Installing a backsplash in your kitchen or bathroom can instantly upgrade the look and feel of the space. However, determining how much mortar you need for the job can be tricky. Here are some tips on calculating the right amount of mortar for your backsplash project.
What is Mortar?
Mortar is an adhesive material used to bond tile to surfaces like walls or countertops. It is a mixture of cement, sand, and water that dries into a thick paste. When spreading mortar, the goal is to apply an even layer that fully covers the surface to which you are adhering the tiles.
Mortar comes in different types for specific applications:
- Thinset mortar – A cement-based blend commonly used for indoor floor and wall tile. Modified versions add latex or polymers for better adhesion.
- Mastic adhesive – A premixed acrylic- or latex-based adhesive used mainly for wall tiles. Mastic has more flexibility than thinset.
- Grout – A sand and cement blend used to fill joints between tiles. Different from mortar in viscosity and function.
Thinset is most commonly used under backsplashes. Mastic adhesive is also suitable, depending on the tile material.
Estimating Needed Mortar Amount
To determine how much mortar you need for a backsplash project, you’ll need to consider the area you are tiling and the tile size:
Calculate Tiling Area
- Measure the length and height of the backsplash area in inches.
- Multiply the length x height to get the total square inches.
- Divide by 144 to convert square inches to square feet.
Example: A backsplash that is 36 inches long and 48 inches high is 1,728 square inches. 1,728 sq inches / 144 = 12 sq ft tiling area.
Factor in Tile Size
- Standard wall tiles are 4-1/4″, 6″, or 12″ square. Subway tiles are 3″ x 6″.
- Smaller tiles require more mortar across a given area.
- As a general rule, use 4-6 sq ft coverage per 50 lb bag for tiles under 6″. Use 6-8 sq ft per bag for larger tiles.
Example: With 12 sq ft area and 4-1/4″ tiles, you would need approximately 2 bags (12 sq ft / 5 sq ft per bag)
Account for Surface
- Rough or uneven surfaces demand a thicker layer, using more mortar.
- Smooth drywall or laminates need less mortar behind tiles.
Add at least an extra 10% if mortaring over an irregular surface.
Tips for Spreading Mortar
- Apply mortar using a notched trowel to evenly comb ridges across the surface.
- Work in sections so the mortar doesn’t dry out before setting tiles.
- Spread only as much mortar as you can tile over in about 15-20 minutes.
- Push tiles firmly into place to set them in the mortar ridges.
- Check periodically that full mortar contact is achieved behind tiles.
It’s better to have excess mortar left over than to run short on the job. Unused mortar can be saved if sealed properly in the bag, for use on small repairs or future projects. Always prepare extra mortar.
With some simple tile area calculations and tile size considerations, determining how much mortar to buy is easy. Prepare at least 10% extra, work in sections, and follow proper application techniques for a successful backsplash installation. Let us know if you have any other tips for calculating and working with mortar on backsplashes!
How to Prepare a Surface for Tile Backsplash
Installing a tile backsplash transforms the look of a kitchen or bath. However, proper planning and surface preparation are key steps before applying tiles. Here is a guide on preparing surfaces for backsplash installation.
Clean the Surface Thoroughly
- Remove any existing backsplash by scraping off grout and chiseling tiles.
- Clean dirt, grease, soap scum, and residues from the area using degreaser or TSP cleaner.
- Rinse several times and let dry completely.
Proper cleaning allows mortar to adhere tightly.
Evaluate and Repair Wall Surface
- Inspect for damage, holes, cracks, or imperfections in the wall surface.
- Fill any holes or gaps wider than 1/8 inch with spackle or caulk. Sand smooth when dry.
- Remove loose paint or wallpaper and sand glossy paint to degloss.
Repairs provide a sound base for tiles.
Install Cement Board if Needed
- For surfaces like plaster or drywall, install cement backerboard first.
- Cut boards to size and fasten with cement board screws every 6-8 inches.
- Tape seams with fiberglass mesh tape and thinset mortar.
Cement board gives a rigid, water-resistant underlayment.
Apply Primer or Sealer
- Prime painted walls with a latex primer to aid adhesion.
- Seal porous concrete, plaster, and cement board with a membrane sealer.
- Let primer and sealers dry completely.
Sealing the surface prevents absorption of mortar moisture.
Plan Your Layout
- Mark the tile layout on the wall with a pencil, starting at the center.
- Use a level to ensure your lines are straight.
- Dry fit a few tiles to test the planned layout.
Layout lines serve as a guide for installing tile courses evenly.
With the right prep work – cleaning, repairing imperfections, installing backerboard, and priming – any wall can become a suitable surface for a stylish backsplash. Planning a tile layout ahead of time also helps get the job done efficiently. Follow these steps for a smooth installation process.
Choosing Grout Color for Tile Backsplash
Selecting the right grout color might seem like a minor detail, but it can dramatically affect the look of your tile backsplash. Grove fills the joints between tiles and serves both functional and decorative purposes. Follow these tips when choosing a grout color.
