tumbled marble/subway tile backsplash

bledsoecreekgirlMarch 17, 2008

For weeks I have planned to use white glossy subway tile on my backsplash. Today I saw some tumbled marble tile that was almost white, and I am now second guessing myself. How much more difficult is the tumbled tile to keep clean. Even with a sealer it looks like a difficult job to keep grease, grime, etc.off. All advice appreciated.

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cpang74

I can't answer the cleaning question -but do you have a picture? the marble tile sounds wonderful!

    Bookmark   March 17, 2008 at 1:29PM
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amberley

Tumbled marble is not hard to keep clean as long as you seal it. I have it in my shower and tub deck, and it is very attractive. I have also considered using it in a subway tile size instead of the traditional white glossy. You can also buy it "filled" which means that the surface is more uniform. When you grout, also, the little holes will be somewhat filled as well. One thing I would suggest, however, is to butt the tiles directly next to each other and not do a preset grout line (1/8", 1/4", etc.) It looks better, is easier to do DIY, and is easier to maintain.

Good luck!

    Bookmark   March 17, 2008 at 4:01PM
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pbrisjar

We're installing a tumbled marble backsplash ( 4x4 not subway though). As part of this, I've been researching the how-to's. The people I've talked to have said that you should go with a 1/8" grout line. Spikes are recommended over spacers for tumbled stone.

Here is a link that might be useful: here's my thread on a tiling forum

    Bookmark   March 17, 2008 at 4:10PM
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mlraff53

I chose the white subway instead of the marble and I'm so happy. It was the best decision so far!

    Bookmark   March 17, 2008 at 5:42PM
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edlakin

it just depends on what look you're going for and what the rest of your kitchen looks like.

white subways are a very classic look, but also have a more cold, clean feel. which can be applied to a more modern look.

tumbled stone evokes a warmer, soft feel and is much more contemporary. even though you see white subways everywhere nowadays, they're timeless. tumbled stones are very right now.

subways are a very american look, whereas tumbled stone looks very old-world european.

i'm generalizing, of course. both can be applied in various applications and change their look. again, it really depends on what else is in your kitchen and home.

    Bookmark   March 17, 2008 at 9:40PM
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bill_vincent

The people I've talked to have said that you should go with a 1/8" grout line.

Dianne, you might want to reread what was said over there. I thought that sounded a little off, especially for bottocino. This is Jack Hamilton's exact words after you asking about the 1/8" joint:

I would suggest laying out 15 to 20 pieces stacked tight as well as measure
a bunch of them to find out what, if any variance you are dealing with in
size. Now, a tumbled stone will appear to have a larger joint after it is grouted.
If you can get away with using an 1/8" joint

Bottocino will often times vary in size too much to use a joint as tight as 1/8". if you CAN do it, then by all means. But like Jack suggested, lay a BUNCH of them from different boxes out and check them out. You might want to actually measure a bunch of them to be sure. Trust me-- bottocino's one of my favorite stones to use. If you go to my backsplash gallery, you'll see what I mean. Keep in mind if you look, those were all set with a 3/16" joint.

Just one sample:

Here is a link that might be useful: my gallery's backsplash section

    Bookmark   March 17, 2008 at 9:50PM
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pbrisjar

Yeah - that should have been "at least".

Nice backsplash BTW. Very close to what we're planning.

    Bookmark   March 17, 2008 at 10:54PM
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glassman

Cleaning is not an issue especially if you seal. We have travertine and slate tile which are even more porous than marble.

We have a strong preference for minimum spacing between tile and no grout except behind the cook top. We used very thin temporary shims where needed to maintain a horizontal line. Although IÂve been away from the forum for some time, I remember Bill Vincent, as he did above, recommends wide tile spacing and full grout linesÂthe same as might be used in a shower stall. Even without grout, cleaning our tile is not an issue. Grouting also fills all the little voids in travertine that I feel gives it its character, although others prefer the filled look. Here's part of our backsplash.

    Bookmark   March 18, 2008 at 12:23AM
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kcsunshine_2006

Love the look of that glassman. Looks like my tile - wish I would have gone with the minimum space look...

    Bookmark   March 19, 2008 at 12:42AM
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raehelen

Glassman,

I LOVE your backsplash!

OK, I guess now I'm officially confused! Isn't there a purpose to grout? If you didn't grout your marble tiles, is there just 'space' between them, albeit a narrow space?

So, the eagle eye would be able to see your thinset between your tiles? Did you choose a thinset in a colour that matched/coordinated with your tiles?

It doesn't look like you have caulking either between granite and tiles, or if you do, it's an awesome invisible job!

    Bookmark   March 19, 2008 at 3:36PM
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bill_vincent

There's a very DEFINITE purpose to grout. For those who've been around here for a while, you've heard me spout off about this and how bad it is to go groutless. Now I'm going to give you a link to an industry expert saying the same thing.

Undoubtedly, those of you who've looked into DIYing your own tile have heard of a tile author by the name of Michael Byrne. He's literally one of the top 5 people in the industry. There's a forum I belong to where he's one of the moderators, and this just came up today. Check post #11:

Here is a link that might be useful: grout space

    Bookmark   March 20, 2008 at 11:23PM
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saharag

Is it okay to grout between the tiles but leave the holes in the tumbled marble unfilled? That's what we are planning to do but we won't if its a breeding ground for all kinds of stuff. Thanks for any advice.

    Bookmark   March 20, 2008 at 11:59PM
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bill_vincent

Once again, I know this is the next big thing. I'll turn down a job before I'll grout, leaving the holes open for that very reason.

