Worth the work? I say yes.

So finally last week we got our new granite countertop. This time it wasn’t stained or overpolished like the previous two (here and here).

Since we only needed a small piece for a vanity, we had to choose a remnant piece instead of buying an entire slab so we didn’t have many choices. We fell in love with a 3 cm black honed granite (granite countertops come in either 2 or 3 cm thicknesses) but most granite backsplashes are 2cm granite. In my opinion the 3 cm granite looks much more high end as a countertop (since you don’t have to have the plywood underneath for support or the seam where two pieces of granite are glued together to make the edge appear thicker). But on the reverse, I think a 3 cm granite backsplash/sidesplash looks a little clunky, especially in an already small space.

So we improvised. We decided that we wanted to inset our back/side splash into the wall. I looked online to try to find an example of something like this and found nothing. So I thought maybe we were being crazy, but the first granite company we worked with said they’d done it before and it wasn’t a big deal.

Once they got the slab in place, they pushed the back/side splash against the wall, cut and removed the drywall around it, and pushed the pieces into the wall until they were snug against the studs. It really worked pretty well, except then we were stuck with small gaps all along it.

They said all we needed to do was tape along the granite, mud the cracks, and paint. So we taped.

And we mudded.

And we textured. We have a hopper that we used to texture most of the bathroom, but it’s a pain to get the right consistency of mud, find the right size texture, cover everything, bring the compressor inside, and clean out the hopper just for a small section. We had a spray texture in a can that we got for free from a friend, so we tried it instead. It worked well and it lets you adjust the size of the texture so you can match it to what’s already there, but beware of the fumes. With a hopper and mud there’s no smell, but this was terrible! We turned on the fan in the bathroom and closed the door, but the smell lingered for most of the day. No wonder it says to use in a well-ventilated space. If  your space isn’t ventilated I guess you’re outta luck.

We also used this opportunity to texture and paint the area around the outlet that Andrew had to move and a few other “less than optimally textured” spots on the walls. Then we sanded, primed and painted, pulled off the tape, and felt like crying. Because it looked just like it did before. The tape pulled off some of the paint and caused some of the mudding to crumble. Sad day. But luckily we were no worse off than before, so we gave it another go.

Andrew cut off and sanded all the peeling parts so we had a smooth edge. Then he filled a tiny plastic syringe (that we just happened to have lying around??) with mud and squeezed practically microscopic amounts into the cracks. Once it was dry we sanded it lightly and then taped again. This time at Andrew’s direction I left a tiny gap between the wall and the tape.

I chose a craft brush with a really straight edge and stippled paint into any remaining cracks and painted along the entire edge. I did it in small sections and took the tape off as I went so I didn’t have any peeling paint. Then I took a toothpick to clean up any paint that had bled under the tape (while it was still wet so it didn’t peel), which there was a bit since this is the worst tape ever.

Word to the wise: Buy 3M Scotch Blue, not Duck Clean Release painter’s tape! It bleeds a lot and there is no “clean releasing.” If you put it over paint it tears it off even if the base paint had ample drying time and you didn’t leave the tape on for very long.

Since I left a tiny gap between the wall and the tape I was essentially painting a very thin line on the granite. I wasn’t sure about this at first, but after seeing the result on the first section I did, I was sold. It took me over an hour to do all of it and my legs were definitely cramping at the end from my strange stance, but it was totally worth it.

Now it looks like it’s just backed up against the wall, and there’s no gap! Let’s look at a before and after, shall we? Before:

After!!!

I just can’t stop staring at it. It turned out way better than I was expecting, and in the end we’re positive we made the right choice. We love that the backsplash looks like a thinner granite. But we also realized that the granite wouldn’t have been flush with the wall if we’d chosen the traditional method of backing it up against the drywall. Our walls are far from square, so there would have been gaps behind it. Most people choose to caulk along the edge to solve this, but caulk leaves serious stains on honed granite and sticks out like a sore thumb (since it’s shiny and the granite’s not). In the end, this really was the best option.

Sadly, I think this is what I’m most proud of in our bathroom. It came out so great, and there’s nothing I would change about it. I’m a complete perfectionist, so this is rare that I’m satisfied with the end result! It almost makes me want to dance. And I do NOT dance.

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2 Responses to Worth the work? I say yes.

  1. lori April 23, 2015 at 8:11 pm #

    what caulk did you use between the top and the backsplash? Our installer used silicone and I hate the shiny appearance.

  2. Simple House Expressions April 24, 2015 at 4:52 am #

    Hi Lori! We didn’t caulk the granite at all actually! Unfortunately, most caulk is pretty shiny, especially mold/mildew resistant ones that are appropriate for wet applications like bathrooms. Since our granite is honed and not polished, the caulking can stain the granite (this was the problem with one of the previous pieces they brought) and we didn’t want to risk messing it up so we opted to use drywall mud instead and then painted it. The installers did put a tiny bead of silicone caulk between the countertop and bottom edge of the backsplash as they were installing it, but not enough to squeeze out so you can’t tell its caulked.

    I’ve never needed to use clear mold/mildew resistant caulking (we used all white in the shower), so I’m really not sure! I would probably go to a professional paint store (like Sherwin Williams, Benjamin Moore, or Pittsburgh Paints) and ask for recommendations. Even there it’s still pretty cheap, so you could always test out a few options. Or if you’re ok with a slightly less waterproof method, the mudding worked really well for us! Good luck and I’m so sorry I’m not more helpful!

    – Arielle

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