- White grout provides clean contrast against darker tiles like navy or black.
- It works well with mosaic mixes and subway tiles in grey, blue, or green shades.
- Keep white grout looking bright by sealing regularly.
- Grey is versatile for blending in or standing out from tiles.
- Natural grey grout matches stone tiles like marble or travertine.
- Darker grey pops against white or pastel tiles. Light grey grouts subtly blend with mid-tone tiles.
- Black grout makes a bold statement on light-colored glossy or stone tiles.
- It can highlight glass, metallic, or mosaic tiles, making them stand out.
- Black grout requires more sealing to keep its dark color.
Matching vs. Contrasting
- Matching grout to tile color minimizes the grid-like grout lines.
- Contrasting grout makes the individual tiles more prominent.
- Lighter grouts like white show dirt and require frequent cleaning.
- Darker grouts hide stains but need sealing to prevent discoloration.
- Epoxy grouts resist staining and are ideal for heavy use areas.
Test Grout Colors
- See how grout colors look next to actual tiles by testing samples.
- Allow mortar to cure completely before evaluating color.
- View samples at different times of day as lighting affects color perception.
Choosing the ideal grout involves balancing design, maintenance, and your personal color preferences. Contrasting or matching mortar joints can entirely change the look of backsplash tile. Sample boards and test areas are helpful to find the perfect fit.
How to Use Specialty Grouts for Unique Backsplash Designs
From metallic and glitter grouts to colored and epoxy grouts, there are many options for using specialty grout styles to create stunning backsplashes with unique designs and effects. Here are some tips for utilizing different grouts to customize your backsplash look.
- Contain metal particles that reflect light for a shimmering effect.
- Choices include nickel, copper, pewter, bronze, and more.
- Enhance stone, glass, or mosaic tiles.
Best practices: Apply to clean dry tiles, use grout release agent, buff gently when cured.
- Two-part grout mixed just before using. Cures quickly into a hard, durable grout.
- Available in various colors and naturally glossy when cured.
- Ideal for heavy use areas like kitchens. Easy to clean and maintain.
Best practices: Prepare smaller batches that can be used before setting, apply evenly and remove excess.
Colored Cement Grout
- Offers unlimited color options from soft pastels to bright saturated hues.
- Can be matched to tile color for a monochromatic look.
- Requires sealing to prevent staining.
Best practices: Test color samples, use sponges and minimal water for best color uniformity.
- Contains pigments that react with air, causing color to shift over time.
- Creates an antique worn look as the grout “weathers”.
- Enhances the rustic charm of handmade tiles and natural stone.
Best practices: Allow 24 hours of curing before cleaning and sealing.
- Quartz grout has ground quartz for durability and matte look.
- Luminescent glow-in-the-dark grout.
- Glitter grout contains sparkling mica.
- Glass Bead grout features tiny glass spheres.
With the wide range of specialty grout products now available, backsplashes can be customized to complement any tile style or decor. Just keep in mind proper application techniques to achieve the desired look and maximum performance from specialty grout.
Installing Subway Tile Backsplash in Kitchen
Subway tile backsplashes are a popular and classic choice for kitchen walls. The rectangular style tiles lend a clean, sleek look behind stoves and countertops. Here are some tips for properly installing subway tile backsplashes in kitchens.
Select Appropriate Tile
- Tile thickness for walls is normally 1/4″ or 1/2″.
- Choose color and surface. Options include gloss, matte, textured, or handmade finish.
- Actual tile size is usually 2 x 4 inches or 3 x 6 inches. Measure sample to confirm.
Thinner tiles are more forgiving on uneven walls.
Prepare and Measure the Surface
- Clean surface thoroughly and make any repairs to existing wall finish.
- Install cement backer board if needed, then apply waterproofing sealer.
- Measure space and mark center point to start full tiles. Adjust as needed.
Proper prep prevents loose or fallen tiles later on.
Install Bottom Course First
- Dry fit bottom tiles and use spacers to set even grout width.
- Mix thinset mortar. Spread thin layer and use notched trowel to comb ridges across bottom area.
- Press tiles firmly into mortar ridges. Check coverage behind each tile.
Bottom course provides a straight reference line for courses above.
Apply Tiles in Sections
- Work in small sections so thinset mortar does not dry out.
- Use laser level to ensure courses are perfectly straight.
- Insert plastic tile spacers between tiles for consistent grout joints.
A laser level tool prevents lippage between uneven tiles.
Cut Edge Pieces as Needed
- Use a tile saw to cut L-shaped edge tiles and small filler pieces.
- Finish edges near countertops or ceilings with caulk, not grout.
- Let thinset mortar cure fully (24-48 hours) before grouting.
Cutting tiles neatly finishes the polished look.
Clean and Seal Grout
- Push grout deeply into joints using a rubber grout float.
- Wipe gently across tiles diagonally to remove excess grout.
- Apply grout sealer once fully cured to protect from stains.
Sealing grout keeps the joints looking clean.
