How to Install a Tile Backsplash

Tips for how to install a tile backsplash

Installing our tile backsplash was a huge DIY step forward for Michael Luke. At first the idea of tackling such a major renovation task seemed daunting (see here)but with a little research and prep it proved to be rather easy and extremely rewarding.

The process can be broken down into six easy to manage steps:

1.  Sand and Clean the Wallsanding

Sanding your walls isn’t something that needs to be done before every tile installation. But, in our case it was necessary. Why?  Because somebody at some point or another in our house’s history decided to apply plaster all over our walls.  Leaving it all lumpy and textured like this.

kitchen

So, we needed to get it smooth before we could move forward.  Michael Luke used our electric sander to smooth down the area where the backsplash was going to be installed.

Cover anything you don’t want to get dusty or wipe down later and enclose the room you are working in with a dust partition.  If not, you could possibly end up something like this.

dust

Just picture the dust above all over our entire house.  It was not fun cleaning up.  After, you finish sanding wipe down the wall with a damp cloth.

2.  Apply the Mastic

mastic applicationTo keep costs low we chose Tec Invision Ready To Use White Universal Adhesive as our mastic.  This method doesn’t require any special equipment that an amateur DIYer might not have.  The only tool needed is a notched trowel to spread the mastic evenly and horizontally onto the wall once it is clean and dry. To determine which size notched trowel you need refer to the back of the mastic container.  In our case we used a 3/16″ x 5/32″ trowel  for 3″ x 6″ size tiles. One gallon of mastic was enough to cover our entire backsplash area.

3.  Installing the Tile

kitchen

Once a section of mastic is applied begin applying the tiles to the wall starting at the bottom and working up.  Before laying the first tile decide how you want the tiles to look.  Do you want to start in the center and work out? Or start on one end and work to the other?  For our installation we started on the end closest to the refrigerator and worked to the left.  Centering the tiles would not have been noticeable on this wall.

4.  Use Spacers for Uniformity

ledge of tile

Spacers are used between tiles to keep them in place while the mastic dries.  They are easy to pull out and are removed before grouting.  The size of your grout joint will depend on your tile size and grout type.  We used 1/8″ tile spacers.

(Helpful Hint: Refer to the grout container for joint size.)

(Helpful Hint: Temporarily nail a scrap piece of wood behind the oven level with the counters to hold the tile in place until the mastic dries.)

counter at edge

5.  Cutting Tile

finished tile

One of the biggest set backs in a tile installation is cutting tile to fit around electrical outlets and other areas.  Tile can be cut with a wet saw or a hand tool.  Michael Luke used the hand tool because we had one on hand and it was more cost effective than a wet saw.  I’ll be back later this week detailing how it works.

6.  Grout

applying grout

After your mastic has had time to dry and the spacers have been removed you are ready to grout.  Refer to the mastic container for drying times.  Drying time depends on tile size and mastic manufacturer.  Like the mastic, we bought a ready to use mix, Tec Invision Read to Use Grout, in color Smoke Gray.  This stuff is great because you don’t have to seal it and it its stain, mold, mildew, and water resistant.

Applying it is super easy.  Spread liberally with a rubber trowel over tile and grout joints.  Next scape the excess grout from the tile.  Then, using a damp sponge pat the tile.  Clean tile ad smooth joints working the sponge in a circular motion.  Finally, drag a damp towel across surface to really make the tiles shine.  Don’t stress if you find some grout remaining after it has dried.  It can still be removed from the tiles using a damp cloth and a little elbow grease.

american olean backsplashsubway tile installation

These six simple steps give you a beautiful tile installation that doesn’t break the budget… or your back!

Have you ever attempted your own tile installation?  Did you learn any tricks of the trade secrets?  What was the hardest part for you?

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7 thoughts on “How to Install a Tile Backsplash

  1. Pingback: 2013 Year in Review | Color Transformed Family

  2. Chris Wilcox

    What an excellent result! I’ve been working with templating, manufacturing and even installing sprayed splashbacks for over 10 years and I must say, you got an amazing result with your tile splashback. Thanks for sharing this for people to learn.

    Reply

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