How to Tile a Backsplash

1 Material
$1500
10 Hours
Medium

A backsplash used to be put into kitchens to catch your flying food and to easily clean up. No longer are backsplashes used to protect the walls, now it's all about making a statement.

From the standard subway to glass, wood, metal, stone, brick…the choices are endless. And then once you have your material chosen you have the different sizes and patterns to choose from. So many fun options it’s hard to choose just one. That’s why we love working in the field, haha, because we get to choose and install them all for our amazing clients. Lucky us!

how to tile a backsplash
We recently fell in love and have been working with the talented creators and team, Mercury Mosaics on tile selections. Not sure if it was the tile or the team that we loved so much! But we cannot get enough.

Laying tile can be a little bit nerve racking, especially when it is a new shape your not used to working with like these moroccan fish scale tiles. So today we wanted to provide you with a step by step tutorial on how we tiled the backsplash in our recent client kitchen renovation so you can DIY! And we even got it all down into a nice little video for you to watch too.
Before...
Before...
This entire backsplash took us about 10 hours from start to finish and 8 of those hours were us doing it together. So if you’re solo, plan a little extra time. We worked those 10 hours within a 4 day time span. Doing the prep work one day, laying the tile next day, grouting the following, and finally sealing the last.

Buy Tools and Materials:

The first step is getting all of your tools and materials in order. Here’s your list for what you’ll need!

Tools Needed:
  • Tape Measure
  • Level
  • Tile Saw or Cutter
  • Notched Trowel
  • Rubber Grout Float
  • Goggles
  • Latex Gloves
  • Sponge
  • Tile Spacers

Materials Needed:
  • Tiles
  • Grout
  • Flexible Caulk
  • Tile Adhesive (mortar or mastic)
how to tile a backsplash
Prep:

Prep work, the fun stuff. And sometimes what takes the longest! Make sure to remove any old tile from walls and try to ensure your surface is as flat as possible. Remove your switch plate covers, tape off cabinetry, move free standing appliances away from walls, etc. Make sure your space is clean and cleared away and ready to get messy!

Tip: Remember that preparation is 75% of a successful design and renovation

Inspect Tiles & Find Your Focal Point:

The Moroccan Fish Scale tiles are handmade, which means all of the tiles can vary. Handmade or not though we always inspect all of the tiles to ensure there are no cracks, marks or big color discrepancies. As for Mercury Mosaics and their handcrafted tiles, and what I love most about these tiles, it wouldn’t come as a surprise as they are all perfectly imperfect, you just want to make sure that the odd egg isn’t the one that so luckily gets placed in the middle of your design as the focal point.

Most importantly, make sure your measurements are correct so that you have ordered enough tiles with coverage for all the cuts you have to make along the edges. We always make sure we have 10% more material than we need to cover the cut offs and the “oopsies.” If this is your first time tiling, you might even want to go with 15% to be safe. You can usually always return the extra tiles you don’t use to your supplier.

Tip: Always order 10% more tile than you think you need
how to tile a backsplash
Dry Layout Design:

Find your focal point on the wall, that is going to determine where to start. You will want to center on that point. If it’s a big area, find the middle. Or if it’s a smaller area like this space we did, find where your eye naturally goes, and that’s where you are going to start your design with the first tile. For us, it was right round the sink area. You’ll also want to level off your cabinetry to make sure it is level. If the cabinets are off level- make sure the tile is level.

Tip: Lay all of the tiles out before installing themMeasure the area you’re starting with up on the backsplash and measure that same amount on the floor, then tape off. You’ll want to lay out your tiles before you place them to ensure a smooth process. We don’t usually but if this is your first time tiling you’ll probably want to use spacers for your dry run as well to make sure those measurements are accurate.
how to tile a backsplash
Lay Mortar & Tile:

Select a thin-set mortar at your local hardware shop. Make sure you have a good mixing paddle to prepare it and just follow the mixing instructions on the packaging. You want to be sure the mix is a good consistency, like cake batter. We never mix more mortar than we can get onto the wall and tile at a time because it dries quick. If you’re working solo, you’ll probably only want to make enough for 30 minutes of work. Otherwise, it will dry, and you won’t be able to spread it on the wall and the tiles won’t adhere to the dry glue.

