Installing a backsplash is a great way to add visual interest and protect the walls behind your kitchen counters or bathroom vanities. But textured walls present some unique challenges for backsplash installation. With the right materials and techniques, you can achieve a seamless look. This comprehensive guide will walk you through how to put backsplash tiles or panels on textured walls.
Assessing the Texture of Your Walls
The first step is to closely examine the texture of your walls. There are several common types of textured walls:
This style has a subtle orange peel look with small valleys between peaks. The peaks are knocked down for a flattened appearance.
Popcorn texture has a very bumpy look from loads of small nodules of drywall mud applied in a random pattern. It resembles the popcorn snack.
Skip Trowel Texture
Skip trowel texture is achieved by dragging a trowel over mud in sweeping motions. This leaves grooves and ridges for a textural style.
Stucco texture has a rough, stone-like finish. It is achieved by spraying a stucco mix onto the walls.
As its name suggests, swirl texture has a freeform, curving pattern. The mud is applied in continuous loops with a special swirl paint roller.
Sand texture has a gritty, sandy feel from sand mixed into the drywall mud. It is often done in a random stipple pattern.
Choosing Appropriate Backsplash Materials
The texture and depth of your walls will determine what types of backsplash materials will install well. Here are some options:
- Ceramic or porcelain tile: The smooth surface and rigid structure of ceramic and porcelain make these tiles suitable for textured walls in most cases. Use tiles with a deeply keyed or dovetailed back.
- Natural stone: Stone backsplashes like granite, marble or travertine work well on lightly textured walls, but very bumpy plaster requires extra preparation.
- Glass: The slick surface of glass mosaics allows them to conform over varied wall textures. Opt for mesh-backed sheets rather than individual tiles.
- Metal: Metal backsplashes bend and conform well to textured walls. Stainless steel and copper are common choices. Select thinner gauge metals.
- Backsplash panels: Materials like aluminum composite, acrylic or laminate come in large panels. They can bridge over heavily textured walls.
Avoid very uneven tiles or natural stones over deeply textured walls. The peaks and valleys will make installation challenging.
Preparing Textured Walls for Backsplash Installation
Proper prep work is crucial for a seamless finished look. Here are some tips:
- Clean surfaces thoroughly and repair any flaws like cracks or holes.
- Knock down any high points or remove thick layers of old adhesive or mortar from past backsplashes.
- Apply a coat of primer and high-quality latex paint if the color difference between your backsplash and walls will be noticeable.
- Skim coat plaster walls with a thin layer of drywall joint compound if the texture is heavily bumpy. Feather out the edges.
- Consider applying a 1/4″ backerboard like Durock or Hardiebacker over very textured plaster or problematic surfaces.
- Mark stud locations if securing the backsplash directly to the wall surface.
How to Install Backsplash Tiles on Textured Walls
Tiling a textured wall takes patience and care. Follow these steps:
Step 1: Plan the Layout
- Measure from the countertop to the bottom of the upper cabinets. Mark a level line with a laser level or A-frame level.
- Map out your tile layout. Balance cut tiles at the perimeter. Avoid overly small pieces.
- Use spacers the thickness of your grout joints to evenly space tiles.
Step 2: Prepare the Tiles
- Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions.
- Soak very porous tiles if recommended.
- Apply any recommended primers, sealers or membranes to the back of the tiles.
Step 3: Apply the Adhesive Mortar
- Use a notched trowel with adequate depth for the tile and texture. 1/4″ x 1/4″ is common.
- Key the mortar into the voids and peaks of the texture, using the flat side of the trowel.
- Apply only as much mortar as you can tile before it skins over. Work in small sections.
Step 4: Set the Tiles
- Press tiles firmly into the mortar with a slight twisting motion.
- Push the tiles towards any previous row to account for texture and prevent lippage.
- Make sure tile edges align with the guidelines. Use spacers if needed.
- Check periodically that the back of each tile has good mortar transfer.
