A ceramic tile backsplash does more than protect your kitchen walls from splatters and spray. It also enlivens it with a decorative splash. It takes care to apply a backsplash and get the desired results; however, it can be completed in a weekend and can be a rewarding project for any do-it-yourselfer.
Step 1: Plan Your Backsplash
Decide what size you want the backsplash to be installed. Generally, a backsplash extends at least 4" up from the countertop and often to the bottom of wall cabinets. If your kitchen countertop is tiled as well, plan the layout so the backsplash grout veins line up with the countertop grout veins. If you don't have a tiled countertop, start the first row of tiles in the center of the wall where the backsplash will be located.
When choosing colors for your backsplash, take the existing colors in your kitchen into account. This includes walls, counters and cabinetry. Your backsplash colors shouldn't compete with the counter and wall colors. Your goal should be to tie all the room colors together with your backsplash. This can mean using two or three tile colors that complement each other and the room well, or a simple one-color backsplash. If you have a lot of stainless steel appliances in your kitchen, a silver or metallic-color tile can be a nice accent. Whites and neutral colors, such as browns, beiges and grays, are a classic standby and go with many colors of wood, floor tile and countertops.
Step 2: Calculate Tile Amount
Measure the length and width of the kitchen area you'll be tiling with a tape measure to determine how much tile you need to purchase. Calculate the square footage by multiplying the length times the width. Wall tiles are available in a variety of styles and sizes.
Buy extra tiles in case you need to replace any in the future. Buy 10 to 15 percent more than what you will need to allow for special cuts, mistakes or replacements.
Check the tile lot number to ensure you use the same exact color for all tiles.
If you'll be working around electrical outlets, make sure the power to the room you're working in has been turned off and all outlet covers have been removed before you begin. Shut off the breaker to the kitchen or turn off the house's main power if you're unsure of which circuit belongs to the kitchen.
Step 3: Prepare the Walls for Installation
Make sure your kitchen walls are in good shape before you start applying tile. Tile adhesive can stick to a wide variety of surfaces as long as they're clean, dry and structurally sound. If there is any condensation on the walls, wait for the area to dry before tiling. If necessary, use a dehumidifier for faster drying. If the walls are not new drywall, strip off any existing flexible coverings, such as wallpaper, or scrape away loose paint with a paint scraper. Lightly sand with fine-grit sandpaper, and be sure to patch drywall holes and cracks with spackling compound.
Step 4: Apply Adhesive
Apply tile adhesive with a trowel. Hold the trowel at a 45-degree angle and spread a thin, even layer. Be sure to work in small 2' x 2' areas to prevent the adhesive from drying out.
Step 5: Place Tiles
Position the first tile using a twisting motion, and use a line level to ensure the tile is square. Place a tile spacer on each corner of the first tile. To fit spacers between the countertop and the bottom of a tile, cut one end of each spacer. Working outward, continue to lay each tile in a straight row, flush with the spacers. Continue in this manner row after row, following the same pattern. Apply adhesive as needed.
Step 6: Work Around Obstacles
To cover corners and align with cabinets, countertops and electrical outlets, you may need to cut tiles to size using a tile saw or "wet" saw. With a tape measure, measure the dimensions of the space where the tile will go and how the tile will fit around the obstacle and then mark the tile accordingly with a pencil. Cut the tile to fit with the tile saw.
When you tile around an outlet, ensure that the outlet cover hides the tile edges.
Be sure you know how to properly use the tile saw before you start. Read manufacturer's instructions carefully.
Always wear safety glasses when operating a tile saw and other power tools.
Step 7: Grout Between Tiles
When you're finished laying the tiles, remove each spacer before they fully adhere. Most adhesives set in 20 to 30 minutes. Allow tiles to set completely before grouting. Mix grout according to the manufacturer's instructions. Using a rubber float, spread grout diagonally at a 45-degree angle across the tiles, packing the grout between each tile. Wipe off the excess grout with a damp sponge when it becomes hard. Shape grout joints using a rounded grouting tool and clean tiles again. After the grout dries a haze will form. Wipe off tiles and buff to a shine with a clean, dry cloth. Run a bead of silicone caulk along the corner between the countertop and the tiles to create a clean look. Your new kitchen backsplash is almost complete.
Since grout may irritate eyes and skin, wear protective safety glasses and rubber gloves.
Finalize the job using a grout sealer. Follow all manufacturer instructions on how to apply the sealer.
Step 8: Finish Up
Reinstall any electrical fixtures and reattach outlet covers. You may need to use longer screws because of the added thickness of the tiles. Remember not to tighten screws too much or you may break the tiles.
Great work! Installation is complete and your new beautiful backsplash will give your kitchen a boost in functional style.
Project Shopping List
Here’s what you’ll need to complete this project successfully.