Tip: Have a helper cut the tiles for you Once it’s all mixed up, you’ll use the flat side of your trowel and spread your mortar onto the backer board. Then flip your trowel over and use the notched edge to make the nice little ridges. For this particular job we used a 1/4″ x 1/4″ notched trowel.

Once you have a good area covered in mortar, you can pick your tiles up from your dry run and start putting them into place with the mortar.

When getting close to the edges to cut the tiles, we always wait to cut the tiles until we are actually setting them, to ensure accuracy, and then do a handful at a time because I am throwing them all up on the wall within minutes while Jamie is cutting more. Use a tile pen, and mark the spots on the tile where you need the clean cut lines.

Tip: Always make sure to use your level periodically to ensure each row is straight. 
how to tile a backsplash
Grout:

We have a love/hate relationship with grout. It’s makes us so mad but so happy at the same time. ha! It’s so much fun to watch your project look complete by my-lanta…it takes about five washes to get those babies clean!Just like mortar, there is a ton of different grout options as well. Mercury recommends using a sanded grout for these tiles. The recommended type with 1/8″ or larger grout lines.

Before you begin, make sure that your mortar and tile has had long enough to dry and set before grouting. If not, you increase the chance of your tiles shifting, which would be real bad.

Tip: Let the tile dry for 24 hours before grouting
how to tile a backsplash
Follow the mixing instructions on the back of the packaging of the grout you bought. Apply enough grout to fill all the small areas of your tile.

Using a rubber trowel, you will want to make a sweeping motion over your tiles and at times at a 45-degree angle to make sure you have it nicely packed in. And you’ll want to make sure you don’t have any air bubbles in your grouted areas. Move along your tiles and into the spaces. Again, if you’re working solo, you’ll have to move quickly as the grout dries fast.

Jamie and I usually work as a team throughout the tiling process. One of us is grouting as the other is following not too far behind cleaning the grout off of the tiles. If the grout dried on the tiles, you are in trouble as it is real hard to get dried grout off of tiles.

To wipe off the grout, we have a five-gallon bucket of water and a large sponge. We use the sponge to wipe the tiles down and lightly brush over the grouted areas. We typically need to wipe the tiles off a minimum of two to three times, followed by a dry rag to get the dried grout dust off.
how to tile a backsplash
Seal:

A few days or even a week after you’ve grouted your backsplash it’s time for the sealer. The packaging of the grout you use will have instructions on how long you should wait before sealing. Adding sealer to your grout will help protect it from staining and help in the cleaning process. The sealer we use always has a nice little paint brush for the top of the bottle and you just simply paint all the grout lines. I actually find this step pretty relaxing, it brings me back to my art class days, haha!
how to tile a backsplash
And that’s it. Sealing is the last step to your tiling project. Now step back, give yourself a pat on the back and enjoy all the hard work you just did!

Congrats!! And make sure to tag us in your photos at construction2style so we can see your completed masterpiece! You are going to kill it.
how to tile a backsplash
After!
how to tile a backsplash
how to tile a backsplash

Suggested materials:

  • Moroccan Fish Scale Tile  (Mercury Mosaics)

To see more: http://construction2style.com/how-to-tile-a-backsplash/

Have a question about this project?

27 questions
  • Michael A Carta
    on Jul 6, 2017

    Looks great! I'm thinking it might be a little more labor intensive to clean though. Would it not?

    • Assunta Paolucci
      on Jul 6, 2017

      Without question I know it would be hard to clean...the surface is not flat....

    • Blaine
      on Jul 6, 2017

      It is flat! If you paid attention to the article you would see that the tiles are sped like scales to give the appearance of overlapping scales. Besides you can't overlap tiles and expect grout to stick because it won't.

  • Helen Skaleris
    on Jul 6, 2017

    I wish you would take before and after pictures from the same angle. It's obvious a wall was removed and this was a major renovation. How long did the whole project take?

    • Brenda
      on Jul 6, 2017

      I was trying to orient myself to viewing it from the same angle alsobc the after picture is simply stunning. Clearly it was a major overhaul but the focus of this post was on the backsplash tiles not the revision of the whole kitchen. We just get the best of both worlds by seeing the tiles AND the fully revised kitchen 😁
      PS- it's nice to see someone local to me post on this site

    • AR
      on Jul 6, 2017

      I agree with Helen. It does nothing to take a pic from a dif angle.

