Introduction: Installing a Slate Backsplash - the Easy Way.

Picture of Installing a Slate Backsplash - the Easy Way.

Time to upgrade the house again. As always I try to keep it simple as I can but still make it come out looking high end.

I have extra slate tiles left over from another job, that means I can be creative.

Previously I had built a bar on the outdoor patio and tiled it with these slate tiles. All of the decoration Guru's said "try to bring the outside atmosphere in and this will create a really comfortable homey atmosphere. So I will show you how I installed a slate tile back splash the easy way, actually it was pretty cheap too.

Well I tried it and the wife loves it, some people hate it. So it's either you love it or hate it. Whether you like it or not is really not the point, it is how we did it that matters. Hopefully you will learn some new ideas or can provide some "positive" suggestions. Read on my friends and see all of th pictures on the last page.

If you have any suggestions on how this could have been made better, easier, safer etc. please post them.

Please let me know if you like how it came out or if you don't like it. Also please tell me why why you do or don't like it. You are welcome to rate it on a scale of 1-10 with 1 being "I hate it" or 10 "I absolutely love it."

Thank you for taking the time to read this "ible" and providing feedback.
Have a great day!

P.S. if you notice spelling or grammar errors please let me know so I may fix them :)

Step 1: Consumables List

Picture of Consumables List

1. (2) cases of 4 inch square engaged slate tiles from Home Depot. about $11 each x 2 (cases) = $22.00 (about 50 tiles per case)

2. (2) tubes of adhesive Loctite Power Grab

3. Caulking gun

4. (1) bag of Type S High Strength Mortar/Stucco Mix Gray (we had left overs from a previous job) $3.50 - $4.50 per 80lb bag Sakrete

5. (1) Roll blue painters tape] Tape

6. (1) Tile Sealant

7. Tile spaces (1/4 inch)

8. Rubber/latex gloves

Step 2: Tools List

Picture of Tools List

1 angle grinder
1 dry tile saw blade
1 angle grinder conversion cutting kit form Harbor Freight $15
1 paint brush
1 Caulking gun
1 Black permanent marker (I used a sharpie).

Step 3: Safety Briefing

Picture of Safety Briefing

Lets take a moment to talk about some safety issues.

During this instructable use PPE (Personal Protection Equipment) and be aware of the following:

Eye protection - Flying debris, liquid chemicals, dry chemicals
Ear protection - Angle grinder noise
Hand protection (Gloves) - Caustic chemicals
Dust mask (Inhalants) - dry chemicals and tile dust
Sharps - Angle grinder dry tiles saw blade, sharp tiles pieces

BEWARE the mighty angle grinder!
The speed with which the grinder turns is extremely easy to take for granted, always respect your tools.

Step 4: Getting Started.

Picture of Getting Started.

Make a plan of construction.

Our objective was to go for an old world look as well as blend the outside patio area with the inside kitchen. To do this we used the same tiles that we used on tiling our patio bar and half wall (instructable coming soon).

Since we used ungaged slate tiles (different thicknesses) we needed to figure out what we had to work with. We didn't want to put a really thick tile next to a really thin tile so we laid all the tiles out. We wanted an even flow to the tile.

When tiling you want to start in the center of the project and work your way to the out side. We did the following two things:

a. We offset the tiles in a brick layer style
b. We started from the bottom row and worked our way up. (We wanted to show only full tiles if possible, that was the reason for starting at the bottom.) The fewer the cuts the better.

Step 5: Beginning Row 1

Picture of Beginning  Row 1

Put on Safety Glasses

1. Load "Loctite Power Grab" adhesive in caulking gun

2. Lay out the tiles for the first row below where they will be attached to the wall.

3. Find the center of the wall and make a mark, a tile will be placed on each side the tile.

4. Pit a tile spacer centered exactly on the mark you made in step 3.

5. Start the first row of tiles. Pick up your first tile, squirt a dime size amount of adhesive on the back of the tile, and place it flush with the counter top edge. 'Push the tile on to the wall with even pressure to spread the adhesive out and hold it for a few seconds. INFO NOTE The back of a tile usually has grooves cut into it to hold the adhesive better.

