I have always wanted to live in a home with exposed brick. In the bathroom, in the bed bedroom, wherever! I secretly go bananas whenever I hear about individuals wanting to cover up the brick in their home. I always want to yell and kick and scream don’t do it! I think it brings so much warmth and character into a room, and there are so many ways to incorporate it into your home! Oh the possibilities….Not to mention it also reminds me of the buildings in and around New England (which of course is near and dear to my own heart).
In any event, Brian and I have started to make a lot of small changes to our Condo since planting our roots in Chicago’s South Loop neighborhood (which I have come to notice has a ton of beautiful brick buildings!). We have very different tastes when it comes to home decor (him: Rustic and/or contemporary whereas I gravitate towards shabby-chic or farmhouse), but we have been working together to create a home that reflects both of our tastes and personalities.
One thing we both agreed on was adding a textured wall to the bedrooms- particularly the guest room. Not only did we want to break up the monotony of the room(s) but we also wanted something to serve as an additional sound barrier between our guest room and our neighbor’s condo (city living as they say! However, our neighbors are WONDERFUL and very quiet. It so happens that the wall of our guest room is adjacent to their baby’s room). Anyway, I was surprised to see Brian just as excited as I was about the possibility of adding brick!
We did our research and ultimately decided to go with brick veneer, which is a porcelain, brick-like “tile.” Although real brick would have looked amazing, it would have been a lot more work and slightly more expensive. Not to mention much harder to carry up the stairs!
We also decided to install the veneer ourselves instead of having it professionally installed. Doing so saved us at least $500, but I have a feeling I am underestimating that number by a long shot. Especially in the city of Chicago!
The total cost of our project was approximately $550. But keep in mind that the cost will vary depending on the size of the wall, the number of tiles used, and/or the type of tools that are needed. In our case we spent a little extra on spacers, two buckets, and an additional trowel. I’m also omitting the cost of the wet saw (for a reason!), which was an additional $300.
But enough of my rambling. If you are curious to know how we installed our own brick wall then keep scrolling down. It took us about a week or so to complete the project (including time to dry and several “rest” breaks in between).
WHAT WE USED:
WHAT WE DID:
To make things a little easier I separated our DIY project into four phases: preparation, applying the brick veneer, grouting, and finishing touches.
It often takes me longer to plan a project than it does for me to complete it, but this is because I am habitually indecisive. Come to find out there are several different ways to create a brick wall (who knew!). Naturally I panicked. What type of “brick” would look the best? And be the most cost effective? I had to do a lot of research before Brian and I settled on an option we thought would work best for us (you can actually read about the different options in a future post so stay tuned!).
I will say that I originally wanted to use real brick veneer for this project. I even went as far as to contact someone selling thousands of bricks on craigslist out in the burbs. However, Brian (aka the voice of reason) talked me out of it because “transporting, carrying and then cutting over 300 bricks to make veneer at our condo is insane.” Ha. Well, he was right (as he sometimes is. He has an incredible ability to talk me out of my crazy ideas. Which is good because I really would have attempted it!).
Instead we choose faux brick veneer- which comes pre-cut and sold in boxes at our local home improvement store. Which was much, much easier.
But before jumping straight into our project, we first made a list of the supplies we needed. We also calculated the number of tiles we would need to cover the wall. This involved a little bit of math (No! Not math!), but it was actually pretty simple.
First we calculated the square inches of the room (length x height) followed by the square inches of one of the veneer tiles. We then divided the square inches of the room by the square inches of the tile. This number was approximately how many tiles we would need to cover the wall. It also helped us determine how much mastic and grout to use (ha, if only my former math teachers could see me now :).
Next, we washed the wall to get rid of any dust or grime and then placed a drop cloth on the floor. We had used painters tape to secure it to the wall, which was very helpful. As you can see in the photo below, we had also used the painters tape to cover the outlets.
I’d like to add that the drop cloth was probably one of the most important items of this project. The room looked like a scene from Dexter (except with mastic and grout)- so the drop cloth definitely saved the hardwood floors. And probably my future marriage. Thank you drop cloth.
Anyway, once the room was fully prepared we then thought about how we wanted our tiles to look. We decided to have the bricks overlap every third (versus every half). I feel like overlapping them every 1/3 gives it a slightly more authentic look, but it does require a little more work. If you don’t know what I am talking about, no worries. Here is a photo:
Next we measured and cut a few pieces of the brick veneer using a wet saw. We tried using a tile cutter but it only lasted a few tiles before it broke. Brian the-tile-cutter got frustrated and came back with a wet saw (which is fine because we have a few upcoming projects where we will need one). However, I am omitting that cost from this project on purpose.