The simple repetitive grid pattern of subway tiles makes for an easy DIY install. With careful preparation, precise tile-setting, and proper grouting, you can achieve a flawless backsplash that protects your kitchen walls in style.
Ideas for Backsplash Around Window Over Kitchen Sink
Designing a backsplash around a kitchen window can be tricky. The sink, faucet, window frame, counters, and backsplash all need to integrate. Here are some ideas to create a coordinated look for the backsplash around a kitchen window.
Full Height Subway Tile
Run full height subway tiles from counter to ceiling across the entire back wall. The tiles surround the window seamlessly while the metal faucet and hardware pop against the crisp white tile.
Etched Glass Accent
Frame the window with a backlit etched glass tile. Illuminated by natural light during the day or interior lighting at night, this glowing accent becomes a focal feature on the back wall.
Tumbled Marble Brick Pattern
Alternating the long and short sides of rectangular marble tile pieces creates a brickwork pattern around the window. The naturally varied tones of tumbled marble provide depth and contrast.
Window Framed with Decorative Border
Frame the window area with a border of ornate tiles or metal trim moulding. Inside the frame, stack varying sizes of travertine tile bricks for a stylish accent wall effect.
Contrasting Horizontal Band
A contrasting horizontal band of darker tiles draws the eye across the full backsplash surface. The window becomes part of the larger design, framed by the directional band.
Window Frame Mosaic Panel
Make the window the star by framing it with a mosaic tile pattern. The small uniform pieces create a colorful geometric panel that highlights the window. Echo the mosaic in the sink or stove backsplash.
Extend Countertop Material Across
For a cohesive look, run the countertop material like quartz across the area below the window. Natural stone or ceramic works too. Add a metal hood over the stove which interfaces with the extended countertop.
Smart backsplash design considerations around a kitchen window include extending materials across surfaces, framing with decorative accents, and using directional patterns. This helps integrate all elements – counters, sink, window, and backsplashes – into a harmonious whole.
Backsplash Ideas for Small Kitchens
Backsplashes not only protect walls behind sinks and stoves but provide style in small kitchens where every inch counts. Here are some backsplash ideas to make the most of petite kitchen spaces.
Keep it simple. All-white subway tiles make the space feel clean instead of cluttered. Or do an uninterrupted slab of quartz, marble, or ceramic across the entire back wall.
Though small in size, go bold on style. A punchy color or daring geometric tile pattern adds drama without overwhelm in a compact kitchen.
Extend Materials Up and Across
Use the same countertop material, like quartz, on the backsplash to visually open up the space. Take subway tile all the way to the ceiling for a taller look.
Beveled Metro Tiles
The reflective light qualities of glass or mirrored tile make small kitchens sparkle. Beveled edge metro tiles refract light across their slanted faces.
Mini Mosaic Murals
Tiny mosaic tiles let you create a big custom mural for your small backsplash. Keep the overall color palette light.
Horizontal, vertical, or square tile layouts can feel boxed in. Go diagonal, herringbone, or perpendicular. This leads the eye around the corners of the room.
Incorporate wall-mounted floating shelves into the backsplash design. This adds display space without taking up valuable counters. Shelves can also substitute for upper cabinets.
With some creativity and strategic design choices, small kitchen backsplashes can make the space feel expansive rather than confined. The right combination of tiles, patterns, materials, and shelves opens up tiny kitchens.
Can You Use Mosaic Tiles for a Backsplash?
Mosaic tiles are an eye-catching option to consider for kitchen or bathroom backsplashes. The variety of mosaic tile styles, shapes, colors, and materials allows for beautiful customized designs. Here are some tips on using mosaic tiles for backsplashes.
What are Mosaic Tiles?
Mosaic tiles are any small uniform tiles under 2 inches square, made from materials like ceramic, porcelain, glass, or stone. Some types include:
- Penny rounds
- Hexagons or octagons
- Geometric shapes
- Irregular pieces
- Mesh-mounted tiles
Mosaics create patterns when installed.
Benefits of Mosaic Backsplash
- Size variety allows detail and precision.
- Range of colors, textures, and gloss levels.
- Can mimic look of natural stone, metal, or glass.
- Easily create murals, medallions, borders, or accents.
- Available in mesh sheets for simpler installation.
Considerations and Best Practices
- Installation is slower and requires more grout than standard tiles.
- Use lighting to enhance glass or metallic mosaics.
- Plan special tools like grout bags for compact joints.
- Select grout color carefully to complement mosaic color mix.
- Seal grout and clean mosaics regularly to prevent hazing.
Common places to install mosaic backsplash include:
- Kitchen back wall behind stove and sink
- Area surrounding kitchen window or niche
- Bathroom shower or tub surround
- Bathroom mirror backsplash
With proper installation techniques, mosaic tile backsplashes provide big decorative impact in a small space. Just take into consideration the specialized tools and care required when working with tiny mosaic pieces. Thorough planning allows you to turn mosaic tiles into a work of art