Installing a Schluter strip on your backsplash is an easy way to add a clean, modern finish to your kitchen or bathroom. Schluter strips provide a sleek transition between the countertop and backsplash, while also protecting the edges of the tiles. With some basic tools and materials, you can achieve a professional-looking installation.
What You’ll Need
- Schluter strip kit – Includes metal strips, adhesive, and connectors. Choose a finish like stainless steel or anodized aluminum.
- Tiles – Check that the tile thickness matches the Schluter strip depth. Mosaic tiles or small format tiles work best.
- Tile adhesive – Choose an adhesive compatible with the tiles and substrate.
- Trowel – Use a notched trowel to spread the tile adhesive.
- Tile spacers – Ensure even grout lines between tiles.
- Grout – Use sanded grout for joints 1/8″ or larger.
- Caulk – Color-matched silicone caulk for sealing between the strip and countertop.
- Utility knife – For cutting the strips.
- Mixing bucket – For the tile adhesive.
- Mixing paddle – To mix the adhesive.
- Sponges – For cleaning and smoothing joints.
Preparing the Surface
Before installing the Schluter strip, make sure the wall and countertop are clean and dry. Use painter’s tape along the countertop edge to prevent the strip from sticking to the countertop prematurely.
Cut the strips to the required lengths using a utility knife and metal snips. Include an additional 1/4″ on each end to account for the connectors. Dry fit the strips and corners before applying any adhesive.
Installing the Schluter Strips
- Apply a thin layer of tile adhesive to the back of the strips using a notched trowel. The adhesive should cover at least 90% of the surface area.
- Firmly press the strips to the wall, aligning the top edge to be level with the top of the tiles. Use tile spacers to ensure even reveals between the strip and tiles.
- Allow the adhesive to cure according to manufacturer’s instructions. Usually 24 hours.
- Mix the tile adhesive according to package directions. Use a notched trowel to spread it evenly on the wall up to the height of the top course of tiles.
- Place the tiles along the Schluter strip, using spacers to align. Push the tiles firmly into the adhesive and use a rubber grout float or beating block to embed them evenly.
- Allow the tile adhesive to fully cure before grouting, usually 24 hours.
- Mix the grout according to package instructions. Apply it over the tiles, filling the joints completely.
- Let the grout firm up slightly and then clean off excess from the tile surface using a damp sponge.
- Caulk the joint between the Schluter strip and the countertop using color-matched silicone caulk. Remove the painter’s tape after tooling the caulk smooth.
- Allow grout and caulk to fully cure for 72 hours before regular use and cleaning.
Tips for Successful Installation
- Carefully plan corners and cuts to minimize small pieces of tile.
- Apply painter’s tape 1/8″ from the edges of the strips to prevent adhesive and grout from sticking.
- Ensure the tile adhesive fully covers the back of each tile to prevent loosening or cracking grout joints.
- Use tile spacers consistently to achieve straight, evenly spaced grout joints.
- Tool caulk into a smooth, consistent bead between the strip and countertop to prevent cracking.
- Clean any excess grout or adhesive immediately before it dries using a damp sponge.
- Allow recommended curing times for adhesives, thinset mortars, grout, and caulk.
Installing a Schluter strip requires careful prep and attention to detail. When done properly, it creates a sleek finish that protects tiles from damage. The strip trim conceals cut edges while allowing for alignment with the countertop height. With the right materials and techniques, you can achieve professional-looking results.
Frequently Asked Questions
What type of tile can be used with Schluter strips?
Schluter strips are compatible with most types of ceramic and porcelain tiles, including mosaics. Natural stone tiles can also be used if they have a tile thickness of 1/4″ or less. The tiles should have square edges and should match the depth of the Schluter strip.
How are inside and outside corners handled?
Schluter strips include connector pieces for inside and outside corners. These can be cut to size and adhered flat into the corner. The strips are then aligned to create a clean finish. Tile edging pieces are also available for certain profiles.
Can the strips be installed on uneven walls?
Yes, thin-set mortar allows some adjustment for unevenness in the wall. The strips can also be built out slightly using continuous spackling along the length of the strip if needed prior to tile installation.
What maintenance is required for Schluter strips?
Schluter strips are low maintenance. Use a pH neutral cleaner for regular upkeep. Grout may need occasional resealing. Avoid abrasive cleaners or scrubbing that could scratch the finish. Stainless steel strips can be polished if needed.
Can Schluter strips be used on the floor?
Schluter does make some edging products for floor installations. However, most Schluter strips are not intended for floors and the wear and tear they experience. Consult the manufacturer’s specifications.
Installing a Schluter strip creates a clean transition between the countertop and backsplash. Schluter strips protect tile edges while offering decorative trim options to suit your style. With careful prep and installation using the manufacturer’s guidelines, you can achieve sleek, professional results. Your new backsplash will stand up well to regular use while looking sharp for years to come.