Installing a mesh backed tile backsplash can add style and visual interest to your kitchen or bathroom. With the right tools and preparation, it’s a DIY project many homeowners can tackle. Here is a comprehensive guide on how to install a mesh backed tile backsplash.
A backsplash protects the wall from water damage and stains while also serving as an eye-catching focal point in your kitchen or bathroom. Mesh backed tiles are a popular option because the fiberglass mesh on the back makes the tiles easier to install. The mesh backing provides support and allows the tiles to firmly adhere to the wall.
Installing a tile backsplash requires careful planning, the right materials, proper tools, and good techniques. In this guide, we will walk you through the entire process step-by-step, from preparing the surface to applying grout. With a little time and effort, you can achieve a beautiful, professional-looking backsplash that will enhance your space.
Benefits of a Mesh Backed Tile Backsplash
There are several advantages to using mesh backed tiles for your backsplash project:
- Easier to install: The mesh backing acts as a built-in mortar for the tiles, allowing for much simpler installation compared to traditional backsplash tiles. No need to spread mortar manually.
- Lighter weight: Mesh backed tiles are lighter than traditional ceramic or porcelain tiles, making them easier to handle and place on the wall.
- More versatile: The mesh backing allows the tiles to be installed on surfaces beyond just drywall, such as directly on water-resistant greenboard or cement board.
- Stronger bond: The mesh mortar provides a very secure bond between the tile and surface underneath. This leads to greater durability and resistance to moisture.
- Uniform spacing: The tiles hang evenly on the mesh, allowing for uniform grout lines and spacing without extra effort.
Things You’ll Need
Before starting your project, you’ll need to ensure you have the proper tools and materials on hand:
- Tape measure
- Trowel for spreading mortar
- Tile cutter (manual or wet saw)
- Grout float
- Rubber grout float
- Mesh backed tiles
- Mortar or thinset
- Mortar additive if needed
- Cement board or water-resistant drywall
- Grout sealer
Step 1: Prepare the Surface
Proper surface preparation is crucial for achieving the best end results. Ensure the installation area is primed and ready with these steps:
Clean and Dry the Surface
The surface must be clear of any dirt, grease, or soap scum before tiling. Wash the area thoroughly with an all-purpose cleaner and allow to fully dry.
Install Cement Board If Needed
Cement board provides an ideal base for tile installation. If the surface is drywall rather than cement board, it should be moisture-resistant drywall (greenboard) to prevent warping or damage.
Measure and cut cement board panels to size using a utility knife. Screw the panels securely to wall studs. Leave a 1/8″ gap between panels and a 1⁄4” gap along the edges. Tape joints with fiberglass mesh tape.
Apply Primer or Sealer
Priming ensures better adhesion. Use a primer designed for tile and masonry applications. Apply an even coat and let dry completely.
On cement board, apply a thin layer of mortar to fill gaps and create a smooth surface for tiling. Let mortar fully cure before continuing.
The surface is now ready for tiling once clean, secure, and primed.
Step 2: Plan the Layout
Carefully plotting out your design and tile layout will ensure the installation goes smoothly and the end result is cohesive.
Choose Your Design
The options are endless when selecting a pattern or design for your backsplash. Consider complementing the style of your kitchen or bath. Play with shape, size, texture, and color of tiles.
Some popular options include:
- Subway tile layout: Classic brickwork design
- Herringbone: Angled tiles for visual interest
- Mosaic: Artistic blends of small tiles
- Accent tiles: Borders, medallions, or bands of decorative tiles
Map Your Layout
Once you’ve selected the tiles, map out the pattern and shape on paper. Plan where accent tiles or borders will go. Measure the area to determine the tile quantities needed.
Having a pre-determined layout will make installing the mesh tiles much easier. It’s a good idea to dry lay the tiles on the floor first to confirm the pattern before sticking tiles to the wall.
Step 3: Cut the Tile
Mesh backed tiles require some special considerations when cutting:
Use a Wet Saw
Wet saws are ideal for cleanly cutting mesh tiles with their diamond encrusted blades. The water prevents overheating and cracking.
