Redoing your outdated or damaged backsplash can completely transform the look and feel of your kitchen. A backsplash serves both form and function – it protects your walls from splashes and stains while also adding visual interest to your space. If your current backsplash is chipped, stained, or just feels dated, it may be time for an upgrade. With some planning, prep work, and elbow grease, you can install a fresh new backsplash that elevates your whole kitchen.
Assess Your Current Backsplash
Before jumping into a backsplash replacement, take some time to evaluate your current situation.
- What material is your backsplash made of? Ceramic tile, natural stone, metal, glass – each material has different removal requirements.
- What is the condition? If tiles are intact and the grout just needs refreshing, you may be able to clean and re-grout instead of fully replacing.
- How is it installed? Mortar, mastic, adhesive strips? Knowing the installation method will help inform removal.
- Measure the space. Note the exact dimensions and any special considerations like outlets.
- Look for trouble spots. Damaged areas behind or around the backsplash may need repair work before installing the new one.
Taking stock of your existing backsplash will allow you to determine the best way to remove and replace it.
Choose Your New Backsplash Material
Once you’ve assessed your current situation, it’s time to choose a material for the new backsplash. Consider:
- Ceramic, porcelain, or glass tile: Budget-friendly, easy to clean, durable. Choose matte finishes to hide flaws.
- Natural stone tile: Marble, travertine, slate – elegant but requires sealing. Check stone softness.
- Mosaic tile: Small tiles mounted on sheets create intricate patterns. Better for experienced DIYers.
- Stainless steel: Sleek, modern look. Can show fingerprints or scratches. Consider brushed or textured finish.
- Copper: Warm, soft aesthetic. Will patina over time. Needs sealing.
- Tin: Retro appeal, comes in many colors. Prone to denting.
- Glass sheets: Glossy and seamless. Heavy, so may require professional install.
- Wood: Adds warmth, various stain colors. Requires sealing and can stain.
- Laminates: Affordable alternative to pricier materials. Wide range of patterns.
- Budget – Materials range from $10-50+ per square foot installed
- Skill level – Simple subway tiles vs. intricate patterns or natural stone
- Maintenance – Sealing, cleaning requirements
- Durability – Material softness, heat/scratch resistance
- Style – Sleek, retro, rustic? Choose a material to match
Selecting the right backsplash material for your needs and preferences will ensure you love the finished result.
Remove the Existing Backsplash
With your new backsplash material picked out, it’s time to remove the old backsplash and prep the space. Safety first – wear protective eyewear and gloves during demo.
Ceramic or stone:
- Use a hammer and chisel to chip off old grout. Be gentle enough not to damage the drywall.
- Apply heat with a hair dryer or heat gun to soften mastic or adhesive.
- Gently pry off tiles using a putty knife or scraper.
- Slice sheet joints using a utility knife.
- Pull sheets off the wall.
- Use scraper or putty knife to remove any remaining adhesive.
- Locate all screws or adhesive strips and remove.
- Gently pull material away from wall.
- Scrape off any residual adhesive or use solvent to dissolve it.
- Use a pry bar or putty knife to pop laminate off the wall.
- Remove nails or screws if used.
- Heat adhesive with hair dryer and scrape off residue.
Take it slow and make sure all old backsplash material is removed. Now you’re ready to prepare the wall for new tile!
Prep the Area
Prepping properly will ensure your new backsplash adheres well for long-lasting beauty.
- Repair any wall damage. Fill holes, prime, and paint.
- Deep clean the area using a degreasing cleaner or TSP substitute. Rinse well.
- Sand glossy paint to help the thinset adhesive grip.
- Apply painter’s tape around the perimeter to protect the walls.
- Mark stud locations if securing backsplash directly to wall.
- Plan your tile layout. Dry lay tiles if using natural stone to balance color.
With the prep work complete, you’re ready for the fun part – installing the gorgeous new backsplash!
Install the New Backsplash
Time to put up your beautiful new backsplash! Have all tools and materials handy before starting. Follow all manufacturer instructions.
What you’ll need: tile adhesive or mastic, grout, grout sealer, tile spacers, tile cutting tools
- Apply adhesive using a notched trowel, combing in one direction.
- Place tiles in layout, using spacers for consistent grout lines.
- Push tiles firmly into adhesive and align properly before adhesive sets.
- Allow adhesive to cure per manufacturer directions.