6. Pick up the next tile and decided which direction you want to continue the line towards. Repeat adhesive instructions and place the tile on the wall. This time place a tile spacer between the first and second tiles.

7. Continue placing the first row of tiles until you have placed all the tiles that you can. Remember to put tile spacers in between each tile.

Step 6: Beginning Row 2

Picture of Beginning  Row 2

Beginning Row 2

1. Make sure you offset the tiles and continue placing tiles as you did on row 1.

Step 7: Beginning Row 3

Picture of Beginning  Row 3

1. Continue placing tiles and spacers until the row is completed.

2. Gaps where tiles need to be cut later are ok, they will be filled in soon enough.

Step 8: Beginning Row 4 (Final Row)

Picture of Beginning  Row 4 (Final Row)

Row 4 is the top and final row in our project.

It is at this point that we will have to measure and cut every tile for this row.

1. Using the bricklaying pattern you can basically start this row anywhere you like.

2. Remember to put a spacer on top of row 3 when you are measuring your tile to be cut.

3. Place your tile flush underneath the cabinets and mark a line(with your black marker) even with the top of the spacer and that givers you your tile width to cut.

You can continue this for the entire length of row 4 or you can do a few and then go and cut them and start gluing them up.

4. Lets go to the next step and cut some tiles.

Step 9: Cut Some Tiles

Picture of Cut Some Tiles

Time to cut some tiles.

Since we are using a dry tile saw you will definitely want to cut the tiles outside. The dust factor here is something to think about.

SAFETY NOTE I recommend eye protection, ear protection, and a dust mask. Beware of cutting hazards.

This particular adapter can be dangerous this one will take a finger off in half a second. There are several ways to cut tile, but this was cost effective way for me.

I used this saw and cut all of my tiles in short time and created lots of dust. Stand upwind when cutting and wear a dust mask

Cut your tiles.

Lets go to the next step.

Step 10: Final Placement of Tiles.

Picture of Final Placement of Tiles.

Finish cutting all of your tiles and glue them to the wall.

We are now ready for the next step.

We are close to finishing.

Take a 10 minute break, get a drink or a snack (after you wash your hands).

Taking a break allows the adhesive to cure and also allows you to inspect your work so far.

After the break is over remove all of the tile spacers, save them you can reuse them on other projects.

It is time for the next step, grouting.

Step 11: Installing the Grout

Picture of Installing the Grout

Time to install the grout.

You will need your eye glasses and some rubber gloves (if you choose). SAFETY NOTE The grout mix is a little caustic and can also make your skin raw from rubbing sand particles. It is a wet version of sandpaper.

We used stucco mortar mix, because that is what we used outside. We also thought it gave a more old world look.

When mixing follow the instructions on the bag, for the type of application that you will be using it for.

Our mixture ended up a little thicker than ketchup.

Typically you use a trowel to apply grout. However, I have found this can get really messy. We used our hands and just pressed it into the gaps with our fingers. It was very easy to work with. It was still messy, grout always is, it was just less messy and less work to apply it by hand.

INFO NOTE We also only mixed a small amount at a time. Since our mixture was dryer than normal, it started to dry out in the bucket quicker than normal. So make it as you go. No need to mix up an entire 80lb bag.

Apply your grout. Let dry, Then with a wet rag or sponge wipe the tiles clean. you may have to do this 2-3 times or more. That's why I didn't use a trowel, trowels can really make a mess of small jobs.

Step 12: Applying Tile Sealant.

Picture of Applying Tile Sealant.

Make sure your grout has dried. Check to see if you need to wipe the tiles off again, make sure they are clean.

Follow the instructions on your product for applying the sealant.

Next pour a little tile sealant into your wifes (or mothers) best Tupperware ( no we men don't think about the repercussions of doing this).

