Have you been dreaming of renovating your kitchen or diving into a home improvement project to add value to your home? This DIY tile backsplash is the perfect weekend project to instantly add some glamour and value to your kitchen without spending a bundle on new appliances, countertops, or cabinets.
You can choose a backsplash in colors to compliment your existing kitchen motif to help the colors in your home pop and add some interest to an otherwise boring wall space. You’ll need to choose what type of tiles and design you want to get started.
First, decide what kind of look you are going for. There are several types of tile styles to choose from to coordinate with your current home décor.
Choose Your Tile Style
After you choose your tile design and price range, you’ll need a few more materials before you get started.
Supplies you’ll need for this project:
- Ceramic, Glass, or Stone Tiles
- Premixed Mortar
- Unsanded Grout (in a color that compliments your tiles)
- A Large Grouting Sponge
- Grout Float
- Notch Mortar Trowel
- Paper Towels
- A Bucket or Two (one for mixing the grout, one with clean rinse water)
- Saw (if using glass or ceramic tiles that require cutting)
- Scissors (to cut tiles with mesh backing apart)
- Tile guard rail to finish the edges
Step 1 – Start with a clean, dry surface.
Make sure your surface area is clean and dry of any dirt, debris, or kitchen grease that may have splashed up on the wall from cooking.
Step 2 – Place a thin layer of the mortar onto the wall with your trowel.
Start along a corner edge of the cabinet and work your way from one end to the other.
Spread the mortar thin using the trowel, making sure to cover the area of the wall, just a little bigger than the surface area of the tile.
If your tile comes with a mesh backing, you can lay large squares of the tile at once.
Once your surface area is covered, take the notched edge of the trowel at a 45-degree angle and pull the mortar down and away. Scrape the excess off on the bucket. Now you should have an even layer of mortar on the wall, with small rows carved into it by the trowel teeth.
Step 3 – Press your sheet of tile onto the mortar.
On the mortar you just laid on the wall, press your tile firmly in place. If your tile is connected to mesh backing, you may need to slightly adjust the tiles to ensure they are laying straight.
Take a clean towel (or the back of a pot will work) to firmly press across the surface of the tile to ensure it is firmly secured into place on the wall.
Step 4 – Continue layering mortar and tile to cover your entire space.
Continue spreading the mortar across your work area and pressing the sheets of tile into place.
Avoid covering too large an area with the mortar until you are ready to press the tile in immediately after or you may find that the mortar dries out and will not allow the tile to adhere to the wall.
Working Around Outlets and Corners
You will find that you need to either cut the mesh backing or trim the tiles themselves to fit around any outlets or odd corners that may lie in your backsplash area.
Use a marker to mark the areas first by holding the tile up to the wall, before you lay the mortar (remember, you don’t want the mortar to dry out while you are cutting and shaping your tiles to fit).
Cut away as much of the excess as possible by trimming the mesh backing with a scissor. Once you’ve trimmed the mesh, if you still have tiles that need trimming, you’ll need a tile cutter (for some types of ceramic tiles) or a saw for most stone and glass tiles.
It’s best to use a saw with a diamond blade made for stone, glass, or whichever type of material your tiles are made from.
Mark your tiles with a marker prior to cutting to reduce waste and frustration!
For this backsplash design, we used glass tiles, which tend to leave small bits of glass around the saw work area. Keep the saw outside as much as possible or in your garage or area that’s easy to sweep up afterward.
Cutting Glass Tile
Filling in Small Areas
Once you cut out your patterns to work around outlets, corners, or other odd areas, you will probably find a few small spaces that your mesh tile shapes naturally did not cover. You’ll need to fill these in with small pieces of tile.
Cutting several small pieces of tile can become tedious, so as much as possible, try to reuse the smaller pieces of tile leftover from previous pieces of tile that you cut. Look through the smaller leftovers until you find the shape and size you need, then simply add a bit of mortar to the back and press into place.
Step 5 – Let it dry overnight.
Once all of your tile is firmly in place in the mortar and covering the entire backsplash area, let dry. Most mortars call for 6-12 hours to set up, but when possible, let dry overnight.
This is the perfect weekend project because you can set your tile in the mortar on Saturday, let dry overnight, and finish the grouting on Sunday.
Step 6 – Mix your grout.
Now that the tile has had a chance to dry and firmly set up, it’s time to put your finishing touches on your backsplash design with grouting!
It’s important to use unsanded grout for this type of project. Many unsanded grouts will require you to mix yourself from a powder. Use an old bucket to mix the grout according to package directions.
