How To Install A Tile Backsplash In Your Millbrae Kitchen in 13 Steps

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A silver colored tile backsplash in a renovated kitchen. A kitchen island with a sink is visible in the foreground.

Key Points

  • Proper preparation and measurement of the backsplash area are crucial for a successful tile installation, ensuring you have enough materials and the tiles fit perfectly.
  • The use of appropriate tools and materials, including adhesive, grout, tile spacers, and a wet saw for cutting, is essential for installing a tile backsplash effectively.
  • Sealing the grout and caulking around the edges of the tile backsplash are important final steps to protect against moisture damage and ensure a clean, finished look.

A tile backsplash is a great way to update your Millbrae kitchen’s style without a complete renovation.

It’s a relatively simple project that any homeowner can tackle over a weekend, making your kitchen look brand new.

But if you prefer a professional touch, be sure to check out our kitchen remodeling services for Millbrae, CA.

This blog post will show you how to install a kitchen backsplash in 13 steps.

We’ll also share some tips and advice on how to make the tile backsplash installation process as easy and stress-free as possible.

So read on for all you need to know about how to tile a backsplash in your kitchen!

How To Choose The Right Tile

Size, Color, And Material

Before installing a tile backsplash, you need to choose the right tile.

There are many factors to consider, including the size of the backsplash tiles, the color, and the material.

Tiles made of glass, metal, and natural stone are all popular choices.

Each has its benefits and drawbacks, so it’s essential to do your research on backsplash ideas before making a decision.

You’ll also want to consider whether you want handmade or mass-produced tiles. 

The tile backsplash is a vital design element in any kitchen remodel.

It provides protection for your walls from splatters and spills and also lends a unique visual appeal to the space.

With so many tile options on the market, it can be challenging to know where to start when choosing tile for your kitchen backsplash.

Here are a few things to remember as you begin your search.

Overall Style of Your Kitchen

Consider the overall style of your kitchen.

Do you want something traditional or modern?

Bright and colorful or subdued and neutral?

There are endless possibilities, so narrowing down your options is essential before making a final decision

If you have a modern kitchen with clean lines, you may want to opt for a simple subway tile backsplash design.

On the other hand, if your kitchen has a more traditional feel, you may want to choose patterned tiles or natural stone tiles with more intricate details.

If you’re looking for some inspiration for your kitchen, be sure to check out out our guide to kitchen remodel ideas!

Function Of Tile Backsplash

It would be best if you also thought about the function of the tile backsplash.

If you do a lot of cooking, you’ll want to ensure that the backsplash tiles are easy to clean.

You may also want to consider a tile backsplash that is heat-resistant if you do a lot of stovetop cooking.

You should also ensure that the backsplash tile you select is non-porous so it won’t absorb stains.

So if you are a messy cook, a marble backsplash is probably not for you!

Your Budget

Finally, don’t forget to consider your budget when choosing tile for your kitchen backsplash.

There are many beautiful backsplash tile options on the market, but they can vary widely in price.

Patterned tiles, stone tiles, and subway tiles are some of the standard kitchen tile installation options.

Compare prices and selections at different stores before making your final decision. 

By setting a budget before you start shopping, you can ensure that you find a backsplash tile that fits your style and budget.

Even a backsplash can get costly if you ignore prices!

Materials You’ll Need for Tile Backsplash Installation

A hand holding a notched trowel applies mortar to a wall surface.

Now that you’ve selected the perfect tiles for your kitchen backsplash, it’s time to gather all your tools and materials.

Here’s a list of everything you’ll need for kitchen tile installation:

1. Tile

Make sure you have enough tiles to cover the entire surface of your kitchen’s backsplash. (We’ll cover how to measure for backsplash in a little bit.)

2. Adhesive (Or Mortar)

You will use adhesive to stick the backsplash tiles to the wall.

Ensure you get the correct type of adhesive or mortar for the tiles you’ve chosen.

3. Notched Trowel

You will use a notched trowel to apply the mortar or other types of adhesive to the wall.

