How to Tile a Backsplash

28 October
I'm making progress in my kitchen remodel, I just finished the backsplash area behind my stove and I love how it turned out!

So today I'm going to show you how to tile a backsplash!

Learn how to tile a backsplash!

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Supplies Needed

Tile (I used these ceramic tiles)
Adhesive appropriate for the type of tile
Grout appropriate for the type of installation
Putty knife (optional)

Directions for Tiling a Backsplash

Make sure the wall is clean and dry. When I removed the old tile it tore up the wall a little bit so I had some patching to do first. Once the wall was patched, clean, and dry I was ready to start!

Tape off the area where you will be tiling if needed so you don’t get adhesive on unwanted areas.

You will start tiling from the bottom and work your way up. Leave a small gap between the counter and the bottom of your first row of tile (you will caulk this at the end to fill that gap). I used some paint mixer sticks but the plastic tile spacers will work too.

Work in small areas, especially if this is your first time tiling.

Put a BIG dollop of adhesive on your putty knife if you are using that (I just used my trowel) and spread it out on the wall, kind of like you are frosting a big cake!

Drag the notched side of the trowel evenly over the adhesive to make grooves. You don’t need to push too hard but make sure that the notches on the trowel are dragging along the wall. If you have it too thick then when you push your tiles into the adhesive it will squeeze out between your tiles.

Push your first row of tiles into the adhesive so that the bottom edge rests on your spacers and you have spacers in between each tile (the spacers go in standing up and you will remove them once the adhesive has dried). Check that your first row of tiles is level… sometimes counters are not level and you definitely don't want a crooked tile job!

Continue adding the next row of tiles using the tile spacers in between.

Luckily my last row of tiles fit in the space between the wall and the stove vent hood so I didn't have to cut any!

If you need to cut tiles you can rent a tile cutter and they will show you how to use it when you pick it up.

Clean up any edges and wipe off any adhesive that may have gotten on the tiles. Let this dry for 24 hours. Remove the tile spacers.

Next up is grouting!

Using the grout float you will apply the grout just like you did the adhesive on the wall. Hold the float at an angle and spread the grout over the tiles.

Make sure you read the directions on the grout that you are using. Mine said to begin wiping it off immediately. Some say to let it stand for 15 minutes.

Use the grout sponge and a clean bucket of water. Submerge the sponge in the water and ring it out completely then begin wiping the grout off the tiles.

Every couple of passes you will need to rinse out the sponge in the bucket. Continue doing this until the tiles are clean.

Let it dry for 24 hours. Depending on the type of grout you have chosen, you may need to seal it. I used epoxy grout which does not require this additional step.

What You Need to Know BEFORE You Start

Now that you have seen the basic process, you'll need to know a little bit about the tools and materials so you can choose the correct things for your project.

There are different types of adhesive, grout, trowels, and floats and which one you choose will depend on the type of tile you choose and where you're planning to tile.

Tile Adhesive - Mastic vs. Mortar

Tile adhesive is for exactly what you would think it’s for… adhering the tiles to the wall or floor. There are different types of tile adhesives so you need to know what kind you need for your project.

Mastic is the most common and oldest tile adhesive on the market.
It comes premixed and can be used for ceramic and porcelain tiles on floors and walls.
Generally, mastic is the recommended product for small applications (like backsplashes)!

Thinset Mortar
A mixture of Portland cement, sand, water, and additives for retaining moisture.
It comes both premixed and dry and is used for natural stone and glass, although it can be used for ceramic and porcelain too.

Notched Trowels
Trowels are used to spread the adhesive and come in V-notch, U-notch, and square notch patterns in all different sizes. The V-notch trowels spread less mortar. The trowel size you choose should match up to the tile size. In other words, the smaller the tile, the smaller the trowel; the larger the tile, the larger the trowel.

Here is a general guide to follow:

3/16” to ¼” V-notch trowel = mosaic tiles up to 4 ½” glazed wall tile
¼” x ¼” U or square notch trowel = 4” to 8” tile
¼” x 3/8” U or square notch trowel = 8” to 16” tiles
½” x ½” U or square notch trowel = 16” and larger tiles

TIP: The container that your mortar or mastic comes in will tell you what kind of trowel to use, see the red arrows below? That's the kind of trowel you would want to use. So with this kind of adhesive, you will use a V-notch trowel!
Tile Grout – Sanded vs. Non-sanded

Tile grout is what goes between the tiles to seal and give a finished look. Just like there are different types of tile adhesive, there are also different types of tile grout and you will want to know which one is best for your project.

Sanded grout is a cement based mortar that has small sand grains added to help with settling.
Generally used for larger joints (larger than 1/8 inch).
Stronger and great for heavier tile materials such as natural stone, marble, and glass tiles.

Non sanded grout is a cement based grout used for smaller tile joints (floor and wall tiles with 1/16 to 1/8 inch).
Easier to work with on vertical surfaces due to a more solid consistency.

Epoxy Grout
Epoxy grout is available in both sanded and non-sanded versions.
Provides a barrier to liquids and moisture.
Does not require additional sealing.
Prevents bacteria growth and limits cracking.

Grout Floats
Grout floats are used to spread the grout and push it into the joints between your tiles. The bottom part that is used to spread the grout is made of rubber so it won’t scratch your tile. If you are using epoxy grout make sure you choose a float that is made for epoxy grout. It will be a harder rubber and is also made to resist the epoxy to keep it from gumming up on the float.

Grout Sponge
Grout sponges are big, thick, and dense-celled sponges made especially for wiping off all the excess grout from your tiles. Do not think you can just use a kitchen sponge, a grout sponge is made specifically for the job.

Tile Spacers
Tile spacers are the little plastic x’s that are used to get the spacing between your tiles even and matching. The size you use is really just personal preference but generally, 2mm is great for walls and 3mm for floors.


Have you ever tiled anything before? If not, would you like to try it now that you've seen the process?

My next project in the kitchen is the rest of the backsplash. I'm planning a shiplap look for that.

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  1. Nancy CarrollOctober 28, 2017

    It looks fabulous! Great job!

  2. Love that tile! Love this post too, if I was ever to do a tile job, I need this info. Looks like a great job!

  3. You're very brave to tackle this--and you did a great job too. Your tutorial is very good and covers things I didn't even think about. This looks fabulous; can't wait to see the shiplap too.

  4. Thanks Vikki! This is the third time I've tiled a backsplash, it seems to get a little easier each time :o)


  5. Me too, I thought it would give a fun pop in my kitchen but still be neutral with the gray colors.


  6. Nice tiling, Tania! Wow! I had to hire professionals to do my floor:-(

  7. Ha Ha! Well, if it had been any more than just the backsplash behind my stove I would have needed help to!


  8. Michelle LeslieNovember 04, 2017

    That was very informative Tania. Thanks so much

  9. Great tutorial! Thanks for sharing at Vintage Charm!

  10. Thanks so much Cecilia!



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