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How to Install a Tile Backsplash

Install a Tile Backsplash

You can make such a difference in your kitchen with simple and relatively inexpensive projects. Tiling your backsplash will spice up your sink area, and protect it at the same time. You can easily add tile in just one weekend.


Check the Walls Before Applying Tile

Before tiling, check the soundness of the wall:

  • Make sure the wall is dry and that it's firm enough to hold the tile weight. If condensation is evident, wait for the area to dry before tiling. You can speed up drying with a dehumidifier. If the area isn't dry, the tile will seal in moisture and cause the wood in the wall to rot. If you have damaged drywall, repair it. 
  • Before you choose the layout of the backsplash, prepare the walls for tiling.


Plan the Backsplash

Decide how far up the wall the backsplash should extend. Usually, a backsplash extends at least 4 inches up from the countertop and sometimes all the way up to the bottom of the wall cabinets.

It's always a good idea to have spare tiles of the same dye lot in case you break some or have to replace one in the future. If you can't get the same dye lot, mix all of the tiles together so the color difference won't be as noticeable.


Estimate the Amount of Tile Needed

Measure the length and width of the backsplash area. Determine the square footage by multiplying the length times the width. Wall tiles are typically available in 4-1/4-inch to 6-inch squares. A standard 4-foot-by-1-foot backsplash requires at least 20 6-inch tiles.



Install Tile

If your countertop is tiled, plan the layout so the backsplash grout veins line up with the countertop grout veins. If you don't have a tiled countertop, start the first tile in the center of the base of the backsplash.


Step 1

Turn off the power to electrical outlets in the area where you're working. Remove electrical outlet covers.


Step 2

Clean the area with warm water and allow to dry.


Step 3

Apply the manufacturer's recommended adhesive with a notched trowel. Hold the trowel at a 45-degree angle and spread a very thin layer. Work in small 3-foot-by-3-foot areas to prevent the adhesive from drying out.


Step 4

Lay the first tile in the center at the base of the backsplash. Position the tile using a slight twisting motion. Use a level to make sure the tile is square. Place a spacer on each corner of the first tile. Cut one end of the spacers off in order to fit them between the countertop and the bottom of the tile. Push the spacers into the adhesive.


Step 5

Working out from the first tile, continue laying the tiles in a row, flush to the spacers. Wipe off any excess adhesive that oozes up between the tiles. Leave enough space to fill in with grout. Occasionally check to make sure the tiles are level. After one row is complete, begin with the next row and follow the same pattern. Apply adhesive as needed.


Step 6

If you need to cut tiles, score the tiles with a tile cutter. Don't score the area of the tiles that will show. Use tile nippers or a saw to cut away the area carefully.


Step 7

When you place the tiles around an outlet, be sure the outlet cover hides the tile edges. Continue tiling as usual.


Step 8

When you've laid all the tiles, wipe off any excess adhesive with a damp cloth. Use a rounded stick to clean between the tiles.


Step 9

Allow the adhesive to set according to the manufacturer's instructions. After the adhesive sets, remove the spacers.


Step 10

Mix the grout according to the manufacturer's instructions. Since grout may irritate eyes and skin, wear safety goggles and latex gloves. Apply the grout using a rubber float. Spread the grout diagonally at a 45-degree angle across the tiles, packing the grout between the tiles. Wipe off the excess grout with a damp sponge when the grout becomes firm.


Step 11

Shape the grout joints using a rounded stick. Clean the tiles again and smooth the joints with a damp sponge.


Step 12

After the grout dries and a haze forms, wipe off the tiles and shine them with a clean cloth.


Step 13

Replace the electrical outlets and switches. You'll need longer screws to replace the outlet covers. Use 1-1/4-inch to 1-5/8-inch screws with plastic washers behind the outlet to bring the outlet flush with the tile.

If you have to cut tile, mark the proposed cut on the glazed side of the tile corners. Don't mark on the clay side. The ink can be absorbed and bleed through to the other side.