Adding a new tile backsplash is more than just a way to amp up your kitchen's style. If you've ever lifted the mixer out of a bowl of batter just a tad early, you know that an easy-to-clean backsplash makes practical sense, too. And it's a quick project. The beauty and utility of a new backsplash can be yours in a single weekend.
Start by removing any wallpaper or loose paint. Sand the wall and sponge away sanding dust for good adhesion. With the wall clean, tape your mosaic tile sheets in place to check your layout. Cut sheets as needed using a utility knife, cutting the mesh from behind. Work out how you will 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 as you remove them.
If you plan to end the backsplash with a schluter strip, measure, cut and install the strip before tiling and incorporate into your layout plan. Simply add the strip where you'd like your backsplash to stop with thin-set mortar. 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.
Tape your drop cloth to the counter. Ladle thin-set mortar onto the wall, and carefully work it with a notched trowel to make smooth, even ridges. Check manufacturer's specifications for recommended trowel notch size (1/8 inch is common).
Install the whole tile sheets first, lining them up with your reference marks (you'll be able to just see them through the thin-set mortar). Keep the joints between the sheets consistent using spacers. Once it's applied, pull the sheet back to check for voids. Apply more thin-set mortar as needed.
Switch off the power at the breaker panel, 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 as shown. Because of the extra thickness of the tile, you might need longer screws.
Use spacers 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 may 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 upper cabinets.
Once you've reached the schluter strip, cut tiles to fit end row with wet saw or tile cutter.
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.
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.
After the grout is in place, sponge repeatedly with a damp (not wet) sponge to clean the excess grout off the tile.
Once the grout has dried according to the manufacturer's instructions, use a clean, dry cloth to remove any haze.
For easy maintenance down the road, apply grout sealer. It will reduce the likelihood of staining. Caulk where the backsplash meets the upper cabinets.
Watch tile go up on this backsplash, and see how simple the process is. You can do it!