  • Ken
    on Jul 6, 2017

    I'm trying to make sense of the before and after pictures since they appear to be shot from different places. Is the refrigerator still in the same location?

    • Lanie Dreer
      on Jul 6, 2017

      I've got the same question. Not the same fridge, cabinets, wall space.. Wha??? I thought this was a $1500 project, it would take a lot more than that to make that 'after' kitchen. I'm with you Ken from Coatesville, something is amiss.

    • Dac8247514
      on Jul 6, 2017

      OMG the purpose of the article was tiling a backspash. For $1500! The fridge, window, sink, dishwasher all in same place. They just kicked out the island to open the space and lightened the colors. Beautiful job! Nothing amiss!

    • Barb in Texas
      on Jul 6, 2017

      If you look at both pictures, the fridge and the tall cabinet far left of it are in exactly the same spot, with the sink in between them.

    • Centrd
      on Jul 6, 2017

      There's a link to her website if you want to see the whole kitchen remodel. This is a Tile Backsplash Tutorial.

    • Leonie Rose Bodden
      on Jul 6, 2017

      Thank you Dacathome. Seems like only you and I seem to understand this lol.

    • Jackson
      on Jul 6, 2017

      The whole kitchen has been remodeled!!

    • Ann
      on Jul 6, 2017

      Beautiful backsplash and finished kitchen. The new island replacing the angled counter is a huge improvement. And the wall by the fridge is gone, so now the kitchen is open to the dining room. Lots of work but looks like it is so worth it!

    • Ken
      on Jul 6, 2017

      Thank you Ann. I get it now. In this and many other projects it is difficult to get a good feel for what one design element (backsplash in this case) has done when so much has changed. I'd guess that the photographer in the "after" was about 90 degrees counter clockwise from the one taking the "before". Sorry folks if you thought it was a stupid question.

    • Kathy Gunter Law
      on Jul 7, 2017

      It is a little misleading but you can tell it is the part of a full remodel. Also, they only list the tile in the materials used section which is wrong. They used adhesive, grout, and sealer as well. If you don't have tools, they will need to be added to the cost too.

  • Dede Diorio Ryle
    on Jul 6, 2017

    I live in an older home and have real wood grooved knotty pine walls in the kitchen And dining room. Can I tile over them or should they be ripped out and replaced with drywall?

    • Peggy
      on Jul 7, 2017

      knotty pine walls should be removed first. No need to drywall. Simple plywood is easier to put on wall before tiling.

    • Peggy
      on Jul 7, 2017

      knotty pine walls should be removed first. No need to drywall. Simple plywood is easier to put on wall before tiling.

    • Peggy
      on Jul 7, 2017

      knotty pine walls should be removed first. No need to drywall. Simple plywood is easier to put on wall before tiling.

    • Peggy
      on Jul 7, 2017

      knotty pine walls should be removed first. No need to drywall. Simple plywood is easier to put on wall before tiling.

    • Peggy
      on Jul 7, 2017

      knotty pine walls should be removed first. No need to drywall. Simple plywood is easier to put on wall before tiling.

    • Peggy
      on Jul 7, 2017

      knotty pine walls should be removed first. No need to drywall. Simple plywood is easier to put on wall before tiling.

    • Peggy
      on Jul 7, 2017

      knotty pine walls should be removed first. No need to drywall. Simple plywood is easier to put on wall before tiling.

    • Mpa10674563
      on Jul 7, 2017

      i have a question. can tiles be put over wallpaper or should w.p. be removed first? pat l, wisconsin

    • Carma Butler Johnson
      on Jul 14, 2017

      Not correct. If the pine is sound and well secured to the wall there should be not problem tiling it. After all there is not much difference in pine boards and plywood as far structure goes.


    • Mcgypsy9
      on Aug 8, 2018

      Peggy to remove the many duplicated answers, click the V in the top right corner of each box and click on delete comment.

  • Can you tile directly on Sheetrock??

    • Peggy
      on Jul 7, 2017

      Of course.

