white farmhouse kitchen DIY

DIY Kitchen Backsplash [PART 2] – How To Install

Hello everyone!! I am back and FINALLY here with Part 2 of this Backsplash tutorial! So sorry for it taking so long, but it’s here now, and that’s what counts right?! 😉

So did you pick your tile? And your grout? Are you ready to rock and roll and get that new backsplash up? [If not, don’t forget to check out Part 1 HERE!] I hope so! And I also hope this tutorial helps you out – and saves you from repeating the same mistakes we made along the way!

white farmhouse kitchen
A backsplash really finishes off the kitchen and can express so much of your personality! We are so thrilled with how our arabesque tile backsplash turned out!

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What You’ll Need:

  • Tile of your choice (calculate how much square footage your backsplash is and buy at least 10% more in tile just to be safe)
  • Mortar (we used THIS one – make sure you adjust depending on the material of your tile – porcelain, ceramic, glass, etc)
  • Grout – we used THIS premixed grout because it saved us so much time and we were on a tight schedule, but you can always mix your grout yourself and save money!
  • Caulk – many grouts have matching caulk, which is what we used!
  • Caulk gun
  • V notch Trowel
  • Putty Knives (it’s best to have a couple sizes on hand, you never know how handy they can be)
  • Grout Float
  • Bucket (or 2)
  • Sponges (its also good to have a couple of these handy too!)
  • Painters Tape
  • Plastic tarps
  • Wet Tile Saw (we rented one from Home Depot for 24 hours!)
  • Tile Spacers (we used 1/16″)
  • Cordless drill (optional)
  • Paint mixer attachment (optional)
  • 1″ x 2″ wood board – you’ll attach this to the wall where your stove normally goes (only if your space calls for it)
  • Level
  • Tape Measure
  • Box cutter/Utility knife
  • Sharpie
  • Safety glasses
  • Dust mask

How To:

Step 0: PREP YOUR SPACE/REMOVE/DISABLE OUTLETS

All outlets/faceplates must be removed prior to install – this step includes turning off your electricity, removing outlets and taping them off with electricians tape, etc.  This tutorial does not purport to tell you how to safely remove or replace outlets prior to installing your backsplash or how to reinstall outlets following completion, and blog owner does not assume responsibility for any damage or injury that might occur during this process, or the process of installing your backsplash – proceed at your own risk! (*Electricity is dangerous – consult a professional if you are at all unsure about what you are doing!*)

Okay, now that we got that out of the way, we can move on to the fun part!

Step 1:

Otherwise prepare your space and your backsplash surface.  This step will be different for everyone, so I won’t spend too much time here – if you have questions feel free to drop them in the comments!  For us, this involved using plastic tarps to tape off our countertops and bottom cabinets to ensure they remained mortar and grout free.  Also remove all necessary appliances.

We also (long before this project actually started) used an angle grinder to prep our old granite backsplash to ensure that the mortar and tile would create an adequate bond.  If you’re tiling over a wall you won’t need to worry about this step!  It’s really only necessary if you are attempting to tile over an extremely glossy surface.  You can read more about out angle grinding adventure Here.  It’s also a good idea to wipe off your backsplash surface with a damp cloth and allow to dry.

angle grinder on granite
Here is what the angle grinder did to our granite – necessary step for us to create something for the mortar to adhere to!

We also nailed in a 1″ x 2″ board at counter height where our stove was – this creates a surface for the tile to rest on where there is no countertop – otherwise it may just fall right off.  Darn gravity.

Step 2:

Mix your mortar in a bucket, and do so in SMALL batches, as it dries quickly.  We mixed about 1-2 dry cups of mortar with the appropriate amount of water for each batch. And you might be shocked, but I recommend ignoring the mixing instructions on the package and mixing more so you get the right consistency – about that of mayonnaise. You want the mortar to be thick enough that it doesn’t run off the wall, but thin enough that it spreads very easily with your v notch trowel.

Here is where our first mistake occurred. We actually followed the mixing proportions on the package, but because we were mixing such small batches, the proportions were way off, and our first batch was WAY too thick and the tile was not sticking.  Because this was our first time tiling, we had no idea what we were doing and ended up doing about a third of the backsplash this way before I finally thought, “wait, there is NO WAY this is supposed to be this difficult!”  So off that section came and we started all over! No bueno.

PRO TIP: This mixing step is easier if you use a paint mixer attachment on a cordless drill – mixing goes much faster! (See list above.)

Step 3:

Spread your mortar onto the wall/backsplash area using your v-notch trowel.  You can use your putty knives to scoop it onto the trowel if that’s easier – I found that it was because our bucket was so deep and the batch of mortar was pretty small!

 

Spread in small sections so the mortar doesn’t dry before you manage to get the tile up!

Step 4:

Begin placing your tile, working from bottom to top. Our tile came in sheets with a mesh backing, which was helpful and made things go quickly, at least at the beginning.  As you go, use your level to ensure your tile is straight.  I also suggest putting a tile spacer between your countertops and tile, so you have a seam equal in size to your grout lines to caulk at the end!

PRO TIP: Use an ABUNDANCE of tile spacers.  And if you also are using tile backed with mesh, be sure you put spacers in between ALL the tiles regardless of the mesh – the mesh will not keep your tile evenly spaced, it is just there for ease of application/installation.

DIY backsplash
The more tile spacers the better!