Grab your paint brush and say in a very fun and loud voice " Wow this painting sure is fun I could do this all day." Next wait for daughter to come running in to ask if she can help. (Tom Sawyer psychology). Instruct daughter on application of sealant and watch her have a great time.

SAFETY NOTE You will see in the picture my daughter is not wearing her eye protection. I failed to enforce, provide, and instruct the use of eye glass safety. I was really kicking myself later when I came back and looked at the pictures. luckily there weren't any incidents.

The seal we used was also a gloss so things came out a bit shiny.

Step 13: The Review

Picture of The Review

It won't take long for the sealant, to dry.

Step back and take a look at the completed project. Good job.

Thank wife and daughter for their help and give praise for job well done.

I myself didn't like the glossy effect of the sealant, however my wife loved it (that's what is really important). I like the over all job and the look and it was easy. This project only took 1 day to accomplish. It adds a lot of character and ups the value of the house because it is considered an upgrade.

Final thoughts
This project was completed in Feb 2007 and I know we need more pictures for the various steps and close ups but i didn't take them at the time so I don't have any to post.

If these tiles are ever removed there will be a lot of patch work to be done because the glue works better than advertised.

I think the total cost for all of the supplies was under $50


coolcarla (author)2015-08-25

Though I love the look of slate I would never use it as a kitchen backsplash. I've learned from experience that grease and food are very hard to clean out of all the nooks and crannies that is characteristic of slate -- even if the tile has been sealed it's still not easy. Stick with something relatively smooth.

wkearney99 (author)2013-11-22

To move the sockets out you use extensions made for the purpose. They can be had in various depths, just pick one that's enough to bring the face of it out to the level of your tile. This is just the box frame, you do need to unscrew the outlet or switch, but only to move it outward. You don't need to disconnect the wiring at all as there should always been enough slack to allow moving it forward the small bit necessary here.

Vadimk (author)2012-11-07

Looks good, though I'd have moved the sockets out and put the covers over the tiles, it looks much cleaner.

Mr. Rig It (author)Vadimk2012-11-07

I couldn't move the sockets out they are nailed in the wall. Plus I wanted them more recessed. It is just a matter of taste though, they would look good mounted farther out too.


civilman (author)2011-12-29

Most installs tell you to use a silicone caulk on the outside edges of the project, is this required or a option? Just getting ready to start mine and don't want to screw it up.

paintchick (author)2011-12-19

Nice project. A good, neat job.

$50 will get you a nice little wet saw at Home Depot. As a tile setter, I've used nippers, dry cutters, angle grinders, and ginormous wet saws. My little $50 saw has seen me through many tile jobs, is easy to set up, clean and transport, and cuts smaller tiles easily. I will never use an angle grinder again on a tile. And after a couple of years of use, if my little saw goes to the big tool box in the sky, I'll consider it good money spent for making tile cuts simple and safe. When I am setting large tile, though, nothing beats the 24" bed of the big saw.

Also, I use a yellow 'grease' pencil to mark dark tile like slate. When marking many tiles for cuts, such as underneath an upper cabinet, I'll mark the back of the tile 1 or A then pencil on the wall the same number where the tile goes. The next tile is 2 or B and so on. That way you can production line all the marking and then all of the cutting.

Lastly, most grout packaging will indicate whether natural stone tile such as slate or marble needs to be sealed before grouting.

Again, good work. The care you used shows.

jbrecken (author)2011-12-19

I had a slate floor installed, and the installer messed up and did a sloppy job cleaning off the grout before sealing, and muddy streaks from where he wiped were sealed onto the tiles, because it was an impregnating silicone sealant that could not be removed with any solvent. (We complained loudly and eventually they came back and ripped up the floor and put in a new one.) But in the process of educating myself after the fact, I read a number of sources that recommended sealing the tiles before grouting. They said that not only does it avoid the problem I had where grout gets under the sealant, but it makes cleaning the grout off the tiles easier if they are sealed. One installer I talked to said that he sometimes even seals the tiles before laying them.

