How to Install a Kitchen Backsplash

Adding a backsplash is a great way to take a bland kitchen wall and make it a focal highpoint. Picking the right backdrop will allow you to accentuate the space, or use it to accentuate the pieces in the kitchen you really want to show off.

This project can get expensive if you don’t have someone knowledgeable about the industry and products who can help keep costs down. It helps to consult a professional before going out and spending more money, time, and energy than you need to.

Blog Series: How to Install a Kitchen Backsplash

Choose Your Design

decide on a patternThere are hundreds upon thousands of different color, style, and material combinations out there to choose from. It can get a little overwhelming. That’s why we recommend talking to a professional who can help you select the best fit for you kitchen and your budget.

Prepare Your Workspace

Start by cleaning off your counter tops.   Next clean your walls with a mild soap detergent and water.

Pull the stove out a little bit if needed to be able to tile in behind it.  removing light faceplatePlace newspaper or cardboard layer on top of any counter tops, stove tops, etc.,

Shut down power to the work area and then remove all face plates from outlets and light switches.

If there is any damage to your wall, now is the time to fix it. Any structural weakness will be exasperated when adding a bunch of weight to it.

Allow your now spotlessly clean wall area to dry completely before proceeding.

Measure your Space

Use a tape measure to determine the full dimensions of your wall. Use this time to pre-lay your tiles and determine your total plan for each piece before you start cutting. Mark the tile for cuts, especially when it comes to outlets and light switches.

Cut the Tile

Use a wet saw to cut the tile according to the measurements you made earlier. If you don’t have a wet saw, you can rent one from Koopman Lumber’s rental department. To learn about renting a wet saw tile saw from Koopman Lumber, click here.

Using a wet saw, you should exercise the utmost caution and follow all safety warnings. That’s a steel blade made to cut through tile, your hand/finger, loose clothing jewelry or wires are nothing to it. Be safe!

To learn how to use a wet saw, check out this excellent video below!

Prepare the Mortar

Grab yourself your favorite Koopman Lumber pail and get ready to mix the powdered Thinset.

Check the manufacturer guides on how to mix your thinset. Different applications and materials require precise combinations, so make sure to pay attention!

Let the mixture sit for 5-10 minutes before, then give it another mix without adding more water.

After mixing you will have a limited lifetime to use the thinset, so let’s get to work laying the tile!


Lay the tile

Begin applying the mortar to the wall in 2-foot sections. Spread a thin layer of mortar to the wall using the flat part of the trowel pressed at a 45˚ angle.

Use the notched edge of the trowel to comb even ridges into the mortar in one direction, while adding a little more mortar at the same time.

Place the prearranged tiles along the wall, lining up with the measurements you made earlier. Slightly rock the sheet up and down perpendicular to the trowel lines to collapse the ridges and help the tile settle into place. Flatten the tile with a grout float if necessary.

Once you set tile into place, let it set for at least 24 hours. You may apply a pre-sealer here for natural stone at least three hours before grout application. This will help prevent staining in the future.installing ceramic tiles on a kitchen backslash

Clean the tile and prepare the grout

Give the tiles a nice wipe down with clean water before applying grout to the tiles. Fill a bucket with the specified amount of water on the grout packaging, and mix the grout powder in gradually. Let the mixture sit for 5-10 minutes before remixing without adding additional water.

mixing grout

Grout the tile

Just like the thinset you have a limited amount of time before the grout is no longer useable. Grout has a tighter timing window, usually around two hours (if it’s a poly blend).

Apply the grout with a grout float at a 45˚ angle, working diagonally. Use the same grout float to wipe off any additional grout (this time at a 90˚ angle).

Use a damp sponge to remove the grout from the face of the tiles and shape the grout joints. Do this using small, consistent circles. Rinse the sponge in clean water frequently.

Repeat this process several times.

After about 3 hours you can remove the last haze of grout. Use a dampened cheesecloth or sponge to wipe the face of the tiles.grout the tile

Seal the Tile

Once the grout is dry (1-3 days) apply grout sealant to protect your backsplash from staining. When that’s set, you may want to apply a thin strip of latex caulk where the backsplash meets the countertop.

Wrap Up

A week later and you’re done! Put all your appliances back into place and continue to use your kitchen as you always have. Thank you for reading this installment of the Koopman ProjectBook, we’ll see you next time!