I just ripped out my kitchen backsplash!

mayberry_moonJuly 21, 2013

I'm posting for some support and advice. Went by our new home build just after the wonderful tile setter had put in the new kitchen backsplash. I love the slate tiles alone, and with the granite, but it turns out they completely clashed, to my eye, with the cabinets. The cabinets are a warm taupe/grey - Dynasty Smoky Hills - and the cool blue grey of the slate tiles looked terrible to me. Like we tried to have something that matched and failed miserably. I know this would have bothered me, though maybe I wouldn't have noticed after a while. The granite is complicated - cielo granite has a lot of cream, greys, blues, some brown. It works with the cabinets, but the backsplash tile highlighted the ways it didn't work rather than the ways it does. We were originally going to have white cabinets, which would have worked beautifully.

I hope I didn't make a really dumb decision! The tile setter told me I could take them off immediately or forget it, as they would bond to the sheetrock and require pulling off chunks to resheet rock, versus just texture and paint (we have more painting to do anyway). So on the spur of the moment we pulled it off. I immediately breathed a sigh of relief - it looked so much better without the backsplash.

I wish I could have seen this before; or rather, I wish I had trusted my eye over the designer's (and stopped rushing to meet deadlines). I'm someone who seems to really notice undertones. My designer (who comes with the company building the house - a mistake I will never make again) is into traditional heavy tuscan style, and I am not. Moral of the story: never work with a designer whose taste you don't like, even if you think you can make your own decisions. If you are like me - busy with work and unfamiliar with the building process - you will be unsure at some points and listen to their advice, and regret it in the end....

I know I've seen posts on here about people without backsplashes. My tile setter said he will put in epoxy at the back edge of the counter while we decide what we want. I actually really like the way it looks without a backsplash, though will probably eventually need to pick something simple (cream/white) for practical reasons.

Oh this is quite a process. DH is being lovely, but I know the builder will not be.

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First off, good for you. You would always have been unhappy with it, and with yourself too for not acting decisively.

I don't have "no backsplash." I have the sheetrock in the rest of the house sweeping through the doorways and seamlessly around the kitchen for a serenely simple look. Make sure the paint is a particularly tough grade, even if you have to go out and buy a can yourself, and then baby the paint behind the stove a bit for a few weeks (you'll find out how much on line) until it's really hardened up. You'll be amazed at how well modern paints scrub up and how long this will continue to look good before you decide to touch up, or cover up. There's a good chance the can you keep on hand will get too old to use before that happens.

    Bookmark   July 21, 2013 at 2:58PM
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Thank you so much, Rosie! Your kitchen sound beautiful.

Our stove is on the island so the primary concern will be the area behind the sink....and my pride. These 'semi-custom' builders have a business model that blames the customer for every decision that doesn't maximize profits, and saddled us with an inexperienced 'construction manager' who has been disorganized and manipulative in an effort to look good to his bosses. This is the first time I've made a mistake, but he has blamed delays on us instead of on his own process. So I feel like I am at last living up to a previously undeserved reputation!

    Bookmark   July 21, 2013 at 3:35PM
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Ooh, where did you get your slate tiles? They sound lovely; I wish they'd worked for you, but when something's jarring--get rid of it! You made the right choice.

Rosie, I'm so happy to hear about someone else without a backsplash. I painted my kitchen a beautiful shade of green before the cabinets went in and I really hate to put busy tiles over it. It seems as if backsplashes all involve tiny blocks now and go all the way up to the upper cabinets. I'm still trying to pick out tile for the counters (yes...I WANT tile counters) but I'm dreading trying to find some kind of functional backsplash to cover up where the walls aren't quite square. I'm perfectly happy with painted drywall; worked well in our last kitchen.

    Bookmark   July 21, 2013 at 4:30PM
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Yes, good for you, mayberry! You did the right thing. You'll be fine until (and if) you decide to get another tile backsplash. I'm sure it was a great relief to have the offending one gone.

Screw the builders and what they think of you. It's your house and they will hopefully be gone and out of your life soon enough.

    Bookmark   July 21, 2013 at 4:36PM
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Ashe 42, I love charcoal slate and these tiles are great. They are rectangular with variation in size of the rectangles, so sort of a more linear look than a lot of traditional square slate tiles. The tile is from Earthstone Gallery in Reno, NV but I don't actually know the brand (ordered them directly from the showroom based on the display). I now have 24 square feet of gently used tile, but it wasn't inexpensive - upward of $20/sq ft as I recall. Argh.

