Changing your backsplash is an easy and affordable way to update the look of your kitchen. With some planning, the right materials, and a few tools, you can switch out your backsplash in a weekend.
Assessing Your Current Backsplash
Before deciding on a new backsplash style and materials, take some time to evaluate your current backsplash situation:
Why Do You Want to Change It?
- Is it dated or damaged? A new backsplash can modernize the look of an older kitchen or cover up cracked or missing tiles.
- Are you remodeling your kitchen? Changing the backsplash is an easy update when doing a larger kitchen remodel.
- Does it not match your style? You may want something more bold or a different color scheme.
What is Your Backsplash Made Of?
- Ceramic tile: The most common material, easiest to swap out.
- Stainless steel: Durable but can dent; usually adhered with adhesive.
- Glass tile: Prone to cracking/chipping if not installed properly.
- Natural stone: Heavy material that requires specialized cutting tools.
How is it Installed?
- Mortar bed: Difficult for DIY removal; rehire a pro.
- Adhesive: Easiest for DIY removal by scraping/heat gun.
- Screws/nails: Straightforward removal but causes wall damage.
Measure the Space
- Carefully measure the area of your existing backsplash. This will determine how much new material you need to purchase.
- Measure horizontally and vertically, including any uneven areas like around windows.
- Note outlet placement; you may need to turn off power temporarily.
Choosing Your New Backsplash
With your current backsplash assessed, it’s time to choose your new backsplash look.
Popular backsplash materials include:
- Ceramic tile: Affordable, easy to install yourself, wide variety of looks.
- Glass tile: Shiny, modern appearance, prone to cracking.
- Metal tile: Durable stainless steel or copper look.
- Stone slab: Elegant natural look like marble or travertine, but heavy.
- Peel-and-stick: Budget DIY option, many materials available.
Consider moisture resistance, cleaning needs, and overall kitchen design when choosing.
Some popular backsplash style trends:
- Subway tile: Classic rectangular white tiles in a brick layout.
- Mosaic: Small tiles arranged in intricate patterns.
- Herringbone: Rectangular tiles in zigzag orientation.
- Marble/stone slab: Large polished stone pieces in natural shades.
- Textured: Mix of tiles with glossy and matte finishes.
- Geometric: Angular tiles or metallic in bold patterns.
- Minimalist: A single oversized tile or solid surface like quartz.
Decide if you want to match existing kitchen finishes like floors, update to a more modern look, or add a pop of color.
For a subtle change, stick with similar backsplash colors like:
- Light gray
Make a statement with:
- Navy blue
- Forest green
- Rich wood tones
- Bright orange or red
Look for tiles that complement your counters, cabinets, and appliances.
Cost will vary greatly based on material:
- Ceramic tile: $3-$20 per sq. ft.
- Glass tile: $15-$30 per sq. ft.
- Stone/marble: $40+ per sq. ft.
- Stainless steel: $25-$50 per sq. ft.
- Peel-and-stick: $0.50-$6 per sq. ft.
Factor in extra costs like shipping, patterned cuts for mosaic layouts, or professional installation.
Preparing to Install Your New Backsplash
Once you’ve selected your new backsplash style, it’s time to get your workspace ready for installation.
For a DIY backsplash install, you’ll need:
- Tile adhesive and grout
- Trowels and grout float for spreading adhesive
- Tile spacers
- Tile cutter for straight cuts
- Nippers for irregular cuts
- Screwdriver to remove old backsplash
- Safety gear: gloves, knee pads, eye protection
Note: Thicker natural stone may require a wet saw for cuts. Consider hiring a pro if your material needs this specialty tool.
Cover and protect:
- Countertops with drop cloths
- Appliances with plastic or painter’s tape
- Floors around the workspace
Remove Old Backsplash
Taking down your old backsplash completely is ideal for proper installation of the new one.
