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How to Install Tile Backsplash Yourself with Ease

Like any other home improvement DIY project, installing a kitchen backsplash can initially seem daunting. What kind of material will you need? How long will it take? How messy will it be? We're here to tell you that installing a tile backsplash on your own isn't hard at all! No need to be overwhelmed - we are going to take you through the process, step by step.

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Select Your Tile


The first thing you need to choose is the material you will be using for the backsplash. Ceramic tile is the most popular material because it's easy to install, comes in a variety of colors, and is very durable. However, some people choose to install glass tile, natural stone like marble, stainless steel, and even wood for a backsplash. From there, there are even more unique style options available, like mosaic tile or porcelain tile. It really depends on your own personal style and the overall look of the room.


Wall tiles are typically much lighter than floor tiles. They are easy to cut and easy to lift and install into the wall. Once you decide on your tile of preference, you should measure the amount of space that you are aiming to cover. It's also a good idea to buy a little bit of extra material, in case you make a mistake or measure something incorrectly. You will also need grout, tile adhesive, tile-cutting tools, a tape measure, a drill, a trowel, a utility knife, tile spacers, a rubber float, and a grouting sponge.


The most important part of this whole installation process is portioning the tiles correctly, so they look good on the wall after you install them. The backsplash space between countertop and cabinets can usually be filled with three or four rows of tile, depending on how big of a kitchen you have. The installation will look better if it's vertically even and symmetrical. If you had an oddly-shaped backsplash space, you could use a tile cutter to make edge tiles to correct any kind of gap you have in the space.


Prep Your Work Space

1. Clean your work space. You can just simply wipe it down with a damp sponge, and let it dry. If you are going to install your backsplash tile over painted drywall, it's a good idea to use a sanding sponge to make the surface rough, allowing the tile to better adhere to the wall. 


2. Measure and mark the center of the area that is being tiled, ensuring your lines are symmetrical. Ensure your countertop is level and if it isn't, use a tile standing upright at the lowest point to create a level line along the wall. Draw a line parallel to the top of that tile using a standard or laser level, across the wall space being tiled. The tops of all the tiles that will live in the bottom row must meet the line you draw or be cut from the bottom to meet that line.


3. Take note of any electrical outlets in your way. Remove the faceplates and apply painters tape over the openings; you'll have to account for this space when situating your tiles.


Make the Cut

4. The first cuts you should make into the tile should be for the bottom part of the backsplash, and the sides. You can cut the top portion of the backsplash at the end of the project.


You can cut most tile with a manual snap cutter, which is available at Home Depot or Lowes. It's not a very expensive tool, and it's a good investment to make if you plan on installing more backsplashes into your home.


5. Apply wall tile adhesive to the backsplash area. Take care: the adhesive will dry quickly. Only cover as much space as you can tile in about 10 to 15 minutes. Use the flat side of your trowel to apply the adhesive, followed by the notched side of the trowel, rake the adhesive to create ridges.


This adhesive will either come pre-mixed or in powder form. With the powder form, be sure to read the instructions on the back on how to best mix it. It should end up being the consistency of peanut butter and carefully applied to the wall with a trowel. 


6. Always start at the bottom and work your way up. If you are including a vertical border, start with that. If you will not have a border, start from the bottom row in the center. Work upward, completing one full row at a time. Many tiles will have built in spacers on their edge, but if your tiles don't, be sure to use spacers. Use your spacers to maintain an even distance between tiles, and make sure to leave room for grout later. As you continue to place tiles, periodically check your work to make sure that the tiles have adhered to the wall securely.


Photo by Dmitry Melnikov on Shutterstock

7. After completing about 2 or 3 rows of tile, measure and cut corner tiles to the correct size and place them with the cut edges towards the corners. Upon reaching the top row, cut the tiles as necessary to fit around the cabinets. If you're working to get the trowel in a tight spot like right under the cabinets, try applying the adhesive directly to the back of the tile instead.


8. Allow your adhesive to set and dry for at least 24 hours or for however long the manufacturer recommends. Once the time is up, wipe down the tiles with a wet sponge and let it dry. Remove the plastic spacers from the tile.


9. Begin applying the grout with the rubber float, making sure to get deep into the grooves. Hold the float at a 45-degree angle and travel across the tiles diagonally. Make sure to not add grout into the bottom-most edge where the tiles meet the countertop, as this is where you will want to use caulk to seal it up.


10. Use the float to remove any excess grout. Allow the grout to set for about 10 minutes. Use a damp sponge to wipe away any excess, and be sure to rinse the sponge frequently to keep it clean. Take care to not wet the grout! Again, wipe at a 45-degree angle to clean off the tiles, taking care to not dislodge grout from the joints. After it has dried, eliminate any grout haze from the tiles by applying a release agent. Depending on your tile type, you may want to use a grout sealant after the grout has completely dried.


And that's it! The project is as simple as that. The actual time you will spend with the installation is probably only about three hours tops; the rest is drying time.

Enjoy your beautiful new backsplash and a job well done!


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