Installing a glass tile backsplash in your kitchen can add a beautiful, shiny accent wall that is easy to clean and maintain. Glass tiles come in a variety of colors, shapes, and sizes, allowing you to customize your backsplash design. Installing them properly takes some tile knowledge and work, but it is a doable project for most DIYers. Here is a comprehensive guide on how to install kitchen backsplash glass tile to help you get started.
Selecting the Glass Tiles
The first step is choosing the right glass tiles for your backsplash. Here are some tips:
Types of Glass Tile
- Clear glass – These are translucent and allow light to pass through. They work well in rooms with plenty of natural light.
- Colored glass – These come in endless colors like blue, green, red, black, etc. They add a vibrant pop of color to your backsplash.
- Iridescent glass – These change colors depending on the lighting and angle you view them. They have an artistic, eye-catching look.
- Etched glass – These are sandblasted or etched with a design that scatters the light. This softens the look and hides grout lines.
- Mosaic tiles – Tiny glass tiles mounted to a mesh sheet make a mosaic pattern. These are great for detailed designs.
Size of the Glass Tiles
Smaller tiles like 1-inch mosaics have a busy look with more grout lines. Larger tiles 4-inches or 6-inches have a smoother, seamless look. Choose based on your design preferences.
Thickness of the Glass Tile
Glass tile thickness is either 1/4 inch or 3/8 inch. 3/8 inch glass tile is best for walls and provides stability for the tile. 1/4 inch is more fragile but can also be used.
Matching Grout Color
Select a grout color that complements or matches the glass tile. Contrasting grout can look messy. White and gray are popular grout colors with clear glass. Colored grout matches colored glass.
Measure your backsplash area and calculate the square footage. Buy 10-15% extra to account for broken tiles and custom cutting.
Consider mirrors, metals or stones to accent the glass tiles. Penny rounds, stone listellos, or metal tiles can add nice variety.
Prepare the Wall for Installation
Preparing the backsplash area is crucial for proper installation of glass tiles. Follow these steps:
Clean the wall thoroughly to remove all grease, dirt and debris. Use a degreaser and rinse well. The tiles will not stick if the wall is dirty.
Take out existing outlets and switch plate covers. You will install new ones over the tile.
Fill Any Holes or Cracks
Use spackle or caulk to fill any small holes, cracks or uneven areas in the wall. The surface should be as smooth as possible.
Cut cement backerboard to fit the backsplash area and screw it into the wall studs with backerboard screws every 6 inches. This provides a stable surface for the tile.
Seal the backerboard seams with mesh tape and thinset. Then spread a thin layer of thinset over the entire surface. Let it dry completely. This waterproofs the backerboard.
Apply Mortar to Wall
Spread a layer of thinset mortar evenly across the backsplash area using a notched trowel. This adheres the tiles to the wall.
Now the wall prep is complete and you can begin installing the glass tile.
How to Install the Glass Tile
Here are the step-by-step instructions for properly installing glass mosaic tile:
Step 1: Plan Your Pattern and Layout
- Decide on the pattern you want like brick or herringbone.
- Map out your tile layout and center it on the wall. Measure and mark guides.
- Cut border and corner tiles as needed.
Step 2: Mix the Adhesive Mortar
- For glass tile, use a white thinset mortar. Mix it to a thick, pasty consistency.
- Add latex additive to the thinset for stronger adhesion.
- Prepare small batches so the thinset doesn’t dry out.
Step 3: Spread Thinset on the Wall
- Use a notch trowel to apply a thin layer of thinset to the area you are tiling.
- Apply only 1-2 square feet at a time so the thinset doesn’t dry out.
Step 4: Apply Thinset to the Back of Each Tile
- Spread a thin layer of thinset on the backs of 2-4 tiles at a time.
- Use a grout float or your fingers to spread it evenly.
- Don’t get thinset in the joints between mosaic tiles.
Step 5: Place the Tiles on the Wall
- Firmly press each tile into the thinset on the wall within the layout lines.
- Use spacers between tiles for consistent grout lines.
- Work in small sections and remove any excess thinset.
Step 6: Check Tiles are Level and Aligned
- As you work, use a level and measuring tape to check tiles are straight.
- Adjust as needed while the thinset is still pliable.
- Clean excess thinset gently with a damp sponge.
Step 7: Allow Thinset to Dry
- Let the thinset dry for 24 hours before continuing with grouting.
- Don’t grout until the tiles are firmly set in the mortar.
- Remove the tile spacers when dry.
Step 8: Mix and Apply Grout
- Mix grout according to package directions. Apply grout over the entire surface, pushing it into the joints.
- Let it sit for a bit and then use a rubber grout float or squeegee to scrape off excess grout at a 45 degree angle.
