Where Do You Start Backsplash


Installing a backsplash in your kitchen can completely transform the look and feel of the space. But before you start tiling, there are some important things to consider to ensure your project goes smoothly from start to finish. Here is a comprehensive guide on where to start when adding a backsplash to your kitchen.

Determine the Function and Look You Want

The first step is deciding what purpose you want the backsplash to serve, as well as the overall look and feel you want to achieve.

  • Do you need a backsplash that is highly water-resistant, or is this mainly an aesthetic upgrade? Materials like ceramic tile or stainless steel will provide better protection compared to materials like wallpaper.
  • What design style do you want? Sleek and modern, traditional, or rustic and cozy? The material and color choices will help bring your overall vision to life.
  • Do you want the backsplash to be a statement piece and bold focal point or something more subtle and neutral? Keep this in mind when choosing colors and materials.

Once you’ve decided on the main goals, you’ll have an easier time narrowing down your options.

Select the Right Surface Materials

With your goals in mind, the next step is choosing the right backsplash materials. Popular options include:

  • Ceramic or Porcelain Tile: Provides a glossy, water-resistant surface and comes in endless color and pattern options. Relatively affordable and easy for DIY installation.
  • Natural Stone: Offers beautiful veining and texture. Materials like marble, travertine, and granite are durable and elegant but come with a higher price tag.
  • Metal: Stainless steel, tin, copper, and aluminum can create a modern, industrial vibe. Penny tiles are a popular budget-friendly metal option.
  • Glass: Makes for a shiny, sleek statement. Consider frosted or painted glass for some added flair. It’s very modern but can break if hit hard.
  • Painted Drywall: A budget-friendly option to simply upgrade walls with color. Use a semi-gloss sheen for wipeable finish.

Consider your overall budget, design aesthetic, and functional needs when selecting materials.

Measure Your Space

Once you’ve decided on the materials, it’s crucial to roll up your sleeves and thoroughly measure your backsplash area. Make sure to note:

  • The overall height from the countertop to the bottom of the upper cabinets. Standard backsplash height is 4 inches tall.
  • The width of the area. Make sure to account for outlets, windows, and stove range.
  • For subway tile, calculate the number of tiles needed based on tile dimensions. Having extra tiles allows for cuts or tricky spots.

Measure carefully as custom-cutting many tiles can become costly and time consuming. If installing a complex or artistic mosaic design, provide all measurements and drawings to the tile company.

Choose Grout and Adhesives

High-quality grout and adhesive is key to creating a long-lasting backsplash. When purchasing:

  • Select non-sanded grout for tile joints 1/8” or smaller, sanded for wider joints. Match grout color to the tile for a seamless look.
  • For heavy tile or stone, use a mortar adhesive instead of thinset to support the weight.
  • Look for mold-resistant grout and adhesive, especially for areas around sinks and stoves.
  • White grout can discolor over time. Use a darker shade for a seamless appearance long-term.

Purchasing quality grout and adhesives upfront will help the installation go smoothly and last.

Gather Your Tools and Supplies

Gather all necessary tools, accessories, and supplies before beginning work. Having everything nearby makes the installation far easier. You’ll need:

  • Tile cutter and snips
  • Mixing buckets
  • Tile spacers
  • Grout sealer
  • Trowels for spreading adhesive
  • Grout float for applying grout between tiles
  • Sponges and rags for wiping away excess

Don’t forget safety gear like gloves, dust mask, and kneepads to protect yourself during the installation process.

Prepare the Surface

With all your materials and tools ready, it’s time to prep the installation surface. To ensure proper adhesion:

  • Thoroughly clean the wall surface. Remove existing wallpaper or any glossy paint.
  • Fill any cracks or flawed areas with patching compound. Sand down rough spots.
  • Prime the walls before installation using an all-purpose primer. This helps the adhesive bind.

Take your time with surface prep. This creates a smooth, clean foundation for your tiles to stick to for years to come.

Setting the First Tiles

Now comes the fun part—it’s finally time to lay the first tiles! Follow these tips:

  • Spread a thin layer of adhesive on a small section of the wall, using a notched trowel.
  • Place the first tile in the bottom corner. Use spacers around the edges.
  • Continue layering in additional tiles, working row by row up to the top.
  • For cuts around electrical boxes or edges, carefully measure and snip tiles using the cutter.
  • Let adhesive fully cure per manufacturer instructions before grouting.

Working methodically from bottom to top helps keep the layout straight and level.

Apply Grout Between Tiles

Once the adhesive has cured, you can grout between the tiles to finish off your new backsplash. Be sure to:

  • Apply grout sealer to the tiles beforehand as a protectant layer.
  • Push the grout float at a 45° angle to fully pack the joints.
  • Wipe away excess grout with a damp sponge before it dries. Buff off haze.
  • Seal grout once fully cured to protect from moisture and mold.

Take your time grouting as you want full, even coverage between all tile joints for optimal durability.

Enjoy Your New Backsplash!

Be sure to let the adhesive and grout cure completely before using the area. Then, it’s time to step back and enjoy your gorgeous, on-trend new backsplash! Follow proper care like sealing grout annually and using gentle cleaners to keep your backsplash looking its very best.

With the right amount of planning and preparation, installing a kitchen backsplash is very doable as a DIY project. Just remember to measure twice, prepare the surface well, and don’t rush through grouting. Take it from us – a well-executed backsplash can make a huge difference in creating your dream kitchen!

Frequently Asked Questions

Where do I start measuring for a backsplash?

Start by measuring the overall height from the countertop to the bottom of the upper cabinets. Then measure the length of the area needing backsplash. Make sure to account for appliances, outlets, windows etc.

What tools do I need to install a backsplash?

Common tools needed are a tile cutter, buckets, notched trowel, tile spacers, grout float, sponges, gloves, a grout sealer, and snips. A wet saw is also useful for specialty cuts.

What surface prep is required before installing backsplash?

Proper surface prep is cleaning entirely, filling any cracks/holes, sanding down rough areas, and applying primer. This gives tiles a smooth, clean base to adhere to long-term.

How do I cut tile around electrical boxes and edges?

Use a tile snips to gently notch out small pieces to fit around outlets or edges. Make relief cuts if needed. Use a grinder for rounded cuts. Measure carefully for accuracy.

Can I install backsplash tile directly over existing drywall?

Yes, tile can be installed directly onto drywall as long as the surface is properly primed first. The adhesive will bond well to primer and drywall.

How long does backsplash adhesive and grout need to cure?

Adhesive cure times vary by product but are usually 12-24 hours before grouting. Grout then needs another 12-24 hours before using the area. Check manufacturer instructions.

Final Thoughts

Installing a kitchen backsplash can feel intimidating as a DIY project. However, with proper planning upfront and taking it step-by-step, it is very manageable. Focus on prep work like measurements and surface readiness before setting that first tile. Invest in quality adhesive and grout suited for the application. Don’t rush through grouting. And most importantly – have fun with it and enjoy your gorgeous new backsplash!