Install a Tile Backsplash in One Day

Your kitchen backsplash is affected by spray from cooking oil and other foodstuffs that a busy kitchen throws at it. Wiping it down daily and giving it a deep clean every few months will keep your backsplash looking great, but eventually, some of those stains may not come off and the original colors start to fade.

When you’re ready for a new backsplash, you don’t need to be worried about a huge time commitment. You can enjoy the classic look of the new tile, installed by you, with only a day set aside. Let Emerge2 show how to install a tile backsplash in a day.

For this project, you’ll need:

  • Tile
  • Adhesive tile mat
  • Tape measure
  • Utility knife
  • Sandpaper
  • Kitchen sponge
  • Header (a thin item like a yardstick laid flat: 1/8” or less)
  • Tile spacers
  • Tile cutting tool
  • Grout
  • Grout float
  • Grout sponge

#1: Measure your square footage
The first thing to determine is the square footage (area) you want to tile. Measure the length of the space you want to tile from one end to the other. Then, find the vertical measurement between the countertop at the bottom and the start of the cabinets at the top. As an example, we’ll use a wall with a horizontal length of 12 feet and a vertical height of two feet. Multiply these two numbers together to calculate the square footage. In this case, the area is 24 square feet.

#2: Purchase materials
Now that you know the square footage, you can start buying your materials. The tile and adhesive mat are the two most important materials to know your square footage for. If you buy too much, you waste tile and money; too little leaves you with not enough. Buy about ten percent more of both tile and adhesive mat to account for breakage and waste. For 24 square feet, this would mean buying approximately an extra two and a half square feet.

#3: Plan your installing process
Decide how you want your tile laid out. Do this by starting at the left side of your area and dry-fitting the tiles with your hands along the vertical edge. This will give you an idea of where you may need to cut tiles to fit them in, and can help you decide how best to work your way around electrical outlets.

#4: Apply the adhesive mat
The next step is to install the adhesive mat. The adhesive mat is the reason this project can be done in a day. Unlike thinset that needs time to cure, the adhesive mat does not. It acts like a big double-sided piece of tape, adhering to the wall on the back and the tile on the front. Take the measurements from the wall and transfer them to your adhesive mat to make your cut lines. Use a utility knife to cut the mat to size. Once you have your first piece cut, peel off the backing and carefully install the mat from the left edge of your wall. Repeat this process until the entire surface is covered in the adhesive. Take off the protective cover on the front surface of the adhesive mat so you can start installing tile.

#5: Add a header to your work area
The bottom row of tile doesn't sit directly on the countertop. There needs to be a line of grout between the countertop and your tile. You can achieve this by making a header. A header is a long thin piece of wood, 1/8" thick at most, that the bottom row of tile will sit on as you install. When you're ready to grout, the header is removed and leaves a 1/8" gap under your bottom row where you can apply the grout. You can make a header with a household object such as a ruler or yardstick, or a piece of 1/8” plywood. Place it along the bottom of your work area and then you're ready to place your first tile.

#6: Place your tiles
Starting at the bottom left corner, install your first tile onto the adhesive by lightly pressing it onto the mat. Lightly pressing the tiles at first allows you to move them if needed before firmly setting them in place. Place spacers on the top and right hand side of your first tile. These spacers help to maintain the gap where the grout will go. From the bottom left corner, install the entire bottom row first including the spacers. After you finish the first row, start again from the left and do the second row. Follow this process until your area is completely covered with tiles and spacers.

Chances are your tiles will not fit perfectly between the countertop and cabinets, and if you have some outlets, you’ll need to cut your tiles. To cut small tiles, use a handheld manual tile cutter. This type of cutter scores the tile that will allow you to carefully snap the tile along the score line.

#7: Get grouting
When you are satisfied with your tile placement, go back over all the tiles and press them firmly into position. Remove the spacers and the header. Now you’re ready to grout! Apply the grout to your float and spread it across the entire surface of the tile and into the gaps between tiles. Ensure that every seam is filled with grout for a consistent and secure finish. Wipe a slightly damp grout sponge over the surface of the tiles to clean them. Make sure the sponge doesn’t pull out any grout from the gaps.

#8: Admire your work!
Now that you’ve finished your grouting, your tiling project is done! The grout will need to set for about 24 hours, but your work is complete and you can relax while you wait to enjoy your brand new backsplash.

If you have any questions or need more information, feel free to visit Emerge2 for assistance. We would be happy to help you in any way we can.