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Install a Ceramic Tile Backsplash

Add color and texture to kitchen walls by installing a ceramic tile backsplash. Better Homes and Gardens' contributing editor Danny Lipford shows you the steps you need to take.


    Everything in this slideshow

    • Advantages of a Tile Backspace

      A ceramic tile backsplash is easier to keep clean than a painted or wallpapered surface and can add a unique design element to your kitchen. Ceramic tile is available in a wide range of patterns and colors and can be applied over most wall surfaces.

    • Measure Backsplash

      Start by deciding how much of the wall the tile backsplash will cover. It can begin above an existing backsplash, fill the entire space from the countertop to the hanging cabinets, or cover only the lower part of the wall. Measure the space you plan to tile, and take these dimensions with you when selecting the tile for the backsplash.

    • Choose Tile

      A tile showroom is the best place to see the many design possibilities that are available. Wall tiles are generally thinner and lighter than floor tiles, with 4-inch square tiles the most common for backsplash applications.

    • Tile Design

      Keep your backsplash dimensions in mind when selecting the tile and the design since some patterns will fit better into your particular space than others. If you plan to do the work yourself and are not experienced in laying tile, keep your design simple. While diagonal patterns are the most pleasing, they require more cutting than square patterns.

    • Tile Layout

      Lay your tile selections out horizontally on a countertop or floor to see how they fit together and how many cuts you will need to make. Place rows of cut tile in less visible areas and avoid leaving small pieces of tile at the ends of rows.

    • Tile Cutting

      Ceramic tile can be cut using either a manual scoring cutter or a motorized wet saw equipped with a diamond-tip blade. You can buy tile-cutting tools from home improvement stores, or you can rent them from tool rental centers. Some tile stores and home centers might agree to cut the tile you purchase in the store for a small fee.

    • Apply Tile Adhesive

      Glue ceramic tile to the wall using a special adhesive or mastic made for this purpose. There are several types of adhesive available for installing wall tile, including thin-set mortar adhesive, which is also used for laying floor tile. Apply the adhesive to only the section of the wall you will be working on to keep it from setting up too quickly.

    • Spread Tile Adhesive

      After the applying adhesive to a section of the wall, run the notched side of the trowel along the wall at a 45-degree angle. The notches leave a consistent layer of adhesive to give an even installation. Long horizontal strokes with the trowel give the best results.

    • Apply Tile

      When applying tile to the wall, insert removable plastic spacers between each joint to ensure even spacing. Start applying the tile from the bottom up, pressing each one into the adhesive with a slight twist to be sure that it bonds to the wall. The triangular tiles in our design were cut diagonally from 6x6-inch pieces.

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      Mosaic Band

      To spice up the design, a mosaic band made up of small marble pieces was chosen to run along the center of the backsplash. Each section of the mosaic comes mounted on a fiberglass mat backing for easy installation.

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      Apply Mosaic Band

      Apply the mosaic band to the wall using spacers to position it. The notched ends of each piece allow them to fit together seamlessly.

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      Install Tile Border

      Triangular border tile on each end of the backsplash are carefully measured and cut to size. A row of rectangular tiles along the top of the backsplash serves to fill the remainder of the space below the cabinets.

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      Apply Grout

      Once the adhesive has set, remove the plastic spacers and apply grout to fill the joints between each tile. Use a rubber float held at a 45-degree angle to spread the grout over the tile.

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      Remove Excess Grout

      After the grout has set for a few minutes, use a clean sponge and bucket of water to remove any excess. When cleaning the tile, be careful not to pull too much grout from between the joints.

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      Seal Grout

      After the grout has dried for the recommended period of time, seal the grout joints in the backsplash with a clear sealer to prevent stains.

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