A kitchen backsplash is a vital design element that serves both form and function. Not only does a backsplash provide protection for your walls from water damage and stains, it also acts as an accent that can tie your whole kitchen design together. Putting in a new backsplash is a relatively easy DIY project that can completely transform the look of your kitchen. This guide will walk you through everything you need to know to successfully install a kitchen backsplash yourself.
Things to Consider Before Installing a Backsplash
Before you start demolition and installation, there are a few key factors to consider that will ensure your project goes smoothly.
Backsplashes can range dramatically in price. Keep in mind that natural stone, ceramic or glass tile, and mosaics will be more expensive than materials like tin backsplashes or peel-and-stick options. Be sure to measure your space and get quotes before settling on a material.
Putting in a backsplash requires some basic tiling skills, but is totally DIY friendly. If you aren’t experienced with home improvement projects, start with a peel-and-stick backsplash which doesn’t require any messy mortar or grout.
Design and Color Scheme
Look at the existing elements in your kitchen like cabinetry, countertops, and flooring and choose a backsplash that complements them. You’ll also want to decide if you want an eye-catching focal point or prefer a subtle accent.
Consider the maintenance and durability required for your backsplash area based on usage and traffic. For example, behind a cooktop you’ll want a very hardy material that can withstand heat and stains.
How to Measure for Your Backsplash Area
Once you’ve settled on the material you want to use, you’ll need to carefully measure your backsplash installation area to determine the square footage you’ll need to purchase.
Countertop to Cabinets
Measure from the top of your countertops up to the bottom of your wall cabinets. Be sure to deduct a few inches if you don’t want your backsplash to bump up against the cabinets. This measurement will give you the height.
End to End
Mark the span along your countertops you plan to cover, measuring from one end point to the other. This will give you the length.
Outlets or Obstacles
Note any outlets, stove ventilation, or other obstacles that fall within your installation area and adjust your measurements accordingly.
Total Square Footage
Multiply your length by your height to get the estimated total square footage for materials needed. Remember to account for pattern matching and cuts.
Preparing Your Installation Area
To ensure proper adhesion and smooth installation, you’ll need to thoroughly prepare your backsplash area before applying any materials.
Clean the Surface
Wipe down your backsplash area with a degreaser or cleaner to remove any dirt, stains, or residue on the walls. Rinse thoroughly.
Remove Appliances or Hardware
Take out existing hardware like curtain rods, outlet covers, or existing backsplashes. This gives you full access and prevents damage.
Fill Any Gaps or Holes
Examine the walls for any cracks, holes, uneven sections, or gaps around pipes or wires. Fill these using caulk or spackle compound.
Sand rough areas
Once any wall flaws are patched up, take a sanding block or sandpaper to rough spots to smooth them out.
Prime the Surface
After cleaning and prepping, apply a primer coat to create a uniform surface that allows superior adhesion for your backsplash.
How to Install a Tile Backsplash
Follow these steps for a successful tile backsplash installation:
Step 1: Measure and mark your layout
Dry lay a few rows of tile on the countertop spaced evenly to find your center point. Use a level to mark vertical and horizontal layout lines on the wall.
Step 2: Apply the mortar
Mix up adhesive mortar compound and use a notched trowel to spread it evenly over your installation area staying within your layout lines.
Step 3: Cut any custom tiles
Make precise cuts on border or edge tiles that need custom fitting using a wet tile saw.
Step 4: Set the tiles
Starting near your center point, press tiles firmly into place within the mortar one by one using spacers for even alignment.
Step 5: Let mortar cure
Allow mortar to fully cure for 24-48 hours. Use clamps or tape to secure any tiles that move.
Step 6: Grout application
Push grout evenly into joints between tiles, wipe away excess, allow drying per manufacturer instructions.
Step 7: Seal and finish
Apply a penetrating sealant to grout lines. Buff entire surface with a soft cloth for a shiny finish.
How to Install a Peel-and-Stick Backsplash
Self-adhesive peel-and-stick backsplash tiles offer a mess-free, beginner-friendly installation option. Follow these simple steps:
Step 1: Ensure surface is smooth
Fill any imperfections in your backsplash area and sand until uniformly smooth. Wipe away excess dust.
