Bathroom & Kitchen Guide

Your complete guide to remodeling, design and new products.


Installing Your Tile Backsplash

What You Will Need

  • 2-Foot Level

  • Goggles

  • Glass cutter
Carpenter's square

  • Sponge

  • Clean rags
Grout float (rubber)

  • Pencil

  • Tape measure

Notched trowel
  • Drop Clothes (if you need to protect your floor and countertops)


  • Tiles (remember to get glazed tiles, which are moisture resistant and won’t stain)
Tile spacers (if needed)
Spackling compound (to fill any cracks in your drywall)
Tile adhesive (acrylic tile mastic) – usually about 1 gallon for every 50 to 60 square feet is a good indicator of how much you will need.
Grout (do not use grout containing sand, as it can scratch the glaze off your tiles)

  • Silicone grout seal (caulk)
Installing Tile Backsplash

Before you start - have you planned your backsplash? You might like to take a look at our article on Planning Your Tile Backsplash first.

Installing the backsplash

  1. Decide where you want the focal point of the backsplash to be (for example, under the range or behind the sink). Then, measure and mark the exact center of the wall, level with the counter.
  2. Using a pencil and level, draw a line perpendicular through the center mark and down to the countertop – this will give you your starting point for tiling (unless you are continuing your tiled countertop up the wall, in which case you do not need to measure this point).
  3. Scoop out and apply the mastic with a V-notched trowel. Be sure to hold the trowel at a 45 degree angle to the wall and try to keep the layer relatively thin. Work with areas about 3 x 3 inches at a time (usually no more than 8 tiles), so that your adhesive doesn’t dry out. If it does start to dry and loose its grip (usually forming a “skin”), just scrape it off, wipe the area clean with a damp towel and start again.
  4. Place the first tile down at the center point, using firm pressure and a slight twisting motion. Use your level to make sure it is straight, and put in any spacers.
  5. Continue to lay your tiles in a row, checking occasionally that they are staying level with your original tile. Apply adhesive as needed, and wipe away any extra from the tiles with a damp cloth as you go.


Cutting Your Tiles

When you reach corners, cabinets or power outlets you will need to cut or notch your tiles. It’s best to do this as you go – don’t leave the space and come back to it later. So, keep a “score-and-snap” style cutter next to you while you work. You can rent these for $15 or $20 a day, or if you are planning on other tiling projects, it’s probably best to just buy one (you can get them for less than $50). Cutting the tile is a two-step process:

  1. Using a pencil, mark the tile and use the tool to score a mark in the tile surface.
  2. Then use the cutter to break the tool along the scored line, using a fast and firm motion to ensure the cleanest break possible.
Cutting Tiles

Cutting openings for an electrical outlet can be a bit more challenging, as you need to cut and install them as accurately as possible. Remember, the cover that houses the outlet will cover the rough edge, so measure your tile cuts with this in mind. Sometimes, you may be need to cut two tiles using the scoring cutter and then use tile nippers to cut out an opening to encase either side of the outlet.

Another option when needing to cut tiles to fit around the corner of a cabinet or electrical outlet is to notch the tiles with a motorized wetsaw. These can also be hired on a per day basis. To use the saw, mark the tile as above and lay it on the sliding table, pushing it forward into the blade to cut one side. Pull back the table, rotate the tile, and make the second cut. You will then need to use tile nippers to remove any extra material in the notch.

Clean and Grout

  1. Once you have finished laying all your tiles, wipe off any excess adhesive with a damp cloth, putting it on the end of a rounded stick to clean between the tiles.
  2. Allow the adhesive to set thoroughly, usually overnight (refer to the carton to be sure). You can remove the tile spacers after the adhesive has set.
  3. Mix your grout in a bucket according to the manufacturer's directions and apply diagonally to your tiles using a rubber float. Make sure you use plenty of grout and push it into the gaps between the tiles. Remove the excess by holding the float at a 45 degree angle.

- Grout can cause skin irritation for some people, so you might like to consider wearing gloves and safety goggles when applying your grout. It can also stain other kitchen surfaces, so sealing it is very important. Using a silocone caulk seal will keep your backsplash looking its best for years to come.


Clean and Caulk

  1. Let the grout set for a few hours (again, refer to manufacturer’s instructions) and then clean off the hazy surface on the tiles using a damp sponge.
  2. Once the grout has cured, you can apply your silicone caulk to seal the grout. Use caulk that is the same colour as the grout and squeeze a thin bead into the joints along the bottom of the backsplash, in the corners, and any other areas where the tiles meet the cabinets or other surfaces. Smooth this over with a wet finger.
  3. When the caulk is dry and all electrical cases have been replaced (check you’re your local home store to see if you will need to install box extenders first), buff the tiles with a clean dry cloth. This will remove any dust help bring out the natural shine of the glaze.


Step back and admire your work

Congratulations, you have now successfully installed a tile backsplash! Now go and enjoy your new kitchen!

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