A beautiful tile backsplash can give a kitchen a fresh look. It can also make a rookie renovator cringe. With so many steps, attempting a tiling project can be overwhelming. But by breaking down those steps, anyone who has a weekend to spare can makeover their kitchen, no professionals needed.
To keep your design simple, check out the dozens of mesh-mounted tile sheets available online and in home improvement stores. Sheets with glass, stone and metallic tiles take the frustration out of having to space individual tiles. If you want to create your own design, you will need to buy tile spacers to keep your pattern evenly spread out.
Note that your tile may need to be modified as you go. If you are working with smaller glass or stone tiles, buy pair of tile nippers. With these, you can inexpensively custom cut your tile. If you are working with larger or metal-covered tile, you may want to purchase a tile cutter. Prices can vary, but basic models run around $50 and should meet your needs. Tile cutters are relatively safe – using water and a thin grinder, you won’t have to worry about being cut by a blade. However, be sure to wear eye protection regardless of your cutting method.
If you are using the mesh-mounted tile, decide how high you want your pattern and cut the mesh between the tiles accordingly. Spacers are not needed unless you want to place them between sheets as you go. With either tiling method, find the center of the area you are tiling and work out from the center on either side. Spacers should be placed on all sides of individual tiles before the next tile is placed.
You will need an adhesive to stick the tile to the wall before grouting. It can be messy so have plenty of damp rags ready for clean up. Apply the adhesive directly to a lightly sanded wall using a notched trowel. Make a waffle pattern when applying and be sure to use sparingly so the adhesive does not ooze between tiles. Once your tiles are in place and the adhesive is completely dry (about 24 hours), you are ready to grout.
Grout comes in many colors and also comes in a version with a grout sealer included. By using this kind, you never have to re-seal the grout. However, this kind of grout has a fast-drying and sticky epoxy in it. You will need to work quickly and clean up any drips immediately. It is best used on small spaces or when you have extra hands to help. Regardless of the grout you use, you will need an un-notched trowel for smoothing as you go, a rubber trowel for regular grout and metal for the epoxy grout. Slap the grout on the trowel and apply directly to the tiles, smoothing in diagonal motions to completely fill the spaces between tiles. Use a wet rag to wipe away the excess grout. You may need to do this over the tiles repeatedly and you should clean the rag with clear water each time so you are not just smearing the grout around. Sponges sold specifically for tile jobs can also be used.
To finish the edges, you can use the grout and carefully smooth a line along the exposed parts of the tile. If using the epoxy grout, this works well. If not, tile caulk works much better. Run a bead along the exposed edges and smooth. You can purchase a smoother or use a damp finger, which works just as well with more control. Tile caulk comes in as many shades as grout so matching the color is easy.
If you opted to use regular grout and need to seal, you must wait until the grout is completely dry, about 24 hours. Sealers give a clear, protective coat to the grout to prevent staining and chipping and must be reapplied every 1-3 years. Follow the instructions on the packaging and be sure that none of the sealer is left on the tile. It can leave a film behind that does not easily come off.
Once your seal is dry, you are done. You then will have a backsplash that looks great, cleans up easily and shows everyone who sees it that you have the skills to make your kitchen shine.