look like a diy job) Wood finishing takes a lot of patience and a lot of time if you want it to look really nice.

    burt, oak takes stain well. just get a good pre-conditioner and you'll be fine. but take it down to raw wood. if you don't, it's just going to look like a cover job.

    that's why I said try it on a door first to see what it looks like.

  • Jill Aljamal
    2 months ago

    I have taj mahal, maple cabinets and I love my backsplash MSI portico pearl.



  • RedRyder
    2 months ago

    It is worth trying Beth’s idea on the inside of one door. You will also get a taste for how much work you’re setting yourself up for. If you have the time and patience, then going slightly darker and keeping your cabinets and doors is the least expensive way to go. And your kitchen will look fresh and new. But most of us (me included) would not have the patience for the work. One piece of furniture, yes, but not a whole kitchen. I take my hat off to you and am sitting in the front cheering section.

  • burtnyks
    Original Author
    2 months ago
    last modified: 2 months ago

    @RedRyder Haha! Thanks you for your support. :-) I will most likely try it in my half bath first to see what I’m setting myself up for. I am working from home until at least September so I gain 2 hrs a day of commute time that I can put into this project.

  • roarah
    2 months ago

    No offense Beth. The large armoire was my example of why not to go the gel stain way. It is gel stain not real stain and I know it is blotchy that is why I showed it To discourage Burt from trying gel stains. It is more of a faux finish to only be used on fiberglass or over laminate surfaces.


    Bert I sanded everything myself and stained and reassembled in a month and a bit of weekends and evenings after work. I took my time because we were tiling the backsplash and replaced the counters before putting the doors back on. But the sanding and waiting between drying likely takes at least a week of full work days. I do not remember if I preconditioned the wood but if the minwax stain can suggested it then I did for I really followed the cans suggestions to a tee. The gel stained armoire was just precleaned with TSP and applied general finishes gel stain right over the factory coated pine wood. It took a week between each coat to dry in a hot summer month and even then when I applied a second coat some of the first coat rubbed off. for my fiberglass door I did lightly sand and the gel stain worked much better that way.

  • burtnyks
    Original Author
    2 months ago
    last modified: 2 months ago

    I got some more samples in today. The bigger tile is Montauk sand dune. I like the shimmer finish but I’m not crazy about the wavy/textured tile. There was an Alys Edwards tile that is similar but flat however it only comes in 2.5x10 which I didn’t like herringbone layout with that big of a tile. The others are Fireclay.....Calcite is probably too white. The one on the left in the 2nd photo seems like it might look pink or fleshy colored. The other 2 seem feasible....??







  • PRO
    Beth H. :
    2 months ago
    last modified: 2 months ago

    roarah,, I understand. you just proved my point as to why you have to sand off old finishes before applying a new one. a gel stain is like a nail polish coat. on raw wood, it's fine. most of the stain will penetrate. but on a previously stained piece, it just sits on top. and gets blotchy and gummy. Most woods only need one coat of stain. (they're going to absorb most everything w/one coat. if you want darker, then a darker color should be used) more than that and they 'gloop'. Your factory sealed pine piece prevented any absorption into the actual wood. you basically painted on the gel stain. Unfortunately, that's what a lot of people do w/these oak cabinets. You're lucky you actually sanded yours. most people just apply the gel stain right over what's there. And really, that's all I was commenting on w/him and redoing wood cabinets. it just takes work to do it correctly.

    BTW, TSP is ok, but must be completely rinsed away with multiple washes of fresh water or else it leaves a residue.

    Burt,,if keeping the cab color, go w/the far left white one. and yes, the others are too pink toned

  • burtnyks
    Original Author
    2 months ago
    last modified: 2 months ago

    @Beth H. :Thanks! I just noticed there might be 1 other potential but it’s a variation 4 so I’d have to get some more samples.


    I have more options coming soon but Fireclay might be a front runner..... The only problem is I heard lots of complaints about their bullnose pieces having drastic color difference over the standard tile. I would probably go with a pencil edge, but will ask one of the Fireclay reps if I go this route.

