Installing a backsplash in your shower is a great way to add an extra touch of style and protection to your bathroom. A backsplash prevents water damage to your walls while also allowing you to decorate with tiles or other materials. Installing a shower backsplash is a manageable project for an intermediate DIYer. With some planning, patience, and the right materials, you can achieve a high-end backsplash look.
Choose Your Backsplash Material
The first step is deciding on the material you want to use for your backsplash. Here are some of the most popular options for shower backsplashes:
Tile is a classic choice that offers durability and easy cleaning. Ceramic, porcelain, or natural stone tiles are common options. Glass tile is also popular for a glossy, sleek look. Choose smaller tiles with grout lines that match your overall design aesthetic. Make sure tiles are designed to withstand wet environments.
Consider moisture-resistant backing like cement board as a base before tiling. Plan out your tile layout and purchase 10-20% extra to account for broken or damaged tiles. Complementary accent tiles can add visual interest.
Stainless steel backsplashes have an ultra-modern, industrial chic look. Stainless steel comes in tiles or full sheets to be cut to size. This material is water-resistant, easy to clean, and hygienic. Use a silicone-based adhesive to apply stainless steel tiles or sheets to cement board.
Plastic or acrylic backsplash panels are waterproof and affordable. Look for textured designs or colored panels to mimic materials like subway tile or stone. Use silicone adhesive to install panels over cement board or existing tile. Plastic is easy to wipe clean.
Natural stone like marble, travertine, or slate can create a high-end, spa-like vibe. Purchase stone that has been sealed to prevent water damage and staining. Natural stone requires precise cutting, professional-grade adhesives, and careful installation to create tight seams.
Peel-and-stick backsplash panels use adhesive backing for easy installation. Materials like metal, cork, faux brick, and recycled glass are available. This is a budget-friendly option, though peel-and-stick backsplashes are not as durable long-term compared to other materials.
Prepare the Area
Once you’ve selected your backsplash material, proper preparation is crucial for successful installation:
- Remove existing wall coverings – Remove tile, wallpaper, paint or anything covering your walls. Scrape and sand surfaces down to the drywall or masonry underneath.
- Address moisture issues – Identify and repair any leaks or moisture damage. Allow all surfaces to fully dry before applying backsplash.
- Deep clean – Clean your walls with an all-purpose cleaner or TSP substitute to remove grime and soap scum. Rinse thoroughly.
- Seal and repair – Seal any cracks or holes with caulk. Skim coat damaged drywall with joint compound to smooth. Prime surfaces with multi-surface primer.
- Choose your substrate – Cement board, Greenboard, or FRP panels all make good substrates for wet areas.
- Mark plumbing locations – Mark the locations of valves, showerheads and other plumbing before installing the backsplash.
- Pick your starting point – Determine if you want your backsplash tiles to start directly above the tub or if you want them to run down to the tub lip.
Proper prep prevents problems like mold growth and tiles detaching from the wall. Don’t skip this important step!
Install the Backer Board
Most shower backsplash materials require a water-resistant backer board fastened to the studs as a substrate. Here is how to install backer board:
- Measure and cut your backer board panels to fit your shower walls. Leave a 1/8″ gap between boards.
- Fasten boards horizontally along studs using backer board screws, spaced 8″ apart across studs and every 12″ vertically along seams.
- Place fiberglass mesh tape over all seams and corners. Embed tape in a layer of thinset mortar.
- Apply a second coat of mortar over the tape, feathering it out from the seam to create a smooth finish. Let dry completely.
Cement backer board provides extra moisture protection. For certain materials like peel-and-stick, existing drywall or tile may be used if it’s in good condition. Always check manufacturer guidelines.
Apply Waterproof Membrane
Applying a waterproofing membrane is strongly recommended to prevent leaks and moisture damage behind your new backsplash. Here’s how:
- Thin liquid membrane can be rolled or brushed on. Apply over all seams and fastener heads.
- Pre-formed sheets like Kerdi can be cut to size and embedded in thinset mortar. Overlap seams by 2″.
- Seal all edges, corners, valves, and plumbing penetrations with compatible waterproof sealant.
- Extend membrane 6″ above the top of the planned backsplash installation.
Waterproofing provides an extra layer of leakage protection. Don’t skip this step even if your backerboard claims to be waterproof.
Lay Out Your Design
Now comes the fun part – planning your backsplash design! Here are some tips:
- Graph paper can help map out tile layouts. Mark plumbing locations.
- Measure and calculate your tile needs based on square footage. Don’t forget the ceiling and any niches.
- Mix tile sizes, textures, borders, and accent tiles to create interest.
- Use the tile floor or countertops as inspiration for colors and style.
- Install backsplash tiles vertically for a seamless look that appears to continue down into the tub.
- For peel-and-stick panels, make cuts with a utility knife and ruler.
Creating a layout helps envision the final design. Don’t be afraid to get creative!
Install the Backsplash
Once your design is mapped out, it’s time for installation. Follow these tips:
- Mix your thinset mortar, following package directions. Apply to the wall using a notched trowel.