4. Grout

Grout will help to fill any gaps between the backsplash tiles. Again, get the correct type of grout for your tiles. 

5. Caulk

You will use caulk to seal around the edges of the backsplash.

6. Grout Float

You will need this to apply the grout.

7. Tile Spacers

You will use tile spacers to create gaps between the tiles. 

8. Level

A level will help keep the tile straight as you install it.

9. Tape Measure

You will use a tape measure to measure your backsplash’s surface area and determine how many tiles you will need. 

10. Painter’s Tape

You will use painter’s tape to create lines where the new tiles will go.

11. Pencil

You will use a pencil to mark where you will cut the tile. 

12. Wet Saw

You will use a wet saw to cut the tile.

A wet saw is crucial for ceramic or porcelain tiles, as they are challenging to cut with a standard utility knife. 

13. Sandpaper

The sandpaper will smooth out any rough edges on the tile after it’s been cut. 

14. Schluter Strip

Schluter strips are thin strips of metal or plastic that are used to create a smooth transition between two different surfaces.

They can also be used to protect tile edges from chipping and provide extra support for heavy tile installations.

When choosing a Schluter strip for your tile backsplash, select one compatible with the type of tiles you use.

15. Putty Knife/Utility Knife

You will need these to help you pry off any old tiles.

16. Wire Brush

You will need this to remove any adhesive left by the old tiles.

17. Sponges/Old Rags And Bucket

You will need these for cleanup.

With these tools and materials, you should be all set to install your new tile backsplash.

Step 1: Measure The Area

A kitchen sink with a tile backsplash visible behind it.

Before you remove any old tiling or prep the surface for tile work, you’ll need to measure where your new kitchen backsplash will go.

Measuring will help you determine how much tile and mortar you’ll need

How To Measure for a Backsplash

Start by measuring the length and width of the wall section where the backsplash will be installed.

Then, multiply these numbers to calculate the total square footage.

Keep in mind that you may need to make adjustments for odd-shaped areas or cutouts for outlets.

Once you have the square footage, add 10 percent to account for waste and mistakes.

This amount is the minimum amount of tiles you should purchase.

In general, it is always better to err on the side of too much tile rather than too little.

That way, you can avoid making a trip back to the hardware store in the middle of your kitchen remodel.

Step 2: Remove Old Tiling

If there is already a kitchen backsplash in place, you’ll need to remove it before installing your new one

How To Remove Old Tiling

  • Use a putty knife or utility knife to score the grout between the tiles 

  • Once the tile is loose, it can be pried up and removed. If necessary, you can use a tile saw or rotary tool to remove any stubborn pieces of tile

  • If there is any old adhesive residue left behind, use a scraper or wire brush to remove it 

Step 3: Clean And Prep The Surface For Tile Work

A person using a hammer and chisel to remove old tiles from a wall.

Once all the old tiles have been removed, it’s time to clean and prep the surface for your new tiles.

Any tile job on floors, walls, or backsplashes begins with careful surface preparation.

Tile won’t adhere properly to a surface that isn’t clean, smooth, and free of debris, so prep work is critical to the success of your kitchen tile installation.

How To Clean And Prep The Surface

  • Use a damp sponge to clean up any dust or debris that may be left behind from the old tile work

  • If there is grease on the surface, you may need to use a degreaser or all-purpose cleaner

  • Finally, make sure you wipe down the surface with an old rag to ensure it is dry

Step 4: Draw Your Center Point And Measuring Lines

When it comes to tile backsplashes, the devil is in the details.

Just a few millimeters off can mean the difference between a tile that looks flawlessly installed and one that looks wonky and out of place.

That’s why it’s essential to take your time and draw your center point and measuring lines correctly.

