Looking for a kitchen project that you can complete over the weekend? Installing a new tile backsplash is a cost-effective way to give your kitchen the update it deserves. While more significant kitchen renovation projects may require a professional, updating your backsplash is a relatively easy DIY project.
Before you begin your project, visit our inspiration gallery to see what opportunities there are when adding a tile backsplash. You may even get inspired to tile more than just your kitchen backsplash!
Tools You’ll Need
To get your project started, here are a few tools and materials you might need to buy if you don’t already have them at home.
- Tile Cutter
- Tile Saw
- Notched Trowel
- Tape Measure
- Grout Float
- Tile Spacers
- Utility Knife
- Tile Adhesive (Mastic)
- Tile/Grout Sealer
- Grout Release Agent
- Scrap Wood (Ledger Board)
- Painters Tape
Step 1: Prep the Walls
Before you begin, you need to make sure you’ve properly prepped your tiling workspace for success. The first portion of the project that you need to address is the electrical outlets. If you are working in a space that has them, you will want to make sure the power to these outlets has been turned off. You’ll also need to remove any outlet coverings and add outlet extenders depending on the way your outlets are set into your wall.
Make sure you set up cardboard or a heavy drop cloth on top of your counters to prevent any damage during the tiling process. Tape off any workspace as well as any cabinets you will be tiling against. You’ll want to clean off the wall space where you’re placing the tiles since the adhesive will not stick to grease, dirt, or other stains.
If you have painted drywall, you may need to sand it with coarse-grit sandpaper to roughen up the wall. This will help to create a texture on your wall that will allow the adhesive for the tiles to stick better. If you have any areas of your drywall that are uneven or have dents, patch them in to create a level workspace for when you begin tile installation.
Step 2: Prepare and Lay Out the Tile
Start by marking the center point of your tile design on your wall space with a vertical line. This line will serve as a placement guide for your dry run of tile placement, and when you start to adhere tiles to the wall.
If you are tiling behind an appliance— like a stove—use a piece of level scrap wood as a ledger board to create a bottom just like you would have if you were tiling directly above a countertop. We recommend using screws to attach your ledger board, so it doesn’t move when you’re tiling.
Before beginning any tile installation, do a dry run with your tiles to avoid any mistakes. Start at your center mark and add to each side as you go so you can make sure everything will align correctly. Make sure you are leaving the appropriate amount of room for spacers during your dry run, as well. Some tile options may have built-in spacers, while other options will require you to have specific size spacers.
Step 3: Cut Tiles as Needed
Now that you’ve completed your dry run, you should know what tiles you need to cut for your edges and areas around outlets. If you’re using a tile with a mesh backing, a utility knife will enable you to cut off pieces or make holes for outlets. You can use those extra tiles to fill in holes or cut them for edging pieces.
Before you begin, you should cut the tiles you need for edging and to level out an uneven bottom countertop. Cut tiles for under cabinets and around electrical outlets when you are ready to install them. The proverb “measure twice, cut once” will get you far with any home renovation project.
Porcelain and ceramic tiles can be cut with a manual snap cutter. They will have rough edges, and you will need a sanding stone to smooth those edges out. Glass tiles or larger tiles will need a wet saw to be cut properly. You can often rent these from your local hardware or home repair store.
Step 4: Prep and Apply the Tile Adhesive
Use the flat side of your notched trowel to get the adhesive onto the wall from the centerline out towards the ends—this will keep air pockets from forming. Flip the trowel and use the notched side to create even trowel lines that are parallel to how your tiles will sit. If using mesh-backed tiling, start with enough adhesive for two or three sheets so that the adhesive doesn’t dry too quickly.
Step 5: Set the Tile and Allow to Dry
Once the adhesive has been applied to your tile installation area, place your tiles into the adhesive and tap into place with your mallet. Install spacers as you lay the tile, and make sure you are checking the placement regularly to avoid crooked installation. Remember, you only have about 20 minutes to make adjustments to tiles that have been placed.
Once you have set all of your prepared tiles, go back and make the final cuts you need to fill in under the cabinets and around electrical outlets. See the manufacturer’s instructions for your adhesive on the amount of time it takes for the adhesive to set properly.
Step 6: Prepare for Grout
When your tiles have properly set, check your tile size and material to see what kind of grout you need. Tile grout can be sanded or unsanded, and the tile manufacturer should have information available on what grout you should use. Before you grout, check to see if you need to seal your tiles. Porous and natural stone tiles need a sealer before you can grout them.
Step 7: Grout Tile
A word of caution: grout dries quickly, and you only have about 25 minutes with each batch of grout that you mix. Only mix what you can work into your grout lines within that timeframe.
Use the grout float diagonally to the grout line and work the grout into all line areas. Do not grout the very bottom seam, as you will use caulk to fill that in after everything else is set.
See instructions for how long it takes for your grout to set, and then use a damp sponge at a 45-degree angle to wipe off the excess grout (haze) from the tiles. Rinse frequently and do not over wipe. Making the grout too wet will weaken the bond. If you have any haze left on your tiles, you may need to use a commercial grout release agent to remove the haze.
Once your grout has fully dried, apply a grout sealer to prevent stains and protect your grout against any moisture that may be present. Reinstall your electrical outlet covers to finish your project.
Looking to complete a bigger renovation job in your kitchen?
Installing a backsplash is a relatively easy DIY job, but if you’re considering a larger kitchen renovation in the Lancaster County area, make sure you consult a professional about your plans. Visit our showroom in Lititz, Pa. and speak with an experienced member of our team to discuss how Red Rose Cabinetry can assist you with your new kitchen dreams!