You can make a big difference in your kitchen with simple and relatively inexpensive projects. Tiling your backsplash will spice up your sink area and protect it at the same time.
Tools & Materials
Tiles (loose or mesh-mounted mosaics)
Check the Walls Before Applying Tile
Before tiling, check the soundness of the wall:
Make sure the wall is dry and that it’s firm enough to hold the tile weight. If condensation is evident, wait for the area to dry before tiling or replace the drywall with a cement type backer board. You can speed up drying with a dehumidifier. If the area isn’t dry, the tile will seal in moisture and cause the wood in the wall to rot. If you have damaged drywall, repair or replace it.
Before you choose the layout of the backsplash, prepare the walls for tiling.
Plan the Backsplash
Decide how far up the wall the backsplash should extend. Usually, a backsplash extends at least 4 inches up from the countertop and sometimes all the way up to the bottom of the wall cabinets.
Good to Know
It’s always a good idea to have spare tiles of the same dye lot in case you break some or have to replace one in the future. If you can’t get the same dye lot, mix all of the tiles together so the color difference won’t be as noticeable.
Estimate the Amount of Tile Needed
Measure the length and width of the backsplash area. Determine the square footage by multiplying the length times the width. Wall tiles are typically available in square or rectangular shapes as well as mesh-mounted mosaics. A standard 10-foot-by-18-inch backsplash requires at least 15 square feet of tile.
If your countertop is tiled, plan the layout so the backsplash grout joints line up with the countertop grout joints. If you don’t have a tiled countertop, start the first tile in the center of the base of the backsplash.
Turn off the power to electrical outlets in the area where you’re working. Remove electrical outlet covers.
Clean the area with warm water and allow to dry.
Apply the manufacturer’s recommended adhesive with a notched trowel. Hold the trowel at a 45-degree angle and spread the adhesive. Work in small 3-foot-by-3-foot areas to prevent the adhesive from drying prior to the tile installation.
Lay the first tile in the center at the base of the backsplash. Position the tile using a slight twisting motion. Use a level to make sure the tile is square. Place a spacer on each corner of the first tile. Cut one end of the spacers off in order to fit them between the countertop and the bottom of the tile. Push the spacers into the adhesive.
Working out from the first tile, continue laying the tiles in a row, flush to the spacers. Wipe off any excess adhesive that oozes up between the tiles. Leave enough space to fill in with grout. Occasionally check to make sure the tiles are level. After one row is complete, begin with the next row and follow the same pattern. Apply adhesive as needed.
If you need to cut tiles, score the tiles with a tile cutter or use a wet saw with a diamond blade.
When you place the tiles around an outlet, be sure the outlet cover hides the tile edges. Continue tiling as usual.
When you’ve laid all the tiles, wipe off any excess adhesive with a damp cloth. Use a rounded stick to clean between the tiles.
Allow the adhesive to set according to the manufacturer’s instructions. After the adhesive sets, remove the spacers.
Mix the grout according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Since grout may irritate eyes and skin, wear safety goggles and latex gloves. Apply the grout using a rubber float. Spread the grout diagonally at a 45-degree angle across the tiles, packing the grout between the tiles. Wipe off the excess grout with a damp sponge when the grout becomes firm. Use a colored, flexible caulk instead of grout where the backsplash meets the countertop to prevent cracking.
Clean the tiles again and smooth the joints with a damp sponge.
After the grout dries and a haze forms, wipe off the tiles and shine them with a clean cloth.
Replace the electrical outlets and switches. You’ll need longer screws or an outlet spacer plate prior to replacing the outlet covers to bring the outlet flush with the tile.