- Press tiles into the mortar, using spacers for even grout lines. Push to embed fully without leaving gaps.
- Cut border and accent tiles as needed with a tile cutter or wet saw. Use caution.
- Allow mortar to cure 24 hours before grouting. Grout with a rubber float, wiping away excess.
- Seal grout and tile surfaces withgrout sealer once fully cured, typically 72 hours.
- Cut panels to size. Dry fit first before applying adhesive.
- Apply silicone adhesive to the back of the panels, spreading evenly with a notched trowel.
- Press panels gently but firmly to the substrate. Use shims if needed to ensure flush alignment.
- Seal all seams and edges with silicone caulk. Smooth with a finger or caulk tool for a neat finish.
Don’t rush the installation – take your time for the best results!
Finish the Job
You’re in the home stretch! Finish up your new backsplash installation:
- Allow all adhesives and caulk to fully cure – usually 24-48 hours.
- Remove any spacers once grout has set. Fill any remaining grout lines as needed.
- Seal grout and tile with grout sealer for water protection and easier cleaning.
- Caulk along the bottom edge and any openings with flexible silicone sealant.
- Run any excess caulk along joints with your finger or caulk tool before it skins over.
- Clean your new backsplash well with soapy water and a soft cloth. Buff off residues.
- Caulk the transition areas if gaps exist between the bottom of backsplash and tub or walls. Allow to cure before using shower.
- Admire your work and beautiful new backsplash!
Proper sealing and cleanup ensures your backsplash stays looking like new.
Follow these tips to keep your new backsplash pristine:
- Seal grout and tile surfaces yearly with grout sealer to prevent staining and damage.
- Use a gentle, non-abrasive cleaner specifically formulated for tile and grout. Avoid harsh cleaners.
- Wipe spills quickly to prevent staining of grout lines.
- Re-caulk any areas that show signs of damage or mold growth. Watch for leaks.
- Limit scrubbing of delicate tile – use soft sponges and cloths to prevent scratching.
With proper care, your backsplash can last for many years of enjoyment!
Common Backsplash Installation Issues
Even if carefully installed, you may run into a few snags. Here are some common backsplash problems and how to fix them:
- Check thinset mortar consistency and application method. Mortar should adhere tiles evenly.
- Use tile leveling spacers during installation.
- For minor unevenness, lift and re-apply tile with more mortar.
- Ensure proper curing time based on product directions before grouting.
- Mix grout as directed and apply evenly without overworking it into joints.
- Make sure grout joints meet minimum size requirements per manufacturer.
- Check mortar for proper consistency – not too wet or dry.
- Push tiles firmly into place, using a tile spacer tapper tool if needed.
- Lift problematic tiles after 24 hours and re-apply with adequate mortar.
- Ensure adhesive is properly mixed and panels fully embedded.
- Use denatured alcohol to remove any oily residue inhibiting adhesion.
- Cut out and replace detached panels using silicone adhesive.
With patience and care, most backsplash issues can be remedied for long-lasting results.
Here are answers to some frequently asked questions about installing a backsplash in the shower:
Should I use actual tiles or laminate panels?
Genuine ceramic, porcelain, or stone tiles are more durable and water-resistant compared to laminate panels. However, panels offer greater ease of installation for DIYers. Choose based on your budget, skill level, and desired longevity.
What kind of thinset mortar is best?
Use white polymer-modified mortar specifically formulated for wet area installations. This provides maximum adhesion and resistance to moisture and mold growth.
How do I cut tricky irregular shapes and openings?
Use a mini wet saw or angle grinder with a diamond blade for precise curved cuts around plumbing openings or niches. Use caution and proper eye/ear protection.
Should I install the backsplash before or after the shower floor?
It’s best to install wall tiles prior to the shower floor. This allows the floor tiles to be cut and fit precisely around the bottom of the walls. Just be careful not to damage the backsplash during floor installation.
How do I accent my backsplash design?
Consider using border or decorative tiles, mixing sizes or textures, adding stone or glass accents, or mosaic sheets to create interest. Use tile wraps around niches or the shower valve.
What should I seal my grout with?
Look for grout sealers designed for wet area installations. Epoxy-based sealers provide better water protection compared to topical coatings. Reapply yearly.
How do I cut tiles around shower valves and fixtures?
Carefully measure and mark openings before cutting tiles to fit around fixtures and valves. Use a jigsaw with tile blade, angle grinder, or manual tile nipper for safe, controlled cuts.
Installing a backsplash in your shower provides aesthetics and protects your bathroom from water damage. With proper planning and preparation, this is a DIY-friendly project that can give your space a high-end, designer feel. Carefully consider your material options, create a layout, and take your time with installation for best results. Maintain your backsplash properly, and it will provide many years of durable, easy-to-clean functionality. With some dedication to the process, you can enjoy a beautiful new backsplash that elevates your shower.
So those were the detailed insights on how to install backsplash in shower. Let me know if you have any other questions!