If you want to give your kitchen a facelift, consider replacing or adding a new tile backsplash. This can give your kitchen a bright modern appearance without a lot of effort. The nice thing about adding a new backsplash is that it is not very hard to do.
If your existing backsplash is painted drywall, it’s quite straightforward. Even if you have an old tile backsplash, it is still not difficult – just messier in the beginning.
Planning the Project
If your existing backsplash is painted drywall, you can install your new tiles right over the top. Just sand the area to rough up the surface and get ready to install. If you have an existing tile backsplash, your best bet is to remove it totally. This will involve actually cutting the existing backer (usually drywall) and getting rid of both it and the attached tiles.
For the best results consult with a professional to determine if you need to replace the drywall before installing the new tile. Handyman Matters can help answer all of your questions.
Determine the length of your backsplash, and then measure the distance from the top of the counter to the bottom of the wall cabinet to calculate the area you’ll need to cover with your tiles (length x width = area). Now that you know how much space you have, figure out your tile pattern. Use graph paper and draw a scale outline. The most common tiles used for backsplashes are 4 x 4, 6 x 6 or 3 x 4 subway tiles. You could also use 1 x 1 tiles attached to a back mesh if you like the appearance better–the choice is yours. Find the one that best fits your style. Just be sure that the tiles are glazed when you get them; this will help prevent stains, moisture and grease from ruining your tile. When you calculate your tile quantities, don’t forget to add about 10 percent for cutting and waste.
Installing the Backsplash
- Remove the stove and range hood and anything else that will be in your way when you are working on the backsplash. Shut off the power to any outlets or switches and remove the cover plates.
- If your tiles are going to be running over any gaps (like where the range will be), install a temporary ledger board along the base of your tile line to help hold them in place during installation.
- Mark the visual focal point of your layout and use a level to draw a starting line through it. You’ll use this to line up your tiles vertically. Now, lay out your tiles on the countertop or the kitchen floor so you can follow the pattern.
- Starting at the center, begin the bottom row by applying tile mastic (a ready to use tile adhesive) or thinset mortar to a small section of the wall using a grooved trowel. Put the edge of the first tile on the vertical line leaving a gap of about 1/8″ on the bottom – this leaves space for a bead of caulk later in the process. Press and wiggle the first tile into place, then put in a temporary 1/8″ spacer (vertically for easy removal when the mastic dries).
- Install the second tile using the same process. Continue installing tiles working away from the centerline, wiggling them into place and putting spacers between each. Follow your pattern and install any decorative/highlight tiles as part of the field.
- When you get to a place where you need to cut or trim a tile (under a countertop, end of a row, around an electrical outlet), cut the tile as part of the installation – don’t leave an opening and plan to come back.
Cutting a Tile
Cutting tile can be a hard task; the easiest way to cut a tile is using a tool called a scoring cutter. Using one is a two-step process – mark the tile where you want to cut it, then place the tile in the tool and score a mark in the tile surface. Then, using a sharp motion of the tool handle, the cutter will break the tile along the scored line.
Cutting openings for an electrical outlet can be more challenging. Depending on where an electrical outlet fits into your pattern, you may be need to cut two tiles using the scoring cutter, and then use tile nippers to cut out the opening and put them on each side of the outlet.
After the tiles are installed and the mastic has been allowed to set up overnight, it’s time to grout. Use a sandless grout (to avoid scratching the tile surface) and mix it according to manufacturer’s directions. Apply the grout using a rubber float. Push it well down into the gaps between the tiles, then holding the float at a 45-degree angle remove the excess.
Allow the grout to set up for about an hour and then clean off the hazy surface on the tiles. Use wet sponges, rinsing them often in clean water to wipe away the film. Buff the tiles with a clean dry cloth to bring out their natural beauty. You will likely need to install box extenders to your electrical outlets before you can reattach the cover plates. Finally, apply a bead of tub and tile caulk (the same color as the grout) all along the bottom seam where the backsplash meets the countertop.
Following the steps above will help you install a new backsplash into your kitchen. Make sure you pay attention to details and follow each step, but if you happen to come across a problem, the professional craftsmen at Handyman Matters can finish the project for you, or help you along the way. Click Here to find a location near you.