How to Tile a Backsplash in 7 Easy Steps

There’s no underestimating the power of a well-chosen kitchen backsplash. For starters, they prevent water, grease, and other debris from damaging the walls behind your stoves and sinks. But function aside, backsplashes can add a fun visual element to your kitchen with their unique designs and patterns.

Now, you’re probably thinking, ‘how to tile a kitchen backsplash on drywall?’ or ‘can I tile a new backsplash by myself?’ The short answer is it depends. While backsplash installations are best left to the pros, handy DIYers with a few skills up their sleeve can take it up as a weekend project.

That said, a little prep never hurt anybody, which is why we’ll walk you through the seven basics of installing a tile kitchen backsplash.

7 Steps to Tiling a Kitchen Backsplash

If your current kitchen backsplash isn’t cutting it, or worse, you’re yet to get your first one- you’re in luck. Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to tile a brand-new kitchen backsplash.

1. Measure Your Wall

First things first, measure your wall to determine how many tiles you’ll need to cover your entire backsplash. Proper measurements will help control costs and ensure you only purchase what you need.

A few tips here. In case you have only one section to cover, multiply the width and height of the wall to determine its square footage. For walls with disproportionate sections, separate areas out to measure them. Always add ten percent to your final number to fill in for small gaps or replace any damaged pieces.

2. Gather Your Tools and Materials

Tiling a backsplash requires multiple tools specifically meant for working with tile, including measuring tape, levels, tile cutters, trowels, and the like. You’ll also need adhesive, grout, and the tile itself.

3. Prepare Your Drywall

If you plan to attach your new backsplash to new/existing kitchen drywall, prepping it is non-negotiable. The top objective is to create a smooth surface, so the tile can go on with ease. Remember, lumps and bumps can lead to crooked lines, so you want to level your drywall as much as possible.

For new drywall:

  • Inspect the kitchen drywall carefully to ensure it is nailed to the studs.
  • Seal the seams on the new drywall with tape and compound. Once dry, sand the area with medium-grit sandpaper to make sure it’s smooth.
  • Wipe down the area with a damp cloth to remove any residue.
  • Prime the area to seal the drywall. We recommend you prime an area larger than you require to minimize cut-in work when you paint the rest of the room.

For previously painted or textured drywall:

  • Start by removing any molding, switch plates, outlet covers, or other hardware attached to the area being tiled.
  • Scrape away loose or peeling wallpaper.
  • Use a tri-sodium phosphate solution to remove any residual dust or grease.
  • Spackle any cracks/holes and sand the area until smooth.
  • Prime, dry, and paint as required.

That’s it- you’re ready to tile!

4. Design and Pre-Lay Your Pattern

Now that you have your tools and your kitchen drywall is prepped, the rest is a piece of cake. Start by laying your tile out on the counter, so you can see how the pattern will come together and where you want to begin. Note that you may have to score and cut your tile at certain angles, depending on the height of your wall and your chosen design.

You’ll also want to offset your pattern by having every row start with half a tile cut straight. Besides being the simplest way to hide grout lines, this method can also help make your tile stronger and hide imperfections.

Be sure to mark the beginning and end positions of your layout. Some tile designs look best when they are centered around a focal point, such as a faucet or stove. Others are meant to span the entire length of your backsplash. Take a good look at your tiles to determine exactly what you want your backsplash to look like.

5. Mix the Mortar

The next step is to mix the thin-set mortar for natural and mosaic tiles.

Start by:

  • Filling your bucket with the amount of water mentioned on the package.
  • Gradually adding the mortar powder, mixing as you go.
  • Letting the powder stand for a couple of minutes.
  • Mixing once again, but without water.

Once the mix is ready, you have a limited window to use it. In case you’re looking to save time, use a tile-setting mat that adheres to the wall. Doing this will help you tile immediately and move on to grouting.

Further- and we cannot stress this enough- use a high-quality white mortar for light-colored tiles. Be sure to read the packaging carefully to check if it’s compatible with the material of your tile.

6. Lay the Tiles

Arrange the tiles on the wall and use spacers to keep them in line. Also, try and maintain about an inch of space between the top row and your cabinetry. If the space is greater than an inch, cut a few extra tile pieces to fit the gap.

Allow the mortar and tile to dry completely before proceeding to the next step. This usually takes about 24 hours, but the exact time might vary based on the type of mortar used and the interior temperature of your home.

For stone tiles, it’s best to use a pre-sealer for a couple of hours before applying the grout. A pre-sealer can help protect the stone from staining, so it looks brand-new for longer.

7. Grout Tiles and Finish Up

As intimidating as it may sound, grouting is a fairly simple process that involves tapplying grout to your float, working it in, and dragging the float around until the grout evens itself out.

Still, if you could use some pro tips, here’s a quick rundown on how to grout your tile backsplash.

  • Wipe the tiles clean and remove all the spacers before you apply the grout.
  • Prepare the grout mix and let it stand for 5-10 minutes.
  • Remix without additional water.
  • Apply the grout at an angle and work diagonally
  • Use a damp sponge to remove the grout from the face of the tiles in a circular motion and shape the grout joints fully. Repeat this process several times.

The next step is to allow the grout to cure as directed. Once this is done, you can wipe down the tiles one last time to remove any remaining haze. Use a grout sealer, and you’re done.

The Bottom Line

Congratulations! You just learned how to install your very own tile backsplash. However, while this may seem easy on paper, there are plenty of working parts to it. Don’t hesitate to hire with a professional kitchen remodeler to handle things if you don’t feel comfortable doing everything yourself.

At OMG Kitchen & Bath, we understand how precious your kitchen is to you. That’s why we always go the distance to provide you with the best service possible. Whether you need kitchen drywall repair or a brand-new backsplash, we can do it for you- and more! For more information, give us a call today.

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