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How to Install a Tile Kitchen Backsplash

Last modified: 2019-03-13 | Approximate reading time 4 mins

Amanda Harvey

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

You can express your creativity and style through your backsplash, so instead of overlooking it, consider updating it to add life to a dull kitchen. The process itself isn't too difficult, so if you're ready to take on the job, we at have got you covered with a step-by-step guide to installing a new kitchen backsplash!

kitchen backsplash

Here is how to install a kitchen backsplash

Gather materials for the installation process

Collect and gather all your materials including tiles, tile adhesive and grout. Alongside your materials, you’ll need the correct tools including a notched trowel, tape measure, sponge, level, utility knife, pencil and tile-cutter. Also, consider something to cover your countertops with 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 up the walls

Clean your walls and the surrounding area, as they must be free of dust and grease. Wipe the walls down with a damp rag, and allow enough time for them to dry. Without clean walls, the adhesive will not stick correctly. If there are any defects in the wall, it is important that you repair them before moving forward.

New tiles can be applied directly onto wallpaper, but do not make the same mistake with old tiles. Remove any old tile from the walls before starting the project. Also, sand out any bumps in the wall gently without sanding away the paint. This step is often overlooked, but greatly increases the bond of the adhesive to the wall.

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Measure things out

Measure out the space. Make sure that you complete this job carefully and accurately, as you’ll want the backsplash to fit snuggly in place. Choose a point to stop, either below your cabinets or somewhere on the wall. Also, make sure you have enough material to cover the space where you’re hoping the backsplash will be. Make sure to use a level or straight edge to mark a stopping point on the wall. Remove any switch plates or outlet covers from the area. If you're curious or nervous, test out your tile pattern by laying it out on the floor to make sure everything is in working order!

Apply the adhesive product

Kitchen backsplash_how to

source: Flickr, Stephanie

Using the trowel, smooth adhesive across the clear wall. 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 you use. For tiles, you can use tile mastic, which is a specially formulated, ready-to-use adhesive that does not need to be mixed. It is best to do this in small sections, as applying too much at once will lead to the adhesive drying before the tiles are put on the walls.

A rule of thumb is to cover only an area large enough for eight tiles. Start 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. However, this will make it far more difficult to attach them to the wall. 

If you are applying a tile backsplash, press tiles into the adhesive on the wall, making sure that the base of the tile is parallel with the edge of the counter. Use your level to make sure they are even, pushing on each tile a few times to make sure they are secured to the wall. Your entire area can be covered using this method, attaching all remaining tiles until you reach the edges of the wall. Correctly cut the corner materials or tiles to work with oddly shaped corners or edges. If you find you have empty spaces, fill these with pieces of spare tile or material.

Tile backsplash

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 consider this before applying.

Don’t worry about the grout going over the tiles, as you will remove the excess grout later. The correct method for spreading grout is to apply it in a sweeping pattern at a 45-degree angle. Pack it tightly between tiles. Let the grout set, which should take 30 to 45 minutes.  Double check that all the cracks between tiles have been filled, while the remaining area should have unnecessary grout cleaned.

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 or other backsplash material. Also, seal backsplash with silicone caulk. Make sure this is the same colour as the grout. It will help to keep out water and prevent the growth of mould and mildew.

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

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

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 is 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 over the tiles as you press, making sure they don’t shift!

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