Scuba3537 (author)2011-12-19

If you really want the kitchen to look nice, put some knobs on those cabinets! Otherwise, great job.

ouchthathurt (author)2011-06-30

cant seem to find that nifty angle grinder kit ... I looked on the harbor freight site, but they don't seem to sell it any more any idea?

switch998 (author)ouchthathurt2011-12-19

I guess you got it already, but I just got one at home depot for $.01. It's a clearance item, so YMMV, but if you can find it get a bunch ;)

frydaddy (author)2010-04-24

What a nice instructable. Yet once again, the common man can have great outcomes in "do it yourself" projects with the help of great instructions on a great site. well done.

fiducianullus (author)2010-03-21

I think you mean "un-gauged" tile. Slate can't get married.

flymom (author)2010-02-28

Love your instrucatible!  My backsplash is currently contractor off white, 12 years old.  If water were a big problem I am sure I would see the results of such. In other words, the backerboard isn't really needed. I think you should definitely finish the rest the same way!  Why not try to chip out the shape and size of your outlets some of the tiles?  i haven't done this myself, but it may be fun experiment.

flymom (author)2010-02-28

I use an icing bag, a plastic cone shaped bag for icing cakes, to grout smaller tile jobs. Really easy and much more precise. They can sometimes tear, so have extras. I also find that cheese cloth is the best I have used to clean the excess grout when finished. It's texture helps to remove more of the sand, rather than just move it around.

LMichel (author)2009-10-14

It is always recommended that, when purchasing tiles, you buy too manyrather than too little. This way, should any tiles become damaged or ifyou require more coverage, you will have the same style of slatebacksplash tiles. In addition, you will find that polished slate is mucheasy to clean.

Here is another link that might be useful: Create a Unique and Fresh Kitchen with a Slate Backsplash

devsharon (author)2009-09-06

I don't understand how you only spent $22 on tiles.... the same ones on the home depot website are about $8 per square foot (which according to them is only 1 case).

Mr. Rig It (author)devsharon2009-09-06

These were 4 inch ungaged slate tiles. The boxes were on clearance for something like $11 a box. I think each box held 50 tiles (approximately). My home Depot doesn't have them any longer. Sorry I don't what to tell you. Craig

devsharon (author)Mr. Rig It2009-09-06

definitely a lucky find. Well, it looks beautiful. Congratulations.

shaunaz (author)2009-04-20

The backsplash looks really question about the slate though... Normally slate tiles flake (on the surface), how did you take care of that? Does sealant help with that. I do not want the flakes from the slate backsplash falling on my cooktop. And can we wipe them with wet cloth to clean them regularly?

Mr. Rig It (author)shaunaz2009-06-27

I don't know anything about slate flaking off, but it is encapsulated with sealant and hasn't flaked. yes you can wife a wet clothe on them it's no problem. Thanks for the comments and good luck with your projects. :-)

gunnerjake81 (author)2009-06-25

I appreciate the idea of this easy job.. but did you really glue it? can't think of a worse way to do it. well there is gum.. as a pro in the tile industry i cringed when I read "locktite power grab" it does look awesome though

Mr. Rig It (author)gunnerjake812009-06-27

Thanks, yes I used power grab. I didn't cover the whole back of it though, just a small dab did the job. It will be a small mess if it comes time to pull those tiles down. I don't think it will be anything some spackle can't take care of. Plus I don't hink it would really be any worse than thinset would it? I really don't know. I do know that I had just got finished tiling the floor and was sick of thinset and the mess it makes. I do how ever understand what you are saying and thank you for the compliment and sorry I made you cringe :-)

thorhaglund (author)2009-02-26

You misspelled put (you put pit, and you asked!)

