Installing a backsplash in your kitchen can upgrade the look and feel of the space, while also protecting your walls from splatters and spills. With the right planning and materials, installing a backsplash is a surprisingly straightforward DIY project. Here’s an overview of how easy it can be to install a backsplash in your kitchen.
What is a Backsplash?
A backsplash is a protective surface that is installed on the wall behind sinks, stoves, and countertops. Backsplashes are typically made of tile, metal, glass, or stone. They serve both decorative and functional purposes:
- They add visual interest and personality to the kitchen
- They protect the walls from water damage, grease splatters, and stains
- They make clean-up after cooking much easier
Backsplashes can be any height, but are often 4-6 inches tall above countertops. They run horizontally along the walls and complement the countertops below.
Benefits of Installing a Backsplash
There are many great reasons to install a backsplash in your kitchen:
- Protects your walls – Backsplashes prevent damage and stains on your painted drywall or plaster walls behind the sink and stove. This saves you from constantly having to repaint.
- Easier to clean – Backsplashes prevent food, grease and water from penetrating into porous wall surfaces. You can simply wipe them clean instead of scrubbing walls.
- Stylish accent – Backsplashes provide the opportunity to add eye-catching textures, colors and designs to your kitchen. They are a simple way to update the look of your space.
- Increases resale value – Updating an outdated or damaged backsplash can increase the value of your home. It’s an affordable remodel that makes a big visual impact.
How Easy is Installation?
Installing a tile or glass backsplash is considered an intermediate DIY project, but it can be accomplished by anyone with basic do-it-yourself skills and the right tools. Here is an overview of the installation process:
Step 1: Remove Old Backsplash
If there is already a backsplash in place, you will need to remove it first. This may involve scraping off old tile adhesive or cutting panels off the wall. Properly prepare the area so new tiles can adhere.
Step 2: Plan Your Layout
Measure the space and decide on a layout for your backsplash tiles. Mark lines on the wall to guide your installation. Plan for outlets and transitions around windows and countertops.
Step 3: Cut Tile Pieces
Using a wet saw, measure and precisely cut your backsplash tiles to fit your layout. Cut pieces to fit around outlets, corners and edges.
Step 4: Apply Adhesive
Apply a thinset adhesive evenly across the backsplash area, using a notched trowel to create ridges for the tile. Only cover small sections at a time.
Step 5: Set & Grout the Tiles
Carefully set the tiles against the adhesive on the wall. Use spacers between them for consistent alignment. Once dry, apply grout between the tiles.
Step 6: Seal & Finish
Wipe away excess grout and seal the grout lines. Polish and seal the tiles. Allow everything to dry fully before using the backsplash.
As you can see, with careful prep and installation, the process is very doable for most DIYers. The key steps are proper measurement, precise cutting, applying adhesive, aligning tiles, and grouting. Taking your time is important.
Common Types of Backsplash Materials
There are many types of materials to choose from for your backsplash:
- Ceramic tile – A classic option that is affordable and comes in endless colors, shapes, and textures. Easy for DIY.
- Glass tile – Adds a glossy, luminous effect. Available in different colors but more expensive than ceramic.
- Stone tile – Natural appeal. Granite, marble and travertine are commonly used. Requires extra care when cutting.
- Stainless steel – Sleek, modern look. Durable and easy to clean. Can be expensive depending on panel sizing.
- Mosaic tile – Small tiles that form cool mosaic patterns when installed. More intricate design work.
- Peel-and-stick – Affordable and easy to install backsplash panels coated with adhesive. Limited designs.
The material you choose can complement your kitchen’s overall aesthetic. Consider cost, ease of installation, and how much maintenance the material requires.
Installing a backsplash is typically a job for simple hand tools. Here are the basic supplies you’ll need:
- Tile cutting wet saw – For safely and accurately cutting tile material
- Notched trowel – For applying tile adhesive to the wall
- Tile spacers – Keep tile spacing consistent during installation
- Grout float – For applying and spreading grout between tiles
- Grout sealer – To seal and protect grout lines
- Tape measure – For measuring and mapping out your layout
- Carpenter’s level & square – Ensure proper tile alignment
- Tile nippers – For nipping small pieces to fit irregular edges
- Sponges – For wiping up adhesive and cleaning tiles
- Buckets – For mixing adhesive and grout
Many of these supplies can be purchased affordably at your local hardware store or tile shop. Investing in the right tools will make installation much easier.
Cost of Installing a Backsplash
The cost of a backsplash installation depends on a few factors:
- Tile material – Materials like glass, marble or metal will cost more than ceramic or porcelain tile.
- Tile size – Small mosaics take more time and expense to install vs larger tiles.
- Custom vs standard backsplash – A custom or mosaic backsplash costs more in design and labor.
- Contractor vs DIY – Hiring a professional tiler adds cost but saves you time and effort.
On average, expect to spend $30-50 per sq ft for DIY ceramic or porcelain tile backsplash. Hiring a contractor to install usually costs $50-100 per sq ft. Higher-end material like natural stone or glass tile ranges $60-150 per sq ft.
There are ways to save on costs:
- Use peel-and-stick backsplash panels instead of tile
- Install a smaller backsplash area
- Use budget-friendly ceramic tile and grout
- Take advantage of tile store sales and bulk discounts
Adding a backsplash is an affordable kitchen upgrade that can make a big difference in your home’s appearance. With careful planning and preparation, it’s definitely a DIY-friendly project.
How long does it take to install a backsplash?
For an experienced DIYer, expect the backsplash installation to take 2-3 days from start to finish. Removing old backsplash, preparing the wall surface, measuring and cutting all tiles, applying adhesive, setting tiles, and grouting are all time-consuming steps. Take it slow to ensure proper placement.
What tools do I need to install a backsplash?
You’ll need basic tools like a tape measure, tile cutter, trowel, grout float, sponges, buckets, gloves, carpenter’s square, and grout sealer. Specialized tools like a tile nipper and wet saw make cutting easier. Always use safety gear like eye protection.
What if I’ve never tiled before?
Installation is very doable for beginners if you educate yourself beforehand. Watch online tutorial videos to understand all the steps and techniques involved. Start small with a simple design, allow extra time for mistakes, and enlist someone experienced if you get into trouble.
How do I cut the tiles?
You’ll need a wet saw to accurately cut tile material. Measure precisely before cutting. Cut several practice tiles first. For irregular holes and notches, use a tile nipper tool. A hole saw works for round cuts like around plumbing. Use safety glasses and water to reduce dust.
What type of adhesive should I use?
For wall tile, use a polymer-modified thinset adhesive made specifically for the backsplash material. Apply it evenly using a notched trowel. Only cover areas that tiles will set on within 30 minutes to prevent drying. Check instructions.
How do I apply the grout between tiles?
After the tile adhesive dries fully (usually 24-48 hours), apply grout using a rubber grout float. Spread it across the surface pressing into joints. Let it set slightly and then polish excess off the tile face with a damp sponge in a circular motion. Leave finished grout lines.
What kind of sealant should go over the grout?
It’s important to apply a penetrating grout sealant over cement-based grout once it has cured, to prevent staining and discoloration over time. Use a grout sealer made specifically for the grout material per manufacturer instructions. Re-apply sealant annually.
Adding a backsplash offers big benefits for your kitchen’s appearance and function. By protecting the walls and adding visual appeal, a new backsplash can make a noticeable difference in your cooking space. While proper planning and precise installation are required, a backsplash is one of the most approachable DIY upgrades. With the right guidance, tools and materials, you can achieve professional-looking results and increase satisfaction in your kitchen.