From time to time while tiling, you might make a mistake. Hey, there's no reason to feel bad, even the most accomplished tile setters can foul up a job. (It's true, I've seen it firsthand.) The key thing to remember is that you can fix just about any mistake you can make, as long as you have the time, patience, and desire to do it right.

When we were tiling our backsplash we had a situation where one of the tiles was sitting significantly further out than its neighbor tiles. We didn't notice it before the thinset had setup, and instead ran across the offending tile the next morning while removing the spacers.

There may have been just a little too much thinset on the back, or perhaps we didn't push hard enough to get it snug against the backerboard, or maybe we just got a little slack in the moment. Whatever the case may be, we had a single bad looking tile among a long run of decent looking tiles that would have looked horrible if we decided to just go ahead and grout.

Since the grout hadn't been applied, fixing this little snafu was actually rather easy. I grabbed a few tools that I might need for the job, including a screwdriver, putty knife, tile spacers, and notched trowel, and got to work.

Knowing the thinset had not fully set up having been applied less than 24 hours earlier, I figured I could pop that tile out without disturbing its neighbors.

Working my way around the sides of the tile I pushed and wiggled the putty knife the in the hopes of slowly loosening the thinset bond. Though I wanted to apply enough force to loosen the tile, I made sure not to put any real pressure on any tile around it. The last thing I wanted to do was knock on of the surrounding tiles off the will, or worse, chip/damage one.

After wiggling around a fair amount, and using the counter as a bit if adequate leverage, the single high tile popped free from the wall.

As I mentioned, the thinset was not fully cured, but it had hardened enough to really be stuck on both the backerboard and the back of the tile. Had I just slapped on more thinset and pushed it back in place, we would have been right back where we started. Instead, using the putty knife and screw driver on the more stubborn parts of the tile, I scraped the thinset off of the backerboard and tile to create a fresh, smooth surface.

I had to work carefully since I didn't want to disturb the other tiles around it, but I was able to remove everything that I needed to take off.

With the tile clean and ready for reinstall, we used some of the thinset we had just mixed up for the next section of backsplash we were working on. By applying the thinset with a small putty knife to the back of the tile (rather than the wall), we were doing what it called "backbuttering" the tile. This allows us to both apply adequate thinset, achieve full coverage, and scrape with a notch trowel to give a propper but one off backing for the tile.

Pushing the tile into place in its opening, we were able to get it nice and flush with the surrounding tile --the ultimate goal of this whole process.

To ensure proper placement we used the same spacers here that we had used on the rest of the backsplash, two spikes on the bottom and the green 1/16" around the perimeter.

After allowing a few minutes for a slight cure we were able to remove the spacers and check out the results of our little error correction.

This is one of those easier done than said tasks. In total it probably took about five minutes, and it allowed me to correct an issue that would have become a significant focal faux pas of the kitchen backsplash had we just left well enough alone. Writing this blog entry easily took at least 10 times the amount of time and effort as it did to correct the problem.

Does it seem easy to you? Or are you a "leave it alone" kind of person. There's nothing I'm better at than focusing on my own mistakes, and this one would have driven me nuts. I'm so glad I took the five minutes I needed to correct the problem.

Comments 13


Jill PP
9/26/2012 at 2:37 PM
I'm always tempted to leave it alone, but usually end up reluctantly talking myself out of it. haha.

Also, completely unrelated - I wanted to let you guys know that since Thad and I attended your DIY seminar at Red Barn Mercantile I FINALLY got up the courage to try cutting in without painter's tape. I'm still really slow, and my lines are totally not perfect, but I'm so proud of myself - lol

And, also unrelated - how are you guys liking your new oven? We are going to have to buy one soon and are trying to decide what brand/features we want.

Hey, congrats on venturing into the land of the tapeless! :-) Like most things, practice makes perfect.

In terms of functionality, I'm really liking our new oven so far, but then again probably anything would be better than what we had. Truthfully I just jumped into using it without reading the manual, so at some point I'm going to have to find out how the steam feature works. It doesn't hide fingerprints or splatters at all, so keeping it spotless has been a bit more work than I'm used to. (This is true for all the stainless appliances though.)
9/26/2012 at 3:50 PM
Ha, I'm always tempted to leave it alone, but never do because I know I will notice it always and forever. Much easier to just correct it.