    • Kathy Gunter Law
      on Jul 7, 2017

      Yes. It is recommended that you put up cement board before you tile. However, our bathroom was tiled without it and no problems 15 years later.

    • Susan Miller
      on Jul 16, 2017

      Yes! If it's painted, just stuff it up with some sandpaper first.

  • Bar33432427
    on Jun 21, 2018

    Very pretty and clean looking! How do you sit at the island without an overhang of counter for your knees? Had an island like this once and couldn’t sit there comfortably.

  • Mamabear318
    on Aug 8, 2018

    Very nice. I love doing backsplashes. My next one will require removal of the existing backsplash. In your experience, what is the best way to accomplish this

  • Sen26033166
    on Aug 8, 2018

    That’s not even the same kitchen in the before and after. 10 hours ?

    • Christina Finley
      on Aug 8, 2018

      I was thinking the same thing. I'm gonna go with "they remodeled the entire kitchen".

    • Karen
      on Aug 8, 2018

      I would think of that was it they would have said. If that is the case, they made the kitchen smaller.

    • Mary Tramonti
      on Aug 8, 2018

      New countertops (black to white). Painted cupboards (wood-finish to paint). New light fixtures. May not be the same room. Should have stood at same angle/place to take the before/after shots, but opposite angles. Should have acknowledged all updates - the backsplash is not the reason for the lift to that room, as nice as it is.

    • Jean
      on Aug 8, 2018

      Looks like the wall beyond the refrigerator was removed to open to the dining area, as was the entire interior work area.


    • Cyn
      on Aug 8, 2018

      The angled eating counter was removed. But the end kitchen is wider than the beginning one.

    • Su
      on Aug 8, 2018

      The 10 hour time frame was only for the tile work. That did not include the rest of the kitchen remodel

  • Cat
    on Aug 8, 2018

    i agree w/ the first comment, it's not the same kitchen, no?

    • Jae
      on Aug 8, 2018

      Different angle! Not different kitchen!

    • Jayne Zabala
      on Aug 8, 2018

      Same kitchen, they just re-arranged the cabinets, adding more counter space/backsplash. Looks terrific and a better use of space.


    • Jewell Martin
      on Aug 8, 2018

      Even the island is different.

    • Mimi
      on Aug 8, 2018

      Great kitchen remodel and lovely tile work! Thanks for bringing our attention to this product and showing us how do-able it is for DIY-ers to replicate in their own kitchens.

  • Lea33807188
    on Aug 8, 2018

    Well it looks lovely BUT it is a different kitchen. Where are the brown cabinets ? even the layout is different.

    But thanks for listing the times it takes to do tile. DAYS not hours,

    Your finished look is stunning.

    • Meca
      on Aug 8, 2018

      It looks like they did a complete remodel of the kitchen - Painted cabinets, maybe knocked down a few walls and added the island. The windows and sink are in the same place.

    • Ida9464
      on Aug 8, 2018

      I think it's the same kitchen, but they opened the kitchen up drastically and I just love it! Lots of work, but really appears to have paid off.

    • Lis
      on Aug 8, 2018

      And the angle of the “after”

      photo is shot from the opposite side of the kitchen, which is also confusing. Look at the pantry cabinets. They’re the same, but painted white.

  • Michelle Schumacher
    on Aug 8, 2018

    Is that the same kitchen? The first kitchen looks cramped and kind of dark! But the white one cannot be the same kitchen! I love the idea of it. But I think you should have shown the white kitchen before and after

    • Suzanne Eberhardt
      on Aug 8, 2018

      Id say it is the same kitchen - you can tell by the window placement and dw .It appears the cabinets were painted which can totally transform the look and feel

    • Deborah
      on Aug 8, 2018

      I agree. It is not the same kitchen. Unless they remodeled and changed the layout around.

    • Jayne Zabala
      on Aug 8, 2018

      They moved the tall pantry closets over to the end of the wall and added new lower/upper and a longer working counter. Smart planning and looks great!


    • Jill V Harper
      on Aug 8, 2018

      the window placement is totally different. In the original kitchen it's to the left when walking in through the only space in the finished kitchen it's straight ahead. Totally different kitchen

    • June
      on Aug 8, 2018

      The island is certainly different and in a different position and the cabinets are different . In the before pic the cabinets go over the fridge and between the fridge and sink in the after the fridge is flush with the sink and no cabinet. It’s also a different fridge before is white and after is chrome.

