How to Redo Your Kitchen Backsplash with Tile: Step-By-Step Guide
Making plans to redo your kitchen backsplash? Have you considered doing it yourself? With some help, you can tackle the majority of this project yourself. Here’s how.
Redoing your kitchen backsplash with tile is a great way to make a splash (pun intended) with a relatively simple renovation. Doing it yourself is a great way to save some money and learn handy skills. Follow along with each step of the process, and you’ll be surprised at how well it can turn out.
How to Redo Your Kitchen Backsplash: 9 Steps
#1) Choose Your Tile
Whether it’s ceramic, glass, marble, granite, porcelain, metal or stacked stone, your choice of tile is up to you. Find a tile that complements your cabinets, countertops and, most importantly, your style.
There are a lot of tile options out there, so choosing can be a bit intimidating. Check out this tile guide for more information on tile materials.
#2. Choose Your Grout
You found a tile you adore to redo your kitchen backsplash. Next, you need to pick the right grout type and color. Grout is a mix of cement, water, color pigment and (sometimes) sand, and it’s used as a filler for the spacer joints in between tiles after the tiles you install have set.
The type of grout you select depends on the tile. Options include:
- Sanded grout
- Unsanded grout (mainly for tight spacers and glass tile)
- Hydroment®Vivid™ from Bostik (stain resistant – highly recommended for wet areas and high traffic areas)
- Bostik Trucolor®Rapidcure™
When it comes to color, you generally have two options: monochromatic and accenting. Just like your choice of tile, it all depends on the look and feel you desire for your final design. (Note: Not all grouts match your tile 100% as it is a different material, but you can come close if you prefer monochromatic.)
#3) Prep the Wall
You picked out your tile and grout, but before you start, you need to get your surfaces ready. Properly prepping your work area is crucial to a successful installation.
Here are some tips you should follow:
- Turn off the electricity to your kitchen outlets.
- Clear your counters. Move any appliances out of the way, like your range and vent hood.
- Tape down some sort of protective layering on your countertops to handle any spills. (DROP CLOTH OR CARDBOARD)
- Gently and patiently remove any existing tile with a chisel edge scraper, or contact a professional for help removing your existing backsplash.
- Tape off the edges of your work area.
- Fill in any holes in your wall with spackle and sand down until even.
- Clean your wall with mild soap and water to get rid of any leftover residue that will affect the adhesion of the mortar.
Note: The wall must be level and flat. Otherwise, the tile will be as out of square as the wall and look wavy or crooked. The dry wall on the splash area should also be primed or painted so the thinset is not absorbed, not allowing the tile to stick to the surface properly.
#4) Mark the Wall & Plan the Tile
Before you get started, you want to have a rough plan of where you’re going to lay the tile.
Place tiles or tile sheets across the wall. Mark starting and end points. Work your way outward and upward using a level to keep everything even. You may need to cut tiles to fill in irregular gaps. Use a tile cutter for porcelain or ceramic, a tile nipper for any circular cuts and wet tie saw for natural stone tile to prevent chipping. All these tools can be found at your local hardware store. You should consider renting them for this job if you don’t plan on doing any tile work in the future.
#5) Apply Adhesives
Now the project really gets started.
Mix and prepare your mortar product of choice. Ensure that it’s compatible with your tile type. You have a limited time to use it—generally up to 4 hours after it’s been mixed.
When applying, begin with 2-foot sections, spreading with flat side of the trowel, pressing at a 45-degree angle. Switch to the notched edge, add a little more mortar, and then spread down on covered section in one direction, so ridges are all parallel.
(Alternatively, you can also use a tile setting mat to quickly set tile without mortar and move right onto grouting.)
#6) Install the Tile
Here’s where the rubber meets the road, or tile meets the mortar.
Place mosaic sheets or tiles, add spacers to help keep the pieces lined up and floor the lines. Rock the sheet or tiles back and forth, perpendicular to the mortal lines, so they collapse in and adhere to the tile. (Do not let too much mortar fill in the spaces or you won’t have enough depth to fill in with grout later…)
A trick when it comes to mosaics: You can mortar the back of each sheet and let it dry overnight, giving the tile a stiffer sheet to cut. Then place or cut first and apply the mortar to stiffen the sheet, then install the next day.
#7) Fill Gaps with Cut Tiles
This is where it gets a little tricky. You have to fit the tiles under and around the layout of your kitchen. And that means you’ll have to cut some tiles to fill in irregular gaps.
Measure out and cut pieces to fill in the gaps around outlets or other areas. If the space between the top row of tiles and cabinetry is greater than an inch, cut your extra tile pieces to fit the space. If the gap is smaller, consider installing a piece of molding to hide it. Cut tiles and fill the space until the wall is completely covered making sure your spacers are consistent, otherwise the grout line will look out of sync.
Note: Crackled tile or stone tile should be sealed and let dry prior to grouting. Do not allow sealer to get in the spacer joint or the grout will not stick properly.
#8) Fill in the Grout
Now it’s time to add the grout.
Allow mortar to dry completely, usually 24 hours depending on manufacturer specs and house conditions.
Wipe tiles clean with water and remove tile spacers, fill a bucket of water and gradually add grout powder mix thoroughly. Let sit for 5-10 minutes.
Once mixed you have a limited time to use. Work in small sections so that you can complete an area within 30 minutes to avoid any untimely drying. Use a damp sponge to remove excess grout from tile faces, careful not to remove grout in cracks.
Repeat this step several times. After about 3 hours to set, you can use a cheesecloth or sponge to remove any more grout haze.
#9) Clean & Seal
After 3-7 days, everything should be fully dried. Apply a grout sealer to protect from spatter, spills or wet areas for ease of cleaning for years to come. After the sealer dries you can caulk in the seam between the counter and backsplash, replace your appliances and any other cookware you removed. And then you’re all set!
Never use a harsh acidic PH cleaner to wipe your tile or grout – you may use a mild solution like DAWN and water to wipe and then dry the area if needed periodically.
If you’re looking to gain some new skills and make a real upgrade to your home, then maybe it’s time to redo your kitchen backsplash. This step-by-step guide will help you start this DIY project, but be sure to refer to any guidelines from your tile, grout and other material manufacturers.
And when in doubt, you can always talk to an expert for more advice on your specific backsplash project.