A tile backsplash adds a colorful customized accent to your kitchen. Choose from a host of decorative tiles, and then save by doing this simple remodeling yourself.
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Adhesive Bondera sheets provide an alternative to mastic. You simply cut sheets to fit your wall and press the tiles in place.
Measure the length of your wall where you'll install the backsplash and check to make sure the vertical row of tiles that will end up in any corner between two walls can be cut wider than half the tile width. (You don't want to end up with slivers of tile. If that's what you can expect, consider shifting all the tiles toward the inside corner and leaving a gap between the outside vertical row of tiles and the wall edge.) Do the same with the height of the backsplash. Lay tiles on the countertop where you'll install them on the wall and mark the wall above each tile edge as a guide for applying tile mastic -- the adhesive that holds the tile in place -- in 3-ft sections.
If you're removing any outlet or switch covers prior to tiling, turn off power to them at the breaker or fuse box. Then test outlets and switches for power before removing the covers.
Measure from the wall edge or nearest installed tile to find the location of outlets and light switches. For the 1-in tiles shown here, it was easy to cut tiles out of the 12-in-square sheets with a utility knife to accommodate the outlets. For larger tiles, cut openings as needed using a tile saw before applying tile adhesive to the wall. Then use the wall marks as guides to apply a layer of tile mastic to the wall just on the area where you'll install the first 3 feet of tile.
Apply a strip of painter's tape to the countertop beneath where you'll install the tile backsplash. Using a toothed trowel, spread the mastic evenly over the area where you'll apply the first 3 feet of tile. Then lay cardboard spacers flat on the counter with their edges against the wall.
Press the first sheet of tiles into place -- align the outside edge with the wall and rest the bottom on the cardboard spacer. Begin with the bottom tile if you'll stack more than one row. Use the space between tiles on the mesh backing -- or tile spacers if using individual tiles -- to determine the space between tiles or tile sheets.
Hold a block of wood firmly against the tile and tap it with a hammer to set the individual tiles evenly against the mastic. Move and tap the wood across the entire surface until the tiles feel level to the touch. Continue applying tile along the entire backsplash and let dry.
Using a grout float, apply and press grout between the tiles. Work in small areas (about a 3-ft square at a time) and only move the grout float diagonal to the grout lines.
When buying grout, you'll see products labeled "sanded" or "unsanded." Choose unsanded grout when filling spaces less than 1/8-in. Use sanded grout for wider spaces.
When the grout begins to form a haze on the tile, wipe away the excess using a moist sponge. Wash out the sponge frequently as you work.
Timing is critical for this and the next stage. You want the grout to be dry enough so that it doesn't pull out of the joints and onto your sponge, but not so dry that you have to use heavy pressure to clean the tiles.
Before the grout dries completely, use a soft, dry cloth to polish off any remaining haze and clean the tiles. Slide the cardboard spacer out from below the bottom row of tiles.
Allow the grout to dry for two weeks before applying a grout sealer. Clean the tile and reapply sealer annually.