Kitchen Backsplash Installation

by Rachel Laurendeau on May 31, 2012

Most mornings, I walk into my kitchen and think “this is my dream kitchen” but some days, I think, “it’s almost perfect, but what’s missing to give it some more pizzazz?” Often, at the end of a kitchen remodeling project, people need to reign themselves in due to budget constraints or, like me, they decide to live with their new kitchen for a while before adding the finishing touches. One great way to give your kitchen a completed look with plenty of “wow” factor is to install a tile backsplash.

Installing your own tile backsplash is not a project for a rookie DIYer. However, if you feel fairly confident in your handyman skills, this could be a good home improvement project for you. Here are the basic steps on how to install a kitchen backsplash, as suggested by the experts from This Old House (

1. Start by moving appliances out of the way, getting everything off your countertops and removing the faceplates from light switches and electrical receptacles. Go over the old paint with sandpaper and wipe off any dust or grit.

2. Choose the focal point of your wall and find its centerline. This is the spot from where you’ll start tiling. Dry-fit the tiles to see how many sheets you’ll need and trim the sheets to fit, leaving a 1/8-inch expansion gap along the edges. To make things easier on yourself, you can label each sheet so you know where it will be positioned on the wall.

3. Mix your thinset and apply it with a ¼-inch V-notch trowel, level first with the notched side then with the smooth side so the notches don’t show through.

4. Press the first sheet of tiles to the wall along your pre-marked centerline. Work your way up as you add more sheets. Use a block over the tiles to tap them so they are even.

5. Wait about half an hour, then, using a damp sponge, remove the paper facing from the front of the tiles.

6. Fill in tiles around the receptacles or other obstructions. If you need to cut any of the tiles to size, you can use two-wheeled glass nippers, then, back-butter them into place.

7. Let set for 48 hours before cleaning the tiles with a wet sponge. Using a nylon brush, you can remove any loose thinset that might be left in the joints. (Don’t use anything abrasive, you don’t want to scratch up your new tile.)

8. Grout the tile with pre-mixed grout. Wet the tile with a sponge, then, push the grout into the joints with an epoxy grout float. Pull the float diagonally across the tiles to remove any excess. A wet sponge is used to shape your joints and clean the backsplash.

9. Caulk the perimeter. Let cure for several more hours prior to replacing appliances and receptacle covers.

Don’t forget, if you’re on to your next project and you happen to be undertaking a bathroom remodeling, a tile backsplash looks great in bathrooms too, specially now that you’ve got the hang of it!

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