Place mesh tile sheet on the saw bed, mesh side up. Run the blade slowly through the tile.
Cut Several Tiles Together
Since the tiles hang together on the mesh, you can cut multiple pieces at once rather than individually.
Cut Right Through the Mesh
Don’t attempt to cut the tile off the mesh. Always cut directly through both the tile and mesh backing for best results.
Remove Mesh from Edges
Use a utility knife to carefully peel away any mesh along the cut edges that will be butted up against neighboring tiles.
Cut tiles as needed to fit around outlets, corners, and other obstructions. Having tiles pre-cut makes for an efficient installation.
Step 4: Apply the Mortar
With your tiles cut and surface prepped, it’s time to apply the mortar that will adhere the tile.
Choose the Right Mortar
For mesh backed tiles, a polymer-modified thinset mortar is recommended. The polymers add strength and flexibility.
Prepare the Mortar
Mix the dry mortar with water per manufacturer directions, usually about 1 part powder to 1 part water. Mix to a smooth, lump-free consistency. Let sit for 10 minutes then remix before use.
Spread the Mortar
Apply a layer of thinset mortar to the wall using a notched trowel. Spread evenly at a 45-degree angle.
Only cover enough area that can be tiled in 15-20 minutes before mortar dries.
Step 5: Install the Tile Mesh
Now it’s time for the fun part—sticking the tiles onto the prepped surface. Follow these tips for proper placement:
Work in Sections
Rather than tiling the entire backsplash at once, work in sections for easier handling, especially for first-timers.
Once a section of mesh tile is placed against the mortar on the wall, press over the entire surface to maximize contact and adhesion. Use a grout float or rubber grout tool.
While pressing tiles in place, verify the edges are aligning properly with your layout. Make any needed adjustments.
Start tiling from the center and move outward for the most accurate spacing. Pay close attention to outer edges and corners.
Take care installing the mesh tiles for maximum coverage of mortar and proper positioning.
Step 6: Finish Things Up
You’re in the home stretch! Just a few finishing touches to complete your backsplash project:
Let Mortar Cure
Allow thinset mortar to fully cure for 24-48 hours before continuing with grouting. This ensures tiles are firmly attached.
Mix grout per package instructions and work it into tile joints using a rubber grout float. Let sit for a few minutes then scrub off residue with a damp sponge.
Once grout has dried, apply a penetrating grout sealer according to label directions to protect from moisture and staining.
Use a silicone caulk to fill any gaps along the edges between the tile and counter, cabinets, or walls.
With that you can stand back and admire your stylish, professional-looking new backsplash! Proper installation will allow it to last for many years.
Frequently Asked Questions
What are the best tiles to use?
Porcelain and ceramic tiles are most popular for backsplashes. Look for tiles rated for wall use. Mosaics add artistic flair. Glass tile can provide brilliant shine. Natural stone brings elegance.
How are mesh backed tiles different than paper faced?
Paper faced tile has a paper coating over the mortar side, while mesh backed contains a woven fiberglass mesh. Mesh is stronger and longer-lasting.
Should tiles be sealed after grouting?
Sealing is not mandatory but can provide added protection, especially for porous natural stone tiles. Use a water-based sealer.
What tools are needed for cutting?
Wet saws are ideal, but a snap tile cutter or nippers can also work for straight cuts. Always use a sharp carbide-tipped tool.
How are tiles made water-resistant?
Glazes provide water resistance for ceramic, porcelain, and glass tiles. Natural stone may require additional sealing against moisture.
Can backsplash tile be installed directly over drywall?
Tile should only be installed over cement board or moisture-resistant drywall. Standard drywall risks swelling and damage from moisture penetration.
How are tiles installed around electrical boxes?
Carefully measure and notch tiles to fit around outlets and switches. Turn off power to be safe working around electrical.
Installing a mesh backed tile backsplash brings eye-catching style to your home. With the right planning and materials, the project can be successfully tackled as a DIY weekend upgrade. Just take it step-by-step.
The end result will be a stylish, resilient backsplash that protects your wall and adds design flair for years to come. Once familiar with the process, you may find yourself looking for new places to add tile installation throughout your home.