All You Need To Know on How To Tile A Kitchen Backsplash

Painting your kitchen tiles or making a chalkboard are some easy ways to upgrade your kitchen. But tiling a backsplash (or splashback) above the countertop is the easiest way to do so. What’s more, tiling a kitchen splashback is a good do it yourself project for homeowners to learn new things around the house. If you like DIY projects, you can also check our guide on how to tile a bathroom to learn more about tiling

A stainless steel stove with shiny tiles installed in a subway pattern.

But if it’s your first time as a DIYer and you want to learn more about how to tile a backsplash, we are about to share with you all the relevant details to master this project. Ready to walk you through the process with our step-by-step guide?

What tiles to use for the kitchen backsplash

When it comes to tiles for your backsplash, you have several options to choose from. There’s a wide range of tile ideas, materials, colours, shapes, sizes and designs. Thus, spend some time reading the details for all of your options and then decide the best that meets your needs.

To help you make up your mind, we are about to show you a list of all the possible tiles you can use: 

1. Porcelain or Ceramic tiles

Ceramic tiles are the most popular for a kitchen backsplash. They consist of natural clay-based materials fired at high temperatures. There are two types based on their hardness: Group-1 and Group-2, which are suitable for walls. They’re easy-to-care and clean, affordable, and available in various colours, shapes, sizes, designs, glossy and matte finishes.

2. Glass tiles

Glass tiles are perfect for bringing light into a room and making it look bigger. They’re ultra-easy to clean and can be found in different sizes and colours. You can also find glass mosaic tiles that will boost a backsplash.

3. Metallic tiles

Metallic tiles have a steel finish that you can pair with your stainless steel kitchen appliances. Note that you can find finishes and colours like oil rubbed bronze, brushed nickel etc. These tiles can be cleaned as you clean your stainless steel appliances.

Metallic wall tiles

4. Natural stone (marble, slate etc.)

Stone gives a unique impact to the backsplash. Stone tiles add warmth, luxury and texture to the room. However, they need special treatment over time, like sealing. What’s more, because they’re porous, they stain very easily, meaning you need to clean them more often than porcelain tiles.  

How to tile a kitchen backsplash

Needed materials and tools:

  • 4-in-1 screwdriver
  • Bucket
  • Drill/driver – cordless
  • Grout float
  • Level
  • Non-contact voltage tester
  • Notched trowel
  • Rubber mallet
  • Self-centring drill bit
  • Tape measure
  • Utility knife
  • Caulk
  • Grout
  • Grout sealer
  • Mastic or tile adhesive
  • Outlet extenders
  • Stone tile sealer
  • Tiles
  • Tile spacers
  • A sponge
  • tile cutter/ wet saw

Steps to follow:

1. Prepare the working area

  1. Prior to anything, you have to remove all the appliances from your countertop, so nothing will bother you while working. You also have to move the stove slightly so that you can install the tiles behind it.
  2. Protect your countertops from any debris by placing a piece of cardboard or craft paper.
  3. Turn off the stove’s power, electric outlets or switches and remove the cover plates.

2. Measure the wall

The second most important thing you have to do is to measure the wall you’re about to tile. Proper measuring will determine the number of tiles you will need, plus all the other supplies such as adhesive, spacers and so forth. This will save you from extra expenses.

Now, to measure the surface, you need to do as follows:

  1. Choose a stopping point. It can be either below the cabinets or at a random point on the wall. 
  2. Using a level and straight edge, mark your stopping point along the wall.
  3. Now, measure the width and height of the wall surface using the tape measure and multiply them. That will give you the square metre. Make sure to include an additional 10% to use as a replacement for damaged pieces. 

3. Clean up the wall

The wall must be free of dust and grease so that the adhesive will stick to the walls. A mixture of plain water and mild dishwasher detergent will do the trick. Dip a clean sponge into the soapy water and wipe the wall to remove any splatters. And that’s all! Just before you move on to the next steps, let the wall dry completely. 

A man cleaning the wall over th stove with a cloth to tile a kitchen backsplash

4. Spread the tile adhesive or mastic

Using a trowel, apply a thin layer of adhesive to stick tiles to the wall. If you opt for a tile adhesive, apply it in small sections directly across the wall. Don’t apply it all over the wall at once because it will dry before attaching the tiles. Hold the trowel at a 45-degree angle to the wall. Keep next to you a bucket filled with water and a sponge to clean the trowel every time the adhesive hardens. 

However, if you choose to use mastic, which is like the adhesive, you can find premixed or make it yourself, spread it over each tile and not onto the wall. It is cleaner this way.

5. Attach the tiles

You can now start attaching the wall tiles. Place the first tile and press it into the adhesive. You can use a level to ensure they’re even. Then, add a tile above it and next to it. You can use spacers to ensure even spacing between tiles. Once you have installed the first row, continue the same procedure until you cover the entire surface. 

You may also need to cut tiles, especially close to electric outlets and at the end of the surface, for a proper tile installation. Use a tile saw for porcelain or ceramic tiles. If you’re using natural stone, then use a wet saw. You also need to use a tile nipper for circular incisions.

6. Apply the grout

Clean the trowel to spread the grout. Here’s what you need to do:

a man applying grout on white wall tiles

  1. Hold the trowel at a 45-degree angle and spread it evenly across the laid tiles.
  2. Let it set for a few minutes.
  3. Then, use a damp sponge and wipe the excess grout. The cracks should be filled and the tiles clean.
  4. Finally, let the grout dry completely and then wipe the tile with a dry cloth. 

7. Seal the tile backsplash

Now that you’re done with grouting, you should seal the tiles. However, it isn’t necessary to do so; the sealant will protect the tiles from mildew growth. It’s very simple: Just add a small amount of silicone caulk to the bottom edge of the tile. If you want to learn more about caulking, we got your back. Check our guide on how to caulk the countertop to the wall

And you’re done! You can now enjoy your kitchen tile backsplash.

How to install subway tile backsplash

Black and white subway tile backsplash

Needed materials and tools:

  • Tile 
  • Thinset
  • Tiling trowel 
  • Wet saw
  • Tile spacers
  • Non-Sanded Grout
  • Grout float
  • Large sponge
  • Cheesecloth
  • Tile caulk

Steps to follow:

1. Apply the thinset

Once your wall/drywall is clean and ready, you can start the tile installation. Apply the thinset on the wall. Lay it around with the notched side of the trowel and run it horizontally to create ridges.

2. Install the tiles

Now, start installing the tiles. Get the first one and line it up with the beginning of the countertop. Then, to apply your tiles in a subway pattern, complete the first row with full pieces of tiles and cut a tile in half to start the second row. Continue the same pattern to complete the subway tile backsplash pattern. Don’t forget to cut tiles to install them around the outlets.

3. Apply the grout

Clean any excess thinset and let it dry. It will take 24-48 hours. Once it is dry, you can apply the grout. Avoid using sanded grout on vertical surfaces. It’s better to use it on flooring and areas with larger grout lines. Using a grout float, apply it to tiles. Be sure you push it into spaces and holes between the tiles. Let the grout set for 10 minutes, and then wipe the tiled surface with a damp cloth or sponge. Let the tiles dry for a couple of hours and seal the lines and corners.

A kitchen with light coloured wooden cupboards and a backsplash tiled with white and green mosaic tiles

Tiling backsplash would be an easy DIY project from now on. Choose tiles, gather the tools and materials you’re going to need and have on hand our detailed guide to install a backsplash and nail this home improvement project.

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