The Handyman’s Guide to a DIY Backsplash
For someone who has tackled a few DIY projects in the home, this guide is for you. Here, we will outline the steps for installing a kitchen backsplash.
Step One: Before You Start
To prepare for backsplash installation, you will need to clear your counters and unplug all appliances.
If you have major appliances like a freestanding oven, pull it out from the wall so you can tile behind it. Be sure you cut the power off from your kitchen for your safety. Remove face plates and add an outlet extender so you have space for your faceplates to sit once the tile is installed. Tape off the edges of cabinets and cover your countertops with paper to protect them from the mess.
Step Two: Prep Your Wall
The wall the backsplash will be applied to needs to be clean and flat. If you have grease splatters or messes from cooking that doesn’t come off with soap and water, you will need to use a degreaser. The adhesive won’t stick to greasy messes. If you have any holes or dents, fill them with spackle and sand them down to be flush with the wall.
Step Three: Plan for Tile Layout
First, you’ll want to be sure the bottom of your cabinet is parallel with your countertops to ensure your grout lines stay straight and consistent. If there is a noticeable difference, you will want to create a base line using a level to keep your backsplash straight. Once you establish that your wall space is level, measure the center point of the wall you are working on and make a mark. After drawing your centerline, lay your tile on your countertop to see how it will fit together. This is a crucial step as you will know where you will need to adjust and where you may need to cut the tile. Take note of where your outlets are and plan your cuts precisely. Depending on the type of tile you have and the size of the cut you need to make, you can use a wet saw, nippers, or a snap tile cutter. Once you have the layout right, you’re ready to start applying.
Step Four: Apply Adhesive
Apply your adhesive starting at the centerline you drew earlier and only apply it in small sections. Doing this will keep your adhesive from drying out before you lay the tile.
Step Five: Apply Tile
Take your first piece of backsplash and line it up with the centerline then press it into the adhesive. Be sure to place tile spacers so you keep your design even and grout lines consistent. You can start applying the rest of your tiles, making sure to use spacers wherever pieces will be meeting.
Step Six: Grout and Clean
After you have finished placing all your tiles you will want to wait 24 hours before grouting. Choosing the right grout for your project is very important, so be sure to reference manufacturer recommendations. For example, tiles with gaps greater than 1/8″ will use sanded grout, while gaps smaller than 1/8″ will use non-sanded grout. Mix the grout and then load a grout float. When you apply the grout, hold the grout float at a 45-degree angle to push the ground into the spaces. Avoid grouting the area between the last row of tile and the counter. This is where you will use caulk to create a seal. Once you’ve applied grout, wait about 10 minutes and take a damp sponge to wipe away the excess. Be careful not to wash out the grout you just applied. Keep your sponge clean to help reduce haze on the tiles. If there is still a haze once the project is complete, you may want to buy a cleaner to remove this haze. Always check with the manufacturer to be sure the cleaner you use won’t damage the tile. Natural stone will use a different cleaner than a ceramic tile.