How To Draw Your Center Point And Measuring Lines

  • Start by finding the center point of your backsplash area. To find the center of the wall, measure the width and mark the halfway point 

  • Then, use a level to draw a horizontal line across the center point

  • Next, do the same thing vertically so you have a crosshair over the center of your backsplash area

  • Repeat this process for each tile until you have a complete grid 

  • Finally, use painter’s tape to create straight lines on either side of where your backsplash will go. These lines will help ensure that your tiles are installed evenly 

Step 5: Pre-Lay Tile For Correct Fit

Now that you’ve drawn your center point and measuring lines, it’s time to pre-lay your new tile in a dry run (no mortar yet).

Here’s a quick overview of the best way to pre-lay tile for a perfect fit:

  • Starting at the center point, begin laying out your tile in either a horizontal or vertical pattern. Make sure that each tile is level with the ones around it

  • Once you’ve laid out a few rows of tile, use a level to ensure the tile stays level as you work your way out from the center. If necessary, adjust your tile accordingly until everything looks level

  • Mark the location of the tiles with a pencil as you remove them

Step 6: Install Schluter Strip To Create An Edge For Your Tile (Optional)

Although not absolutely necessary, a Schluter Strip can help to make the tile installation process more manageable. 

Schluter Strips are made of aluminum or plastic, and they are used to create a smooth transition between the tile and the wall.

They are also used to protect the edge of the tile from chipping. 

Measure, Cut, And Place Your Schluter Strip

When installing a tile backsplash, you will need to measure the area where you will place the tiles and then cut the Schluter Strip to size.

You will then need to apply adhesive to the back of the strip and press it into place.

Once the strips are in place, you can continue with your tile installation. 

Step 7: Cut Tile Where Needed To Fit

Someone cutting tile with a wet saw.

When it comes to tile backsplashes, it’s all about getting the perfect fit.

After all, you don’t want gaps between your tiles or tile edges that aren’t perfectly flush with the countertop.

But there’s one problem: the tile doesn’t seem to fit perfectly in the space.

Don’t worry; this is a common issue when installing tile backsplashes.

The best way to deal with it is to cut the tile to size. 

So, how do you achieve a professional-looking cut for your tile backsplash?

Use A Wet Saw

The best way to cut tile is with a wet saw.

Wet saws are specifically designed for cutting tile, making quick work of even the most intricate cuts.

If you don’t have access to a wet saw, you can also use a handheld tile cutter.

However, wet saws will give you much cleaner, straighter cuts than if you were to try and do it by hand. 

Measuring The Area And Making The Cuts

  • Measure the area where the tile will go. You’ll need to know both the space’s width and height to calculate how many tiles you’ll need. Remember, make sure to measure twice and cut once so you don’t waste any tile

  • Mark the tile with a pencil where you’ll need to make cuts

  • When making cuts, take your time and exercise caution for the best results

  • Smooth the edges of the tile using a file or sandpaper. Sanding will help ensure that the tile fits snugly against outlets or other obstacles

Step 8: Prep Adhesive And Apply To Clean Wall

Now that your surface is clean and your tile is cut, it’s time to prep your mortar (or other adhesive material) and apply it to the wall.

How To Prep Adhesive or Mortar

It’s important to prep the adhesive or mortar correctly.

Otherwise, the tile may not adhere properly and could eventually come loose. 

Preparation instructions for adhesives and mortars will vary depending on the manufacturer.

Some pre-mixed bonds are ready to go straight from the package.

However, mortars will often need to be mixed with water and allowed to set.

So, to prep the adhesive or mortar, mix it according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

Remember that it’s a good idea to use a light-colored adhesive or mortar if you are installing a light-colored tile and vice versa for a dark-colored tile.

How To Apply Adhesive or Mortar

For best results, the tile adhesive or mortar should be applied in vertical strips no wider than 12 inches and smoothed out with the notched edge of the trowel to create consistent coverage over the entire surface.

Smooth it out with a putty knife so there are no air pockets. 

A good rule of thumb is that tile adhesive should be 1/4-inch thick after smoothed.

Allow the adhesive to set for the recommended time on the product label.

