How to install a Kitchen Backsplash

by Team HomeServe |
How to install a Kitchen Backsplash

One of my biggest home improvement wishes is for my kitchen to have that clean, minimalistic Martha-esque look to it. I envision a white, subway tile backsplash, stainless steel appliances, reclaimed wood floors, new countertops – the works. (Definitely a kitchen that Chip and Joanna Gaines would want to feature in The Magnolia Journal.) As I spend night after night in front of my stove, staring at my old, flowered tile backsplash (circa 1986), this occurred to me. Why wait? Why not install a new kitchen backsplash myself? So last weekend, I decided no more “wishing” - time to kick into DIY mode and install one myself.

Not your parents’ subway tile

I wanted to add some pop, some wow, some “I-am-never-leaving-this-kitchen” feel. I was happily surprised to find so many new materials and designs to choose from — and many very affordable. Some are easy to install, while others require more elbow grease. Whether you want to do a fast cover-up or an impress-the-neighbors type thing, here are some great backsplash ideas:

  • Tile -

You can’t go wrong with this popular go-to solution. There are so many types — from ceramic and glass, faux brick and subway, to glazed, mirrored, terracotta, and metal. Plus, they come in a myriad of wonderful designs to match your personal style — art deco, floral, geometric, nautical, mosaic, Provencal, Trompe-l'œil, you name it.

  • Self-adhesive tiles -

No grout, no mess with a wide selection of these high-quality tiles. Simple to cut, mount, and maintain. Just peel and stick.

  • Peel and stick wallpaper -

Super quick fix! Just cut, peel, and roll out in one piece. Easy to clean, reposition, and remove, too. Great if you’re a renter and/or have trouble committing to one look for very long.

  • Contact paper -

A reliable kitchen solve-all, use as is or cut into tile shapes and adhere to a board to hang behind the stove.

  • Blackboard paint -

Perfect backdrop for daily quotes, drawings, and messages (and recipes) as you whip up meals.

  • Paint -

Feeling lazy? Simply paint over existing tile in a bold color or pattern. Or perk up the drywall with an original mural or design.

  • Reclaimed wood -

Just add adhesive putty and your kitchen will be rustic-ready in no time.

  • Beadboard -

Always a crisp look, just make sure to waterproof it.

Backsplash how-to for your kitchen redo

While I’m super creative, I am not super handy. But I took a stab at it and found that installing a new tile backsplash over the weekend was a simple DIY I could handle. Here are the basic steps to follow so you can get going on your own kitchen transformation:

1. Size up your space

Here’s where you can really express yourself. How big a statement do you want to make with your backsplash? You can tile all the way up the ceiling, all along the countertops, or just cover the area behind the stove. No idea? Check out houzz.com for some clever solutions.

Mark off the area you want to tile; it will get covered later. Measure in sections, from bottom of cabinets to countertop, the wall behind the sink or stove, and around windows. Multiply the width and height of each section to get your total square footage to figure out how much tile you will need. You don’t want to be caught short! Pro tip: Add 10% for extra tiles that can be used for mistakes, breaks, or smaller areas.

2. Clear the decks

Kids and pets out! Remove everything from countertops. Empty the sink and FYI, if you want a fresh smelling drain to complement your fresh new look, do this.

Protect counters and underneath cabinets with cardboard, newspapers, or kraft paper. Shut off power to any electrical outlets or light switches and remove cover plates and move the stove away from the wall. REMEMBER to disconnect it.

3. Prep the wall

I usually like to dive right into a project, but for the best finished product it pays to start with everything clean and dry. Wash down walls and pat dry. Remove any oil or grease stains behind stove. If you have a glossy background, first sand and de-gloss it. Fill in any holes with spackling compound and sand down to smooth.

4. Get to work

This is the fun part! I got super excited watching my new backsplash come to life. Here’s what you’ll need:

Mortar:

Just follow package directions and mix thoroughly. It tends to dry out, so lay tile in small sections and clean off any excess mortar as you go along. Pro tip: Tile Spacers are like an extra set of hands, keeping everything level and tidy.

Tile:

It’s easiest to start at the countertop and work out and up. You will most likely have to cut and fit tile for just under the cabinets and at the edges. Here’s where a tile cutter, tile nipper, and wet saw will come in handy. I used caulking and moulding to finish edges and fix imperfections (needed to cheat a bit since I’m not a pro!)

Grout:

I used a faster drying grout, because I wanted to enjoy my new kitchen as soon as possible. Carefully remix now and then to keep it well blended. Again, timing is key, so fill grout in sections and keep tiles clean with a damp sponge or cheesecloth. Pro tip: Apply a grout sealant when fully dry to protect your handiwork from stains and maintain a clean look.

5. Post to Instagram!

Last step... push the stove in, put the kitchen back together, turn on the power, and take an awesome “after” photo to show off your kitchen redo. And hey, now that you’ve transformed your kitchen, maybe it’s time to update that stove to match.

Making home improvements is not only fun, but it’s also a smart money strategy. Another smart strategy is to be prepared for home repairs before they happen. See how plans from HomeServe can help with the costs of covered repairs.