Kitchen Tile Backsplash Install – A Complete Guide

The kitchen holds many sweet memories as it’s where the family joins together to have fights, discussions and laugh over a hearty meal. In the midst of all this cooking, it’s quite normal that the kitchen ends up rather dirty and messy. While cleaning is all there is to do, there is now a new preventive trend in the kitchen interior design industry which is, installing a backsplash.

A kitchen tile backsplash install provides an affordable means of changing the look of the kitchen with the material used as a backsplash. You can use glass, tiles, stone and even metal backsplashes to support the wall and give an aesthetic look to the kitchen. Besides, it also improves the overall hygiene in the kitchen.

Reasons and benefits to installing a kitchen backsplash

Kitchen Backsplash

Kitchen Backsplash

  1. The most important and obvious reason is protection. The backsplash protects the wall behind your sink and counters so that you needn’t go through the hassles of cleaning hard-to-clean stains. All the food and liquids end up on the backsplash instead of the wall. Moreover, the backsplash protects your kitchen walls from water damage by preventing too much water from coming in contact with kitchen walls.
  2. Style is another reason for installing a backsplash. You can choose the style and color of your backsplash. It can be something unique or something which blends with the kitchen’s existing decorating scheme.For uniformity purposes, choose a color which doesn’t clash with your countertops. As backsplashes, especially those made using ceramic tile are rather easy to install, you can add lots of style and pizzazz to the kitchen with minimal time and effort.
  3. A shorter cleaning time is another benefit of having a backsplash in your kitchen. Tile backsplashes are especially easy to clean as they are water resistant and can be cleaned using a damp cloth or sponge. Even glass tiles, metals and stone backsplashes if property sealed, are easier to clean than your walls!
  4. While choosing your backsplash material, choose something durable which lasts a long time without getting damaged or stained. Favorable options are tile, glass and metal as they are tough materials which prevent stains and require minimal maintenance. While stone is also very durable, make sure it’s sealed every year to prevent it from getting permanent stains.
  5. Adding a backsplash to your kitchen improves the looks and aesthetics of your kitchen and in the process also adds to the resale value of your home if you have plans of selling it in the future.
  6. Besides, homeowners know that a backsplash protects walls from stains and food debris, and in the process prevents pests from entering the kitchen.

The icing to all this is that the kitchen backsplash can be easily installed, even as a DIY project. DIY enthusiast will love the task of a installing the kitchen tile backsplash which is executed at affordable rates. Of course, if DIY is not your cup of tea you can always approach a professional to handle the task for you!

Average cost for installing a tile backsplash

The cost of installing the backsplash depends mainly on the amount of space you want the backsplash to cover, and the material you will be using. Even the complex angles and hard-to-reach areas to be covered affect the price of the project.

The more elaborate is the design, the more planning, skill and expensive it is. The cost also increases if there are electrical outlets to be cut in the tile or if there are any finishing touches to be executed.

There are some factors which affect your backsplash installation costs, but are not related to your design and material. An example is transportation of the material to your home and the contractor’s work seasonal changes and rate adjustments. While most countertops come with a backsplash built into the mold, most homeowners opt to install kitchen tile backsplash which is unique and different from the existing countertop.

Read also:  Glass Tile Backsplash

Materials used

Kitchen Backsplash

Kitchen Backsplash

The most common materials used for a backsplash are ceramic, stone, porcelain, glass and stainless steel where ceramic is the most common and affordable and stainless steel, the most expensive. As stainless steel tends to fluctuate with steel prices, it’s better to keep an eye on the stainless steel market to buy the material when its rates are lowest.

  • While basic ceramic tiles without any patterns are cheap, affordable and durable, they are difficult to install by you. You will have to have the backsplash professionally installed.
  • Porcelain is a ceramic sub-type which is more expensive than ceramic. While it’s known for its touchiness, it requires a special setting material for secure attachment to your wall.
  • Glass comes in various colors and designs as sheets of pre-assembled patterns you can easily fix to the wall. Its cost varies based on its design and if you require professional installation.
  • Slate is a popular stone material for backsplashes as it’s water resistant. It’s easy to clean even if the backsplash is behind a stove. The problem with it is that slate is brittle and can crack or break with impact. Moreover, it needs a sealant to fight off stains.
  • Stainless steel is rather expensive but is easy to clean and fits most design schemes. However it requires regular maintenance without which it gradually loses its sleek and clean appearance. Moreover, its rates fluctuate with the present steel market rates.
  • You can also opt to install slab backsplashes which offer a smooth and continuous look. Granite, soapstone and marble slabs make beautiful, seamless backsplashes, which are unfortunately more expensive than tiles.

Tools needed for a kitchen backsplash installation

If you are a DIY enthusiast with lots of time and patience, and have decided upon the material you want to use as your kitchen backsplash, the next step is its installation process. Remember that though it’s possible to install a backsplash on your home, a professional installation is always a better option as any imperfections in the pattern are easily noticed.

