Introduction: Tile Backsplash

About: Building design/consulting in Vancouver, WA. Resource based problem solver... in other words, I always take a minute to look in construction dumpsters :) ---the way some have to workout everyday... i have to …

Installing a tile backsplash is a very satisfying. I helped a neighbor on their kitchen update over the last year.

Time: We installed the backsplash tile over two days. The first day was about 6 hours of setup and tile install. The second was about 2 hours of grouting. That doesn't include sealing the grout.

Installation + Skills: The first part of the instructables walks through the installation. The second is a skills section.

  • Thinset and tile install
  • Cutting tiles (two parts)
  • Install around outlets



  • Tiles - for this project we used a 3" x 6" subway tile. We had one extra box over the required square footage. Assume 10% extra.
  • Thinset - the premixed tub of thinset is great for a small project. You can also mix thinset yourself by stirring in water. About 60% of the cost.
  • Spacers - we used 1/16" spacers. We had an extra bag and were glad to have it. Easy to return the extra.
  • Grout - there are lots of options for colored tile and grout. For a backsplash 1qt is more than enough.
  • Grout Sealer - grout sealer typically comes with a brush or roll on applicator. If you don't have one you can use a fine brush.
  • Painter's Plastic - I've pulled from this 4800 sqft box I got from a neighbor for years... it always has us thinking of Dexter
  • Painter'sTape - This is a project where you'll want to have painter's tape handy. --I find buying tape frustrating... it's just sticky paper and always costs more than it should.


  • Tile Saw (wet saw) - I have the price $70 in mind... that's probably a little dated for a base 4-1/2" saw. Amazon sells one for just under $80. Harbor freight has one for under $60.
  • Trowels - Be sure to get the appropriately sized notched trowel. Our project used a 1/4" notch. You'll also want a smaller offset trowel for applying thinset direct.
  • Grout Float - a grout float is used for installing grout. A spounge is used after to clean up excess.
  • Speed Square - saves time for transferring dimensions. (see skills set)
  • Sanding Pad - pad or sandpaper is fine
  • Sharpies + Crayons - Either works. if tiles are wet crayons are better... if dry stick with a sharpie

Step 1: Preparation

Protect Surfaces. Here you can see how the tape and plastic was used to protect the countertop. You'll be happy you have tape around the trim.

Over Paint. Applying tile over painted drywall is ok. This isn't a waterproof application that where you'd want a backerboard behind the tile. Simply rough up the wall with a sanding pad.

Step 2: Install - Straight Run

Layout. Tiles can be laid out to make it easy to move quickly along straight runs. Ensure that finished edges touch finished edges. Cut edges butt up against trim.

First Tile. The straight runs don't take nearly as much time as working around outlets. Place first a first tile against two edges. Make sure to have spaces in place to shim from the bottom and edges.

  1. Thinset Application - use a notched trowel to ensure even application.
  2. Spacers - place spacers regularly and use more than you think you need. The run along the base and between each tile.
  3. Placing Tile - Tiles are pressed into the thinset and gently shifted towards the spacers to ensure a snug fit.

Step 3: Install - Receptacles

Working around electrical can be time consuming. Allow extra time but know that it just requires patience to make all the cuts.

Start with the easiest/largest tiles.

Edges rarely neatly fall around the outlets. Don't stress about organizing a layout around receptacles. Know that the cover plates hide the cut edge.

Skills Set. A section is dedicated to working around receptacles.

Step 4: Finish - Grout & Seal

Grout - simply mix up your grout and float it over the tiled surface. Read instructions but after install you'll wipe off excess with a sponge. You'll want to cover receptacles and keep your plastic protection in place.

Sealer - amazing that most professional installers leave this step out. It's pretty simple but time consuming step. It requires basically painting sealer along each grout line.

Step 5: Thank You!

Hope you find this instructable useful. The goal is to make it feel more accessible to diy a backsplash. It's a great way to brighten/update a kitchen.

Perfect if you are ready for a new look or to add value before you sell.

Thanks for reading!


Here are a few other recent instructables:

Skills Section Below...

Step 6: Skills - Placing Tile

Placing tile is something anyone can do. Use the straight runs to give yourself some practice. As long as you press evenly it should be easy to get an evenly placed tile snug against it's neighbor.

If it's your first time you can always practice on a piece of plywood or simply scratch off a first tile and try again.

Step 7: Skills - Tile Saw (pt 1)

Cutting out a corner is very straightforward.

Allow for the thickness of the blade and cut a few practice tiles before starting a finished piece.

Remember - always wear safety gear (glasses/ear protection) ----I don't go near one without ear protection. Not sure why... this pair starts at $.90 (they add shipping). Expect to pay $8-15 for a durable pair.

Step 8: Skills - Tile Saw (pt 2)

Notching. A little trickier but very satisfying. Once you cut your first tile you've got it.

  1. Cut the outside lines
  2. Cut 1/4" lines along the notch
  3. Cut along the material that's left. In most cases it simply flakes away

Don't worry if your edges aren't perfect. Receptacle covers will hide the edges.

Step 9: Skills: Cutting Around Receptacles

Math... no, not really. You aren't measuring and cutting.

Never measure. Simply place a tile where it should be held slightly off the wall. Make a couple small dots with the sharpie to indicate where the line goes. Use the speed square to connect the lines.

Photos don't really show how to hold the tile in front of the receptacle... this can be tricky if you typically measure twice. You'll be much happier if you get confident early simply aligning the tiles and making marks.

Step 10: Skills: Transferring Dimension

As noted in the receptacles section you'll want to have a speed square handy to make lines.

Whether you're using a crayon or sharpie they are easy to make and erase from most tile. Know the tile you're working with and test first.

Marking Lines - be consistent. Plan to either 'eat the line' when cutting or maintain by staying on one side or the other... I find it much easier to 'eat the line'. Either way place an 'X' on material you plan to cut.

Sharpie Tip - the easiest way to remove is to use a dry erase marker over the sharpie and then wipe away.

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