Mr. Rig It (author)thorhaglund2009-02-26

ok thanks

Pompom (author)2009-02-16

This backsplash is so beautiful! I have a bunch of leftover slate from the kitchen floor of our last house, and I was wondering if I could salvage it for our current kitchen revamp? None of the pieces are even though, from being pried off of the floor and then damaged by age being kept outside, so I had used some of them to create painted artworks. Maybe they could be cut much smaller for a backsplash...?

laniergardener (author)2008-09-06

Thank you very much! Ive been the "contractor' on my kitchen to save $, its a total gut job. I have however been without a kitchen for a month and counting...Im about ready for the back splash.. You had some great info and im using same tile as yours if not pretty close. i got a quote from 500 to 300. I was thinking of doing it myself but I think 300 I will let the pro do it. Still, I appreciate what you have done & thank you for the info. . I now know to make sure the guy uses backer board and flat sealer, i dont care for the shiny, and to ask him about thin set. Thanks much, all this was very useful. I do have question re the outlet covers; the tile is thicker than the outlets with covers. Will the tile guy be able to make all of it even/flat so to speak, does this make sense? Thanks again.

kenn123 (author)laniergardener2008-12-26

if your contractor is competent enough, they may even be able to use a tile as a face plate for switches and outlets, in which case no need to worry on flatness

Thanks for writing. Yes, he should, in most cases, be able to level the outlets to the tile. If you have a wet environment then yes backer board would be required, there are two types of backer board. I'd go with the pressboard style; it is virtually water proof and a whole lot easier and cleaner to work with. Backer board is normally used in tiled shower areas or tiled kitchen counters. It is also used and on floors like in bathrooms or kitchens when you have a plywood based floor. It isn't needed on concrete floors, I just thought I would throw that in there for FYI. Good luck with your project and glad you found some information that would help you.

DIYDragon (author)2008-12-23

Awesome! I love these types of splashes - Looks very nice with your cupboards too. I definately want to do this at some point. Favorited for later. : )

Englishem (author)2008-11-17

Thank you so much for posting this. I got new granite countertops and wanted to do a backsplash myself. After researching via various books I was getting discouraged and thinking it would be too much for me, but your guide makes me think I can do it. Love the embedded comments in the photos!

Mr. Rig It (author)Englishem2008-12-15

Thanks for the great comments!

kaylie08 (author)2008-11-07

Hi, my husband and I are thinking of making some improvements in our kitchen and I was suggesting that we copy the design I saw at this site I really like the shiny red back splash but I can't get him to agree with me. Now after seeing this, I see why he likes to have slate back splash instead.

toklatkate (author)2008-11-06

Beautiful girl... ah, beautiful tile job also! I like the "homey" look it gives, but also like the bit of a shine it has. I like it much better than "traditional" kitchen tiles. I only skimmed your directions, but from what I saw, I'd say its a great "ible." I give it a 10. toklatkate

smith2martin (author)2008-05-16

Very nice. I've got a tile job coming up myself, and was looking for an easier way to go about it. I'm with your wife, I definitely like the shiny look (and it probably wipes off better as well). Thanks!

Mr. Rig It (author)smith2martin2008-05-16

Thank you. I am glad to hear that this will help you. Also thank you for your input. I have incorporated your suggestions.

smith2martin (author)2008-05-16

BEWARE the mighty angle grinder! In my opinion, this is one of the most dangerous hand tools, right up there with the chainsaw. The speed with which the grinder turns is extremely easy to take for granted. Any amount of kickback can easily result in loss of hand / arm / nose. ALWAYS use two hands, be sure you're in a braced position, and never become lazy or nonchalant while grinding. Sorry if I seem overly passionate, but I had a buddy that recently almost lost his hand via a sanding disc on his grinder (and it was his fretting hand to boot). Grind safely!

smith2martin (author)2008-05-16

"Sealnt" above should be "Sealant", FYI. Nice job so far... still reading.

gwrober (author)2008-03-21

Excellent job! But thanks, cuz now I have work to do in the kitchen since you showed us that it's sooo easy. I have a wife to please too. ;)

Mr. Rig It (author)gwrober2008-03-21

Gwrober, Thank you and sorry you have a new task. The wife and I have plans to take the tile down the other two walls as well. I just have so many other projects, from her, to do before I can get to tiling again. Take the oppertunity to make an instructable out of it and post it to show everyone. I would love to see it. Good luck on your tiling.

bikr (author)2008-02-07

Dude, that looks great! One question.. Any reason you didn't take out the backsplash below the tiles and have that wall's splash be continuous? Not a negative persay, just think it'd have been my preference and wanted to know what your thoughts were on it.. I'm getting ready to do this in my new built house, builder wanted way too much for it, but i'm going to use tumble stone tiles at a diagnal.. :) Either way.. great work man!

