Overview The aesthetic of the kitchen was defined by the architect in charge of Porject 1. My role was to figure out the best way for it to be manufactured and quickly and easily installed on site. The casework was mostly constructed in a traditional manner.
The backsplash was a bit different because it had to house the 120V outlets. Putting outlets in the backsplash should have been fairly easy and straightforward, but there were some challenges. Firstly, everything had to sit on top of the drywall. Unlike traditional construction, the outlets are not embedded in the walls. Since the backsplash was made of stone it couldn't be pocketed. These two constraints limited the design.
Constraints and Solutions One, the junction box that houses the receptacle must be shallow. Since a certain volume of air space has to be met by code, you have to gain that volume in the width of the j-box, since the height is fixed and the depth is minimized. Two, a mudring (used in conjunction with a j-box to be able to mount a receptacle even with the wall surface) must be used in order to be able to mount the receptacle even with the stone surface. Three, the plug/j-box must be securely mounted so it doesn't come loose when plugging and unplugging an appliance. Adhesives aren't a good idea if you need to replace the outlet, since it makes it difficult to remove, and you can't screw into the stone. The stone is mounted to a piece of wood, but there were no mounting brackets on the junction box to mount it from the back side. Also, adding two brackets per outlet would have added to the labor costs. A wooden piece was built to house the junction box as well as provide a hard, flat surface to press against the drywall.
The backsplash attaches to the wall using extruded french cleats. A long rail is mounted to the wall, and shorter clips are mounted to the backsplash. The stone plus plywood backing and outlets make the pieces quite heavy (~70 lbs), so two people are required to install it. For the most part, this was a smooth process. Issues would arise if the wall had a bow, which was quite common. The wall might be 1/4" out over the length of the backsplash, which slowed down install since you had to make sure the cleats were engaging. Once hanging from the drywall, screws were attached in predrilled holes in a wooden board at the bottom of the backsplash in order to fully secure it to a wooden block in the wall. This part was covered up once the lower kitchen cabinets were installed.
Each kitchen had two backsplash sections, and total install time per kitchen was less than 10 minutes once the parts were in hand.
Lessons Learned The biggest issue turned out to be in handling the backsplash units. Once on site, everything went fine, but there was a hiccup in logistics and the backsplashes, which were meant to ship all at once, had to be unpacked and shipped 2-4 at a time since there was a delay on site. This caused damage to the Romex/wire since they had to be loaded/unloaded and repeatedly moved from their pallet. In the future, if this deign didn't change, some sort of protective tape would need to be applied to the wire to keep it in the correct spot and out of harm's way.
How they were supposed to ship
Damaged Romex due to unpacking/repacking multiple times.