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Renovating With Ceramic Tile

Updated on April 17, 2015


  1. Experience
  2. Measurements
  3. Tools
  4. Materials
  5. Prep
  6. Apply Mortar
  7. Cut Tile
  8. Grout
  9. Caulk
  10. Show

Kitchen Backsplash


There are a number of things to consider when preparing to install a backsplash in your kitchen. First, do you have the skills necessary to do this. If you can operate an electric tile saw, this project should be fairly simple.

The photos provided above are my first back splash. I have laid tile before, but never on a wall. Like I said, if you can cut with a tile saw, this project is simple, but messy.


Take measurements. I would even recommend taking them twice. We are after all, human and make mistakes.

Measure the distance above your counter tops but do not forget to measure the distances between counter tops that will have a back splash such as behind the stove.

The image below is a sample of my project. Notice each wall is 10' and I included the distance between the stove. Also note the height of the project is 18" which is also 1.5'

Once you have your measurements, in my case 20' or 240 inches by 1.5' or 18"

Multiply these numbers: 20 * 1.5 = 30

Now you would subtract any material for spaces not being tiled such as windows, doors, microwaves, etc. I did not do this since it was a small portion of 30" by 12" which is roughly 3 square feet. I know I can return this if needed and it is good to have some extra material. However, if you have a large bank of windows or numerous doors you will want to do this.

add 15%: 30 * 1.15 = 34.5 (This is the total square foot needed to complete your project.)

Since you cannot buy half of a tile, you will need to round up to 35 square feet. Don't worry if you have too much. As long as you don't damage the material, you can return it unused.

So as of now, the cost is roughly $175

Look for deals but be sure they have plenty of tile available. Sometimes those deals are due to a discontinuation and they will no longer carry them. If you do buy tile in this case, make sure you can return unused tiles. Sometimes, clearance items cannot be returned.

NOTE: You will want to hang onto some of your leftover tile as replacement material in the event one breaks.

Something else to consider, you may not want a full height back splash and instead only go up say 6" and top it with a decorative trim piece. This is simple, again you apply the math the same but now you need to determine the full length of trim tile needed.

Kitchen Layout Sketch

Kitchen Layout Sketch
Kitchen Layout Sketch

Evaluate yourself

Have you installed ceramic tile before?

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Tools Required

Tile Saw /  You will need this to cut your tiles. There are cheaper methods, but this is by far the easiest. / You can probably obtain one for about $70
Tile Saw / You will need this to cut your tiles. There are cheaper methods, but this is by far the easiest. / You can probably obtain one for about $70
Notched Trowel /  You will need this to apply your mortar to your wall.
Notched Trowel / You will need this to apply your mortar to your wall.
Float /  You will need this to apply your grout.
Float / You will need this to apply your grout.
Sponge /  You will need this to wipe the excess grout from your tile. You will also need a bucket of water with this.
Sponge / You will need this to wipe the excess grout from your tile. You will also need a bucket of water with this.
Folding Ruler /  You will need this to measure for your tile.
Folding Ruler / You will need this to measure for your tile.


Here is a list of tools to gather for your project

  • Notched Trowel
  • Rubber Float
  • Folding Ruler / Tape-measure
  • Sponge
  • Hammer
  • Flathead and Phillips Screwdriver
  • Tile Saw
  • Hacksaw or Electric Metal Saw
  • Utility Knife

You may not need all of these tools but it is a good idea to have them handy. It will save you time and frustration from having to keep running around gathering tools in the middle of the project.

Have everything set up and familiarize yourself with the tools use. If you've never used a specific tool before, it is a good idea to practice with it on some scrap material.

NOTE: I prefer to use a folding ruler because they are highly accurate however, if you prefer a tape-measure, be sure to account for the movement in the tab. this small movement can trow off your grout-lines dramatically.

Materials Required

Grand Cayman Oyster Blend Tile Sheet
Grand Cayman Oyster Blend Tile Sheet | Source
Ready Mixed Adhesive
Ready Mixed Adhesive
Mortar (To Mix)
Mortar (To Mix)
Ready Mixed Grout
Ready Mixed Grout
Grout (To Mix)
Grout (To Mix)
Tile Edging Trim
Tile Edging Trim
Grout Sealer
Grout Sealer


  • Mortar
  • Grout
  • Tile
  • Tile Edging Trim
  • Grout Sealer

Choose your tile first. You already know how much you need, now find it. There are many choices out there from glass, stone, ceramic, metal, etc. You need to find what suits your design best. I used simple 2 x 4 ceramic tiles that came in 1 sq ft sheets. They cost me about $4.00 a sheet at The Home Depot.

Once you have your tile selected, it's time to pick out grout and mortar.

I strongly recommend buying ready mixed products if you are a beginner. Even if you have done this before, it's easier. The product is ready to go. Just pop off the lid and go to work.

