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How to Install a Tile Backsplash

We show you the right materials and techniques to use to put up a tile backsplash in one afternoon.

In this video, Ask This Old House general contractor Tom Silva teaches a homeowner a simple technique for tiling a backsplash.

The easiest way to install a backsplash is to use tiling, two-sided adhesive mat, and pre-mixed grout. Using the adhesive mat helps you quickly and accurately put up your tiling. With tile, there are a range options from square tiles to subway tiles, in many different colors, so you can also create the exact look and feel you want in your kitchen. We recommend square tiling for beginners because it’ll be the easiest to cut and align together.

In the video, and the steps below, we walk you through how to decide how big your backsplash should be, selecting your tile, and how to install it from start to finish.

Backsplash Installation in 15 Steps:

  1. Clean the wall thoroughly with the cleaner to remove any grease or other debris.
  2. Secure the drop cloth on the counter using the painter's tape, covering the entire work area.
  3. Mark the two sides of the wall using the painter's tape where the backsplash should start and stop.
  4. Measure the space you plan on tiling. Transfer the measurements to the tile adhesive mat and cut to size using scissors.
  5. Peel one half of the back off of the adhesive mat, and align the unexposed section to a straight surface like the existing countertop. Ensure the side with the thicker gap between glue dots is aligned to overlap the next sheet.
  6. Once the sheet is in the correct position, stick it to the wall. Then peel the bottom half and stick that to the wall.
  7. Repeat this process until the desired area is covered. Use the rubber float to push the adhesive mat to the wall for a permanent bond.
  8. Hold the tile up to the wall to determine where it will need to be cut to size.
  9. Use the utility knife to cut the mesh behind the tile.
  10. Peel the plastic coating off of the adhesive mat, and carefully place each tile section onto the adhesive.
  11. Once the tile is in the correct position, push it in place with a rubber float.
  12. Repeat this process until the wall is covered with the tile.
  13. Fill the gaps between the tile with the premixed grout and the rubber float. Apply it diagonally until all of the spaces between the tile have been filled with grout.
  14. Fill the bucket with water and using a clean sponge, wipe the excess grout off the tile, again diagonally. Be careful to only wipe the grout off the face of the tile, not the grout in between the tiles.
  15. After 24 hours, a haze may appear on the tile. To remove it, wipe the tile with a rag.

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