Let the grout set for at least 10 minutes after you have fully mixed. The grout will probably feel extremely thin and soupy when you first mix, so it’s imperative to let it sit for at least 10 minutes so it thickens and won’t run down the wall when you start to apply it to the tile.
Step 7 – Apply the grout to the tiles.
Once your grout has set up, dip the edge of your grout float into the mixture and start to spread it across your tiles. Work the grout in several different directions, pressing it into the spaces between the tiles as you go.
Watch closely for any holes that may pop up while your grout is settling. Go back over those areas to ensure all air bubbles and holes are completely covered.
Take your float at a 45-degree angle and scrape off the excess grout from the tile surface. Scrape excess off on the bucket.
Cover the entire surface area of the tiles with the grout and let the grout sit about 30 minutes to set up.
Warning—do not let the grout sit longer than 30 minutes or you run the risk of the grout adhering very strongly to the surface of the tiles, not just the cracks, and you will end up scrubbing your tiles longer than you bargained for.
Step 8 – Wipe the tiles clean.
You’ve made it to the last step! Once you let the grout set up for about 30 minutes, dip your grout sponge into a bucket of clean water and begin wiping the grout away from the tiles.
This will take several passes of the sponge, so be patient. Rinse your sponge often so that you are using clean water to wipe away the grout each time.
You may need to change the water a couple of times to ensure you are not simply dirtying the tiles over and over with the dirty water.
Continue wiping until you have removed all of the grout from the tiles and no grout residue or fog remains.
Step 9 – Enjoy your new backsplash!
Congratulations—you did it! Step back and admire all of your hard work. Enjoy your new beautiful kitchen upgrade!
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
Have you ever installed a kitchen backsplash? What was your greatest challenge?
stella vadakin from 3460NW 50 St Bell, Fl32619 on October 19, 2014:
Congratulations on HOTD, this is so beautiful. I have done one of these jobs and it is not an easy project. Great Hub.
Michelle Scoggins from Fresno, CA on October 18, 2014:
Thanks for sharing such a beautiful project. I would love to add this touch to my home someday :)
Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on October 18, 2014:
Congrats on getting a HOTD award. Well deserved as this is easy to read and it gives one the incentive to try a project like this. Beautiful accompanying photos by the way! Up votes and will G+ this and share to my HP followers.
poetryman6969 on October 18, 2014:
I am not handy but maybe my wife, who is handy could give it a try. If anything need messing up that's my job.
shraddhachawla on October 18, 2014:
Congratulations for Hub of the Day. You have very creative and innovative ideas.
WheelerWife (author) from Minnesota on October 18, 2014:
Thank you, all for your nice comments!! I'm thrilled to have a HOTD :) This project really helped our kitchen look like we invested a lot of money into a kitchen makeover, but it was actually a very cost effective option to give our kitchen an updated look. Good luck on all of your projects! Hope you enjoy doing it yourself as much as I did!
Susan Ream from Michigan on October 18, 2014:
Oh my goodness, your completed backsplash is so beautiful! I've never done anything like this but your step by step instructions have given me confidence that I can do it too.
Great hub with timely pictures to illustrate. Love it and sharing it! Thank YOU!
Susan Deppner from Arkansas USA on October 18, 2014:
You explained the project well and your result is beautiful! Congratulations on a well-deserved Hub of the Day!
Mary Hyatt from Florida on October 18, 2014:
Congrats on HOTD! I have done several projects using tile, including a backsplash similar to yours. I would say working the tiles around outlets was hard for me, but I did it.
I have also laid floor tiles in two bathrooms after I gained some confidence! Great Hub with great instructions. Voted Up,etc and shared.
Emily Tack from USA on October 18, 2014:
Congratulations, and I simply love this! When I met my husband, I was so surprised to see flat paint on the backsplash in the kitchen. I have been meaning to address that, and your article served as an excellent reminder. Your finished product is lovely, and I can hardly wait to get started on ours!
Shasta Matova from USA on October 18, 2014:
Congrats on HOTD! I've done a lot of DIY projects recently, but this one is still one I need to do. Thanks for the excellent directions!
mySuccess8 on October 18, 2014:
Laying mosaic tile backsplash for the home as a DIY project is not easy, unless one has some basic technical skills and knowledge. This is especially so when one wants the finished tiles to look good and straight in alignment, while being structurally strong and long-lasting. However, this Hub managed to explain the critical steps well. Congrats on Hub of the Day!