- Mix grout and apply evenly using a rubber grout float.
- Wipe away excess grout with a damp sponge. Allow to dry.
- Seal grout lines with grout sealer for protection.
What you’ll need: adhesive, metal snips, silicone caulk
- Cut metal sheets to size using metal snips.
- Apply adhesive to back of metal sheet in vertical strips.
- Align and press onto wall. Smooth and press firmly.
- Use silicone caulk for any perimeter gaps. Remove excess.
What you’ll need: adhesive, caulk, and laminate cutting tool
- Measure space and cut laminate sheets to size with laminate cutter.
- Apply adhesive to back of laminate using trowel.
- Align and press onto wall. Use shims to support until adhesive cures.
- Caulk edges and joints for clean finish.
Follow all adhesive cure times before using backsplash! Enjoy your fresh, updated kitchen.
Backsplash Maintenance Tips
Your new backsplash is stunning, but don’t neglect proper care to keep it looking like new.
- Use cleaners made specifically for your backsplash material. Avoid abrasive cleansers.
- Seal natural stone, grout, and wood yearly to prevent staining.
- For heavy stains, check remover product compatibility before using. Test small area first.
- Re-grout cracked or missing grout to prevent damage and mildew.
- Scrub grout lines occasionally using baking soda paste and a grout brush.
- Apply metal polish to remove fingerprints and water spots. Avoid over-polishing.
- Use oil-free cleansers only. Oil can stain and be hard to remove.
- Squeeze of ammonia in water helps remove hard water spots. Dry completely.
- Clean heavy grease buildup ASAP to avoid etched-in stains.
Protect your investment with proper care and enjoy your fresh backsplash for years to come!
How do I match existing backsplash when redoing?
- If matching current backsplash, note tile sizes, grid pattern, grout color and thickness. Order surplus tiles when originally installed for future repairs.
- Take a tile sample to tile store. They can help find closest match from current inventory.
- If exact product unavailable, look for close alternatives in same color family, gloss level, size and texture.
- Intersperse new tiles randomly throughout design to blend old and new. Vary placement of cut tiles.
- Use same grout thickness and match color as closely as possible.
What’s the best way to cut backsplash tile?
- Straight cuts: Use a manual tile cutter for fastest and cleanest straight cuts. Score tile and snap downward.
- Curved cuts: Mark line. Use a curved-blade tile saw or electric wet saw to follow curves. Take it slow.
- Holes: Use diamond-grit hole saw bits on electric drill. Start hole in center and work out gently.
- Nips/notches: Mark size needed. Use tile nippers to gently “nibble” away small pieces. Smooth edges with file.
Can you put new backsplash over existing?
It’s not recommended. Covering old backsplash with new can lead to premature failure, including:
- Old grout lines telegraphing through.
- Uneven surface from underlying materials.
- Excess weight from double layer of tile.
- Poor adhesion leading to bubbles or cracks.
- Moisture getting trapped between layers, causing mildew.
For best results, take the time to fully remove old backsplash and start fresh. Careful prep leads to successful installation.
Is backsplash tile hard to install?
Installing a tile backsplash is considered an intermediate DIY project, but can be managed by a beginner willing to take it slow and follow all steps. Key for success:
- Proper prep work including surface cleaning, wall repair, marking studs, planning layout.
- Carefully following adhesive manufacturer instructions, fully coating tile backs.
- Maintaining even grout lines using spacers. Letting adhesive cure fully before grouting.
- Sealing grout once fully cured to prevent staining.
With patience and attention to detail, you can get professional-looking results and save on labor costs.
Does new backsplash go all the way to ceiling?
Typically backsplash tile is installed to 4-6 inches above countertop height, around 50-60 inches high total. However:
- For a full wall effect, can install all the way to ceiling. Use caulk to seal top edge.
- Lower ceilings can accommodate going all the way up. Provides a tidy finish.
- Avoid stopping halfway up wall or at an awkward height. Measure carefully.
- If vent hood is on wall, carry tile up to bottom edge of hood.
Consider your wall height, cabinetry, windows, décor style when planning backsplash height. Do what works best for your space.
Redoing your backsplash brings a fresh new look to your kitchen. With proper planning, material selection, careful prep and installation of your new backsplash, you can completely transform the heart of your home. Take time to properly maintain your new backsplash and it will provide beauty and protection for many years. Does your kitchen need a backsplash makeover? Grab a hammer and make it happen!