Step 9: Clean Grout Haze
- Once grout in joints is firm, gently wipe surface with a damp sponge in a circular motion.
- Rinse sponge frequently to remove haze and keep water clean.
- Allow grout to cure fully for 48-72 hours.
Step 10: Seal the Grout
- After grout has cured, apply a penetrating grout sealer. This prevents stains and damage.
- Carefully apply sealer to only the grout according to directions. Avoid getting sealer on the glass tile.
Step 11: Caulk Perimeter with Mildew-Resistant Silicone
- Once everything is dry, caulk where the tile meets the countertop, edges, window, etc.
- Use a flexible, mold-resistant silicone caulk.
Your stunning glass tile backsplash is now completed and ready to enjoy! Be sure to buff off any remaining haze and carefully clean it going forward.
Tips for Installing Glass Tile Backsplash
Follow these handy tips for a successful installation:
- Always use sanded grout for joints wider than 1/8 inch as with glass tile.
- Glass tiles cannot be cut with a regular tile cutter. Use a glass cutter or wet saw instead.
- Soak porous glass like frosted tile in water before installation to prevent absorption of the mortar.
- Use a white thinset mortar to prevent shadowing through glass tile.
- Take extra care installing around electrical boxes. Ensure waterproofing is intact.
- Avoid getting thinset or grout on the surface of the tiles. Wipe off immediately if this occurs.
- Allow 72 hours of curing before using the backsplash. Take care not to bump or scrape the area.
- Use silicone caulk where tile meets the countertop or sink to allow for movement and prevent cracks.
Common Mistakes to Avoid
Adhering to proper technique and avoiding shortcuts is key for a long-lasting glass tile backsplash. Steer clear of these common mistakes:
- Not cleaning and preparing the wall properly before tiling. Any debris or grease will prevent adhesion.
- Using the wrong type of adhesive mortar not specifically made for glass. This can lead to failure.
- Applying glass tile directly to drywall or plaster. It must be installed over cement backerboard.
- Allowing thinset or grout to dry on the tile surface. This can etch the glass.
- Not letting thinset dry adequately before applying grout. Grout will crack or fall out.
- Using sanded grout with glass tile smaller than 1 inch. This can scratch the surface.
- Skipping perimeter caulking. Caulk is essential to allow for movement and prevent cracking grout.
- Forgetting to use grout sealer. Unsealed grout will stain easily.
- Using regular glass cleaner or other harsh cleaners on the tile. Only use mild soap and water.
FAQs About Installing Glass Tile Backsplash
Here are answers to some frequently asked questions about installing glass mosaic tile:
Is a glass tile backsplash hard to install?
Glass tile is harder to install than ceramic or porcelain tile. The tiles are fragile, require special cutting tools, and need extra care when setting and grouting. While challenging, it is definitely a DIY project if you have tiling experience. Be sure to follow all the installation steps.
What tools do I need to install a glass tile backsplash?
You will need the basic tiling tools like a mixer, notched trowel, spacers, grout float, and sponges. Plus, glass-specific supplies like a glass cutter, glass snapping pliers, rubbing stones, and a wet saw with a diamond glass blade. Gather all tools before starting.
Can I install a glass tile backsplash directly over existing tile?
No, glass tile should never be installed directly over existing tile. The tiles need to be well-adhered to a cement backerboard substrate. Remove existing tile, clean the wall down the studs, and install new cement backerboard before tiling.
How long does a glass tile backsplash take to install?
For an average sized kitchen backsplash of 10-25 square feet, installation will take 2-3 days. Allow proper drying time between each step – 24 hours between installing tile and grouting, another 48-72 hours for grout to cure before sealing. Rushing the process can ruin the finished look.
How do I cut glass mosaic tile sheets?
The mosaic tiles mounted on mesh sheets can be cut using a utility knife and straightedge. Place the sheet mesh-side up on a cutting mat and carefully score the mesh. Snap tiles along the score. A wet saw with a diamond blade can also cleanly cut mounted mosaic tiles. Never use nippers on the tile itself.
Can you apply glass tile over existing backsplash tile?
It is not recommended. Adhering glass tiles directly on top of existing tile is risky. The adhesive will not bond well, putting your new tiles at risk of failure and falling off. Existing tile should be stripped off completely before installing glass backsplash tile.
Installing a sleek glass tile backsplash can take your kitchen from boring to beautiful. While it is a more advanced DIY project requiring specialty tools and materials, the end result is well worth the effort. Carefully following the proper preparation, tile setting, grouting, and sealing techniques will lead to success. Focus on every step and avoid cutting corners. With some patience, creativity, and skill, you will have a radiant glass backsplash to enjoy for years.