Installing tile trim is an important finishing touch when tiling a backsplash in your kitchen or bathroom. The trim helps complete the look, nicely framing the edges of the tilework. With some careful planning and attention to detail, you can add tile trim yourself to create a professional built-in look.
Choosing Tile Trim
When choosing tile trim, you’ll want to coordinate with the tiles used on the backsplash. Trim is available in a variety of materials like ceramic, metal, glass, and natural stone. Consider color, pattern, and finish. The width of the trim is also an important factor, as a wider trim can make more of a statement. Most tile trims are 1/4″ to 3/4″ wide.
Some popular options include:
- Ceramic tile trim: Available glazed or unglazed. Offered in different profiles like bullnose or quarter round.
- Stainless steel tile trim: Provides clean, modern look. Typically has a brushed finish.
- Glass tile trim:Transparent quality suits glass tile backsplashes. Decorative look.
- Stone tile trim: Natural material like marble makes an elegant impression.
- Mosaic tile trim: Multi-piece tiles allow you to coordinate with mosaic sheets.
- Metal tile trim: Good choice for a contemporary, industrial vibe. Often aluminum or copper.
Preparing to Install Tile Trim
Proper preparation is key to a successful tile trim installation. Plan to complete the following steps before applying adhesive:
- Measure the length and width of the backsplash area to determine how much tile trim you will need. Remember to calculate any inside corners or niche edges in your measurements.
- If using more than one piece of trim, also measure and mark the center point of the backsplash before installation. This will help align the trim pieces.
Cut Trim to Fit
- Most tile trim pieces come in standard 8 or 10-foot lengths. Use a hacksaw or metal cutter to cut them down to custom fit your backsplash.
- Cut pieces so there are 1/16-inch gaps between trim ends. These gaps allow for expansion and prevent buckling.
- For internal corners and niches, measure and cut mitered pieces to create a clean finish.
Make Sure Surface is Clean
- Tile trim adheres best to a clean, dry surface. Wipe down the backsplash with a damp cloth.
- Check for any lingering debris or uneven areas along edges and sand or scrape smooth.
- Choose an adhesive compatible with the tile and trim material. Most standard mastics work well.
- Load about 1/8-inch of adhesive onto the backsplash edge using a notched trowel.
Allow Time to Set
- Let mastic sit for 5-10 minutes until tacky before applying trim. This allows it to build bond strength.
- Refer to the adhesive manufacturer’s instructions for exact time recommended.
How to Install Tile Trim
Once prepped, you’re ready to attach the tile trim to finish off your backsplash edges. Here is a step-by-step guide:
Step 1: Position Trim
- Place the first trim piece along one edge of the backsplash and press firmly into the adhesive.
- If using multiple pieces, start with the center marked piece and work outward for best symmetry.
Step 2: Check for Straightness
- Look from a distance and use a level to ensure the trim is evenly aligned and not crooked.
- Make any necessary adjustments before the adhesive sets.
Step 3: Apply Pressure
- Use a padded tapping block and small hammer to apply consistent pressure along the trim piece, securing it in the adhesive.
- Tap gently to avoid cracking tile trim material like ceramic or glass.
Step 4: Install Remaining Trim
- Work in sections, cutting and installing remaining trim pieces along all finished edges and niches.
- Remember to leave 1/16-inch gaps between trim ends.
Step 5: Clean Up Adhesive
- Carefully scrape away any adhesive that has oozed out from tile trim seams using a putty knife.
- Wipe trimmed edges clean with a damp sponge before adhesive dries.
Step 6: Allow Adhesive to Cure
- Give adhesive full time to cure, usually 24-48 hours. Avoid disturbing trim during this timeframe.
- Refer to adhesive label for recommended cure time before grouting.
Once installed, check that trim is straight, gaps are even, and the fit is flush to the tiles. Your trim is now ready to be grouted into place completing the backsplash.
Tips for Installing Tile Trim
Follow these tips for best results when installing tile trim:
- Cut trim pieces slightly long – It’s easier to trim excess than deal with a too-short piece that won’t cover the edge.
- Use tile spacers – Place spacers between tile and trim to help center and evenly align the trim as it sets.
- Pre-seal porous trim – Use a tile sealer on natural stone trim to prevent staining and ease grout clean up.
- Take care on outside corners – They are prone to chipping or breaking. Reinforce with adhesive or miter for durability.
- Work methodically – Focus on one trim piece at a time. Don’t try to multitask or you may end up with uneven spacing.
- Use a grout float – A handy tool specially designed to apply grout between trim and tile edge.
- Let adhesive fully cure – Allowing mastic to fully dry/cure ensures the strongest bond before grouting.
Common Problems and Solutions
Tile trim finishes the look, but doesn’t always go as planned. Here are some common problems and ways to prevent or fix them:
Problem: Tile trim corners cracking or chipping
- Reinforce vulnerable corners with extra adhesive.
- For multiple adjoining pieces, miter corners for better seam support.
- Use a small delicate tile nipper to trim cracked edges.
Problem: Grout cracking between trim and tile
- Be sure to use a flexible grout.
- Ensure adhesive has fully cured before grouting.
- Apply caulk between trim and tile then grout for flexibility.
Problem: Tile trim popping off
- Remove old adhesive and re-prep surface before reapplying trim.
- Allow mastic to get tacky before setting trim.
- Apply even pressure along entire trim length when setting.
Maintaining Tile Trim
Tile trim is durable, but proper care is important to keep it looking fresh over time. Here are some maintenance tips:
- Clean tile trim regularly with warm water and a mild pH-neutral cleaner.
- Re-apply grout or caulk if cracking appears between trim and tiles.
- Check for loose trim pieces and re-adhere if necessary.
- For polished metal trim, use a tile and grout cleaner to remove hard water deposits or soap scum buildup.
- Seal natural stone trim annually to prevent staining and etching from acidic foods and liquids.
- Avoid using harsh cleaners, abrasive sponges or high-pressure sprayers on trim.
Here are answers to some frequently asked questions about installing tile trim on a backsplash:
Should tile trim match the tiles?
Matching the trim with your backsplash tiles is ideal, but not mandatory. Contrasting colors and textures can also look very striking. Just be sure the width and thickness of the trim fits the tile well.
What tools do I need to cut tile trim?
You can cut ceramic and glass trim with a simple carbide glass cutter. Use a hacksaw for metal trim. For natural stone, a wet saw with a diamond blade is recommended.
Can I use sanded caulk instead of grout with the tile trim?
Yes, sanded caulk is a very convenient alternative to grouting trim. Make sure to get a color matched caulk that coordinates with your grout color.
Should I use spacers when installing tile trim?
Tile spacers are highly recommended to help evenly align and space the trim. Place them in the grout line between the tiles and trim.
How do I finish outside corners with tile trim?
For a clean finish, measure and miter cut the trim to meet at outside corners. Another option is using bullnose trim pieces on the corners rather than standard square trim.
Can tile trim get wet?
Porcelain, ceramic, glass, and natural stone trim can all withstand water. Use caution with metal trim, which can corrode over time from moisture exposure.
Installing tile trim is an easy process that makes a big impact on the finish of your backsplash. With the right products, tools, and techniques, you can achieve results as professional-looking as a built-in backsplash. Carefully measuring and cutting the trim ensures proper fit. Allowing adequate cure time for adhesives prevents problems down the road. Once grouted and sealed, keep tile trim clean and maintained to stay looking fresh for years of beauty and function in your kitchen or bath.