10 years ago my husband was smart enough to buy a fixer-upper with a solid foundation in a neighborhood that would become a sought-after location to live in the Denver area. The house was built in the 1950s and he got it pretty cheap. He did the basic stuff needed to be comfortable (patched holes in the walls, put in a dishwasher, had a partial fence built in the back yard), and went on with the business of living. Then a few years ago he gets married and the wife puts a “home improvement to do” list on the fridge.
First, we tore up the gross beige carpet that ran through the house and found beautiful hardwoods underneath. (Why anyone covered those floors with carpet is beyond comprehension.) My husband stripped, sanded, and stained the floors and they are fantastic. Next, we completed the existing back fence, so now the squirrels have an uninterrupted transportation system. Then we painted the kitchen cabinets and walls and had a new countertop installed.
Maybe it was super stylish to have pool tiles as a countertop and backsplash in the 1950s, but not so much in 2017. So we decided to cover those weird little pool tiles with subway tiles. After buying everything the people on the YouTube suggested, we started tiling. We chose white subway tiles with the occasional black tile thrown in to make it interesting. The tile cutter (see below) we bought worked like a charm and it only took about four hours to complete the project from start to finish. Turns out we are decent tile installers. The key to success was mapping out one section at a time, having the tiles pre-cut for that section, applying a generous amount of adhesive (mastic) to the area, then placing the tiles quickly (the adhesive dries pretty fast).
Next, we applied the grout. Thanks to the folks on YouTube and a few grouting/tiling library books, we were successful. The next day we did a tiny bit of patch work on the grout, but other than that it went well. My husband caulked around the tiles and the expansion joints, rewired and installed a new switch plate (Yay for being married to an electrician!) and a few days later we applied grout sealer.
Two more kitchen projects to follow: floor and baseboards.
This is the tile cutter we purchased. Inexpensive and does the job with porcelain tiles. https://www.lowes.com/pd/Blue-Hawk-14-in-Tile-Cutter/50273867
Here are a few links if you are interested in installing a subway tile backsplash.