Mr. Rig It (author)bikr2008-02-07

Bikr Thanks for the compliment. To answer your question I didn't remove the back splash because it is part of the counter top, (not removable).That didn't even cross my mind to look to see if I could remove it. But it is something to keep in mind for the future. Tumbled stone on diagonal should look really nice. Love to see some pics of it when you're finished. Thanks again, and good luck with your project.

jerwhite (author)2007-10-02

I like the instructable and don't ever comment on these. But having installed tile myself the traditional way, I would have both added a couple of comments(disclaimer rather). This will work but in the event you are installing tile in a wet environment, you should use backer board and also use thinset. The backer board is water resistant and helps the thinset bond better. In any case this installation is a unique approach and probably easier in a dry environment. My last comment is that I would have removed the wall outlets before installing the tile

Mr. Rig It (author)jerwhite2007-10-02

Jerwhite Thank you for your comments. Yes, I agree in a wet environment use backer board. I did this on my bathroom floors upstairs. I am actually working on my floor tile instructable that uses backer board, not sure if or when I will ever finish the instructable though. It is funny how well the thin set sticks to backer board even though its darn near waterproof. As far as the outlet covers I left them on so I could properly measure tile tolerance around them. I took someone elses advice and have so far change a couple of the outlets and covers to brown. I chose brown because they are so much cheaper than the fancy ones and still look ok. I will have to post a pic soon, and get opinions. I have also been considering taking the tile around to the other two adjoining walls. What do you think? Thanks for the comments.

Valster (author)2007-09-05

WOW! Nice job! I especially like the running bond pattern you used. I suggest you change the outlets. The stark white takes away from the beauty of the tile. Maybe grey to complement the tile or black to match the appliances? Also, definitely do the rest. Honey may be happy with what she has but she'll be thrilled if it all matched.

Mr. Rig It (author)Valster2007-09-17

I changed two of the outlest to brown and I think they look better. I stil have two more to change. After i change them all I will psot a new pic t show before and after. I have also been talking to her about tiling the rest of the wall, I think she is on the fence with it. We will just have to see how it goes.

Mr. Rig It (author)Valster2007-09-05

Thank you! You know I forgot all about the outlets, black may be the easiest and cheapest way to go and still make it look good. I have been looking over these pictures again and I think you may be right I think if i wrap around to the sides it would look really nice. Thank you for the ideas and suggestions. yep new outlet covers are coming soon.

Valster (author)Mr. Rig It2007-09-06

Did you check out the outlets in Mumbles Pics?
Schweet! Details make the job.

Mr. Rig It (author)Valster2007-09-07

She did a great job. I did not consider pulling my outlets out to try to make them flush. so mount the covers over the top. It looks like she used gaged slate, I would not have been able to do it without having some gaps sticking out form the tiles. My tiles are very bumpy and uneven. There is always next time though. This has given me an idea to make a mosaic around the actual outlet plugs and get rid of the outlet cover all together. I already have 4 instructables that I am in the middle of and have 5 more in my head that I am working out still. I think I may just go and get new covers. Thanks for pointing that out, good catch.

Valster (author)Mr. Rig It2007-09-07

Take a few pics and post them. Check Home Depot or Lowe's. They have spacers that will bridge the gap between the existing electrical box and your tile. They come in 1/8 and 1/4 inch sizes. Also, there are are oversized outlet/switch plates that will cover a larger surface area than the standard plates. You may have to go to an electrical supply store to get them, but it is worth the trip if they do the job.

Mr. Rig It (author)Valster2007-09-07

Thank you for the info. I will check that out. This is generating some really good ideas.

About This Instructable




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