How to Tile a Backsplash

Install a mosaic tile backsplash for a whole new look in just one weekend.

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Tiling a backsplash above the counter is one of the easiest ways to upgrade an old, tired kitchen on a tight budget. You can choose from the vast array of handsome ceramic tiles available, including the easy-to-install one we show here—mosaic tiles.

Tools Required

  • 4-in-1 screwdriver
  • Bucket
  • Caulk gun
  • Drill/driver - cordless
  • Grout float
  • Level
  • Non-contact voltage tester
  • Notched trowel
  • Rubber mallet
  • Self-centering drill bit
  • Tape measure
  • Utility knife

Materials Required

  • Caulk
  • Grout
  • Grout sealer
  • Mastic
  • Outlet extenders
  • Stone tile sealer
  • Tile
  • Tile spacers

Planning, Materials and Tools

Nothing packs more style per square inch than mosaic tile for a kitchen backsplash. So if your kitchen’s got the blahs, this is an easy way to give it a quick infusion of pizzazz. We’ll show you how to tile a backsplash in a weekend! The small tiles are mounted on 12 x 12-in. sheets, so installation of a tiled backsplash is fast. You can install the tile on Saturday and then grout it on Sunday.

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Shopping for Mosaic Tile

Mosaic tiling sheets make it easy to achieve a great backsplash. Layout is a cinch—you can simply cut the mesh backing on the sheets to fit the tile along counters and cabinets. In fact, the hardest part of this or any other tiling backsplash project may be choosing the look—the tiles come in a variety of shapes and materials, and many sheets have glass or metallic tiles built in for accents.

To add to your options, strips of 4 x 12-in. tiles are available for borders. So you can match the existing look of your kitchen—or try something new!

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Project step-by-step (8)

Step 1

Clean the Wall

Before installing the tile, clean up any grease splatters on the wall (mastic won’t adhere to grease).

  • Wipe the stains with a sponge dipped in a mixture of water and mild dishwashing liquid (like Dawn).
  • If you have a lot of stains or they won’t come off, wipe on a paint deglosser with a lint-free cloth or abrasive pad so the mastic will adhere.
  • Mask off the countertops and any upper cabinets that will have tile installed along the side.
  • Leave a 1/4-in. gap between the wall and the tape for the tile.
  • Cover the countertops with newspaper or a drop cloth.

Step 2

What To Do With Outlets

  • Turn off power to the outlets in the wall and remove the cover plates.
  • Make sure the power is off with a non-contact voltage detector.
  • Place outlet extenders in the outlet boxes.
    • Note: The National Electrical Code requires extenders when the boxes are more than 1/4-in. behind the wall surface. It’s easier to put in extenders now and cut tile to fit around them than to add them later if the tile opening isn’t big enough. Set the extenders in place as a guide for placing the tile. You’ll remove them later for grouting.

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