Once I went so far to tear down a not very nicely put up brick backing behind a wood oven in my parents' house. They had bought it and it needed a lot of renovation and remodeling (with not a lot of budget), and my uncle was there to help with many renovation jobs. He's got a great technical mind and is a tireless worker, but just too impatient for detailed fiddly things. So the seams were all of different thickness, some wider than a thumb, and it just looked bad. I saw how unhappy my parents were, but also unwilling to undo something that was (out of the million things to do on a fixer upper house) at least done. I had to talk them into it, but was finally allowed to rip it down before the mortar had set completely. My dad then rebuild it, slowly, with even seams. Everyone was very happy with how it ended up looking. I would have hated for them to look at it like it was before for years and years to come (houses here (Germany) are not bought and sold as quickly as in the states, and a wall built is a wall that's likely to stay, for decades).

And I'm the same with things I do, not just when someone else will be doing the rebuilding. Flipside: it sometimes takes for-ev-er for me to do something, because I won't start until I have the time and knowledge to do it right (oh, and the money). The joys of being a perfectionist :)

Always looks nice when it's done, though.
Congrats on tackling and completing the brick wall project, Judith! It sounds like it was well worth the time and effort to redo the work you and your parents weren't happy with.

Thanks too for the insight into the German housing market. All of my ancestors came from Germany to the US, so I'd love to visit someday!
9/26/2012 at 3:54 PM
I am a detail orientated person and those little things drive me nuts. Case in point; I missed filling a nail hole in the wainscoting of my powder room. It is at eye level when you're sitting on the "throne". Damn if that unfilled nail hole doesn't bother me every time I am in that bathroom. The unfortunate part is that every time I leave the bathroom I forget about it, and it has yet to be fixed!
LOL, I know exactly what you mean. It sounds like the nail holes that need to be filled in the trim of our kitchen window. They've been driving me crazy for years. :-)
9/26/2012 at 10:24 PM
I would have definitely repaired the mistake because it would have driven me crazy from now on.

What did you guys decide to do about your new mattress?
I'm so glad we decided to correct the mistake. It really would have stood out like a sore thumb!

Luckily the "new mattress smell" has dissipated over the last two weeks. Lulu is off the Benadryl and isn't having any reactions. So between that and the fact that we can't return the mattress (only exchange it for another one they carry), I think we're going to keep it.
threadbndr (karla)
9/27/2012 at 9:24 AM
fix. It would draw my eye every. single. time.

And that one, right at the counter top level and in a fairly obvious spot along the wall (not behind the oven or something) would be even worse.
I completely agree! I'm so glad we took the time to fix it. It would have made me crazy. :-)
9/27/2012 at 12:37 PM
Definitely fix it the devils in the details. I made a pretty good mistake just this past weekend that I’ve resigned myself to fix, just waiting on materials. I was putting up a double crown molding in our DR (baseboard upside down and the crown on top). I put a level line at the top of the wall all the way around the wall where we wanted the baseboard to sit to get the reveal that we wanted. After putting up all the baseboard and a couple of pieces of crown I realized I hadn’t marked correctly for my baseboard placement. Due to irregularities in our ceiling the reveal from the baseboard to the crown was off by as much as ½”. So I took the offending pieces off the wall and realigned them to get the same reveal. The problem is the new gap between the baseboard pieces is a little too much for caulk to do the trick. Most people would probably leave it but it would drive me nuts so I’m putting some cornice pieces up so I can salvage all of the baseboard and crown vice re-buying all new molding.
Ugh, we've been there and know how frustrating that is! But I agree with you, better to fix it than to stare at a job you're not happy with. Good luck!
6/10/2016 at 12:16 PM

Great post! And tiling a backsplash can be tricky. Your readers may be interested to know about backsplash products that don't require grout, etc. We offer peel and stick versions at
Keep up the great work!

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