A good friend of mine asked me if I could tile her kitchen back splash that never got done when she renovated her kitchen a few years ago. I said yes!
The back splash was left painted the same colour as the walls in the kitchen and dining area. Having tiles means better clean up and also the back of her counter top did not have any caulking, so any splashes could run water down between the sink and the half wall.
The home owner and I decided to go to a local home improvement store to look for tiles. She decided that black would look good with her black sink and other black decor she had so we chose a small black tile that came on a sheet of 36 tiles. Each tile is about 1 7/8″ square with a 1/8″ space between each one.
I had a helper, Brady, who would keep an eye on me and make sure I did things correctly.
The tiles we bought came on a sheet of 6 tiles x 6 tiles which included glue spacers between them that left room for the grout. The tiles can be cut apart with scissors or a knife. I needed 2 1/2 tiles for the height of the back splash.
The tiles need to be cut with a tile cutter, I used one like this:
You place the tile under the cutting system and it scores and then cuts the tile.
Basically you glue the tile to the wall with a tile adhesive that comes in a tub. It’s the consistency of peanut butter and you just butter the tile with it. In different circumstances you can apply it to the wall, but because this was such a small area, it would be hard to get into the space so buttering the tile was easier. Using a notched trowel spreads the adhesive evenly on the back.
You can see the adhesive applied on the back of this set of tiles (sorry for the blurred photo)
The bottom row of tiles were set onto the counter and pressed firmly to attach to the wall. Although I don’t show it in these photos, this was an L-shaped back splash and I just worked my way around, leaving a space between the tiles that were not pre-joined.
This shows the tiles glued on but not grouted yet:
Let your tile set and harden. I left these a few days because I don’t live in the same town as this kitchen, but 24 hours would be best just to make sure the tiles are well stuck.
The next step is to grout. Years ago grout used to come in white only but now you can pick from many different colours, my friend chose a grey. The grout I was recommended is unsanded and comes in a powder form. You need to follow the directions on the bag and mix with water to get a toothpaste-like consistency.
Grout is spread over the tiles and pushed into the spaces between. I use a flexible spreader, like a spatula without a handle. Try to fill in the grout as even as possible, but you can neaten it in the next step.
(NOTE: I did not grout where the tile meets the counter top, that needs to have a flexible caulk later)
The tiling will look messy because the grout is over the tile as well as between it, but that will be cleaned up:
Let this dry just a little and then get a damp sponge and go over the whole section you have tiled. This removes the grout on the tiles and cleans up any unevenness. Keep washing out your sponge and going back to remove extra grout. I run my finger over the grout lines to even it out and so that there is a slight concave appearance. If necessary you can wet your finger a little to smooth things out.
Here is what the tiling looks like after the last step:
There are still some uneven areas where grout is on the edge of the tiles, I remove that with my fingernail after the whole thing is dried.
Let everything dry for a day and try not to splash anything on the grouting. Then get some grout sealer and “paint” it all over the grout lines. It is a watery product that protects the grout from future splashes of food or liquids. I did one coat and then the home owner put 2 more coats over top. This is a preventative measure to keep your grout looking good.
Because the tile meets the counter top and the counter may slightly move with weight from things put on it or people leaning against it, you need a flexible caulk. Use a caulking gun with a tube of kitchen/bathroom caulk that is mildew resistant. Run it along the edge where the tile meets the counter top and smooth with your wet finger.
The black tile added a little extra elegance to the kitchen and both my friend and I were very pleased with the finished look.
I’ve done a few kitchen and bathroom back splashes and this is a job anyone could tackle!
If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to ask.