Basic Tile Installation: Backsplash Bliss

February 11, 2011

Y’all know I’ve had my heart set on ridding my kitchen of the decorative ‘fruit plate’ backsplash behind my range since last year.  In fact, I placed it at the tippy top of my 2011 home improvement To Do list

Please cue the Etta James background music . . .

“Aaaaat laaaaaaaaassssstt . . .”

I can’t tell you how excited I am to finally have a clean white backsplash behind my range!

tile backsplash after

I feel like I can breathe now.


You’ll recall that adventure in tile removal from last week where my Dremel MultiMax and some sweat equity yielded a new canvas. 

kate cutting


no backsplash


I wanted white harlequin tile for the inset, but couldn’t find an affordable version or color match to my existing white tile surround (which is basic Daltile right off the Home Depot shelf). 

Plan B lead me to a simple diagonal pattern with 4’ x 4’ tiles and a chair rail frame in the same color ~ again, the inexpensive white ceramic tile available at any HD store. 

I don’t own a tile saw, so I enlisted the help of our good friend Ramon who has serious tiling skills.  In 2009, he helped tile our master shower so we called in his assistance and borrowed his wet saw again. 

To find the center of the design, we drew a simple grid with pencil (you could also use a chalk line).  Then Ramon demonstrated how he cut and installed the chair rail.  Next we began to lay the diagonal design, working from the center point. 

start in middle


Behind every piece of tile is a good layer of mortar (or thinset), not to thick, not too thin. You can apply it to the wall, then set your tile like we did with the chair rail.  For individual pieces set in a pattern, we applied the mortar to the singular piece then set it on the wall. 

It’s important to work in sections if doing an entire backsplash surround, using just enough mortar or thinset to set just a few pieces as you work your way around. 

In hindsight, I should have bought white thinset instead of gray mortar, but since the grout covered it all up anyway, I wasn’t too worried about it.  



I’m not a fan of thick grout lines, so no spacers were used in this project, but you can buy them in varying widths at any home improvement store.  Small pieces of cardboard support the bottom tiles above the chair rail.

work across


For the trimmed pieces, Ramon showed me how to mark the tile to know where to cut, pretty simple. 

pencil edge


The coolest part was next learning to operate this wet saw! 

Careful girl, watch those fingers !!!

kate cutting tile


Hey Ma, look, Ma!  My very first cut piece of tile! 

For a moment, I even considered saving it as a souvenir. 


cut tile


Once the pattern was installed, we allowed it to set for 24 hours.  The next day,  all that was required was some simple white grout applied with a trowel to fill in the seams between the tiles (forgot a pic!) then I sponged the excess grout off the surface of the tile. 

sponge off excess


The final step once the grout is fully dry is to seal it to protect it from stains.  For another simple tutorial on installing a ceramic tile backsplash, check out this step by step over at This Old House.  .


At last, the much improved clean white backsplash tile !!

tile backsplash after


I have to share this: I was flying back from New Orleans yesterday, and I picked up the spring edition of one of my most favorite magazines in the airport:  Renovation Style.  For me, this BH&G special interest publication never fails to deliver the most gorgeous livable real homes and always great before and afters. 

I nearly choked on my chips when I spied this. 

renovation style backsplash

Oh sweet validation !

If you’d like to see the entire kitchen (and read about the lessons we learned from building it), here is the full tour.  

cg kates kitchen


Have a fantastic weekend! 


cg kate signature


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