For our kitchen, one of the next big projects we had to finish up was our backsplash. We already did all of the shopping for materials (see the list below) and just needed to find a day – lucky for us grandpa came to the rescue!
For our backsplash we did a mosaic sheet of white subway tile. It’ll blend well with our busier quartz countertop and give us a timeless look. Also, added bonus, the sheet option will make it a bit easier/less time consuming to hang. Additionally, we plan to sell our house one day and felt that the subway tile would be liked by more buyers vs having to find one buyer who loved our design choice (if it was more outlandish).
First things first. What do you need if you’re going to DIY your backsplash?
- Tile adhesive
- Spacers – get the ones to match the other gaps in the sheets of tile you buy.
- Unsanded Grout – we opted for Pearl Gray and only opened one bag. The bag will say how many sq ft it can be used for to gauge how many you’ll need.
- Grout additive – we decided to use this as it helps the grout be more stain resistant and last longer.
- Brown Paper
- Painters Tape – frog tape is where it’s at!!
- Paper towels
- Tile saw – ours was a wet saw we borrowed from Rob’s grandpa
- Permanent marker
- Bucket (2)
- Mixing head for the drill
- Trowel – make sure it matches what size grooves your tile needs.
- Rubber grout float
- Exacto Knife
After we got all the tools upstairs we prepped the space by covering all of our countertops and floors with brown construction paper. Here is where we used the frog tape to hold the paper to the counters/floors and not damage them. This was super helpful since doing the backsplash was really messy. Also – we have a garage trashcan and bringing that upstairs to work was really helpful in controlling the mess and to not clog up our kitchen trashcan.
Next, once we finished setting up inside, Rob set up out on the back deck and got the tile saw ready. Luckily he checked it because the water pump wasn’t working and we had to run to Lowe’s to replace it. Fountain water pumps for the win. It wouldn’t be a Ruwe DIY if there wasn’t a pain in the ass hardware trip involved. smh.
Once we were back from the store it was time to actually start. Only a few hours later than we originally intended. Ugh! But anyways… The internet says to “start with the side of your kitchen that is most visible”. Or whatever that means… I feel like the whole kitchen is visible. Kinda the point of an open concept, right? But, with that in mind we picked the part that is longer and will be over the oven.
We started lining our tile up on the counter and seeing where we’d have to cut. The first cut is easy to make the tiles line up flush against the wall. From there we were able to do one full sheet and a little shy of half a sheet on top.
After a few sections were measured, it was time to get the tile adhesive out and start putting them up and measuring/cutting as we went. The tile adhesive is ready to go so no prep needed there. When applying mastic – only put up a little at a time so it doesn’t dry. We found it easiest to put up enough to do one tile sheet wide with a half sheet above it at a time. The trowel isn’t small so it is hard to apply the adhesive if you only have a tight space to work with but too much space and it will dry.
When the tiles are lined up and spaced properly on the wall smush each individual tile into the mastic. You can roll the tiles once the spacers are out so the are all evenly pressed into the wall. As you press them into the wall you need to clear away the extra adhesive that squeezes out. You don’t want it to dry in-between or on top of the tiles.
When it came to the outlets we would eyeball where to cut (since it didn’t have to be perfect and would be behind an outlet cover). We would hold the sheet up to the wall and mark the outlet box size on the tile in permanent marker. Each tile impacted by the outlet box cuts we removed from the tile sheet and cut individually on the tile saw. Using a flashlight to look through the tile sheet helped to see where to mark for the outlet box.
We tried to use tile nippers and they were the biggest waste of time. Even if we scored or tried to cut tiny pieces off at a time
THE TILE NEVER CUT STRAIGHT.
Working around the outlets was the hardest and required the most spacers and we had 5 outlets to go around. Though this was the hardest part it wasn’t that hard really. When doing the outlets be sure to:
- unscrew them from their boxes
- and have the power off
Having them loose will allow you to screw them back in when your done but on top of the tile so they aren’t deep set behind the tile.
As we started getting them up it started to fly. To keep it level over the stove we used our level and just made sure to keep the gaps even. As the tiles started to set, I went back and started cleaning them off and getting the grout lines cleared while Rob did the cuts. You need to wait until they dry a bit before cleaning them since they’ll wiggle if you press on them too much. Also, don’t forget to remove the spacers as the tiles set.
Overall getting the tile up took about 6 hours. It looked so good when we were done!! We let the tile dry overnight before grouting.