Hello! It’s Bettijo from PagingSupermom.com, and I’m here to talk kitchen backsplashes. My husband and I recently completed a full-scale kitchen renovation. We did most of the work ourselves — from installing the cabinets to laying the tile — and I wanted to share a glimpse at our tiling experience.
I couldn’t be happier with how it all turned out. Check out the kitchen’s before pictures and get all the sources and details for my whole kitchen renovation. You can also follow along, behind the scenes, of the whole remodel, from beginning to end, on Instagram at #SeventiesKitchenRehab.
Clearly a DIY kitchen remodel is a lengthy project, and I remember when we reached the point in the photo below — after the new cabinets and countertops were installed and the new, white farmhouse sink was placed. My husband was questioning some of my design choices, thinking there was just too much white. I felt a twinge of panic as I could totally see why he felt that way. I wanted a white and bright kitchen, but I didn’t want it to seem quite so blank.
Here is a perfect illustration of the impact of a backsplash. The beautiful Coastal Skies pattern from Jeffrey Court’s exclusive Home Depot collection, provided the just the right texture and contrast to liven up the all-white kitchen, but it still kept things feeling fresh and bright.
The tile made a huge impact in our space, especially when we filled the walls from countertop to ceiling. We carried the same tile through to the laundry room as well, and it truly adds the polish that makes the space feel cohesive and complete.
Now let’s talk installation! I think tiling is one of my favorite things to DIY — it is so doable and has such a big impact, as we just discussed. I’m not sure why so many people are afraid of tiling. Maybe it’s cutting the tiles or mixing up the grout? I get how some of the process may be intimidating at first, but really all you need are the right tools. Luckily most are totally affordable to purchase, and the pricier tools, like a wet saw, can be rented.
We did some time-lapse videos while laying our tile, and I thought it would be fun for you to see us in action. Check it out:
First you’ll need to determine the amount of tile you need for your kitchen backsplash by calculating the wall space. Essentially you will multiply the width and height of the wall to get the square footage, which is how much tile you’ll need for the project. Factor in an additional 10 percent of tile to give a little wiggle room in case you have tiles break when cutting or have other unforeseen circumstances — it would be so annoying to run out of tile mid job!
TOOLS & MATERIALS
tile wet saw (optional but a must for a large-scale project)
file or pumice stone
tile mortar (adhesive)
drill & mixing paddle (optional but super helpful)
PREP THE AREA
Remove any electric outlet covers from the area where you’ll be working. It’s also a good idea to turn the power off. Clear the countertops of all appliances and other items and then lay down a dropcloth or pieces from a cardboard box to protect them while you’re tiling the backsplash. Finally check the condition of the walls and patch any holes or large dents. You should also ensure the walls are clean and dry before tiling.
LAY THE TILE
We used a premixed mortar for our project. Don’t cover the entire area with mortar as it quickly begins to dry. It is best to work in 2-foot sections, applying the adhesive, then going back and placing the tile over before moving on. Be sure to clean any excess mortar off of the face of the tile with a sponge as you go — it can be a pain to get off later.
Things will go more smoothly if you check fit and placement of tiles for a particular section, and perform any necessary cuts, prior to applying the mortar. After determining the placement of cuts we found it was nice to use a dry erase marker to mark cuts. For a project of this scale, a wet saw is a must, but don’t let that stop you. Ask around and see if you can borrow one, which is what we did. Before we got lucky and found a friend with one, though, we also considered buying a used wet saw on Craigslist or renting one from the Home Depot. You’ll also want a pair of hand-held tile nippers for smaller cuts. Use a file or pumice stone to smooth rough edges on the cuts. We kept extra tiles and large scrap pieces in bins, and this was the first place we turned to find tiles for filling in small spaces.
EDGES & CORNERS
The Coastal Skies tile pattern has a staggered edge, and we found that for our ends it was easiest to cut it to a straight edge so we didn’t have to piece a bunch of tiles together. You can see me above using a speed square to mark of the cut we’d make for one of the straight edges.
This pattern doesn’t have any coordinating end pieces so we finished the exposed edge with a metal schulter, purchased at our local Home Depot and spray painted white. It’s important to note that you actually install the schluter BEFORE tiling.
We also have a large window in the kitchen, and we wanted the tile to run into the window sill so the tile would appear continuous. So the schluter was not a good option for this area. Instead we used the skinniest tile pieces from the Coastal Skies pattern to create a beveled edge. We nipped off the ceramic backing on the glass tile pieces, since the full piece was too deep and wouldn’t fit flush. We applied mortar and carefully placed each piece. It was a bit tedious, but the result was worth the effort. It truly created the seamless look we wanted.
MIX THE GROUT
Let the tile dry completely, generally overnight, before grouting. We used non-sanded grout in Oyster Gray. Consult the mixing instructions on your grout’s package. Generally you will fill a bucket with a specified amount of water. Then, gradually add the grout powder and mix well. We used a power drill fitted with a paddle to speed this process along. Let the grout mixture set for 5-10 minutes, then mix it again, without adding anymore water.
Now you can start grouting; however, you will want to periodically re-mix the grout to keep its consistency. Also be aware that you’ll have a limited time to use the grout, typically within 2 hours, so don’t mix it all up at once, but only mix the amount you think you’ll be able to use during that time.
GROUT THE TILE
Stepping back to look at your installed tile is so gratifying, but the real magic happens when you grout! It fills in the spaces between the tiles (joints) and makes it look finished. We applied the grout using a tile float, but I’ve heard a squeegee can work too. Apply the grout with the float held at a 45-degree angle to the wall and force the grout into the joints. Again work in two-foot sections, then go back with the float at a 90-degree angle to the wall and remove excess grout.
Next use a damp sponge to completely clean grout off the face of the tile. A word of caution about the dampness of the sponge: if it is too wet you’ll end up removing too much of the grout, so be sure to wet it but then ring it out well. We also found that it was best to give the grout about 10-15 minutes to set before sponging. So procedurally, we would grout one area then move on and grout a second area, then when we completed that second area, we’d go back and sponge the first area, and so on.
Let the grout dry for a few days before applying a sealant, but feel free to admire your work right away!
If you have installed tile before, hopefully this quick refresher has you feeling ready to go. If this is your first time, I highly recommend checking out this great, in-depth tutorial from The Home Depot on how to tile a backsplash. Happy tiling!
Bettijo B. Hirschi, mom, designer & blogger
my line: www.bathbybettijo.com
my blog: www.pagingsupermom.com
my twitter: follow me @iambettijo