    • Judy Holmes Spiers
      on Aug 8, 2018

      You're right, this is a different but similar kitchen unless they did a complete renovation adding to the size of the kitchen. In the original photo, there are no drawers or doors on the left of the dishwasher.


    • Cheryl L Boggs
      on Aug 8, 2018

      Come on people, read the beginning of the article. She said that they did a total renovation. She saids that this is about tiling. Come on folks,READ.

    • Aurora Henry
      on Aug 8, 2018

      It looks great but you are right, unless they remodeled the whole thing including quarts counter tops.

    • Tru31417796
      on Aug 8, 2018

      I believe it's the same kitchen, however they have done a remodel by removing the partial wall which has the door way into the dining room, as well as the wall to the right of the kitchen. They have removed the cupboards above the fridge and around the window, as well as at least one of the floor to ceiling cupboards to the left of the dishwasher. Everything, (cupboards, counters, stove, etc), to the right of the door way has been taken out and the large island has been put there. And of course fridge has been enclosed. This has transformed a cramped small kitchen into a beautiful open plan kitchen.

  • Jo
    on Aug 8, 2018

    Where’s the video? I saw the same times used on Holmes Next Generation abd they’re beautiful.

  • Sandra Cook
    on Aug 8, 2018

    What is the best way and method to remove the old tiles?

  • Sandra Cook
    on Aug 8, 2018

    What is the best way or method to remove old wall tiles?

    • Nic24181341
      on Aug 8, 2018

      Cut it out unfortunately sometimes is the easiest way and put up new drywall. It will give you a straight and strong base to work with

    • Michael Dodd
      on Aug 8, 2018

      First, I pop off all the old ties with a medium prybar and hammer starting from top and going down the wall. If the wall is too bad to make level for the new tile, I cut out the old drywall and replace it.

  • Gentry
    on Aug 8, 2018

    Is the before and after pictures of the same kitchen?

    • Bha15097097
      on Aug 8, 2018

      I don’t think so. If it is they must’ve remodeled the whole kitchen.

    • Zel22332977
      on Aug 8, 2018

      The cabinets went from wood look to white. The fridge was whit and is noe stainless.

    • Kim
      on Aug 8, 2018

      Peninsula is now an island.

    • Roni Freels
      on Aug 8, 2018

      I believe the word "after" was placed under the wrong picture. Go down one picture after the blue island and I am thinking that is the AFTER. Just my opinion.

    • Gentry
      on Aug 9, 2018

      It is hard to even see the back splash and the difference it was to make.

  • Deb33911934
    on Aug 8, 2018

    How can this be a before and after. Looks like a different kitchen totally

    • Beth
      on Aug 8, 2018

      Agreed!! Island is switched around so much more.

    • Loretta Champagne
      on Aug 8, 2018

      Maybe a total remodel??? Great question lol

    • Karen Anne Mahoney
      on Aug 8, 2018

      exactly my thoughts! i feel duped! ;-)

    • Joanne Guanciale Dunn
      on Aug 8, 2018

      I would finish by painting the window trim white too :) Love, Love the kitchen!!

      Either total but it different kitchen — either way, it’s a beauty

    • Dana
      on Aug 8, 2018

      I mean serious remodel!

    • Pep
      on Aug 8, 2018

      I think it's a total reno. The wall between the kitchen/DR is gone- the DR furniture is the same.

  • Juls
    on Aug 8, 2018

    These photos have to be two different kitchens. Am I right?


    • Bijous
      on Aug 8, 2018

      If you're referring to the handles appearing different, I think either they switched out the handles from silver to gold or it's the lighting making the handles appear more silver than gold. What does someone else think?

    • Nancy
      on Aug 8, 2018

      The island is at an angle in the beforepic...and the counter top was black, cabinets wood looking. Doesn’t look likenthe same kitchen. Wondering ehy they didn’t paint the trim white around the windows?!

    • Barbara Markow
      on Aug 8, 2018

      These look like to totally different kitchens as the cabinet pattern is different as well as the counter-top, etc.