- Repeat to set all whole tiles, leaving room for cut pieces. Remove any mortar on the surface.
Step 5: Cut and Install Perimeter Tiles
- Mark and carefully cut any partial edge tiles with a wet saw.
- Firmly press each cut tile into place. Allow space for grout joints.
- Let the mortar cure fully before grouting according to manufacturer directions.
Grouting Tiles on Textured Walls
Grouting is important to lock in tiles and create a finished look. Follow these tips:
- Inspect tile edges for gaps or raised surfaces. Use a sharp razor to trim any high points.
- Apply grout release or sealer if needed to prevent staining of textured tile surfaces.
- Push the grout into joints firmly with a rubber grout float. Hold at an angle to compress it into the texture.
- Wipe diagonally across the tiles to remove excess grout. Rinse the sponge frequently.
- Carefully clean grout haze from textured tile faces once dry. Use a soft brush or whiting clay if needed.
- Apply grout sealer for water resistance and easier cleaning.
Installing Backsplash Panels or Undermount Sinks
For solid backsplash panels like granite, stainless steel or acrylic, follow these steps:
Prepare the Wall Surface
- Fill any gaps or flaws wider than 1/8″ with silicone caulk to prevent shadowing.
- Apply painter’s tape 1/8″ beyond the panel dimensions to create a perfect fitting edge.
- Use a panel adhesive designed for backsplash applications. Liquid Nails Panel Adhesive or Loctite PowerGrab are good options.
- Run continuous beads of adhesive along the top and bottom of the area, then zig-zag between. Follow the product instructions.
Mount the Panel
- Carefully set the panel in place, pressing firmly on the taped edges.
- Use a J-roller or grout float to apply even pressure and flatten the panel against the texture.
- Use shims or spacers to hold the panel until the adhesive sets. Wipe away any squeeze-out.
- Remove the tape after the recommended cure time. Seal edges with silicone caulk.
The same principles apply for undermount sink basins. Follow manufacturer instructions for sink mounting hardware.
Tips for Maintaining Backsplashes on Textured Walls
Maintaining your backsplash helps preserve its beauty. Here are some useful tips:
- Seal grout annually. Epoxy grout resists staining best on textured surfaces.
- Use gentle cleaners and soft sponges to avoid abrasion over fragile tile glazes or natural stone.
- Rinse surfaces thoroughly after cleaning. Chemical residue can collect in wall texture.
- Re-caulk perimeter joints yearly. Texture flexes with temperature changes and can compromise caulk seals.
- Address any cracks in grout or loosening of tiles promptly to prevent moisture issues.
Frequently Asked Questions
What if my textured walls have been painted?
Painting over texture creates a sealed surface. Thoroughly sand walls first to open the texture and improve adhesion. Always prime before retiling.
Should I remove thick popcorn texture before tiling?
Yes, it’s best to scrape off heavy popcorn texture for easier installation. Skim coating retains some texture without the thick nodules.
What spacer size should I use on textured walls?
Use 1/8″ to 3/16″ spacers for walls with light texture. For heavier knockdown or skip trowel texture, use 1/4″ spacers to account for the peaks and valleys.
Is mastic or thinset mortar better for textured walls?
Thinset mortar is preferred. It bonds well to varied surfaces and supports the weight of tile. Only use mastic for very lightweight mosaic sheets on smooth walls.
How do I cut mesh-backed mosaic sheets for textured walls?
Use a utility knife and rulers. Measure and score the mesh several passes. Snap upwards along the score line for a clean cut. The mesh allows for some flexibility.
Installing backsplash on textured plaster or drywall walls brings unique challenges, but is certainly feasible with the right approach. Assessing the specific wall texture, choosing adaptable materials, proper surface prep, skilled installation and attentive maintenance are the keys to success. With patience and care, you can achieve a striking backsplash design even on uneven wall surfaces. The extra effort is well worth it to enhance the beauty and function of your kitchen or bath.