Installing a stone veneer backsplash can add beautiful texture and interest to your kitchen or bathroom. Stone veneer brings natural elegance without the weight and expense of full stone slabs. With some planning and effort, you can create this upscale look yourself. Follow this step-by-step guide to properly install a faux stone backsplash that enhances your space for years to come.
Selecting Your Stone Veneer Tiles
When choosing stone veneer tiles, you have several options to consider:
- Manufactured stone consists of lightweight concrete molded to mimic natural stone surfaces. It comes in an array of colors and styles. Manufactured veneer is more uniform than natural stone and resists damage from moisture.
- Natural thin stone provides the beauty of real stone in a thinner format. Common types used for backsplashes include slate, quartzite, travertine, and limestone. Natural stone has more variation in patterning.
- Faux stone uses polystyrene or polyurethane to recreate the look of stone. It is lightweight and easy to cut, but provides less texture than other materials.
Select a stone veneer color that complements your cabinets, countertops, flooring, and paint colors. Neutral earth tones like beige or tan work well in most kitchens. For a pop of color, consider a blue, green, or rustic red stone.
Look for tile styles that match your desired aesthetic. Options include:
- Stacked stone with a ledgestone look
- Mosaic patterns for a Mediterranean feel
- Brick or subway layouts for modern or industrial style
- Ashlar patterns with rectangular stones for a tailored look
- Distressed styles with chipped edges and uneven surfaces
Standard stone veneer tiles are around 1/4″- 1/2″ thick. Tile length and height range from 4″ mosaic pieces to 12″ x 24″ ledgestone sections. Mix different sizes for a natural appearance.
Stone veneer tiles cost $5-$50 per square foot. Natural stone and larger tile sizes sit at the higher end. Factor this investment into your budget.
Tools and Materials Needed
Installing a stone tile backsplash requires some specific tools and materials. Be sure to have the following on hand before starting your project:
- Tape measure
- Tile cutter with diamond blade
- Notched trowel
- Grout float
- Mixing bucket
- Mixing paddle
- Rubber grout float
- Grout sealer
- Stone veneer tiles
- Thinset mortar
Prepare the Surface
Taking time to properly prepare your backsplash area ensures the stone tiles adhere and withstand moisture over time.
Step 1: Remove Old Backsplash
If there is an existing backsplash, take it down completely. Use a putty knife to scrape off any leftover tile adhesive. Wipe the wall clean.
Step 2: Install Backerboard
Cut cement backerboard to fit your backsplash area. Seal seams with mesh tape and thinset mortar. Fasten boards with backerboard screws every 8 inches.
Cement backerboard provides a water-resistant surface for tiling.
Step 3: Waterproof Backerboard
Apply a waterproofing membrane or “redguard” over the backerboard. Roll or brush on the waterproof coating to seal the surface. Let it dry completely.
Waterproofing prevents moisture from seeping behind the stone veneer and damaging the wall.
Apply Thinset Mortar
Mix thinset mortar with latex additive to a toothpaste-like consistency. Use a notched trowel to spread it across a small section of the backsplash surface. Apply only as much as can be tiled in 30 minutes.
Choose the Trowel Notch Size
- Use a 1/4″ square notch trowel for mosaic tiles.
- Use a 1/2″ V-notch or square notch trowel for standard stone veneer tiles.
Spread thinset in straight rows, holding the trowel at a 45 degree angle. Thinset should be 3/32″ thick after flattening with the trowel edge.
Set the Stone Veneer Tiles
Set tiles into the thinset one at a time. Follow these best practices:
Step 1: Apply Tile Spacers
Place tile spacers around perimeter edges and where tiles meet. Spacers ensure consistent grout lines of 1/8″ – 3/16″.
Step 2: Set Tiles into Thinset
Firmly press tiles into the thinset. Push from multiple angles to flatten completely. Slide tiles through the thinset for maximum coverage and adhesion.
Step 3: Check Level and Alignment
As you set tiles, use a level and tape measure to verify they are plumb and aligned. Make minor adjustments as needed.
Step 4: Cut Edge Pieces
Measure and cut L-shaped stone veneer edge pieces. Cut veneer face up with a manual tile cutter or wet saw.