The tools needed for a DIY installation are:

  • A tape measure
  • Goggles
  • Tile cutter
  • Level
  • Tile saw or nippets- choose based on the tile size
  • Rubber grout float -rubber is a better choice as it doesn’t scratch tiles
  • Notched trowel which helps spread adhesive
  • Tiles
  • Tile adhesive
  • Spacers which ensure the tiles are evenly spaced
  • Grout
  • Flexible caulk
  • Plastic putty knife
  • Toothed trowel
  • Tile mastic or adhesive Bondera sheets for cutting and fitting on the wall and pressing tiles onto
  • White unsanded powder grout
  • Extra tiles in case some break while installing or for repairs later on

The installation procedure

Now you have your materials and tools ready for your kitchen tile backsplash install, you need to start by checking the walls. Make sure it’s strong enough to hold the tiles’ weight and repair any damages there may be on the wall. The wall should be dry while installing as any moisture on the wall gets covered by the tile which in turn soaks and damages your wall with time.

1. Start planning

You now have to decide how high up and far out you want the backsplash to go. Generally, backsplashes go up to about 4 inches, which is sufficient for most kitchens. However there are also some people who prefer installing backsplashes which reach the cabinets.

2. Start measuring

Now you know your design and size of the backsplash, it’s time to take measurements. Measure the length and width of the area to be tiled. The vertical row of tiles should end up in a corner between two walls and should be cut wider than half the tile width. Repeat with the backsplash height.

3. Installation

In case of a tile countertop, start installing so that the bottom layer of tiles lines up with the countertop tiles. In case of a slab countertop, start tiling from the center and work outwards. Its better laying the tiles on the countertop you plan to install them and mark the wall above all tiles as a guide for installing the mastic in 3-ft sections.

4. Electrical outlets

You will have to remove the electrical plates if the tiles will be around things like electrical outlets. However do switch off the power at the breaker or fuse-box before doing so and then check the outlets and switches for power before removing covers. When it’s time to re-install the plates, make sure they cover the tile edges. It’s better to use longer screws to install the plates to accommodate the increased depth.

Read also:  A Modern Backsplash For Any Kitchen

You have to measure the distance from the electrical outlet and light switches to the wall edge or nearest installed tile. In case of small, 1-in tiles, you just have to cut out tiles from the 12-in square sheets using a utility knife so that the tiles accommodate the outlets.

In case of larger tiles, use a tile saw to cut outlets as required on the tile before applying tile adhesive to the wall. Then using the wall marks as a guide, apply the tile mastic to the area where you’d installed the first 3 feet of tiles.

5. Spreading the mastic

Now apply painter’s tap strip to the countertop just under where you’d installed the tile backsplash. Spread the mastic evenly using a toothed trowel on the area where you’ll apply the first 3 ft of tile then lay cardboard spacers flat on the counter with edges against the wall.

6. Fitting tiles

While aligning the wall’s outside edge, start pressing the first sheet of tiles into place and rest the bottom on the cardboard spacer. If you have more than a row to stack, start with the bottom tile. You can use the help of the space between tiles on the mesh backing, or the tile spaces in case of individual tiles to determine the space in between the tiles or tile sheets.

7. Setting tiles

The last step involves setting individual tiles evenly against the mastic. This is done by holding a wood block firmly against the tile, and tapping with a hammer. Repeatedly tap the wood block across the entire backsplash till all the tiles feel level to the touch. Repeat to apply all tiles to complete the entire backsplash and then let to dry.

8. Grouting tiles

Once all the tiles have been installed, it’s time to grout the tiles. This is done by using a grout float to apply and press grout in between the tiles. It’s better to work the grout float diagonally in small areas of about 3 ft. square at a time. Grout is available in two forms- sanded and unsanded. The unsanded type is better to use for filling spaces less than 1/8th inch while the sanded grout is better for wider spaces.

Use a moist sponge to wipe away the haze created by the grout on the tiles. Keep washing the sponge regularly as you work. Now use a soft, dry cloth to polish off remaining haze and clean the tiles, before the grout completely dries up. Also slide the cardboard spacer from below the bottom row of tiles.

Timing is important here as the grout has to be dry enough to not pull out of the sponges onto your sponge, but not SO dry that you end up cleaning the tiles with extra, heavy pressure.

It’s better to let the grout dry for about a fortnight before you apply a grout sealer. It’s also better to maintain an annual maintenance habit of cleaning tiles and reapplying a sealer.

Short cut installation

Instead of going through all these hassles to install your kitchen backsplash, there is a short cut process you can follow. There are some tile patterns available in pre-made, interlocking squares. The tiles are stuck to a mesh which is applied to the tile adhesive. All edges are designed to fit into each other to produce practically undetectable seams.

Another option is similar to this, but instead of spreading adhesive, the panels come with their own adhesive gel backing. These panels come in various styles and can be easily installed.

Now that you know all about the benefits fo installing a kitchen backsplash, the tools and materials needed and even the installation process, you can now think of getting a beautiful, aesthetic backsplash for your kitchen wall too!

DIY Kitchen Tile Backsplash Installation Video

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About the author

Vladimir ShlykovVladimir Shlykov

Chief editor at Kitchen Improvements, Energy Efficiency, Bath and Shower niches expert at since 2009.


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