After we cut a decent amount tiles we went downstairs to build our wall. FYI: Wet saws are messy, which is why I avoided wearing my Sunday’s best. I also made sure to wear sunglasses and kept the saw outdoors.
PLACING THE VENEER
Next it came time to place the veneer tiles on the wall. I actually came across several different ways to do this, but we went with the method we felt we most comfortable with. First we applied a thin layer of mastic to the wall using a trowel and then created ridges using it’s grooved edge. Then we placed a small amount of mastic to the back of the veneer tile.
We started sticking the tiles at the bottom corner of the wall using a few of the tiles that were previously cut into thirds. We created a vertical column first so it could be the starting point for each row. This was also helpful to maintain the 1/3 overlap between the tiles and prevent the bricks from shifting downwards.
Furthermore, Brian and I also used spacers (the little white things between the tiles). This was to help keep the tiles straight and to have clean, even rows- but they were optional! Some individuals wish to go without for a more “authentic” look… or to possibly cut some cost. I didn’t trust myself enough to go without…
We continued adding tiles row by row until we reached the end of the wall. In the photo above Brian is clearly working much faster than I am so several of his tiles are going UP (hey, someone needed to snap these photos!). But I would highly suggest going row by row once you establish your starting column.
While we were forming our rows we also had to pay special attention to the tiles surrounding the outlets. This can be tricky and there were a few ways to go about it. Brian and I decided to use the wet saw to cut a few custom pieces to fit around them.
After all of the tiles were finally in place we waited about 48 hours to begin the next phase.
Once our wall was dry (and spacers removed), we mixed and applied the grout (grout is what fills in the spaces between the tiles and acts as a second adhesive). We had used a large bucket, water, and our electric drill with a mixer component (which was the best $4.00 ever spent).
FYI: there are several different grout colors to chose from, as well as “sanded” versus “un-sanded.” The main difference: sanded is to fill spaces bigger than 1/8 of an inch as it is less likely to crack or shrink. We had used 3/8 inch spacers so therefore we used sanded grout.
We made sure to follow the instructions on our specific bag of grout, which was pretty straightforward. We added our water, stirred the mix, and tried to get a consistency of peanut butter.
Once we had our peanut-buttery grout goodness we used our smooth (rubber) trowel to spread the grout in the spaces between the brick tiles. The grout got ALL over the tiles (as well as my hands, the floor, and my clothes. I wouldn’t be surprised if it also got all over my cat, Moo). But that is okay because if you remember we had a nice plastic drop cloth 🙂 Once we were done with about a third of the wall we then used our smooth trowel to scrape off the excess grout. We found that it works best if done in a diagonal direction. We were also careful to make sure all of the gaps were filled in.
Brian and I then waited about 20-30 minutes (per our grout bag instructions) before wiping the wall with a damp sponge. This helped seal the grout and make it look a little smoother. However, we failed to wipe it down well enough to remove a lot of the excess haze (which was a pain because made it much harder to clean later on).
Once the walls were looking somewhat decent, we then removed the the tape from around the outlets and shaped the surrounding grout using a wooden dowel.
Now on to the…FINISHING TOUCHES
After everything was dry, we proceed to wipe the wall several more times using a damp clean sponge (again, it is likely we would not have had to clean it as much had we wiped it well enough the first time). We noticed quite a few spots where there was a build-up of haze, so we took our grout brush and scrubbed it off. This technique worked really well in some areas but unfortunately it did not remove all of the haze. Therefore, we purchased a grout haze remover to tackle some of the harder-to-reach spots. Luckily this worked fairly well (we still have a few more spots to left to remove). But least we know for next time. It was a good DIY lesson learned…:)
But Alas, the FINAL PRODUCT
Overall I am very happy with how this project turned out, especially since it was our first of many big DIY projects! I am also elated I didn’t ruin anything and that no one got hurt in the process. Brian and I are still getting along and my cats are loving the room’s new look (even though they aren’t allowed in there).
I am thinking that whatever I have left over in my budget this month could go towards some wall decor, or possibly some new pillows (I have had the teal ones since 2007). If you have any good ideas shoot me an email or comment below- I’d love to hear them!
Thanks for reading and stay tuned for some more projects. They will only get better and better- and likely so will my writing 🙂