Installing a quartz backsplash can add an elegant and stylish focal point to any kitchen. Quartz is an engineered stone made from natural quartz particles and resin that creates a very durable and low-maintenance surface. While quartz slabs can be purchased pre-cut to size, you may need to trim and customize pieces to fit your backsplash design. Cutting quartz requires special tools and techniques, but with proper planning and care, DIYers can achieve professional results. This guide will walk through all the steps for how to accurately measure, mark, cut, shape, polish, and install a beautiful quartz backsplash.
What You’ll Need
Cutting and installing quartz tile or slabs requires gathering the right supplies. Here’s an overview of the essential tools and materials:
- Quartz slabs or tiles – Choose an engineered quartz product made for countertops or backsplashes. Thicker slabs (2-3 cm) tend to be more workable than thin tiles.
- Wet saw with diamond blade – A specialized wet saw for stone is required to cleanly cut through quartz. Look for a 10″ or 12” model with an adjustable fence.
- Diamond polishing pads – Use 50-3000 grit pads to hone cut edges to a polished finish.
- Masking tape and marker – For marking cut lines on the quartz. Blue painter’s tape works best.
- Safety gear – Wear eye protection, ear plugs, and an N95 dust mask when cutting. Quartz produces silica dust.
- Silicone adhesive – Look for a neutral-cure adhesive designed for stone and quartz.
- Grout – Epoxy or acrylic-based grout made for quartz. Match grout color to your slab.
- Backerboard – Cement board provides a stable base for installation.
- Trowels and floats – For spreading adhesive and grouting.
Having the right cutting, polishing, prep, and installation products on hand will make the process smooth and successful.
How to Measure and Plan Your Cuts
Careful planning and measurements are needed to cut quartz slabs and tiles to fit your backsplash design. Follow these steps:
Gather measurements: Use a tape measure to measure the length and height of the backsplash area. Mark down the dimensions.
Map your design: Sketch out the pattern you want for the backsplash and decide on slab or tile sizes. Account for any outlets, windows, or obstructions.
Plan cuts: Determine the types of cuts needed – long straight cuts, L-shaped pieces, holes for outlets, etc. Mark cuts on your sketch.
Add overhang: Add 1/8″ – 1/4″ to vertical measurements for overhang on the countertop and bottom. Horizontal pieces should fit snugly between walls.
Account for adhesive: Add an extra 1/16” – 1/8” to each measurement to allow space for the adhesive layer between quartz pieces and the wall.
Having accurate dimensions mapped out ahead of time will make cutting go smoothly and result in a professional fit.
How to Mark and Cut Quartz Slabs
Once you’ve planned the layout and measurements, it’s time to start cutting. Be sure to have safety gear on and follow these steps:
Clean slab: Remove any dirt or residue from the surface with denatured alcohol. Use a smooth, debris-free workspace.
Mark lines: Use masking tape and a marker to draw straight cut lines on the backside of the quartz slab. Be precise.
Set up wet saw: Install a diamond blade designed for quartz. Adjust the fence so it aligns with your marked line. Add water.
Make cuts: Put on ear and eye protection. Cut slowly through the quartz by feeding the slab through the blade along the fence. Let the blade do the work.
Smooth edges: Use a coarse 50-grit pad to smooth and deburr cut edges. Finish with finer grit pads up to 3000 grit for polished edges.
Inspect cuts: Ensure pieces fit together properly and measurements align with your plan. Make any necessary adjustments.
The key is using a wet saw designed for stone and taking it slowly to achieve straight, smooth cuts in the quartz slabs. Patience and the right tools will pay off.
Cutting Outlets, Faucets, and Obstructions
Quartz backsplashes often need to be cut around pre-existing fixtures like electrical outlets, plumbing, and windows. Here are some tips:
Mark obstruction: Trace the outline of the outlet, faucet, etc. on the quartz piece with a marker.
Drill pilot holes: Use a masonry drill bit to drill small pilot holes just inside the corners of the outline. This prevents cracking.
Make relief cuts: Use a diamond blade on the wet saw to connect the pilot holes and cut out the outline.
Smooth and polish edges: File down sharp edges and use grit pads to polish the cutout area. Test that the fixture fits properly.