Linelle, thanks for the words of support - greatly appreciated! Unfortunately there is some tangential family connection and it is a small community. I don't think they're bad people, it's just not a business model that lends itself to good customer service (we have to fight with them to get itemized cost lists, like for plumbing fixtures, and then consistently find errors - all of which labels us "bad clients"). This crew does good work, so I'm a lot better off than other stories I've heard in that I feel the house will hold up! All the subs live in fear of this builder and their designers, who will cut them off at the drop of a hat if they talk to their clients out of turn, etc. But that is the business model - controlling the clients to get them to agree to what is profitable, and controlling the subs to get them to do what they want, is the bottom line for the relatively low price/sq ft in a more assembly line "semi-custom home" approach. I do feel ambivalent about having made this choice, and honestly had no idea what I was getting into; nonetheless, it was our choice.

The good news is that I really like the foreman and many of the subs, so the people who are actually doing the work are great (vs the owners, managers and avaricious designers).

    Bookmark   July 21, 2013 at 5:06PM
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Oh, Ashe 42, I also just have to say that if you love slate, we did two of our bathrooms in bluestone tile - one blue, the other lilac (purple). I LOVE them! I was worried about grout lines so have granite in master bath - which is beautiful - but honestly the bluestone is my favorite. Absolutely gorgeous subtle variation in color with the natural look of slate but more interesting color options. If you have a good tilesetter he or she can still do cuts for undermount sink and it looks gorgeous.

    Bookmark   July 21, 2013 at 5:10PM
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Good for you! It sounds like you acted decisively, and in your best interests, while under pressure - congratulations!
Other GWers have made backsplash mistakes, ripped them out, and gone on to have drop dead gorgeous final results (see Soibean). You will too.

    Bookmark   July 21, 2013 at 8:40PM
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What you say about the business model is so interesting, Mayberry. The number of people complaining about that problem, or just seeking guidance under the pressure to make decisions, has been rising over the past couple of years.

Obviously builders all across the country have learned to funnel buyers through a barn for milking and on out the other side with no more real guidance by the "designers" they provide than would be provided cows by the guys hooking them up. After all, design suggestions might lead to liability.

What's particularly interesting is that the buyers, who are spending hundreds of thousands of dollars, are steamrolled into believing they no longer have the traditional person-who-writes-the-checks position. I imagine penalties for trying to assert one are written into the contracts they sign...?

    Bookmark   July 22, 2013 at 12:52PM
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Sounds like a smart decision to me. Unlikely you will regret it but if you had left the backsplash you were likely to regret it. You could always do a simple white subway tile backsplash - doesnt have to be expensive - and it seems to go with everything.

    Bookmark   July 22, 2013 at 2:39PM
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I have been living with a painted back splash for years (except behind the cooktop), and had no problems keeping it clean. I don't think I would want tile, and then not have the option to easily change the color or mount something to the wall.

    Bookmark   July 22, 2013 at 3:37PM
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Thanks so much lafacia and LoPay! If we get a backsplash (behind the sink is probably the main issue), then I'm leaning toward white/cream colored subway tiles. I'm going to try it without a splash first as I like the way it looks and am out of budget. Main problem is that I am, as my husband informed me, a messy cook.

Re: business models, it has been quite a lesson, Rosie. It was clear after we signed the contract that the whole system was set up to blame the customer, not serve them; unless the customer was willing to take budget estimates on faith without any review, and fork over whatever they said for budget overages, also without review. Seriously, people? I'm shocked that so many people do fork it over with no questions asked, though now realize how skilled they are at pressuring people ... not the best feeling, but the alternative is to be even more over budget. Thank heavens for solid workmen with integrity. And for GW support to help me through the bad patches...

    Bookmark   July 22, 2013 at 3:49PM
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OP, I'm happy that your tiles came off easily for you, and you are pleased with the decision! That must have been mighty scary.

I've never had a backsplash, and I'm not sure I'll want one in my new kitchen. I rather like the look of a quartz in a color complimentary to the countertop, but that's not in the budget (thanks to the quartz counters in the first place).

I did just order a stencil that I'm going to put above the range, just for fun - it's a sycamore branch, and I'll "scatter" falling leaves around the rest of the kitchen. I plan to use a color not much darker than the wall color, so it's subtle. I hope it doesn't look dorky. Painting over it will be easier than ripping off tile, if we hate it.

    Bookmark   July 22, 2013 at 5:06PM
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