For adhesive-mounted tile:
- Use a heat gun or hair dryer to soften adhesive
- Slowly pry off tiles with a screwdriver or putty knife
- Scrape off remaining adhesive
For screwed-in backsplashes:
- Locate all screw holes
- Use a drill to remove screws
- Patch holes with spackle
Prepare the Surface
Ensuring the wall surface is ready is crucial for proper installation:
- Sand any bumps or uneven areas in the wall
- Wash surface to remove grease, dirt and debris
- Fill any holes or cracks wider than 1/8 inch
- Prime painted walls before installing your tile
Once prepped, your surface should be smooth, clean, and ready for new tile!
Installing Your New Backsplash Tile
You’re almost ready to install your beautiful new backsplash! Follow these tips for a successful DIY tile project:
Plan Tile Layout
- Mark your tile layout on the wall with a pencil if needed.
- Draw reference lines to keep tiles straight and level.
- Start tiles in the center and work outward.
- Apply thinset mortar adhesive using a notched trowel.
- Spread only 1-2 square feet at a time to avoid drying.
- Push tiles into adhesive for a good bond.
- Take measurements and make any niche or outlet cuts before installing tiles.
- Use a tile cutter for straight cuts and nippers for corners or curves.
- File edges smooth after cutting.
- Begin laying tiles in the center using spacers for even grout lines.
- Check tiles for level frequently using a spirit level tool.
- Cut border tiles to fit edges and corners.
Let Adhesive Cure
- Allow thinset mortar to fully cure for 24-48 hours.
- Don’t walk on tiles and avoid water on surface.
- Check for raised edges and press down again as needed.
Grouting and Finishing the Backsplash
The grout fills in the seams between the tiles to give your project a polished finished look:
Prepare and Apply Grout
- Remove tile spacers once adhesive has cured.
- Mix grout per package instructions.
- Use a rubber grout float to spread grout over tiles.
- Push grout into seam gaps to avoid air pockets.
Clean Excess Grout
- Allow grout to become firm, usually 10-15 minutes.
- Use a damp sponge in a circular motion to wipe surface.
- Rinse sponge frequently to remove excess grout.
- Avoid wiping too early or you may pull grout from seams.
Polish and Seal
Once grout has fully cured:
- Buff surface with a soft cloth.
- Use a grout haze remover if needed.
- Apply a tile and grout sealer for moisture protection.
Enjoy your freshly transformed space with a gorgeous new backsplash!
FAQs about Changing Your Backsplash
Here are some frequently asked questions about changing your kitchen backsplash:
How long does it take to change a backsplash?
For an experienced DIYer, plan on spending 2-3 days total. Removing old tile and prepping takes 1 day. Installing the new backsplash takes 1-2 days.
What tools do I need?
A basic toolbox (screwdriver, pry bar, silicone, caulk gun, tile cutters, drill, adhesive trowel, grout float, sponges, gloves, knee pads, safety glasses) will cover most standard backsplash projects. Renting a wet saw is recommended for cutting natural stone.
Should I hire a professional?
If your existing backsplash has a mortar bed or you want natural stone tile, consider hiring a pro. For beginners swapping out ceramic tile, a professional is not necessary but can ensure proper installation.
How do I cut tiles around outlets?
Turn off power to outlets before cutting. Measure and mark cuts needed around outlets. Use a rotary tool or oscillating cutter for curved cuts and nippers for edges near screws. Remove outlet cover plates as needed.
Can I just put tile over existing backsplash?
It is not recommended. Old tile or other materials should be fully removed to allow proper adhesive application on the wall underneath.
How do I prevent cracks with natural stone?
Use a high quality adhesive like latex modified thinset. Check that subfloor is smooth without dips or bumps. Use a tile membrane over plywood subfloors. Cut tiles and drill faucet holes before installation. Seal tiles after grouting.
What about cleaning and maintenance?
Ceramic and glass tile are very low maintenance. Stone may require periodic sealing. Use pH neutral cleaners only – avoid abrasive scouring pads. Re-apply new grout or caulk where needed over time.
Transform Your Kitchen with a New Backsplash
Installing a new backsplash is an achievable DIY project that can give your kitchen an updated look. With some planning and preparation, you can swap out an outdated backsplash for fresh tile that matches your style. Take time to properly remove your existing material, prep the wall surface, and install the new tile. The end result will be a high-end custom look without the designer price tag. Get started this weekend transforming your cooking space with a beautiful new backsplash!