  • roarah
    2 months ago

    I like the far left second picture tile the best so far.

  • PRO
    Beth H. :
    2 months ago

    those are both nice. and yes, they do have issues w/the liners. they need to be glazed and fired and the same time as your batch of tiles.


  • burtnyks
    Original Author
    2 months ago

    @roarah This one? I think it’s going to look pink. I tend to have that issue with beiges that look pink. I had my house painted several years ago with Sherwin Williams Sand Dune and it definitely looks pink sometimes. I don’t want to make that mistake again


  • burtnyks
    Original Author
    2 months ago
    last modified: 2 months ago

    @Beth H. : Bonus is I just checked and Tusk 2x6 is only $12 a sq ft! Frost is $29 for some reason so I hope it’s not a typo. I just keep wondering if that is too small. I wanted 2x4 till I saw it up close and realized how busy it looked.

  • PRO
    Beth H. :
    2 months ago
    last modified: 2 months ago

    yeah, no 2x4. 2x6 would be great. (or are you sure it's not the 3x6?? it's on quick ship) I think it is. and it says, *Trim does not qualify for quick ship. It's a separate order. you better make sure they can match that color before ordering, or just do a diff trim.

    Cannot guarantee color matching on individual orders.


    I like this stacked layout if you choose not to do the herringbone.

    you could also do the 90 degree one.


    here it is in the regular:


    I think tusk would work fine. do they have matching liners or a bull nose from the same fired batch?

    if not, you could think about doing a Schluter jolly.

  • burtnyks
    Original Author
    2 months ago
    last modified: 2 months ago

    @Beth H. : I’m going to get in contact with Fireclay next week to see about different options. I just heard back via e-mail tonight who is assigned to my region. It was the 2x6 that was $12. All the other options were $29 sq ft. I plan to confirm about the pricing.

    I do kind of like that rotated herringbone. Plus it has less waste. We shall see! just waiting on my other samples before I commit but Fireclay definitely seems to be the best option so far.

  • burtnyks
    Original Author
    2 months ago

    Ok, 1 more question before I pull the trigger and order tile. Current plan is 2x6 herringbone with a flat liner trim in Tusk. My tile guy had asked if I wanted to tile inside the bay window. Would it look odd to tile inside the window but leave the remaining backsplash on the left and right at a lower level (same as where former backsplash was)? I don’t want to tile the entire wall. FYI- The stripes will probably go at some point....it’s just paint.




  • PRO
    Beth H. :
    2 months ago

    I'd tile everyplace where you see the white. for sure you want behind the faucet. to stay even, I'd take it up evenly w/the bottom of the cabs, right to the wood portion.


    (do you have any more countertop scraps leftover? you could use it behind the sink. or, use as a sill or side trim plates.







    for mine I used walnut on the inside. I had planned on using the tile, but I wanted to bring in some more wood.


  • burtnyks
    Original Author
    2 months ago
    last modified: 2 months ago

    @Beth H. : I do not have any scraps of my countertop left. I don’t have a sill though. My original plan was to go with the first photo and put the backsplash just slightly taller than where it previously was to cover the line.

    I just had a call with the Fireclay design consultant and she also suggested tiling in the bay window where it is recessed from the wall ( like the 2nd pic). I don’t know if that would look odd though with 2 different levels. Yet a 3rd consideration would be to stop the backsplash at the cabinet base like you mentioned (with or without tiling inside the window).

    The only other open item is grout. I had 2 local places suggest Sterling but it looks cool to me. One of the women was all about gray so I think it was just her go to, but maybe she’s right and trying to steer me away from a mistake. My eye tends to like Pearl more. I wanted a little more contrast than standard white.







  • PRO
    Beth H. :
    2 months ago
    last modified: 2 months ago

    pearl works w/the countertop a bit more. May be a tad too dark.

    I think the silver one is too blue-gray.

    look at Oyster Gray by Custom. home depot carries it. I think it's a good shade with your stone.


    more choices


    do a sample board

    burtnyks thanked Beth H. :
  • burtnyks
    Original Author
    last month

    I still have not ordered my backsplash. I recently found a blog by Maria Killam (if anyone is familiar with her) and she has a lot of information on selecting coordinating neutral colors. She asks readers to submit topics for her blog so I had written in some questions to her on tile and grout selection. She reached out to me and may use this as a topic for her blog. I’m interested to see what she advises.

