Adding a backsplash to your bathroom walls is an easy way to upgrade the look of your space. A backsplash not only serves as a decorative focal point but also protects your walls from moisture damage. Installing a backsplash is a DIY-friendly project that can make a big impact. Here is a comprehensive guide on how to put backsplash on bathroom walls.
Choosing a Backsplash
The first step is selecting a material for your backsplash. Here are some of the most popular options to consider:
Tile is a classic choice that offers endless options for colors, textures, shapes, and patterns. Ceramic and porcelain tile are water-resistant and easy to clean. Glass tile can add a touch of elegance. Mosaics made up of small tile pieces create visual interest. Tile comes in different grades – select higher grades for wet areas like a bathroom.
Slate, travertine, marble, and granite make beautiful backsplashes and have a timeless, high-end look. Each type of stone has its own characteristics – for instance, slate has an earthy feel while marble makes a statement. Natural stone needs to be sealed to prevent stains and discoloration.
Metal backsplashes like stainless steel, copper, or tin can bring an industrial vibe. Stainless steel is durable, easy to clean, and has a modern look. Copper adds warmth and patinas over time. Metals should be sealed or protected with a lacquer.
Glass tile or sheet backsplashes have a shiny, sleek appearance. Options like subway glass tiles or large murals can really enhance the aesthetic. The glass needs to be tempered for safety. Consider etching or frosting it to diffuse light.
Engineered composites made from crushed stone and resins provide the look of natural stone without some of the maintenance. Brands like Caesarstone are popular. Composite is very durable and comes in many colors.
Wood finishes like planks or boards introduce natural texture and beauty. Use a water-resistant wood like teak in humid bathroom environments. Unfinished wood can be sealed, while engineered woods like bamboo are inherently water-resistant.
Consider the overall style you want for the bathroom along with factors like moisture resistance, ease of cleaning, and budget. Visit showrooms to view material samples in person before deciding.
Preparing the Walls
Proper prep work ensures your backsplash adheres well and lasts. Follow these steps:
- Clean the walls thoroughly to remove any dirt, grime, or existing paint. Use a degreaser on any shiny or glossy areas.
- Inspect the walls for any damage or imperfections. Fill small holes with spackle and sand smooth. Repair any cracks or leaks.
- The walls need to be as smooth and flat as possible for the backsplash installation. Freshly painted or primed walls provide the ideal surface.
- For tile or stone, apply a coat of mastic adhesive primer using a paint roller. This helps the thinset mortar adhere to the wall. Allow the primer to fully cure overnight.
- Use painter’s tape to mask off any adjacent surfaces you don’t want to cover like the ceiling, cabinets, or countertops.
- Cover flooring, counter surfaces, and the tub/shower area to protect from debris and drips during the installation.
Prepping the walls takes some time but it’s a critical first step. The backsplash can only look as good as the underlying surface.
Installing the backsplash itself requires several supplies and tools:
- Backsplash tiles/sheets purchased, including a few extras for breakage
- Thinset mortar designed for walls and the backsplash material
- Grout for filling in seams – matches backsplash color
- Caulk in a matching color for perimeter gaps
- Sealant if needed for the backsplash material
- Tape measure
- Tile cutter for scoring and snapping tiles
- Tile nippers for bumping/shaping cut tile edges
- Trowel for spreading thinset mortar
- Grout float for forcing grout into seams
- Grout sponge for smoothing and cleaning grout
- Buckets, rags, sponges
- Mixing paddle for stirring mortar
Gather all materials and tools before starting. This prevents having to stop mid-project. Ensure sufficient thinset mortar and grout based on the coverage area.
Install the Backsplash
With the prep work done and supplies in hand, it’s time to start installing the backsplash. Follow these key steps:
Step 1: Plan the Layout
- Measure the total area to be covered and sketch out a layout. Mark the center points and level lines as guides.
- Determine the best starting point, like the corner or center. Work outward from there.
- Dry lay tiles/sheets first to visualize spacing and fit. Make any adjustments.
- Mix up a small batch of thinset mortar as needed according to instructions.
Step 2: Apply Thinset and Set Tiles
- Use the trowel to apply a thin layer of thinset mortar to a section of the wall, about 1 ft by 2 ft.
- Press tiles into the mortar and use spacers to maintain even grout lines.
- Push the tiles firmly to set them into the mortar. Use the level to ensure they are plumb.
- Continue setting tiles across the wall, working in small sections. Let mortar dry before moving on.
- For intricate designs, lay tile by tile. Use nippers to trim and shape edges as needed.
- Cut metal or glass using a wet tile saw. Cut natural stone with a stone cutter.
Step 3: Let Mortar Cure
- Allow the thinset mortar to fully cure for 24-48 hours once all tiles are set.
- Use painter’s tape to keep tiles from shifting. Never walk on tiles until fully cured.
- Check for any joints that need additional mortar. Scrape off excess mortar.
Step 4: Grout and Seal
- Mix grout and apply it over the tiles using a rubber grout float, pressing into joints.
- Let it set for 10-15 minutes. Use a damp sponge to smooth and clean excess.
- After another 10-15 minutes, polish the tiles with a soft cloth for a final cleaning.
- Once grout has cured overnight, apply sealant to natural stone or unglazed tiles.
- Lastly, caulk perimeter corners and edges with a matching silicone caulk.
Take care with each step for a professional looking finished backsplash!
How to Put Backsplash on Bathroom Wall FAQs
Still have some questions about installing a backsplash on your bathroom wall? Here are answers to some frequently asked questions:
What height should the backsplash be installed?
For a bathroom, the backsplash should extend from the countertop to at least 4 inches above the faucet height. Standard height is about 4-6 feet, but you can go all the way to the ceiling for a full accent wall.
What’s the best way to cut ceramic tile?
Use a manual tile cutter to score the tile on the glazed side, then snap downward to get a clean break along the line. You can also use a wet saw for very precise cuts.
Can backsplash tile go directly over drywall?
It’s best to install cement backerboard or another moisture-resistant substrate over drywall first. Thinset mortar adheres much better to surfaces like cement board.
How long does thinset mortar take to dry?
Thinset cures slowly over 24-48 hours. Drying time depends on the type of mortar, temperature, and humidity. Do not grout or expose tiles to moisture until fully cured.
What is the best grout to use for a bathroom backsplash?
Epoxy grout is highly water-resistant and ideal for bathrooms. Regular cement grout works too but may need more sealing over time. Match grout color to the tile.
Can you use marble tile for a backsplash around a tub or shower?
Yes, marble makes an elegant backsplash tile. Make sure it is properly sealed against moisture penetration and use a vapor-proof membrane behind the tile.
How do I cut glass tile?
Cut glass tile using a wet saw fit with a diamond glass blade. Take safety precautions as glass chips and shatters. Never use a dry saw or snapping tools meant for ceramic.
Installing a backsplash is one of the best ways to enhance the look of a bathroom without a full remodel. With some planning, preparation, and care taken during installation, you can achieve beautiful results. A tile, stone, or glass backsplash can upgrade even the simplest bathroom. Just take it step-by-step, use quality materials, and work carefully for a backsplash you’ll enjoy for years to come.