DIY Kitchen Backsplash (Part 1)

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!

The Before

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
  • 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!!
  • Sponges
  • Paper towels


  • Tile saw – ours was a wet saw we borrowed from Rob’s grandpa
  • Permanent marker
  • Rags
  • Bucket (2)
  • Drill
  • Screwdriver
  • Mixing head for the drill
  • Trowel – make sure it matches what size grooves your tile needs.
  • Rubber grout float
  • Level
  • 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.

Here you can see the amount of adhesive we’d apply as well as the spacers in action.

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

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.

Pre-grout status

In Progress: The Kitchen Reno

Our biggest project to date: the kitchen. Since the kitchen renovation started/so much happened prior to the blog starting I don’t think I’ll rehash every little thing we’ve done thus far. But, as an overall recap:

We had to expand our deck, get a sliding door installed, cover up a door and window, move plumbing, have lots of electrical done, and, oh, gut nearly our whole upstairs before putting it back together again. Since our house is a split level this renovation impacted the landing/entry, the upstairs hallway, the dining room, the kitchen, the living room, and the back deck.

The reno started the day after Hannah’s birthday party and the kitchen became functional (all appliances in use, cabinets, counters) 6 weeks later.

This was the night before the demo started. We spent that day cleaning, packing and getting ready to go. The dumpster came the following Monday morning and we had it for ten days. We had lots to put in it from the kitchen along with scrap wood from other projects (and even that crappy old white fence ๐Ÿ˜ณ). Getting the dumpster was baller and totally a necessity. It was amazing to be able to throw away so much crap. Definitely recommend the company we worked with. They’re called “Bin There Dump That”.

We removed two walls (shown above) and, by covering the old back door and window, (which you can kinda see in the bottom right with the sunlight showing through them) we gained so much more counterspace and cabinets. The walls weren’t load bearing (we had a structural engineer come out) so we were able to completely open the upstairs and put the island and some barstools where the walls were.

This is kinda where we’re at now. New cabinets/countertops, new engineered bamboo floors, a new sliding glass door, new recessed lighting, and our amazingly massive sink. Don’t mind the super mess above as we’d just been getting moved back into the upstairs in the picture above.

Here’s a kinda-maybe-comprehensive list of what we have left to do:

  • Touch up paint (ceiling, walls, trim)
  • Painting/Installing the rest of our new baseboards/trim
  • Hanging the vinyl house siding (backside of house)
  • Vent the microwave vent through the roof
  • Install the backsplash

The first tasks that we plan to knock out are the backsplash and painting the trim upstairs. I’m planning to have the project completely done in time for Thanksgiving so we can host at our house this year (speaking of Thanksgiving I can’t wait to decorate for fall!! ๐Ÿ๐ŸŽƒ – another post for sure).

The backsplash we’re doing is white subway tile from Lowe’s (yay for timeless and resale ๐Ÿ’ธ). We already bought the supplies and are borrowing a tile saw from Rob’s grandpa. I’ll be sure to follow up with posts as we finish up the to-do list and get to decorate!

Decorating is one of my favorite parts so I can’t wait for that and will post some before and after pictures! ๐Ÿ˜ We’ve been slowly getting some of the new pieces we want for the upstairs after the remodel and I’m loving getting to see it all come together. I snagged some cute wall art off Amazon (1 & 2), a 4 pack of barstools on Amazon, a jute rug on sale at Target, a coffee table and end table off Wayfair, and might get this rug on eSaleRugs for the living room. I can’t wait for it all to be complete and done up for fall and then it’ll be my favorite holiday: Christmas! ๐ŸŽ„

So we’re not done yet and we still have a few things to do but I’m excited with how far we’ve come and how it’s all turning out! Yay for the #homerenolife ๐Ÿก