    Also, in the meantime I made up some sample boards on changing the color of my cabinets. It definitely looks feasible to tone down the orange and make a richer brown tone. I’ve attached a sample board since I had previously mentioned it here, the only thing missing is a satin topcoat so it won’t be so shiny. I think this will be better for me financially vs refacing. Overall I’m happy with my cabinets (except the orange color) even thought they aren’t the latest style....




  • PRO
    Beth H. :
    last month
    last modified: last month

    burt, as long as you can strip off all that old finish and stain, the newer, darker brown (like a walnut) will be fine. I don't know if you've ever refinished oak cabs like these, but buckle up for a ton of work. it's extremely tedious and time consuming.

    I know they have examples where you can gel coat over a previous finish. I'm telling you, it's not the correct way. If you want a meh look, or a wow, great job look, that's up to you. We've already touched on it so I won't beat a dead horse.


  • burtnyks
    Original Author
    last month
    last modified: last month

    @Beth H. : I do have to agree to disagree here. I have done a lot of research and had conversations with both General Finishes reps and a local expert in wood finishing. No need to strip the cabinets if you do toning. You absolutely can apply it over an existing finish. You clean, scuff and spray apply topcoat at a 3-5 mil thickness.

    https://generalfinishes.com/videos/how-darken-existing-finish-toning

  • PRO
    Beth H. :
    last month

    I thought you mentioned a gel stain product for staining. my bad. sorry. yes, you can tone. it's important to remove that glossy top coat though.

  • burtnyks
    Original Author
    last month

    @Beth H. : I was initially looking at gel staining but numerous people steered me away. I had heard it can take 72+ hrs to dry between coats. That is how I ended up finding out about toning. Prep is still going to be a pain but I don’t mind a little elbow grease. Every time I take on a big project I end up in tears by the middle asking myself why I thought it was a good idea but I’m always super happy at the end. 🙂

  • burtnyks
    Original Author
    last month

    I was getting super overwhelmed and made the executive decision to put away all the backsplash tiles until I start/finish my cabinets. I’m pretty sure there are about 50 in the box which isn’t counting the obvious no’s that are in the trash. I need to just save myself the agony and listen to people in the first place. :-) I couldn’t pull the trigger on any of the white selections because they just were not wowing me. It was like picking the least of the worst. Once I get a darker color on the cabinets I think I’ll have some more options.


    I‘m also thinking of trimming out the island and painting it to coordinate with whatever backsplash option I go with. I really like the greenish grey color Beth shared in one of the photos but just don’t want to commit to all painted cabinets.



  • PRO
    Beth H. :
    last month

    I think that's a great idea. and remember, w/fireclay tile there is a lot of waste. some have said 30-50% of the tiles were unusable. Honestly, for that price, I'd find a diff tile to use.

    but you'll know better once the cabs are done.


    I like the gray green. I think it what Gray Cashmere


    this one is nice too



  • felizlady
    last month

    The backsplash tile should match one important color in the counter. The white color you show does not blend in with the counter.

  • burtnyks
    Original Author
    last month

    @felizlady I agree with you. I thought white goes with everything....clearly not in this case. :-)

  • burtnyks
    Original Author
    last month

    @Beth H. : Those colors are really pretty. I have a earthy soft green in my office that I love so I know that shade looks nice with the wood tones.

  • felizlady
    last month

    Yes, there are whites and then there are another fifteen whites...
    Pick tile which looks GOOD with your counter. I find it helpful to grab ten or twelve color chips at the paint store and compare them to the counter...unless you have a good sample scrap from the counter installation to take to the tile store. Your backsplash does not have to be white. If your sink is not white, and it goes very well with the counter, you could try to match the sink color.

  • felizlady
    last month

    If doing herringbone, you must keep the right angles straight straight straight 90 degrees.