How to Install a Tile Kitchen Backsplash

Adding a new backsplash or replacing an old one can really do wonders for your kitchen – and it’s pretty easy to do on your own, which means you can cut out labour costs. Not only is a backsplash or a new upgraded backsplash going to make your kitchen look more attractive, but it’s also going to make cleaning your walls behind the stove and sink easier too. In some cases, you might need a pro to come in and install the backsplash if it’s a material like wood, granite or even stainless steel, but if you plan on installing a ceramic, glass or porcelain tile, these are very easy to do on your own.

Here is the list of items you will need for this project:

* Silicone

* Grout Sealer

* Pencil

* Leveler

* Sponges

* Grout Float

* A Powdered or pre-mixed grout

* A notched trowel

* Tile spacers – unless you have pre-set tiles

* A tile cutter

* Tile Nippers

* A tile adhesive

* The tile itself

* A tape measure

Step 1 – Buy The Right Amount Of Tile

Some people might think that there is some really intricate way to figure out the amount of tile you will need, but this is the age of technology folks. There are actually calculators online, like this one that will help you figure out the amount of tile you will need! So on this calculator; you have the unit of measurement, the tile size, and the area size. So for example:


Tile Size: 4×4

Width of Wall: 4 feet

Length of Wall: 8 feet

= 32 square feet and you will need 288 tiles to cover that square footage. Amazing right? SO EASY!

Remember, it’s actually good/okay to have some left over tile in case down the line something needs to be repaired or you crack a piece and need a replacement. This way you don’t have to go searching all over the place to find the tile.

Step 2 – Pick The Right Tile

Picking the right tile is going to really depend on how much cooking you do in the kitchen, as well as what your style is in terms of how you decorated your home. If you cook a lot, even the cleanest cooks, will splash food and oil on the walls. It’s just common sense. Because of this, if you cook at all, you need to make sure that you get a material for the backsplash that is durable and can stand up to oily residue and food. Perfect materials (as is): ceramic, glass and porcelain. Perfect materials that need a little help like a sealant: stone and wood. Also, materials that are super clean and sterile like glass are perfect for a modern kitchen where as if you have a country, lodge-like, or traditional kitchen, perhaps wood would work best for you!

Step 3 – Prepare The Surface

As with anything you are placing on the wall, you need to prepare the wall. This means that you need to turn off and remove any light switch plates or electrical outlets, you also need to remove any wallpaper from the area. It’s a good idea to clean the walls too. So take a sponge with some warm water and just give it a nice scrub down to make sure it’s free of any dirt, dust, debris or oils. Make sure that you let it dry completely before taking on the next step!

Step 4 – Mark The Guidelines For The Tile

Find the center of your “wall” where the backsplash is going to be and mark it with a pencil. Then draw a vertical line left and right, up and down. Use a leveler to make sure its 100% straight.

Step 5 – Apply Your Adhesive

Next, you need to take that adhesive you bought, either mastic or a regular adhesive and place it on the wall using a trowel, the trowel should be held at a 45-degree angle. Only cover a small space at a time for the tiles – this stuff can dry up.

Step 6 – Setting The Tile

Next, you want to make sure that you leave a 1/8th inch between the lip of the countertop and the bottom of your tile. When you are setting your tile, you want to twist it from left to right just a little and then once you get it into the right place you need to apply some pressure to set it into place. If your tile already has self-spacers on it, place the tile spacers snugly next to each other. Some people prefer working with spacers some people like to freehand it. If this is your first time doing this, you might want to use a tile with spacers on it because it’s sort of fail proof. Continue to place more adhesive on the walls as you go and install more tile. You should also make sure that you take a damp sponge and clean the tiles off before the adhesive gets dry.

Step 7 – Cutting The Tile

If you have certain architectural features on the wall you are backsplashing or you need to work around electrical outlets or any other oddly shaped items, you will have to cut your tile. You can use a water saw for this, but it’s really loud and chances are you would have to rent one, which means more money spent. So instead, people like to use a cutter or a scribe. This is a handheld tool that allows you to make scores on the tile so that you can snap it where the scores are. It’s much easier – and cheaper. A scribe, generally, costs around between £15 and £150, but I would really suggest NOT getting the cheapest ones. They will break and probably in the middle of you doing the project. Just go mid to high range for a better product. Here is what they look like:

You can see a few videos here and here. One is like the one above and another is completely different! Use the one that seems more comfortable to you.

Once you cut the tile, it’s a good idea to use some sandpaper to soften the edges. Once you place the tile on the wall you need to let the adhesive dry. This takes 24-48 hours. Look on the back of the adhesive and see what they recommend.

Step 8 – Apply The Grout

If you used the spacers when installing the tile, you will need to remove those now. Place some rubber gloves on your hands so the grout won’t stick to you. Mix the grout according to the manufacturer directions unless it’s already pre-mixed. Then, at a 45-degree angle hold the floater and spread the grout into the spaces between the tiles. Try to keep the tile as clean as possible, if you get grout on it, wipe it off with a damp towel.

Step 9 – Final Steps

The final steps include:

– Clean the backsplash and getting any dust, grout or left over adhesive off

– Sealing the grout: Apply grout sealer using a spray – this will keep moisture out AND it will protect the material and the color.

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