How to Install Your Own Tile Backsplash
Putting in your own backsplash is the kind of project you only have to devote a weekend to, and can save yourself plenty of money when you don’t hire a contractor. Plus, you get the tangible reward of having done a DIY project yourself, controlling every aspect every step of the way. It’s not an overly difficult task, but just one that requires careful planning and a patient, steady hand. After you’re done picking out what kind of tiling you’re going to be using, read on to find out just how to put them up on your walls and enjoy a beautiful new look.

What You’ll Need


  • Tape measure
  • Glazed wall tiles
  • Tile cutter
  • Tile nippers or tile saw
  • Waterproof grout
  • Rubber grout float
  • Safety goggles
  • Level
  • Pencil
  • Rubber or latex gloves
  • Waterproof mastic tile adhesive
  • Putty knife
  • Notched trowel
  • Plaster washer screws that measure 1 1/4 inch to 1 5/8 inch

    Step 1: Prepare the Wall


    No matter what you do in life, whether it’s cooking a dish of pasta or writing an essay, there’s always going to be a little bit of preparation involved. The better you tackle the preparation bit, the smoother the rest of the process will go. It just ensures you’re giving yourself the best canvas to work with, and don’t have to take unnecessary time out in the middle of the project to tackle bits you should have before.

    What you want to start with is clearing the surface you’ll be working with, so take off all light switch plates and outlet covers. Next, prepare the surface by sanding it down with 80-grit paper to roughen it, then wipe the dust dry.

    Using your pencil and level, draw a plumb line down the center mark as your starting line. This is an incredibly crucial part where you absolutely need to get it right, as a crooked line will mess up everything else in the project. Take as much time as you need to and measure until it’s straight, and give your backsplash the best chance it has of looking awesome once it’s up. Remember the old saying of “measure twice, cut once”, and really take it to heart here. To get your center line, make sure you take off 1/4 inch off the bottom for the grout line.

    Step 2: Cutting the Tiles


    A good tip to use is to take a piece of paper and cut it to fit the size of the wall where you’re going to be putting the backsplash on, and then put the tiling right on there on the floor to get a visual of just what you’ll need. Once you have your paper cutout on the floor, cut your tiles to size and check their specs before sticking them to the wall. Once you cut the tiles to size, sand the rough edges so they’ll fit together neatly.

    If you’ve never cut tiles before, it’s a pretty easy step. Just put the tile in the cutter and adjust the specs to the measurement you want. What happens is the tile will be scored to create a weak point, and then the cutter will snap the tile according to the score line. It’s a good idea to get a little surplus of tiles just in case you run into bumps or obstacles.

    Step 3: Applying Mastic and Grout to the Wall


    You’re onto the exciting part now, as you’re that much closer to actually turning your wall tiles into backsplash. Take your putty knife and apply a bit of tile mastic to the wall, but only enough for one tile to be attached. To get a good adhesion going, take your notched trowel and texture it and then set your tile in place. You may need to wiggle it around a little before it sets in cleanly and snugly, but keep doing it and use that approach for every tile. The mastic will dry very quickly, so only put on as much as you can use in 15 minutes to ensure you don’t have to scrape it off and start over again.

    You’ll need to let the mastic cure overnight to ensure your backsplash looks good for a while, but once that’s done, you can remove the tile spacers.

    You’re going to have to let the grout dry overnight as well (after the tiles have set), but first, mix it according to the instructions and then use your grout float to fill in the gaps around the tiles. The next day, take off any excess grout with a sponge and water, or however the instructions tell you to.

    Tip: If you’re using a vertical border row, start with that first. If not, then just work your way up from the bottom, and use spacers in between the tiles if you have to and try not to squeeze mastic into the joints. The spacers are there to give a good, even appearance with the grout.

    Step 4: Finishing Up


    You’re almost done now, and there’s only one thing left: attach the plate covers and start enjoying your backsplash. You’ve worked hard on it but did the project yourself, and now you’ll be able to enjoy a beautiful backsplash for some time to come.

    Amy Wright
    Amy Wright is the Lead Editor of Remodeling Central. When she isn't playing with her dogs she is trying to remodel a classic Chicago style brownstone with her husband.

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