Stone cuts best with a diamond blade. Take safety precautions.
Let Tiles Set Before Grouting
Allow the thinset mortar to cure for 24 hours before grouting stone tile joints. This prevents tiles from shifting when applying grout.
Test tile adhesion after curing. Tiles should not wiggle or detach. Re-adhere any loose tiles.
Mix and Apply Grout
Grout fills joints between tiles, sealing and finishing the stone veneer installation.
Step 1: Mix Grout
Choose an unsanded grout for thin stone backsplashes. Mix per package instructions. Let the grout slake for 10 minutes, then remix before using.
Step 2: Spread Grout
Hold the grout float at a 45° angle and force grout deeply into joints. Remove excess grout held on the tile face.
Step 3: Clean Grout Haze
Wipe a damp grout sponge diagonally across tiles to remove haze and smooth joints. Rinse sponge frequently.
Step 4: Seal Grout
After grout dries fully, apply grout sealer with a small foam brush. Avoid coating tile faces. This protects grout from stains.
Finish With Sealant
Sealing the stone veneer tiles and grouted joints prevents staining and damage from moisture.
Step 1: Allow Grout to Cure
Let grout dry 72 hours before applying sealant. This prevents sealant from trapping moisture or whitening grout.
Step 2: Clean Surface
Wipe tiles down to remove any dirt, debris, or remaining grout haze. Rinse thoroughly and let dry.
Step 3: Apply Sealant
Use a foam paint brush to apply a penetrating or topical sealant made for natural stone. Cover all tile faces and grouted joints. Wipe any excess.
Step 4: Allow Drying Time
Let sealer dry for the time recommended on the product instructions before use. Many sealers require 24-48 hours curing time.
Maintaining Your Stone Veneer Backsplash
Once installed, be sure to properly care for your stone tile backsplash to keep it looking beautiful for years.
- Seal tiles every 1-2 years to maintain protection.
- Use a gentle stone cleaner to keep dirt and grime from building up.
- Immediately wipe up spills to prevent possible staining.
- Avoid abrasive scouring pads/cleaners which can scratch tiles.
- Check for damaged or missing grout over time and repair as needed.
- Re-apply grout sealer periodically to prevent staining or cracking.
Tips and Tricks for Achieving a Professional Look
Follow these pro tips as you install stone veneer backsplash tiles:
- Carefully plan tile layout to avoid narrow cut pieces around edges and openings.
- Cut veneer face up with a wet saw or manual tile cutter to prevent chipping.
- Use tile spacers consistently to achieve even grout line spacing.
- Wipe down thinset residue before it dries to keep tiles clean for grouting.
- Grout and seal tiles as soon as possible after installing to prevent damage.
- Work slowly and carefully to handle the irregularities of stone veneer tiles.
- Keep spare tiles to make future repairs less noticeable.
Frequently Asked Questions
Get answers to common questions about installing and caring for stone veneer backsplash tiles.
What kind of thinset mortar should I use?
Use a polymer-modified thinset mortar for any tile application in wet areas like kitchen backsplashes. This type of thinset has latex additive for superior adhesion and water resistance.
How do I cut stone veneer tiles?
Cut veneer tiles face up with a manual tile cutter or wet saw equipped with a diamond blade. For intricate cuts, use a mini grinder with a diamond veneer disc. Take proper safety precautions for any power tools.
Can I install stone veneer directly over drywall?
No, never install stone veneer or any tile over regular drywall. Cement backerboard provides critical moisture resistance behind the tiles.
What color grout should I choose?
Select grout close to your tile color for a subtle look. For more contrast, use a darker or lighter shade of grout. For a natural stone look, earthy beige or tan grout works well.
How soon can I use my backsplash after installation?
Wait at least 72 hours after grouting to allow thinset and grout to fully cure before regular use of the backsplash. Avoid soaking or heavy scrubbing during this time.
Installing a faux stone backsplash brings natural style to your kitchen or bath. With proper planning and prep, stone veneer tiles can be installed by an ambitious DIYer. Focus on creating a moisture-resistant surface, allowing adequate drying times, and sealing tiles and grout to guarantee your new backsplash lasts for years of everyday use. The results will bring an elegant, upscale look you’ll enjoy showing off.