Installing a metal tile backsplash can transform the look of your kitchen or bathroom. Metal tiles add a modern, industrial vibe and are very durable. With some planning and the right materials, installing a metal tile backsplash is a doable DIY project. Here is a step-by-step guide on how to install metal tile backsplash.
Choose Your Metal Tiles
The first step is to select the metal tiles you want to use. Some popular options include:
- Stainless steel – Has a sleek, professional look. Easy to clean.
- Copper – Warm, natural patina over time. Antibacterial.
- Aluminum – Affordable option. Modern appeal.
- Penny tiles – Vintage vibe. Made from real pennies.
- Tin tiles – Rustic charm. Available in many colors.
Consider the overall aesthetic you want and how the metal will pair with your cabinetry, countertops and other finishes. Make sure to buy a few extra tiles in case any are damaged during installation.
Prepare the Surface
Proper prep work is crucial for a long-lasting install. Thoroughly clean the installation area, removing any existing backsplash if there is one. Fill any holes or imperfections with spackle and sand smooth.
The tiles should be applied to a smooth, flat surface. If the wall is bumpy or uneven, you may need to install cement board. Use a level to check for any high or low spots and correct as needed.
Finally, prime the surface with a bonding primer or sealer. This helps the thinset adhesive adhere properly. Allow any primer or sealer to dry completely before tiling.
Lay Out Your Pattern
Before mixing up any thinset, do a dry layout with the metal tiles to map out the pattern. Get a feel for the spacing and orientation.
Most backsplashes use a basic grid pattern, but you can get creative with designs like herringbone or geometric shapes. Blend tiles if using more than one metal finish.
Use spacers between tiles for consistent grout lines. Make sure the layout is even and centered on the wall. Adjust and tweak the dry layout as needed before installing.
Mix and Apply Thinset
For any tile job, use a polymer-modified thinset mortar adhesive. The polymer additive makes it stronger and more flexible, which is essential for a smooth metal tile installation.
Mix the powdered thinset with latex additive to a toothpaste-like consistency according to the product instructions. Only mix up as much as you can use in about 30 minutes.
Use a notched trowel to spread a thin, even layer of thinset on the wall. Apply additional thinset to the back of each tile as well, using the trowel’s flat side.
Set and Grout the Tiles
Carefully press each metal tile into the thinset, using a slight twisting motion for the best adhesion. Use spacers to maintain even grout lines.
After setting several tiles, go back and check for proper coverage and alignment. Adjust any tiles that need it before the thinset dries. Remove any excess thinset with a damp cloth.
Allow the thinset to cure fully (usually 24 hours) before applying grout. Mix a non-sanded grout and work it into the grout lines using a rubber grout float. Wipe away excess grout with a damp sponge.
Once the grout has dried, buff and polish the metal tiles to restore their shine if needed. Use a sealant made for metal if desired.
Tips for Metal Tile Backsplashes
Here are a few additional pointers to ensure your project goes smoothly:
- Use tin snips for quick and easy cutting of metal tiles.
- Drill holes for plumbing fixtures and outlets before tiling around them.
- Stagger the tile layout so not all grout lines line up vertically.
- Handle metal tiles carefully to avoid scratches, dents and bends.
- Work slowly and methodically – metal tiles don’t allow any shifting.
- Use caulk, not grout, where the backsplash meets countertops or cabinets.
With the right prep and materials, you can DIY a stunning metal tile backsplash in your kitchen or bath. Take your time, and don’t be afraid to get creative with unique patterns and mixed metal finishes.
Frequently Asked Questions
What type of thinset should I use?
Use a polymer-modified thinset mortar adhesive when installing metal tiles. The latex polymers make it more flexible and less prone to cracking.
How do I cut the metal tiles?
You can use a wet saw with a diamond blade, but an easier method is to use metal snips. Tin snips allow you to cut the tiles quickly and easily right at the install site.
Do I need to seal the tiles after grouting?
Sealing is an optional step and not required. Metal tiles won’t absorb stains like porous tiles. If desired, use a sealant specifically made for natural metals to protect the finish.
What’s the best way to prep uneven walls?
To smooth out uneven walls, attach cement backerboard as an underlayment before tiling. Screw it into studs for best results. Use thinset between the backerboard and wall.
Can I accent the metal tiles with other materials?
Absolutely! Accenting your metal backsplash tiles with glass, stone or ceramic tiles can add great visual interest. Just make sure all materials are compatible with your choice of thinset and grout.
Installing metal tile backsplash is a great way to add a modern, industrial edge to your space. With the right planning and preparation, it can definitely be a DIY project. Just be sure to have the proper materials and take care in laying out and handling the tiles. The end result will be a durable, resilient backsplash that is beautiful and unique. Use this guide to help make your project go smoothly from start to finish.