How to Make a $200 back splash for $30

The ledgestone look is everywhere now.

It’s rustic and full of texture.

I love the contrast it gives to the smoother more refined finishes in most bathrooms.

I don’t like the price tag that comes with it.

Here’s how we got the look for our bathroom back splash for a price tag any budget can afford.

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The bathroom was by far the least desirable room in the house when we decided to renovate.  The kitchen came as a very close second but we were able to hodge podge an acceptable alternative until we gathered the funds (and time) to update it. You can see the whole tour of the house in all of it’s original glory here and here.

Imagine opening a door and in front of you is about four square feet of dated linoleum vinyl. To your left is a toilet shadowed by a yellowed medicine cabinet hung on a wall that has been covered in a tile-vinyl hybrid. The view to the right offers no better alternative, a small sink sitting on an equally yellowed cupboard. The bathtub sits directly opposite the door and dominates the small closet..erm room. It’s a 3/4 sized tub surrounded by, you guessed it, yellow vinyl.

A picture speaks a thousand words, and I almost wish I had one of the original bathroom. But it was impossible to really capture the state of the room because the angles were so odd and because the reality of how horrible that bathroom was is almost impossible to convey.

Once we selectively removed everything that was beyond salvageable we were left with this:

Oh and we tore out a couple of walls while we were at it. We knocked out the right wall of the bathroom and expanded into what was the bedroom on the other side. Knocking out the closet that had belonged to the bedroom that sat on the same wall we were able to add enough square footage to flip the tub to the right side.

The tub was a little design adventure for my husband and I. I decided that we needed to make built in shelves to solve the age old dilemma of stray shampoo bottles being knocked into the tub. Took me about two hours to decide on the final design. Which left my poor husband to spend 4 times that to actually execute the creation of the shelves.

This was my first foray into the world of laying tile. We were so pleased with the outcome it gave me the nerve to stretch my design limits.

So that brings us to the sink’s back splash. Here is my sink:

*Spoiler alter: ignore the tile laid out on the floor.

We’re in the middle of doing a bunch of stuff to the bathroom and we caught the tiling bug again. Only problem was I wanted *needed* this look:

But coming in at around $12/ sq foot it meant to cover the 16 or so square feet I needed I was looking at about $200. Not bloody likely.

My budget was more along the lines of $50.  So the husband went off to Home Depot. We had recently crashed (totaled) our Jeep, the family vehicle. So baby and I were stranded at home while husband used his work truck to get around. Using the marvels of our modern era he went hunting through the tile section and read out pin numbers on his phone. A quick search through the Home Depot website and we decided Indian Autumn Natural Slate was the winner.

This natural beauty was just under $2 sq/foot. Which brought the grand total to about $32 for the two boxes we needed. Thankfully we already had a large tub of adhesive, so my budget could even afford to buy me some grout!

Out came the tile saw and husband went to work ripping the tile into stripes of various widths. Since we were working with very little extra tiles for buffers we kept two tiles full so that towards the end of laying the tile we could custom cut them to whatever widths we needed. Turned out to be a VERY smart idea.

I laid out the tiles on the floor before even thinking of placing them with adhesive on the wall. I went through a handful of possible designs before I settled on one. I kept the layers horizontal, varying the widths each time, made sure the vertical joints staggered, and tried my best to balance out the placement of the tiles based on their colours and textures.  It’s a bit of a finicky process but well worth the final effect.

Cut the end tiles so that your grouping will fit the space, leave some room for grout lines. The beauty of this project is that imperfections only add to the character, so I wasn’t concerned about making sure the grout lines were consistent.

Spread tile adhesive on the wall with a putty knife.

Make grooves in your layer of tile adhesive with the funny-toothy-spreader. Start laying your tile on the wall in the pattern you decided on, one by one. Leave gaps in between for grout lines.

When you come to a spot that needs to have a tile cut to fit around (in this case an outlet). Measure where it will land on the tile.

Draw it out on the tile.

Cut slits in the tile and crack off the unwanted pieces.

After some heavy use (this project provides tons of that) your tile saw needs to be cleaned. It’s a very simple piece of equipment.

Keep it reasonably clean and it’ll keep on truckin’. And in case you maybe forget and get caught up in a tile cutting bonanza, it’ll stop spinning and let you know it wants a little tlc.

Take some rest and relaxation time. This project was spread out over awhile. If you wanted to condense it it’d probably take a weekend.

This is the scrap we had left when we were done. We love to live dangerously and cut it VERY VERY close with projects like this. Bit of an adrenaline high really.

And done! I’ll cover the grouting and sealing in another post. God I hate that mirror. It’s being re-homed to my sister just as soon as I find the mirror I can see in my head. Ugly mirror and all, I think that’s the best looking $30 I ever laid eyes on.

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