    • Angie Harguess
      on Aug 9, 2018

      Look again. Removed bar wall, open floor plan, and took pictures from that direction.

    • That was my thought too but if you compare the cupboards and the lay out, it looks as if the wood was painted and the island moved and the tile is the the last bit of the remodel.

    • Sue McCune Martin
      on Aug 9, 2018

      I think they are showing just the sink wall of the layout. The refrigerator area seems a little different - a surround may have been built. The entire island is different. Cabinets are either new or painted. It’s impossible to tell how much the pantry area has been changed. Appliances are obviously new ones. The white cabinets have lightened up the space so much it really seems almost like a different one! Very nice!!

    • Dka27519972
      on Aug 9, 2018

      Totally different kitchen! But the fish scales tiles look great anyway.

    • Linda Waldron
      on Aug 10, 2018

      Looks to be a complete remodel to me. Look at the three cabinets at the end. Also the cabinets where the tile is, also the same. They've added an island, recovered the counters and paint. This makes for a complete new look that was sorely needed. Lovely, bright and very open look!

    • Granalita
      on Aug 13, 2018

      They also took out a wall.

    • Luv10027134
      on Aug 15, 2018

      I think it us the same kitchen but it is mileading as they don't talk about anything else they did. The back splash did not make that renovation, it was the new cabinets, layout, and colors that wwere the big improvement.

    • Sandy Moroney
      on Aug 15, 2018

      There’s no door in the second picture!

  • Jacx
    on Aug 8, 2018

    The photo makes the tiles look as if there is a pink tint in some of them. True or just a photo issue? Lovely work, great tips!

    • Construction2style
      on Aug 9, 2018

      I've never noticed that but I see it now! This was for a client's home but from what I remember there was no pink tone, it must have been the pictures. We did incorporate a few different white/gray colors... none were the same. And they are all hand painted/hand-crafted so variations in colors happen due to the craft, which we love. :)

    • Krafty Mrs.K
      on Aug 9, 2018

      Probably reflected color from the cabinets or other surrounding objects. Beautiful job.

    • Eml22480944
      on Aug 9, 2018

      No. nothing to do with the tones or colors of the tiles. they are two differnt layouts!. was the backsplash part of an entire re-do?

  • Paula Hansen
    on Aug 9, 2018

    Before tiling, do you sand the paint down then tile on that or put a cement board up?



    • LaVania Forsythe
      on Aug 15, 2018

      Lay your mortar and tile on the painted wall. No sanding necessary if the wall isn't textured; also, if you have wallpaper up, you will need to remove it.

    • Robin Hixon
      on Aug 15, 2018

      They didn't mention it but cement board is always recommended in wet areas like kitchens and bathrooms.

  • Terry Steuer
    on Aug 15, 2018

    How can I remove the old mortar from the drywall to put new tiles up? Thanks for your time.

  • Nanci
    on Aug 15, 2018

    What color paint did you use on the cabinets? Do you think the fish scale tile would look okay with Venetian Gold granite counters? I’m stuck with the granite counters for now and need to find a complementing white paint for the cabinets and a nice backsplash that won’t be too busy paired with the granite.

  • Cathy Pulizze Egerton
    on Aug 15, 2018

    Beautiful. I have my tiles and supplies but have putting it off!! You gave me motivation!!! Thank you. Where did you find these tiles. Just gorgeous!!

  • Vickie Hover
    on Aug 15, 2018

    I have a load bearing wall held up with two columns. I don't like the colomns. How do I get rid of them with out doing other damage.Or can they be propted up and have different ones installed?

    Thank-you.

  • Adriana Bastos Carosi
    on Aug 15, 2018

    Where is the video?

  • Can33675754
    on Aug 15, 2018

    How do you finish the tile that meets the counter? Does the tile rest on the countertop or is there a grout line on the countertop? Thank you

  • Kerry Notz
    on Aug 15, 2018

    I love the look of these tiles, but I don't think that they would survive in my house. Any ideas or suggestions for a back splash that will need to endure my wonderful husband who put a 3 inch gash in our "child & pet proof" flooring within 4 months? He has ataxia, which will only get worse.

  • Paulapaint7
    on Sep 2, 2018

    Where do I purchase those exact tiles? moroccan fish scale tiles

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