Decorating Kitchen Decor & Design Backsplashes How to Tile a Backsplash Like a Pro This day-long DIY will add extra pizzazz to your kitchen. By Caitlin Sole Caitlin Sole Instagram Caitlin Sole is the senior home editor at BHG. She is a writer and editor with nearly a decade of interior design expertise. She has vast experience with digital media, including SEO, photo shoot production, video production, eCommerce content, print collaboration, and custom sales content. Learn about BHG's Editorial Process Updated on January 31, 2023 Share Tweet Pin Email Photo: Stacy Goldberg Project Overview Working Time: 0 minute Total Time: 0 minute Skill Level: Intermediate Estimated Cost: $150+ Installing a backsplash is more than just a way to amp up your kitchen's style. If you've ever lifted your mixer out of a bowl of batter just a tad early, you know that an easy-to-clean backsplash makes practical sense. Even better, it's a quick home improvement project—the beauty and utility of a new tile backsplash can be yours in a single weekend. We'll show you how to cut, install, and grout ceramic tiles for a fresh kitchen finish. Adam Albright What You'll Need Equipment / Tools Caulk gun Grout float Wet saw or tile cutter Screwdriver or drill Putty knife (optional) Sander (optional) Materials Sponge Bucket Rags Trisodium phosphate (TSP) Tile Painter's tape Pencil Thin-set mortar Utility knife Electrical box extender Level Tape measure Spacers Notched towel Drop cloth Grout sealer Stirrer Non-sanded grout Caulk Schluter strip (optional) Instructions Jason Donnelly Clean the Walls Start by turning off the power to the kitchen and removing any switch plates or outlet covers. Tile can be applied to drywall, but remove any wallpaper or loose paint. Sand the wall of any imperfections, and for good adhesion, wipe away the dust. Use trisodium phosphate (TSP) to remove any tough grease stains or residue. Finish by wiping the walls clean with a damp rag and letting them dry thoroughly before starting to tile. Carson Downing Plan Tile Layout With the wall clean, tape your ceramic tile sheets in place to check your layout. Cut the sheets as needed, using a utility knife to cut the mesh from behind. Work out how you'll handle any gap between the tile and the bottom of the wall cabinets. Aim for a gap as close as possible to a half-tile. You can start your tiles without a grout line along the countertop, or leave a grout line to help close the gap above. Tape sheets in place all the way to the corner, again trying to achieve a gap no larger than a half-tile. Mark the location of the sheets with a pencil as you remove them. Carson Downing Optional: Install Schluter Strip to Create Tile Edge If you plan to end the backsplash with a Schluter strip, measure, cut, and install the strip before tiling and incorporate it into your layout. Simply add the strip with thin-set mortar where you'd like your backsplash to end. You can also choose to end your backsplash with bullnose tiles, which provide a rounded-edge treatment. Bullnose tiles are installed once you've reached the end of your backsplash, not at the beginning. Carson Downing Apply Thin-Set Tape a drop cloth to your countertop to protect the surface. Ladle thin-set mortar onto the wall, and carefully work it with a notched trowel to create smooth, even ridges. Check the manufacturer's specifications for the recommended trowel notch size (1/8-inch is common). Carson Downing Install the Tile Backsplash Install the whole tile sheets first, lining them up with your reference marks (you'll just be able to see them through the thin-set mortar). Using tile spacers, keep the joints between the sheets consistent. Once the sheet's applied, pull it back to check for voids. Apply more thin-set mortar as needed. Carson Downing Install Tile Around Switches and Receptacles You'll likely run into at least one outlet or switch while installing a backsplash. To tile around receptacles, make sure the power is switched off at the breaker panel, then unfasten the two screws holding the switch or receptacle, and gently pull it away from the wall. When tiling and grouting are complete, add a box extender. Because of the extra thickness of the tile, you might need longer screws. Carson Downing Continue Adding Tile Spacers Use spacers throughout your installation, so your tile is aligned along the length and width of the wall. Without spacers, your tile will likely be crooked. Also, keep in mind that your walls might not be completely square. To account for this, you might have to cut some tiles to fit, or compensate with a larger grout line beneath the upper cabinets. Carson Downing Install the Last Row of Tile Once you've reached the Schluter strip, use a wet saw or tile cutter to cut the tiles to fit the end row. Smooth any uneven edges with a rubbing stone. How to Cut Ceramic Tile for Professional-Looking Results Carson Downing Set the Tiles When all the tiles are in place, firmly press them onto the wall with your fingers or a clean grout float. Check that all the tiles are set evenly. Wipe off any excess thin-set mortar. Carson Downing Apply the Tile Grout Allow the thin-set mortar to set (usually 12 hours), then mix the grout. Work the grout into all the joints by moving the grout float across the tiles vertically, horizontally, and diagonally. Fill all voids between the tiles with grout. There should be no holes, gaps, or air bubbles. How to Choose Grout Color and Type for Your Tile Project Carson Downing Wipe Clean with a Sponge After you've finished grouting your tile backsplash, wipe repeatedly with a damp (not wet) sponge to clean the excess grout off the tile. Carson Downing Wipe with Dry Towel Once the grout has dried, follow the manufacturer's instructions, and use a clean, dry cloth to remove any haze remaining on the tiles. Carson Downing Seal Tile Grout For easy maintenance down the road, apply grout sealer. It will reduce the likelihood of staining. Caulk where the backsplash meets the upper cabinets to complete your tile installation.