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Tile Kitchen Backsplash: How to Install it

Last modified: 2022-06-21 | Approximate reading time 5 mins

The backsplash may appear an afterthought in an otherwise well-designed and appliance-focused kitchen. However, the narrow strip of wall that runs between the counter and cabinets can change the entire look of this room.

Instead of overlooking it, you can express your creativity and style through your backsplash, so consider updating it to breathe life into a dull kitchen. The process itself isn't too difficult, so if you're ready to take on the job, we've got you covered with this step-by-step guide to install a new kitchen backsplash!

kitchen_Tile Kitchen Backsplash: How to Install it

How to install a kitchen backsplash

Gather materials for the installation process

First things first, collect and gather all materials necessary for this project. This includes the following:

  • tiles;
  • tile cutter;
  • 4-in-1 screwdriver;
  • caulk gun;
  • grout;
  • grout float;
  • level;
  • rubber mallet;
  • notched trowel;
  • tape measure;
  • utility knife;
  • non-contact voltage tester;
  • pencil;
  • sponge.

Also, consider using something to cover your countertops before starting this job, like an old sheet or large piece of material you aren’t too fond of, as you’ll want to keep your countertops clean while you’re installing the backsplash.

Clean the walls

To start this project off on the right foot, begin by cleaning your walls and the surrounding area, as they must be free of dust and grease. This can be done by wiping the walls down with a damp rag and allowing time for them to dry. Without clean walls, the adhesive won't be able to stick correctly. If there are any defects in the wall, it's important that you repair them before moving forward.

New tiles can be applied directly onto your wall, but don't make the same mistake with old tiles. It is crucial to remove any older tile from your wall before proceeding. Also, if you notice any bumps, sand them down gently and avoid sanding away the paint.

If you notice any holes, these can be filled in with spackling paste and then sanded down using sandpaper. This step is often overlooked, but it greatly increases the bond between the adhesive and the wall.

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Carefully measure the area

Measure the space where you'll be working. Make sure that you complete this part of the job carefully and accurately, as you’ll want the backsplash to fit snuggly in place. Also, measuring the wall area correctly is crucial to be certain that you have enough material to cover the entire backsplash area. If you're only measuring one section of the wall, multiply the width and height to get the square footage. If you're working in sections, multiply the width and height of each individual section. 

Stop at a point that rests either just below your cabinets or somewhere on the wall. For this step, it's important to use a level or straight edge to mark a stopping point on the wall. 

Next, remove any switch plates or outlet covers from the area. Also, be sure to turn the power off to any outlets or appliances in and around the area where you'll be working. Before you move on to the next step and if you're curious or nervous, test out your tile pattern by laying it on the floor to make sure everything's in working order!

Apply the tile adhesive 

white backsplash_Tile Kitchen Backsplash: How to Install it

source: Flickr, Stephanie

It's important to note here that there are many different types of adhesives, so rely on the material of your wall as well as the material of your backsplash to determine the type of adhesive that's best. For tiles, you can use tile mastic, which is a specially formulated, ready-to-use adhesive that doesn't need to be mixed. 

Using the trowel, smooth adhesive over your clean wall. Press the adhesive in place at a 45-degree angle, as this will ensure it adheres to the wall correctly. Using the notched edge, add a little extra adhesive onto the trowel, then comb even ridges in one direction. The notch trowel should correspond with the tile you're installing.

It's best to do this step by working in small sections, as applying too much adhesive at once will lead to it drying before the tiles are placed on the walls. A rule of thumb is to cover only an area large enough for eight tiles. Begin at the bottom center of the wall and work outwards from there. A common mistake is applying the adhesive directly to the backs of tiles. We'd say avoid doing this when possible, as it will be far more difficult to attach them to the wall. 

Instead, press tiles into the adhesive when it's already on the wall, making sure that the tile base is parallel with the edge of the counter. Use your level to check that they're even, and when you're certain, push on each tile a few times to further secure them to the wall. The area where you're working can be covered using this method, attaching all remaining tiles until you reach the edges of the wall.

If you're working with oddly shaped corners or edges, correctly cut the corner materials or tiles using a tile cutter. We'd suggest doing this step beforehand so that tiles can be applied one after another and will dry within the same timeframe. If you find you've miscalculated and are left with empty spaces, fill these with pieces of spare tile or material.

white backsplash_Tile Kitchen Backsplash: How to Install it

Apply grout

Wait until the following day to complete this step. With a clean trowel, spread grout evenly across the tiles. If your walls are concrete, the grouting process can be problematic, as grout seeps into the porous surface of concrete, so do consider this before applying.

The correct method for spreading grout is to apply it in a sweeping pattern at a 45-degree angle. Don’t worry about grout going over tiles, as you'll remove the excess later. Be certain to pack it tightly between tiles. Now, let the grout set, which should take 30 to 45 minutes. Double-check that all the cracks between tiles have been filled.

If you find excess grout on the tiles, this should be cleared away. This can be done with a dry cloth, wiping diagonally so as not to pull any grout from the joints.

An optional step is to apply a grout sealant to help protect your tiles/backsplash material. You could also seal your backsplash with silicone caulk. if you choose to complete this step, make sure it's the same colour as the grout. It'll help to keep out water and prevent mould and mildew growth.

If you’re installing a peel-and-stick backsplash

Follow the initial steps we instructed above, including collecting all the correct materials and tools needed for the installation of your backsplash. Also, complete the steps to clean your walls and measure the space! If you're working with individual stick-on tiles, you may require spacers to make sure they're spread out evenly.

Now your tiles are prepped and ready to be applied!  Peeling off the backing, stick pieces onto your desired location. As with regular tiles, it's recommended that you start from the bottom center of the wall and work outwards. Check to see that each tile or the entire sheet firmly adheres to the wall. Hold a straight edge, such as a ruler or level, over the tiles as you press, to be sure they don’t shift!

This project is an excellent way to improve both the look and value of your home. Not to mention, it only takes a day or so to complete. If you’re looking to learn a new skill and get your hands dirty, then we’d say this is the right project for you.

If you’re looking for a little bit of inspiration before diving into this project, you may want to take a look at some of our articles:

Get 3 renovation quotes for your kitchen backsplash project can help you find a trustworthy contractor for your kitchen backsplash project. By submitting your project to us, we’ll be able to put you in contact with the best companies in our network. Fill in the form on the homepage (it only takes a few minutes).

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