The Ultimate DIY Backsplash Guide

If you’re looking for a DIY home improvement project that will breathe new life into your kitchen without breaking the bank, a kitchen backsplash may be the trick. Why pay for a costly installation when you can do it yourself over a single weekend? Installing your own tile backsplash doesn’t take prior experience — just patience, a steady hand and a bit of research. If you’re considering taking your home improvement into your own hands, then you have come to the right place. Throw on your old work clothes, and let’s go!

PLANNING YOUR BACKSPLASH

1. Measure Your Backsplash Area

The first step to installing your new kitchen backsplash is to measure the area of installation behind your sink. Backsplashes usually begin just above the countertop
and continue to just below your kitchen cabinets. This measurement will help guide you in purchasing and sizing your tiles. Using a tape measure and a pencil, mark the area of installation so you can begin to prep the surface.

2. Pick the Tiles

Head to your local hardware store to find
your wall tiles. To find out exactly how
many tiles you will need, divide the area of
your backsplash by the area of one tile or
tile sheet. Purchase
a few extra to cut
and
fit into corners.
Consider the material of the tiles when purchasing. Slate tiles tend to crumble when cut, while ceramic or mosaic tiles are more durable.

3. Sand & Clean the Surface

Sand the installation area thoroughly with 80 grit sandpaper. Sanding the installation surface will ensure that the tiles stick properly. If your surface has dirt or grease stains, clean the area before sanding. After sanding, use a damp cloth or sponge to clean the area once more to remove excess dust leftover from sanding.

4. Find the Center of the Wall

Locate the center of the installation area and mark a level, horizontal dividing line across the installation area. A laser level would also work in this situation.

TILING YOUR BACKSPLASH

1. Apply Mastic

Mastic is a strong adhesive used to apply the tiles to the prepared surface. Using a trowel, scoop some mastic onto the wall. Hold the trowel at a 45-degree angle as you begin to evenly spread a layer of mastic over your installation area. Use long, swooping strokes to ensure the mastic spreads evenly, and fill in any missed spots as you go. Be sure to use ample pressure as you spread the mastic to ensure the mastic sticks properly. Work in manageable sections.

Do not apply the mastic until you are ready to begin tiling. Work in manageable sections that you can tile in about 10 minutes. Mastic begins to form a skin at that point, which prevents the tile from adhering. Use a damp cloth to wipe away the mastic as it hardens.

2. Set Your First Tile

If you notice your tiles are sliding on the surface, it means you have used too much mastic. Remove the tiles, wipe away the mastic and start again with a thinner layer of mastic.

Use a pencil and a level to place your first tile. Line up the tile with the middle of the installation area and use the level to ensure it is straight. If the first tile is placed incorrectly, the rest of the backsplash could be ruined. Many tiles come with built-in spacers to ensure you leave enough space between each tile.

3. Work Outwards From Your First Tile

After you place your first tile, begin working outwards to place the remaining tiles. Alternate sides as you place additional tiles to keep the first tile centered. Repeat this process as you move up the wall and apply mastic as needed. Every few tiles, take a step back to ensure the tiles are level and spaced evenly. Tiles take a few minutes to set completely, so there is a small window for adjustments. Use a flat surface tool, like a grout float, to firmly press the tiles into place.

4. Set Your Corners

After you place your first tile, begin working outwards to place the remaining tiles. Alternate sides as you place additional tiles to keep the first tile centered. Repeat this process as you move up the wall and apply mastic as needed. Every few tiles, take a step back to ensure the tiles are level and spaced evenly. Tiles take a few minutes to set completely, so there is a small window for adjustments. Use a flat surface tool, like a grout float, to firmly press the tiles into place.

5. Let Your Tiles Set

Once all your tiles are placed, they will need to set overnight. Give the mastic 24 hours to harden entirely before applying grout.

FINISHING UP

1. Apply the Grout

After your tiles have set for 24 hours, use a grout float to spread tile grout over the tiles. Spread the grout diagonally over the tiles to ensure the grout fills the spaces between each one. Work until all the gaps are filled with grout.

2. Remove Excess Grout

After the gaps are filled, wait 10 minutes for the grout to set and then clean the excess grout from the tiles. Use a damp cloth or sponge to wipe the surface of the tiles with soap and water.

3. Let the Grout Set

After cleaning the surface, let the grout continue to set for another 45 minutes to one hour. If you notice any excess grout buildup in the corners, remove it at this time.

4. Line the Edges of Your Backsplash

Line the edges of your backsplash with caulk to help protect from moisture. Use caulk that matches the color of your grout to prevent any clashing. Run a wet finger over the caulked edges to smooth them before leaving them to dry.

5. Let the Tiles Dry Overnight

After caulking the edges of your backsplash, you are almost done! Give the tiles an additional 24 hours to dry. Once the tiles have dried overnight, your backsplash is good to go and should last for years.