As you might expect, the kitchen remains one of the most expensive rooms to remodel. And it’s no wonder: between cabinets, countertops, and contractors, rearranging the heart of the home can be a huge budget. But there are tasks you can do yourself to save money.
With a few basic tools and materials, installing a new backsplash can breathe new life into a tired kitchen on an affordable budget, and it’s an upgrade most novice DIYers can complete in a weekend. end.
Two experts walk you through the project from start to finish, but if you need extra help, you can turn to the pros at home improvement stores like Home Depot and Lowe’s, who offer DIY tutorials in online and webcasts on many projects that will give you the know-how and checklist of supplies to get started. While both chains have long offered in-store workshops, these offerings may be limited or unavailable due to pandemic restrictions.
From materials like porcelain and ceramic to patterns like undercoats and subway tiles, choosing the backsplash can seem more daunting than installing it. “Subway tiles are classic and timeless,” says interior designer Shaolin Low of Studio Shaolin in Honolulu. “You can never date when it was installed.”
Whether you want it to fade or pop with contrast, grout color between tiles is also an important design decision. “I always prefer a 1/16 or 1/8 inch wide grout line,” says Low. “If you want to play it safe, choose a neutral grout color that blends with your tile.”
Once you have selected the tile style, order 10% more than the square footage of your backsplash to account for cuts and errors. Also, be sure to purchase the appropriate size spacers.
Delete existing tile
Remove your current backsplash with care, as any depressions in the drywall behind will need to be filled with thin set mortar before you can begin tiling. Turn off the power to the outlets and remove the cover plates.
Protect the counter by layering cardboard over a heavy canvas drop cloth.
Starting at the outside edge of the backsplash, gently tap a flat bar with a hammer where the tile meets the drywall. Avoid digging the tool into the drywall. Scrape the area free of any remaining adhesive or thin paste with a stiff putty knife. Before tiling, smooth the drywall with premixed mortar and a trowel, forcing it into any low spots. Leave to dry for 30 minutes.
Plan the layout
Find the focal point of the backsplash, which is usually behind the sink or stove. “When there’s a focal point, like the stove, you usually want a centerline above it, then you start tiling from that line outward, hiding your cuts where the backsplash meets the cabinetry. “says tile contractor James Upton of Washington-based Tiger Mountain. Tile. Draw a line the full height of the backsplash in the center of the focal point using a pencil and a level.
Now lay the tile out on the counter, using the spacers, and measure the width and height of the backsplash. You will see where you will make cuts to fit the pattern on the wall. Try to start with solid tiles near the counter and hide any cuts higher up and towards the ends of the walls.
Spread the adhesive
A pre-mixed pot of tile adhesive is easier to work with than a thin-set mortar. Apply the adhesive using a 3/16 inch trowel, working on one side of the centerline of your layout, closest to the counter.
If the tile design runs down the center line, as is the case with subway tiles, cover only part of the line with adhesive.
“Mastic (adhesive) clings quickly, but it tends to dry quickly, so spread it as far as you can tile in about 30 to 45 minutes,” Upton says.
Back at the centerline, begin laying the tiles horizontally just above the countertop, adding spacers below the first row. Continue adding tiles with spacers, starting from the center line to the nearest edge. You will usually need to make a cut to complete the first row either around an outlet or where the pattern ends.
Cut tile to fit
To make the cuts, you will need a tile saw, which can be rented from a home improvement center.
Alternatively, you can hire a manual tile cutter, but saws tend to be faster. You may also need hand nippers to trim pieces to fit or to cut smaller mosaic tiles.
Mark the first row tile that needs to be cut with a wax crayon as water on a tile saw will ruin a crayon line. Take your time and cut the tile, then add it to the end of the first row. Now come back to the middle line and start the second row in the same way. Every once in a while, step back and peek at the backsplash to make sure the grout lines are straight.
Grout and caulking
When choosing a grout color, you should be sure to purchase a matching caulk. Typically, manufacturers that make one-component grouts also offer a color-matched silicone sealant. Experts say the new, one-component, pre-mixed grouts are better because they’re ready-to-use and don’t require mixing messy batches of traditional grouts.
Remove the grout from the tub and force it into the joints between the tiles with a rubber float. After about 30 minutes, the tile will fog up. Then you can wipe the surface with water and a sponge. You may need to wipe down and wash the backsplash more than once.
Once the backsplash is grouted, use a utility knife to remove any grout that has gotten into the joint between the countertop and the backsplash and the corners where the walls meet.
Using a caulking gun, insert a bead of silicone into the gap and smooth it out with your finger.