Materials and Tools:
- Notched trowel / float
- Tape measure
- Straight edge or level
- Tile adhesive
- Tile cutter (rentals available at most home improvement stores)
- Utility knife
- Wall tile
- Mortar and mixing tool
- Cheese cloth
Step 1: Calculate your wall space to determine the amount of tile you will need. Simply multiply the width and height of the wall to get the square footage. Include an additional 10 percent of tile to cover small gaps or in case you make any mistakes.
Step 2: Prep your workspace by removing all appliances from the countertop. Move the stove slightly away from the wall, if necessary. Unplug the stove for safety. Place a layer of cardboard over your countertop for protection. Tape off the edges of the countertop and the underside of the cabinets to protect those surfaces while working. Shut off power to any nearby electrical outlets or light switches before you remove the cover plates and begin tiling.
Step 3: Clean your walls with a mild soap and water, and allow to dry completely before beginning the tile work. Glossy surfaces should be sanded down for best results.
Step 4: Before permanently tiling your wall, start with a trial run by placing a tile piece on the wall and marking its placement with a pencil. Continue moving the tile down the wall, carefully marking its placement as you go. Use a straight edge or level as needed to make sure the tile placement is level. You may need to cut some pieces of tile in order to properly fill your backsplash area. Use a tile cutter for ceramic or porcelain tiles and a wet saw for cement tiles. A utility knife can be used for thinner types of tiling.
Step 5: Fill a bucket with the specified amount of water on the package of mortar and gradually add the powdered mortar, mixing as you go. Let the mixture sit for 5 to 10 minutes, then re-mix it without additional water. Once the mortar is ready, you will have a limited time to use it before drying.
Step 6: Begin with a 2-foot section and apply the mortar to the wall, spreading a thin layer of mortar with the flat side of the trowel. Press at a 45-degree angle to ensure the mortar fully adheres to the wall. Using the notched edge, add a little more mortar onto the trowel and comb even ridges in one direction.
Step 7: Place the tile pieces along the wall. Add tile spacers if needed to help keep the tile pieces lined up. Follow the lines that you made in step 4 during your trial run. Slightly rock the sheet up and down perpendicular to the trowel lines to help the tile settle into place. Use a grout float to flatten the tile, if necessary. Allow the mortar to dry completely according to the package’s instructions, which is typically 24 hours.
Step 8: Wipe the tiles clean with water before applying the grout. To mix the grout, fill a bucket with the appropriate amount of water (according the package’s instructions). Then gradually add the grout powder and mix thoroughly. Let the mixture sit for 5 to 10 minutes, then re-mix it without additional water. Periodically re-mix the grout to keep its consistency.
Step 9: Once the grout is mixed you will have limited time to use it before drying, so make sure you work in sections that you can complete within 30 minutes. Apply the grout with the grout float at a 45-degree angle. Work diagonally as you go. Wipe off any excess grout with the grout float held at a 90-degree angle. Using a damp sponge, go back to your starting point and remove the grout from the face of the tiles in a circular motion, shaping the grout joints fully. Rinse the sponge in clean water frequently. Repeat this process several times. After about 3 hours, remove the last application of grout. Use a dampened cheesecloth or sponge to wipe down the face of the tiles.
Step 10: Once the grout is fully dry, usually 24 hours to 3 days later, apply grout sealant to protect your backsplash from staining. After the sealant is dry, you can add a small amount of latex caulk to the base of your backsplash where it rests against your countertop. Replace your appliances and cookware, and restore the power to your electrical outlets.
To help maintain your backsplash, wipe it down occasionally with a non-acidic cleaner.