PRO TIP: Accept NOW the fact that all of your grout lines likely will NOT be perfect – embrace the imperfections – it adds character! 🙂

PRO TIP: Depending on the type of tile you are using, see if you can find/use edging tile on the edges of your backsplash.  This will give your space a much more finished look.  Because we used arabesque tile, there wasn’t a matching edge tile, so we kind of just winged it.  It looks fine, but having a finished edge would have been much nicer!

Step 5:

Continue placing your tile until you have to begin cutting pieces (don’t forget you can cut apart the mesh in order to get an individual tile or two to go in specific places)! Once you reach this point, begin measuring the tiles you will need to cut.  This step is more of a trial and error/learn what works for you kind of step, rather than an exact science.  We used a combination of a tape measure to measure some spaces/tiles, as well as holding tiles up and eyeballing where we thought the cuts would need to be with a sharpie (the sharpie marks should come off easily with water as long as your tile is glossy/glazed)!  You could also use a dry erase marker.

This was the eyeballing method! I just held the tile up to the outlet, marked where I thought the cut would need to go, and then used a level or other straightedge to connect the lines!

PRO TIP: Put a check mark on the piece of tile you want to keep/use – it helps keep you organized and makes identifying which tiles you actually want to use a lot easier – once you cut so many tiles, they all start to look the same!

PRO TIP: You’ll need to be sure you use your tile saw in an area of your home that still has electricity powering it – this may seem obvious, but it will definitely be annoying to figure out a place to plug in and go if you don’t plan ahead!

Step 6:

Put on your safety glasses and dust mask, and use your wet tile saw to cut your tile.  Fair warning – if you are installing a tile like ours, which is very small overall, this will take a LONG time.  We were still using our tile saw at 2am in the garage and I am honestly still surprised no one called the cops on us.  We individually cut over 200 of these tiles, and our kitchen/backsplash is relatively small.  If you are renting your tile saw and have a large kitchen, be prepared that you may need it for more than one day!  And of course, this step will not take as long with larger tiles, like subway.

Step 7:

Continue tiling until the entire backsplash is covered! Then let dry for at least 12 hours – 24 is better, but like I said, we were in a time crunch, so 12 hours it was.  And it all turned out just fine!

Step 8:

Time to grout! (First remove the 1″ x 2″ board that you installed to hold up the tile – the mortar should be dry now so you shouldn’t need the extra support anymore, and it will just get in the way when you are applying your grout). Our grout was premixed, so I just had to stick my grout float in the container and go.  But if you need to mix your grout, do so now.  I again recommend mixing in relatively small batches (with that added paint mixer attachment) to ensure your grout doesn’t dry up on you.

Apply your grout with the grout float at a 45 degree angle to the wall.  Use enough pressure to get the grout into the spaces between the tiles, but also be mindful not to put too much pressure on the tile, especially if you only waited 12 hours for it to dry!  You don’t want the tile popping off on you (but if it DOES, and one of ours did, you can use a little bit of gorilla glue to reattach it – not ideal, but will work in a pinch).

DIY backsplash grouting
You can see here the float is at a 45 degree angle to the wall.

PRO TIP: Spread the grout in all different directions – up, down, right, left – to ensure that you really fill each seam.

Step 9:

Again, apply the grout in small sections.  I did about a 2-3 foot length of backsplash at one time.  Once the grout is applied, immediately dip your sponge in a bucket of water, and wring out so that it is still nice and damp, but not dripping.  Now wipe, wipe, wipe, away that grout!  Again, don’t use so much pressure that you pull the grout out of the seams, but do use enough pressure to remove the excess grout. Your goal here is to remove all the grout haze from the tile.  It will likely take several passes over with your sponge – be patient – it’s totally worth the end product!

grouting your backsplash
Here you can see the difference between grouted (left) and not grouted (right).

Step 10:

Continue until you have finished the entire backsplash!  I did another once over the entire thing with my sponge and water bucket at the end, and then allowed to dry for about 2 hours.

Step 11:

Use your caulk and caulk gun to apply a thin bead of caulk where your tile meets the countertops, and also where the tile meets your cabinets (or the ceiling, depending on where you tiled to).  Really, caulk anywhere the tile meets another surface – we had to caulk along walls and a window sill as well.  You can dip your finger in water and run along the caulk line several times to smooth it out to your liking. (Many tutorials recommend you use a sponge to smooth out the bead of caulk, but I much preferred my finger as it gave me a lot more control!)

Step 12:

Clean up your space, wash all your tools, attach your faceplates back to your outlets, turn on your elecricity and you are DONE!  (Note: You may need outlet spacers if your outlets wont pull out far enough – ours had a generous amount of room to pull them out, so we didn’t need spacers, just longer screws to reattach the faceplates and outlets back into their receptacles, but now on top of our newly installed tile!) Now step back and admire your handy work, because I’m betting your kitchen looks absolutely FABULOUS!

Who doesn’t love a good backsplash?!
DIY farmhouse kitchen rae dunn
Remember, your grout lines may not be perfect – but it’s also very likely your tile wasn’t perfect either – imperfections add character, and you’ll have so much pride knowing you tackled this project yourself! When I look at this close up all I see is a gorgeous backsplash that my HUSBAND AND I installed OURSELVES! Go us!

And that my friends, is a backsplash how to!  If you have questions on any part of the process, feel free to leave ask and I will get back to you! Overall this is a pretty easy DIY, and if your kitchen isn’t gigantic, can likely be tackled in one weekend!  And for the design punch a good backsplash packs, I’d say that’s worth every second – even if you’re up at 2am using a tile saw! 😛

Until next time…

XO,

Ana