Tiling a Kitchen Backsplash
Written by Lee Wyatt (last updated August 5, 2020)
Tiling a kitchen backsplash, though time consuming and exacting, is something that anyone can do. It doesn't matter your skill level, as long as you do one thing. Take it one step at a time. As long as you do each and every step carefully, you will soon have a beautifully tiled kitchen backsplash. Here's how you do it.
- Plan it out. To truly begin tiling a kitchen backsplash, you need to begin by planning it out. This means that you need to take some time and think about the design that you want. You can do this through the use of some simple graph paper. Simply draw out the design you wish to have, and you will pretty soon have a scale drawing that you want your kitchen to look like. Once you have your design, be sure that you pick out the correct tile to go with that design.
- Prep the wall. Once you have your design chosen out, you need to begin prepping your wall. The simplest way to do this is to tile everything over your existing painted wall. However, if it is already tile, or some other material, then you will need to remove that material so you have a clean working space. After the wall is prepped, it is time to make something called a story stick. This is a straight stick that will measure half the length of your back splash. Lay out some tile in as straight line with the spacers in place, and lay the stick next to this. Where you have the space between each tile, make a mark on the stick. This stick will now be used to help continue prepping the wall.
- Start in the middle. Using your story stick make marks along the wall where your backsplash will be. Be sure that you start at the middle of the wall, and work your way out. This will help you to adjust your plans to reality, without running into the problem of actually laying out the tile.
- Make guideline. Despite what we may like to think, our kitchen counters are rarely level. This means that we can't really count on the counter to be a guide to ensure that we have a level installation of tile. Measure up, using the story stick, about two tile spaces and make a mark. Use a carpenter's level and create a level line all the way across your work space. This will be a guideline for later on. Repeat as necessary, every two tile spaces, till you have covered the entire backsplash area.
- Apply adhesive. Mix and apply the mastic adhesive according to the manufacturer's directions. Be sure that you do not go above your guideline that you made earlier. If you are unsure of your skill, apply only enough mastic to work for one row at a time. This way the mastic does not dry out prior to you applying the tiles.
- Start in the middle, again. Begin working in the middle of your backsplash area, and start laying tiles. Follow your design from earlier, and begin laying the tiles down. Be sure that you properly apply the spacers between each tile, to allow enough space for the grout later on.
- Work no more than two rows at a time. Be sure that you finish two rows before beginning on any other rows. This will help reduce the chances of any mistakes or misalignments. In addition, this will help keep the mastic fresh while you are applying the tiles themselves.
- Check your work. Every two rows, and before you apply any more mastic, be sure that you are checking your work. Do this by using a carpenter's level, and ensuring everything is in a straight and even line. Make any corrections as necessary.
- Allow to dry. Once you have finished applying all the tiles, you need to let everything dry. Typically it will take the mastic about 24 hours before you can do any grout work. Be sure that you also remove the spacers before you allow the mastic to dry.
- Apply grout. Mix the grout according to the manufacturer's directions, and apply using a rubber grout float. Rubber grout floats are less likely to damage the tile as you apply the grout. Simply place some of the grout onto the float, and then hold the float at a 30 degree angle to the tile. Spread the grout over the tiles, being sure that you are pressing it firmly into the joints.
- Clean off excess grout. Wipe off any excess grout using the rubber float. Once you have cleaned off the tiles of any excess grout, begin to wipe down the tiles with a soft sponge which is slightly damp. Be sure that you rinse the sponge frequently, but continue working until you have removed every speck of grout from the tiles themselves, and shaped the grout into the joints. Once you have finished cleaning the grout, allow it to dry and cure completely. Buff the tiles to a shine, and apply a grout sealer once you have finished curing the grout. Apply some caulking where the counter and tiles meet.
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