Cut filler pieces: For outlets, cut a filler piece that can be installed behind the quartz around the receptacle.
Take it slowly when cutting around obstructions and make small precision cuts rather than forcing long cuts. Use pilot holes, make relief cuts, and polish thoroughly for a seamless look.
How to Shape and Polish Edges
For unique shaped edges and seamless joints in the quartz, you’ll need to hone and polish the cut edges:
Make rough cuts – Cut pieces slightly oversized so edges can be shaped.
Grind away excess – Use a hand-held angle grinder with 50-grit pad to grind away excess quartz and shape edges.
Smooth and polish – Switch to hand-held sanding blocks with finer grit pads up to 3000 grit. Work through each successive grit.
Bevel edges – For a smooth joint, hold sanding blocks at a 45° angle to create a slight bevel on each piece.
Remove lippage – Inspect pieces and sand down any uneven edges between adjoining tiles.
Clean thoroughly – Wipe away all quartz dust between sanding steps. Rinse polished edges.
Taking the time to properly shape and polish all cut edges will result in a seamless installed backsplash. The beveled edges will create tight joints.
How to Install a Quartz Backsplash
Once all your pieces are cut, it’s time for installation. Follow these key steps:
Prepare the Surface
- Thoroughly clean the wall surface. Remove any existing backsplash.
- Apply waterproofing sealant if needed.
- Install cement backerboard if the wall is not already a suitable substrate.
Adhere Quartz Pieces
- Apply a thin layer of silicone adhesive to the back of each piece.
- Carefully press quartz pieces into place on the wall. Use spacers for even gaps.
- Tape pieces in place until adhesive sets. Allow 24 hours drying time.
Finish With Grout
- Mix epoxy or acrylic grout per manufacturer instructions. Apply grout between all quartz joints.
- Wipe away excess grout with a damp sponge and allow drying fully.
- Polish and seal grout lines with a penetrating quartz-grade sealant for protection.
Taking precautions like cleanly cutting pieces, using quality adhesive, and sealing will result in a durable, high-quality DIY quartz backsplash.
FAQs About Cutting Quartz Backsplashes
Here are answers to some frequently asked questions about measuring, cutting, and installing quartz tile and slabs:
What tools do I need to cut quartz?
You’ll need a wet saw specially designed for cutting stone and quartz. Look for a 10” or 12” model with a diamond-tipped blade and adjustable fence. A standard circular saw cannot cleanly cut quartz.
How do I get clean straight cuts in quartz?
Use painter’s tape and mark your cut line on the back of the slab. Take it slow pushing the quartz through the saw blade with the fence as a guide. Let the blade do the work. Immediately polish cut edges to prevent chipping.
What should I use to polish and smooth the edges?
Start with a 50-grit pad to remove bulk and unevenness from cut edges. Move up through finer grits of sandpaper, using wet sanding blocks, up to 3000 grit for a polished finish. Rinse well between sanding.
How do I cut an outlet opening in quartz?
First trace the outlet shape on the slab’s backside. Drill small pilot holes at the corners, then make relief cuts between holes with the wet saw. File the edges smooth and test fit the outlet cover plate. The holes allow tight turns without cracking the quartz.
What’s the best way to attach quartz to the wall?
Use a high-quality neutral cure silicone adhesive made specifically for bonding stone and quartz. Apply an even 1/16” layer and install pieces precisely. Tape in place until the adhesive fully cures, usually about 24 hours.
How long does quartz backsplash installation take?
Cutting and preparing the pieces is the most time-consuming part. Allow 1-2 days for accurate marking, cutting, sanding, and test fitting. Actual installation of prepped pieces goes relatively quickly. Total DIY time ranges from 2-5 days.
Installing a custom-cut quartz backsplash brings elegance and visual interest to any kitchen. With the right tools and attention to detail, DIYers can cut and install quartz slabs and tiles for a high-end backsplash. Precise measuring, calibrated diamond blade wet saws, edge polishing, and using quality adhesives and grout result in a durable, polished look. While cutting quartz takes special care, the beauty and durability of quartz makes the time and effort worthwhile. Follow these tips and techniques for cutting and enjoy the stylish focal point a quartz backsplash provides.