Step 2: Measure and mark
Measure space and mark a center line and level grid marks. Plan your layout.
Step 3: Cut tiles if needed
Use a utility knife and ruler to accurately cut any border or edge tiles to fit.
Step 4: Clean and dry surface
Wipe installation area with rubbing alcohol or mild detergent, rinse thoroughly and allow to dry.
Step 5: Remove adhesive backing
One at a time, peel away adhesive backing and firmly press tiles into place.
Step 6: Use roller
Use a hand roller across all tiles several times applying pressure, especially on edges.
It’s that easy! Allow adhesive to cure 24 hours before use. These backsplashes can be easily removed in the future by heating adhesive with a blow dryer.
How to Seal and Protect Your New Backsplash
Once your backsplash is fully installed, you’ll want to take steps to seal and protect it.
For grouted tile:
- Allow grout to fully cure per manufacturer instructions before sealing, usually 24-48 hours.
- Apply a penetrating grout sealant using a small foam brush. Let it soak in for 5-10 minutes, then wipe away any excess.
For ungrouted tile or backsplashes:
- Use a sealant specifically made for your material type and apply a protective coat over the entire surface.
- Reapply sealants regularly for optimal moisture protection.
- Consider applying a food-safe surface sealant on backsplashes behind stoves or sinks.
Backsplash Maintenance Tips
With proper care, your new backsplash can stay looking like new for years to come. Here are some backsplash maintenance best practices:
- Use a gentle, non-abrasive sponge or soft cloth and either water or a mild detergent to clean. Avoid harsh chemicals.
- Rinse thoroughly after cleaning and wipe away moisture to prevent soap buildup.
- Re-seal grout lines regularly to prevent staining and moisture damage.
- Don’t allow spills or stains to set – wipe up food, grease or liquids right away before they have a chance to soak in.
- Use caulk instead of grout for corners or transitions to prevent cracking from natural movement.
- Avoid hanging wet dish towels directly on backsplash surface to prevent water damage.
FAQs About Installing a Backsplash
Still have some questions about taking on a backsplash installation project? Here are answers to some frequently asked questions:
What tools will I need to install a backsplash?
Basic tools like a tape measure, level, utility knife, caulk gun, tile cutter, mixing bucket, notched trowel, grout float, sponges, ruler, pencil, and safety glasses are essential. For cutting tile, a wet saw is recommended.
What materials do I need?
This depends on your backsplash type. Adhesive peel-and-stick backsplashes require just the self-adhesive tiles. For tile, you’ll need tiles, mortar adhesive, grout, tile sealant, trim pieces, and spacers. Have extras on hand!
How do I cut tile pieces to fit?
It’s best to use a wet saw fitted with a tile blade. Mark your measurements on the tile with pencil. Work slowly, holding tile firmly to avoid cracks or chips. Let cut tiles dry before installing.
Can I install a backsplash directly over existing tile?
This is not advisable, as the layers of old and new tile will not adhere properly. Remove existing backsplash completely before installing new.
What type of mortar should I use?
For walls, use an adhesive mortar designed just for wall applications. This formula adheres better than standard thinset mortar used for floor tile installation.
How long does mortar take to cure?
Exact cure times depend on the specific product used, but generally adhesive mortar takes 24-48 hours to fully cure before grouting.
Can I apply grout right after installing tiles?
No. Allow mortar adhesive to fully cure behind tiles, usually 24-48 hours, before applying grout between tile joints.
How soon can I use my backsplash after installing?
Allow grout to cure fully, usually 72 hours. Avoid direct water contact as much as possible for the first week.
Installing a kitchen backsplash can take your cooking space from bland to beautiful! With the right materials, tools, and preparation, you can tackle this project yourself and save on the cost of professional installation. Carefully measure your space, establish a budget, settle on a design, and follow the steps outlined for smooth installation. Don’t be afraid to call in a pro if certain elements like electrical modifications are beyond your skill level. With some patience and elbow grease, you can transform your kitchen with the backsplash of your dreams.