Kitchen Backsplashes for Beginners

Prep, lay tile, grout, and clean. It's that simple.

A quick, and relatively easy way to give your kitchen a new, updated look is to add a backsplash. Traditionally, this meant ceramic tiles, usually four inches square, in similar colors as your paint. The primary function was to protect walls from spills or spatter. This is not the case anymore. A kitchen backsplash can be a great way to add your personality and style to your kitchen space, as well as protecting your walls from spills, spatter or stains. The great part is that backsplashes are moderately simple to install, even for beginners. Along with the ease of installation, there are many different materials to choose from, not just ceramic tile, which add to the decorative value of your space. With proper preparation, the correct tools for the job and a little bit of time, you can have the backsplash of your dreams.


Preparing the Area

If you are installing a ceramic tile or glass tile, you will need to sand the painted surface of the wall to ensure it is smooth and as free from imperfections as possible. This step will help the adhesive stick, which in turn holds the tile firmly. Of course, if you have wallpaper instead of paint, you will need to completely remove the wallpaper and clean the wall thoroughly. It is important to ensure the wall is free of any dust or debris before beginning. If sanding doesn’t interest you, you could always purchase a primer which can be applied to the painted surface (not wallpaper—sorry, that has to be removed) and will allow the adhesive to fasten firmly to the wall.  


Sanding of a wall with a power sander

Pro-Tip: A spray bottle with water misted on wallpaper until it is soaked will allow you to pull it right off the wall with no effort.

Tools for the Job

In order to complete this DIY project, you will need to have certain tools on hand. First off, you will need a tape measure. This important step will help determine how much tile you will need. First measure the length of the area to be tiled and then measure the height of the area. Multiply these two figures to get the square footage you will need but be sure to add about 10% to that number in case of waste or mistakes. You will also need a notched trowel, a grout float, a sponge and a tile cutter, which can be rented from a local retailer or rental service. As for materials, you will need little plastic tile spacers, a plastic bucket for mixing your grout, a tile adhesive or if using a glass tile a white thinset and of course grout. You can select from different colors of grout depending on your tile color and kitchen décor. 


Tools for working with ceramic tiles


Let the Fun Begin

Before you start, make sure there is no power to the electrical outlets you may be working around. You start by applying the adhesive to your wall with a notched trowel, holding it at a slight angle. It is best to work in small areas at a time, about the size of eight tiles. Once spread out, firmly place the tiles in position, starting at the bottom vertical edge. Place plastic tile spacers at each corner to keep a proper spacing between tiles. Continue this process to cover the whole area to be tiled eight at a time, until your backsplash area is completely tiled. In this process you will need to cut tiles to fit in odd shaped areas, if any. The tiles will need to set for at least 24 hours before moving to the next step.




It’s All About the Grout

First, mix the grout in a clean bucket and remove the plastic spacers. Use a rubber grout float to scoop some grout and start filling in the tile joints. It’s important to not leave any air pockets in the grout. Scrape the excess grout as you go. It is best to move along in a diagonal direction to fill the gaps deeply. Once this is done it is time to sponge away the excess grout, do not let the grout dry first.


Grouting ceramic tiles


Sponge Clean and Finish with Caulking

This step is where you will get to see the magic of your hard work. Wet your sponge but squeeze out the excess water. Carefully wipe your tiles clean, removing the excess grout. You will want to frequently soak and squeeze your sponge to keep it relatively clean. Once you have finished cleaning your tile and wiping away leftover grout, you will need to caulk any areas that may be exposed to water, like around your countertop edging. It will take 24 to 48 hours for the grout to cure.


Cleaning concept trace sponge on a dirty wall tiles


Adding a splash of color, a different pattern or even a glass tile can quickly change up the look of your kitchen. It is relatively inexpensive to remodel this part of your kitchen on your own and once the job is complete, you can sit back and look at the work of art you created. 

DISCLAIMER: Readers should keep in mind that any accounts of renovation presented in this blog are written accounts of events taking place at individual homes, and are not necessarily endorsements of do-it-yourself home improvement. You proceed at your own risk if you attempt to replicate any activities described here.

Images used with permission, courtesy of and

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