Step 9: Begin Laying Tile

Gloved hands installing tile on a kitchen wall.

Start At The Bottom

Begin laying tile in your desired pattern, working from the bottom up.

Use Tile Spacers

Be sure to use spacers between each tile to ensure even spacing.

Wipe Off Excess Adhesive

Use a sponge or old rag to remove any excess adhesive or mortar.

Let The Adhesive Dry

Once all tiles are in place, allow the adhesive to dry according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

While the dry time will vary by manufacturer, this often takes 24 hours.

Step 10: Apply Tile Grout

Applying tile grout is a crucial step in any kitchen remodel that involves tile.

Grout helps fill in the tiles’ spaces and create a watertight seal.

Without grout, your tile backsplash would be much less effective at protecting your walls from water damage.

Mix The Grout

First, you’ll need to mix the grout according to the manufacturer’s instructions. 

Use A Grout Float

Grout the tile using a grout float.

Starting at the top of the backsplash, work your way down, using a back-and-forth motion to force the grout into the spaces between each tile.

Be sure to work it into all the nooks and crannies so that there are no air pockets.

Wipe Off Excess Grout

Wipe away any excess grout with a damp sponge or rag.

You will want to do this while the grout is still wet so it’s easy to clean up. 

Scrape The Corners

Use the dull side of your utility knife to scrape away the excess grout from the inside corners and joints where the tilework ends.

This technique allows the tiles to move slightly as the grout dries and will prevent the grout from cracking.

Step 11: Seal The Tile Grout

For best results, we recommend sealing your tile grout.

Grout is a porous material that can absorb spills and dirt, making it difficult to keep your backsplash clean.

By sealing the grout, you create a barrier that will make it much easier to wipe down your backsplash and keep it looking great for years to come.

How To Seal The Tile Grout

Once the grout is dry, mix up a batch of grout sealer according to the manufacturer’s instructions and apply it to the grout with a brush or sponge.

Allow the sealer to dry for the recommended amount of time.

Wipe Off Excess Sealer

Use a clean cloth to remove any excess sealer from the tile surface.

You may also need a plastic scraper to remove any stubborn residue.

Just be careful not to damage your new tilework!

Step 12: Caulk Around The Edges

Worker fills seam between the ceramic tiles on the wall and kitchen backsplash with caulk.

Once the tile is in place, there’s one more important step to take: caulking.

Caulking around the edges of your tile backsplash will help to create a watertight seal, preventing moisture from seeping behind the tile and causing problems down the road for the entire kitchen wall.

Here’s how to do it:

  • Start by cleaning the area around the tile with a damp cloth. Cleaning will help the caulk to adhere better

  • Next, apply a bead of caulk along all the seams where the tile meets the wall or countertop. Use a wet finger to smooth out the caulk so that it’s flush with the tile

  • Allow the caulk to set for 24 hours before using the area. Once it’s set, your tile backsplash will be protected from moisture damage

Step 13: Clean Off The Tile

Once you’ve finished sealing the grout and caulking the edges, it’s time to do a final clean-up of your new tile backsplash.

The best way to clean tile backsplash is with mild detergent and a soft cloth.

Avoid using abrasive cleaners or scrubbers, as these can damage the tile or the grout sealant.

You may need to use a slightly stronger cleaner for tough stains, but always test it in an inconspicuous area first.

With a bit of care and patience, you can easily clean off the tile and enjoy your new tile backsplash for years to come. 

Contact Home Pride Construction For All Your Kitchen Remodeling Needs

Installing a tile backsplash in your kitchen is an easy way to update the look of your Millbrae home without doing a full kitchen remodeling project.

With our guide, it’s something you can do yourself with just a few basic materials and some simple instructions.

So before you call in the professionals, measure the area you want to tile and gather the supplies you will need.

Then follow our step-by-step guide and see how easy it is to create a beautiful new backsplash for your kitchen.

If you have any questions or run into problems along the way, don’t hesitate to contact us–we’re always happy to help! Just fill out our contact form today.