completed backsplash with glass accents via http://www.homeondesign.net/

A backsplash can be installed within just a small space behind your sink and stove, or you can have it cover the entire wall area between your kitchen counter and the cabinets above. Either way, a kitchen backsplash is more than just a protective addition for the walls above your kitchen counters. It can also be a fabulous decorative feature that adds a distinct touch as well as elegant style to the place you prepare all your food.

Here are a few tips for the selection and installation of a backsplash for the kitchen.

Selecting a Backsplash Material

You should pick the material that you think would fit best with the existing style of your kitchen and dining area. More utilitarian kitchens might look better with a decorated stainless steel or smooth stone tile backsplash, while kitchens with an “antique” feel might be best accented by something that’s made of ceramic tiles.

When picking the material with which you’ll be covering walls, your personal taste should be your biggest guide so long as you keep a few basic facts in mind. If picking stone tiles, go for a hard stone like granite but avoid say marble. Although marble is also a stone, it will eventually absorb a lot of airborne liquids and will stain. If you want something that’s low maintenance, your best bet might be a single large metal sheet. Stone and ceramic tiles will have to be resealed and re-grouted periodically in order to ensure their moisture impermeability.

Installing your Backsplash (Stone Tiles)

For the sake of these instructions, we will describing a backsplash using granite stone tiles and working in a small area (say behind a stove). However, the process used is similar to that which would apply for a ceramic tile installation.

1. Prepare your Tools

To complete this particular project, you’ll probably need a solid 8-hour work day and all of the following tools & materials: a grout trowel (grout float), another trowel with a smooth side and a notched side for the adhesive, sponges, a bucket, a couple of medium-sized towels, a tile saw, measuring tape, a two-foot level (or laser level), a utility knife, plastic tile spacers, water-resistant tile adhesive, water-resistant grout and, of course, your stone tiles.

2. Measure your Coverage Dimensions

Take out your tape measure, a carpenters pencil and the level. First, measure out the dimensions of the area to be covered and figure out the total surface area. This is a simple matter of multiplying height by width or length in feet. If your area is broken up unto odd shapes or into more than one part, measure the length x width by quadrant for all areas and add them together to get your surface area. This measurement is needed above all for buying the right amount of tile.  (Note: This part of project is best accomplished on a day prior to the day you choose to install.)

installing a backsplash for the kitchen via http://www.architecturalarttile.com

As you measure, you should also draw out a series of perfectly leveled horizontal lines. You’ll use these as guidelines (also called working lines) for when you set your tile.

3. Spread out the Adhesive

Open up your container of tile adhesive (if you are using a pre-mixed option) and mix it around a bit with the trowel, then scoop some up and start spreading it across your wall. Here you use the serrated (or notched) side of your trowel. Spread in small sections to avoid the possibility of the adhesive drying out as you work. Spread the adhesive evenly without bumpy or overly thick ridges.

This is the single most important step. You should lay your tiles from top to bottom (depending on where you are working) and from one side to the other.  Work to the goal of only making cuts at one end of the tile, preferably the end which would be the least visible. Make sure the tiles are perfectly even and follow the lines you had drawn previously. To be sure, keep checking with your level as you work and correct accordingly if a problem arises …even if this means removing some tiles just to put them back. Between all of your stone tiles, at their corners, make sure you add thin plastic spacers to separate them all evenly.

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4. Cut Tiles down to Size

Around outlet edges, kitchen counter edges and at the ends of your wall area (where the tiles might not fit perfectly), you should cut them down to size using a tile saw or an angle grinder. Mark the cut edges with a pencil and cut smoothly. An angle grinder with a diamond blade is the speedest option but a wet saw for tiles makes for much cleaner and easier made cuts. Apply these tiles carefully so that they fit as flush as possible.

Stone tiles may be more brittle than ceramic tiles, so cut slowly. Don’t let the tile move laterally, and do not push a tile at the blade too fast.

5. Grout your Backsplash

Once all of your tiles are in place, let them sit for a little while as the adhesive hardens (in some case waiting to second day may be required). Once you are satisfied that your tile will not move, open up or mix up some non-sanded grout and start smoothing it over your now tiled surface.  For this you use a foam grout float. Use small amounts on each pass and make sure you fill the spaces between tiles as thoroughly as possible.  Here you work to scrape excess grout up with the float, moving it and using it in new spaces. Depending on the color of your tile stone, white grout may not always be the best idea. Work to choose a color that either coordinates or complements, and that works for you.

6. Clean up and Tile Sealing

Immediately after you’re done grouting, wet a sponge and wipe it across the tiles in several passes to get rid of grout grime. Wash the sponge repeatedly as you do this to prevent a haze from forming. After you’ve passed over your entire tile surface with the sponge, give it another couple passes with a moist towel.  With the towel folded over several times, try to use a clean side of the towel for each pass.

As a last step, seal any exposed outer edges of your tiled backsplash with a water resistant silicone caulk. This will prevent moisture from entering along these points.


Jim Klossner has written for the home and garden industry for many years. When he’s not writing, you can find him reviewing plumbers across the country. 

Adding a Backsplash is just one of many quick updates to be had in the kitchen. For great Kitchen Upgrades on the quick – 15 Budget-Friendly Kitchen Makeover Ideas. Cheers. ~jb

Photo Credits (thank you):

  • http://www.homeondesign.net/glass-backsplash-ideas.html/glass-backsplash-design-ideas
  • http://www.architecturalarttile.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/06/tilebacksplash.jpg