Last year we had what was probably one of the most eventful in our short lives. In the same year, actually in the same three months, we got married, sold our home and purchased a new one! We fell in love immediately. We looked at other homes but the major draw to this place was the large, open kitchen area. We love to have people over and entertain so this was a major selling point for us. So, of course, this area needed to look great for all of our guests!
In my opinion, a backsplash is probably one of the most underrated projects in the kitchen. It often goes unrecognized but gives a breath of fresh air in the kitchen area. The project is easy to do and this is the second one Aaron has done. We love the the look of a clean, white tile but this can be done with any selection. Aaron learned a lot from his first go-around and has added some helpful hints to give anyone the tools they need to do a job well done.
To start, you need to take measurements of the area you want tiled. Here’s what we’re working with:
Here is where you take measurements from the top of the countertop border area to the bottom of the cabinet and however far left to right. You can google a simple square footage calculator and figure out how much space you need to cover. Again, we went with a simple look but you’ll also want to review several looks and grout colors that go with your specific designs. The white subway tile and grey grout was our pick. From doing a similar backsplash at our previous home, we thought the grey grout would make the white tile “pop” more. The subway tile has a rubberized backing it that keeps the spacing so that definitely helps with keeping equal spacing. The grout was a powder that Aaron mixed but you can choose premix if you’re not comfortable with that step. While you are at the store you’ll also want to pickup some tools that will help with this job:
Caulk Gun (similar to this, you can get away with lower end)
Trowel (similar to this, I used a v-notch by Kobalt)
Float Trowel (similar to this, I just have a Kobalt brand)
Mastic (similar to this, just need a good ceramic adhesive)
Tile Saw (not required, but extremely helpful and you may need to have a home improvement store cut your tiles if you do not have one. Aaron found his on Facebook Garage Sales for a great price, but a good blade is important for the saw no matter what)
After you get home and unpack your trip, prep your area. I always shut power the off when I’m working with electric so I flipped my breaker and removed my faceplates. I also pulled the outlets out away from the wall the depth of the tile so I can pull the outlet on top of the tile. This makes it much easier in that phase.
After that, I apply the mastic. It’s pretty simple, use your trowel and apply your mastic in a criss cross fashion (actually, really easy instructions on the back of the container). Only do a small area at once as this will dry.
I placed my tile on the mastic and used a rubber hammer to tap it flat to the surface. I repeated this step across the wall. Of course not everything is going to be perfect. At some points you’ll have to make some cuts because not everything is going to be square and in our case, we have some slope to our countertop so we had to cut some of the tile in half lengthwise. In order to keep the pattern, we also had to make cuts around the outlets. This part is a little complicated so Aaron tends to side with a “This Old House” philosophy- “Measure twice, cut once”.
You can buy spacers to set the tiles equidistant or eyeball it (depending on your attention to detail). Continue this process throughout the entire area remembering to tap with the rubber hammer as to press the tile into the mastic and level it so that there are no bulges.
Once finished, mix the grout per the measurements on the back of the bag. Again, you can buy premixed if you want to to avoid this step.
Now, applying the grout is pretty messy so it is recommended that you lay down some plastic so you don’t get a lot of it on your countertops like Aaron has done in the past (HA!). It cleans easy but laying plastic saves a lot of clean time.
Applying the grout is fun as it starts to bring life to the tile and the area. Directions are clear on the grout so I won’t get into too much detail here either but you want to push the grout into the gaps between the tiles. Don’t worry about over application, you can always wipe it off later.
You’ll take your sponge and 5 gallon bucket and wipe off the excess. Remember to keep cleaning the sponge in the water and getting fresh water as often as needed. Your tile and grout should look cleaner, but not completely clean as you’ll finish that in the final step.
Now the grout needs some time to dry. Aaron took this time to paint a wall for a project we will be showing in a couple weeks, but he always takes time to enjoy a cold adult beverage during these projects as well (Stay hydrated, guys).
After the dry time use some clean rags or cheese cloth to wipe off the thin coating on the tile surface. You may need to apply a little bit of elbow grease at times but you should begin to see it shine.
After this phase in your project, apply caulk where the tile meets the counter. This will provide a good seal to prevent water penetration and future mold issues. Put your outlet boxes back in snug against the tile and faceplates back on the outlets. Aaron applied small pieces of quarter round on the gap between the tile and the upper cabinets. The finished project looks great and gives us that contemporary look in the kitchen we were looking for!
Thanks so much for reading and we hope you enjoyed this kitchen DIY! Be sure to drop us questions if you have them and let us know if you try this for yourself!