If you choose to mix the products yourself, be sure to follow the directions on the packaging. They are all different.

Mortar is simple. You want an adhesive product. If you are selecting a glass tile that is transparent, then you want a white product.

Select a grout color that suits your design needs. There is no right or wrong selection, just yours. Some prefer a monotone style where both the grout and tile blends together, then some prefer a sharp contrast where one is darker and the other is lighter. The sky is the limit.If you are uncomfortable, bring a family member or friend to bounce ideas off of. You'll have fun.

Click the link below to view possible color choices. Note these are from The Home Depot and your choices may vary if shopping elsewhere.

Grout Color Card

If you are using glass tiles, you will need a non sanded grout. The sand in normal grout will scratch the glass surface and ruin your project. Not a big deal, but needs to be considered.

This is why you need to select the tile first. Your following materials depend upon the type of tile you select. Also, don't worry about being able to cut the different types of tiles on your saw. I have a 10 year old tile saw much like the one in the picture and I've cut tile, stone, glass, and even metal on it. Some of the stone was about an inch thick.

The last thing you may want to consider it Tile Edging trim.

This isn't necessary but it will give your project a nice clean look. I used it on my project. If you decide to use this, be sure to have a hacksaw or a metal cutting saw of some sort available. These usually come in 6' lengths. It may be possible to have your hardware store cut them for you, but do no do this until you are absolutely sure how high your tile will be.


Okay, time for the fun part.

After cleaning your surface and allowing it to dry, apply your mortar/adhesive directly to your wall. Do not do the entire surface. Only apply up to two or three feet. This stuff will begin to set up if you do not keep up with it and then you will be scraping it off of the wall.

Where to start depends on where your eyes are drawn to. I chose to start next to my door. Some may want to start in a corner. The point is where you begin is where the full tiles will be. Chances are, at the other end, you will be cutting all of your tiles to fit into a corner.

If using your Edging Trim, this is where you would apply it. You do not need to nail this. Simply press it into the mortar. Be sure you do not have any oozing out onto the finish side. If so, be sure to clean it up promptly. The tile will go right on top of this.

Once you have your mortar on the wall, use your notched trowel and drag through it, horizontally. This doesn't really matter, but for a back splash, it will be easier to move horizontally. You should now be creating grooves in the mortar. Once the area you intend to start with is covered in grooves, apply your first tile sheet. Firmly press once it is in the position desired. You may need to gently wiggle it around. That is okay.

You will notice, if using tile sheets, that there are spaces unfilled. You will want to promptly cut tiles for this before the mortar begins to set.

You can accomplish this by first, using a utility knife to remove a single tile from the sheet. Second, secure a measurement accounting for the gap between the tiles, ie. 1/8".
Third, set your guide on the tile saw, again accounting for the thickness of the blade. Do not cut with the blade thickness in the inside of the cut line.

You may find that it is difficult to apply grout to the wall in tight areas. This is no problem. Simply apply the mortar to the back of the tile itself. This is called "back buttering" a tile.

NOTE: If you are using glass tile that is transparent, do not cut grooves into the mortar. In this case you will want a smooth application. The grooves will show through the glass and look terrible.

While applying your tile, it is more than likely that you will have to deal with an outlet or switch. You should not have to remove it, but you will need to loosen it enough to drop the tile behind the ears of the receptacle or switch. If it is necessary to take it out all the way, replacement screws that are longer are available at your hardware store. An electrician could also be hired to install an extension ring. This could end up being a big project though.

NOTE: Please remember, if you do not know what you are doing when handling electrical devices, turn off the power! The tile and mortar you are handling is wet and conductive.


Now that you've finished applying all of your tiles, be sure that the grout-lines are clean. You can do this by dragging a screwdriver through them and wiping with a paper towel. If you do not do this, you may end up with pieces of mortar jutting out of your grout.

Let the project sit. I usually let it sit overnight however your product will specify how many hours are necessary to set up.

To apply the grout, simply load some grout onto the float and press into the grout lines. After you have a significant amount of grout on the tile, pull your float across the grout and tile at a 45 degree angle to the grout lines and be sure the back portion of the float is raised slightly. this allows the grout to move underneath the float and then be pressed into the lines.

Let your grout sit for a little bit. Again, read your packaging. The excess grout will need to be wiped off. This is where your sponge and water come in. I prefer to fill the bucket with warm water, but do not empty this into your sink. Rinse outside with a hose.

You may need to do this a couple of times. Keep wiping and let dry until the film is completely removed.

Now you are ready to apply your sealer. Follow instructions

Typically, you just aim and spray. Saturate the grout lines and let dry.

That's it. You are done. Please share some photos of your projects. I would enjoy seeing them and answering any questions you may have. I wish you the best of luck on your renovating journey!

© 2015 Thomas


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