    Bookmark   March 21, 2008 at 7:28AM
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ckag

bledso- I'm interested in following this thread since I want to do the very same thing - use tumbled marble 3x6 brick tiles as my backsplash. So, it appears that it is not hard to keep clean after sealing - good.
My concern is the grout issue as well. I also want them to be as close as possible and do NOT want the pits and holes in them to be filled with grout.

Bill - can't a tile person do it this way? Can they be set almost touching, grouted WITHOUT filling the pits in the marble?? If the marble is sealed, how would it then be a breeding ground for bacteria?

    Bookmark   March 21, 2008 at 9:49AM
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redroze

We're doing that style! The colour is Botticino, it's tumbled marble in a 2x4 brick pattern. Gorgeous in my humble opinion...and since I love the look of marble but didn't like the maintenance for countertops, I still get to have marble somewhere!

The brick pattern is on the bottom:

Close-up:

Not sure if this is Bottocino colour but it shows the look of the brick pattern:

    Bookmark   March 21, 2008 at 1:29PM
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redroze

Oops, didn't read above and just realized I was interrupting a grout discussion. I'm interested in this question too - can you do a thin grout line but not fill the tiles themselves, since the pits are a nice character about tumbled marble?

    Bookmark   March 21, 2008 at 1:35PM
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glassman

The JLC Online forum of bill_vincentÂs link appears to be mostly contractor types with will intentioned advise but laced with poor opinions of kitchen designers. I feel that contractors objectives on a backsplash job may be to get in and get out as quickly as possible, and to do at least a good enough to not get called back for rework. They may not want to do a project with grouted joints but leaving the aesthetically desirable voids of tumbled travertine/marble unfilled because it would be hard to do and take too long. I assume these guys also a very concerned about getting sued for anything, which probably explains their negative feelings for groutless backsplash instillations, even though IÂm unaware that the implied health issue of open joints has been substantiated, especially for unfilled surface voids.

Our travertine/slate backsplash (see earlier post) is groutless, except for behind the cook top. I would do it again, and am not at all concerned about food poisoning. We arenÂt meticulous cleaners, but neither do we have food fights or hose down the walls regularly.

Concerning some earlier questions, the tile are spaced at about 1/16" +/- (I used wooden shims) and are set in white mastic. In some places if I look straight on I can see the trowel lines of the mastic peeking through the crack. I should have at least flattened those when the mastic was still soft. I actually intended to fill the joints half depth with grout but just havenÂt gotten around to figuring that out, so itÂs been this way for about 4 years. There is no calking between the granite and tiles. It will be clear silicon if I do anything.

    Bookmark   March 21, 2008 at 7:04PM
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bill_vincent

Bill - can't a tile person do it this way? Can they be set almost touching, grouted WITHOUT filling the pits in the marble?? If the marble is sealed, how would it then be a breeding ground for bacteria?

You CAN NOT set tumbled marble that close without culling through alot of stone to get the proper sized ones you want. I'm about to do a wall hanging project where I bought literally three times the entire square footage for just this reason-- to be able to cull through and get the stone I want for it. That's 45 square feet for a 15 square foot project at 7.00 a foot. Tumbled marble varies so much in size that to set it tight like that would end up in misalignment of the tiles pretty quickly, and then the whole thing would end up looking like hell.

appears to be mostly contractor types with will intentioned advise but laced with poor opinions of kitchen designers.

Actually I'M the one with a poor opinion of MOST kitchen designers. Many of them don't think things through. So long as they can create a piece of eye candy that THEY like, they're happy. Now, NOT ALL of them are like this. I know of several good KD's. But I've also heard more than my share of horror stories about them.

I feel that contractors objectives on a backsplash job may be to get in and get out as quickly as possible, and to do at least a good enough to not get called back for rework.

If you'd gone through my gallery AT ALL, you'd never make that statement.

They may not want to do a project with grouted joints but leaving the aesthetically desirable voids of tumbled travertine/marble unfilled because it would be hard to do and take too long.

That's simply ludicrous. If someone's willing to pay for my time, I'm willing to do what they ask, no matter HOW crazy I think it is, so long as it's not detrimental to the installation. There's a project I've posted many times here and at John Bridge's forum of a roman tub, deck, and circular floor that I did years ago-- total about 150 square feet, and it tooke me three work weeks to install because of the way the homeowner wanted it installed. So don't tell me I'm not willing to put in the time.

Concerning some earlier questions, the tile are spaced at about 1/16" +/-

You've got two courses of the same sized stone together. Try doing an entire backsplash with that small a joint!!

and are set in white mastic.

This one speaks for itself.

    Bookmark   March 21, 2008 at 9:04PM
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catiecupcake

Here is what we did with some tumbled marble.

    Bookmark   March 31, 2008 at 9:24PM
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remodel1958

This is my first post - searching this site has been a huge help to us (I'll post some pics of "now" if only to garner sympathy ;-)

I want to use the split face tile I saw here and thought we could get away without grouting it. Was this wishful thinking? Safety first!

in advance, thanks for your comments

    Bookmark   March 31, 2008 at 9:53PM
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candlelover-2009

Any suggestions on removing candle wax from the crevices of slate and grout on my backsplash?!?

    Bookmark   August 1, 2009 at 10:15AM
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Lauralena

Question: Does anyone have an opinion as to whether a pencil edge is needed to finish 4" x 4" stacked Botticelli tiles in a backsplash? Undecidedâ¦
Thanks!

    Bookmark   March 21, 2014 at 1:57PM
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