Operation Kitchen Backsplash
Prep. Set. Cut. Grout and clean. If you’re looking to breathe new life into a tired, old kitchen, that’s all you need. By adding a kitchen backsplash, you’re creating a unique focal point between your client’s cabinetry and countertop, as well as raising the aesthetic value of one of the favorite rooms of any home.
Every well-designed kitchen features aesthetically appealing wood cabinetry or shining appliances. It probably has a kitchen backsplash area that dazzles the eyes.
And here’s the thing: You have options: mosaics on mesh backing, peel-and-stick tile, etc. And each is easy to install, if you follow the right steps.
Not every kitchen design gives props to the narrow strip of wall that runs between the counter and upper cabinets. That all-too-forgotten backsplash, more times than not, is painted a neutral color.
But it doesn’t have to be. Here’s a look at what you need to do to install the kitchen backsplash, and what tools and materials will get the job done:
Step 1: The prep for tiling a kitchen backsplash
The first step is the most critical in the process of adding a kitchen backsplash, so be sure to take the time to do it correctly. Before the installation, clean up any grease splatters on the wall. To note, mastic doesn’t adhere to grease. Dip a sponge into a mixture of water and a mild dishwashing liquid and then wipe the stains away.
Don’t worry. There’s always going to be stains that won’t wash off, so grab a lint-free cloth or abrasive pad and some paint de-glosser.
Next, mask off the countertops and cabinets near tile being installed and cover the countertops with newspaper or a drop cloth. Remember to leave a 1/4-inch gap between the wall and the tape for the tile.
Turn the power off to the wall outlets and remove the cover plates. Place outlet extenders in the outlet boxes. Set them in place as a guide for placing the tile. You will have to remove them later for grouting.
On the wall behind the range, measure down from the top of the countertop backsplash equal to three or four full rows of tile and make a mark. Start the tiling. Make a centerline on the wall halfway between the cabinets and under the vent hood. Measure from the centerline to the cabinets. If you have to cut tile to fit, move the centerline slightly so you’ll only have to cut the mesh backing.
Step 2: The tile
Scoop some mastic adhesive out of the tub and put it on the wall using a 3/16-inch trowel. Spread the mastic along the centerline, cutting in along the ledger board, vent hood and upper cabinets. Using broad strokes, fill in the middle. Hold the trowel at a 45-degree angle to the wall to spread the mastic thin.
Remember to keep water and a sponge on hand to keep the trowel clean. Whenever the mastic starts to harden on the trowel, wipe it off with the wet sponge. Place plastic tile spacers on the ledger board and countertop.
Align the first tile sheet with the centerline directly over the spacers. Press it onto the wall with your hand. If the sheet slides around and mastic comes through the joint lines, you’re applying the mastic too thick (remove the sheet, scrape off some mastic and re-trowel). Scrape out any mastic in the joints with a utility knife.
Eyeball a 1/16-inch joint between sheets of tile. After every two or three installed sheets, tap them into the mastic with a board and rubber mallet.
Step 3: The cutting
Cut tile sheets to the nearest full row to fit around outlets and then fill the gaps with tiles cut on a wet saw. You will either have to fit the tile sheets under upper kitchen cabinets and around outlets by cutting the mesh with a utility knife or cut the tile with a wet saw.
At the nearest full row of tile, slice the backing, install the sheet around the outlet or next to the cabinet, and then cut tiles with a wet saw to fill the gaps. You can cut the tiles while they’re attached to the sheet.
Let the tile set for at least 30 minutes. Next, apply a grout sealer, which will keep the grout from sticking to the tile. Pour the sealer on a sponge, and then wipe on just enough to dampen the tiles.
Step 4: Grout and clean
Force grout into the joints with a float. Scrape off excess grout by moving the float diagonally across the tile. Wait 24 hours after installing the tile to add the grout. Work the grout into the joints by moving the float diagonally over the tiles. Hold the grout float at a 45-degree angle to the tile. Scrape off excess grout with the float after the joints are filled.
After grouting the entire kitchen backsplash, you can clean the surface with a soft sponge and clear water. Note: Keep rinsing the sponge in a bucket of water and wipe the tiles until they’re clean.
Wipe diagonally to the grout lines so as not to pull any grout from the joints. Wait 30 to 45 minutes for the grout to set and for a hazy film to appear on the tiles, then buff off the haze with a clean, dry cloth until the tiles shine. Squeeze a thin bead of tub-and-tile caulk, the same color as the grout, into the joint at the very bottom of the kitchen backsplash, in the corners, and between the tiles and the cabinets. Smooth with a wet finger.
The tools you need
- 4-in-1 screwdriver
- Caulk gun
- Drill/driver – cordless
- Grout float
- Non-contact voltage tester
- Notched trowel
- Rubber mallet
- Self-centering drill bit
- Tape measure
- Utility knife
- You’ll also need a sponge, plastic gloves, a microfiber cloth and a tile saw (rental).
- Required Materials for this Project
The materials you need
- Grout sealer
- Outlet extenders
- Stone tile sealer
- Tile spacers