DIY Kitchen Backsplash Tutorial

DIY Kitchen Backsplash Tutorial

The minute I first stepped foot in the kitchen of our new house, I started envisioning it with a backsplash; and before we'd even closed on our house, I had a Pinterest board full of inspiration pictures and ideas.  Our kitchen was partially remodeled already; the floors were done throughout the house and it already had all new appliances and counter tops in the kitchen, so it has allowed us to just focus on the "fun stuff" like painting, tile, and decor.

Here's what our kitchen looked like "pre-backsplash":

Even though we'd already painted the rest of the kitchen in the same color as the living room, Sherwin Williams Agreeable Gray, I opted not to paint the walls over the counter in an effort to motivate us along with the backsplash project since it looked really unfinished that way.

DIY Backsplash Materials List:

  • Tile. of course.  We choose this stone, white quarry splitface mosaic tile from Home Depot that was around $13 a sq/ft. Since the space isn't that large, we ended up purchasing 17 sq/ ft, but only using around 15 sq/ft....The great thing about using a split face mosaic tile like the one we chose, is that it eliminates the need for grouting when your finished because the pieces are so close together!
  • Porous Stone Sealant. Because the tile we chose was a mix of stones, some of them porous and unglazed, we used this sealant with a coat before and after putting up our backsplash to help protect it from spills and make it easier to clean.
  • Adhesive. We used this ceramic tile adhesive, which worked great.  Our tile was pretty heavy, so I was a little bit worried, but this adhesive was perfect. It gave enough time to work with the tile and move them (carefully) when we made a mistake, but adhered fast enough that the tile didn't sag while drying.
  •   A trowel for spreading on the adhesive. For smaller areas, we actually used a putty knife which worked just as well.
  • Lint Free wiping cloths. because you're bound to get a little adhesive on the tiles and will need to wipe it off.
  • Diamond Blade attachment for a Dremel, or a wet saw if you already have one on hand. We don't have a wet saw, but honestly, unless you're cutting really large pieces of tile, the diamond blade on a Dremel is all you need, it worked surprisingly well and was super easy since our tile pieces were so small. and clamps for holding the tile in place while you're cutting it. oh and most definitely safety goggles. the dust is outrageous.
  • Outlet Spacers- these little guys are super easy to add to your outlets, which basically raises the outlets out farther so that when you put your covers back on, they fit nice and tidy over the tile.
  • Patience.  I honestly found that doing this backsplash was not a difficult project, but it does require a little brainpower and patience. More on that later....

How to tile a kitchen backsplash:

We started off by just laying out all of our tile, cleaning off the stone dust with a paintbrush and wiping clothes, then following the directions to brush on (and make sure to wipe off the excess) the first coat of porous stone sealant.

The sealant WILL darken your tile quite a bit when you apply it; which believe me, made me extremely nervous. Have no fear, once dry, it pretty much goes back to the original color, maybe only a hair darker than it was.

Let the tile sit for at least 24 hours before starting to put the tile on your walls.  In the mean time, prep/clean the walls in your kitchen so they'll be dry in time to start the next day, and cover your counters with something (we used brown paper drop clothes) so you don't accidentally get any adhesive on them! And remove the outlet covers (make sure to turn off the breaker for your outlets in the kitchen, just to be safe). 

drying time!

drying time!

The next day we started laying the tile.  We decided to start in the corner of our L-shaped kitchen and work our way out down the wall over the sink first, since it was going to require the most patience to cut the tiles to fit in the smaller area.

Once you're ready to start laying the tile, make sure that the adhesive is evenly spread with your trowel, and just stick the tile on! Press the tile down to make sure that it is adhered well and there are no air bubbles or gapes behind the tile.

You'll notice we also removed the piece of moulding that was underneath the bar top of the counter and replaced it with a new piece after...more on that in another post. 

You'll notice we also removed the piece of moulding that was underneath the bar top of the counter and replaced it with a new piece after...more on that in another post. 

As you are laying the tile, leave yourself some room and stop before you get to an outlet.  Since our tile was interlocking (meaning that each 1 sq/ft piece was designed to interlock with the next piece), we got as close as we could to the outlet, then basically just measured and cut the pieces out to fit around the outlet with the Dremel, then kept moving.  At the end, we did have to go back and use some small pieces of stone to fill in a couple of gaps on the outlets, so that the stone didn't have any visible gaps around the outlet covers (and remember, we're using these outlet spacers to raise them out so the outlet covers fit over the stones).  Because our stones were all different shapes and sizes, it looked natural for their to be smaller pieces in the gaps, but if you're doing a more uniform tile, you'd definitely want to measure and cut more precisely than we did!

We used a ruler and painters tape to make sure that we were cutting in a straight line down the tile and that it was even on the ends

We used a ruler and painters tape to make sure that we were cutting in a straight line down the tile and that it was even on the ends

We'd been a little overzealous and thought we'd do the whole thing in one day, but our (mostly mine) patience was starting to waver, so we called it a day with one wall finished.

Day 2 was when things got a little challenging.....

Because we have an L-shaped kitchen (well, really its almost a U-shape; there's another small little section of bar top that sticks out one the other side too), we ran into some trouble with the corners. Partially that was due to our lack of pre-planning, but mostly due to the fact that we'd never layed tile before and just didn't know what to do.  

In problem corner #1 (the large inside L corner of the kitchen), we realized that because we'd cut the right side flush to the wall, if we simply cut the left side flush as well, that the stones wouldn't properly fit and it was all "gap-y" (that's a technical term) because of the variations in stone height. The weird, small problem corner #2 (an outside corner where the support beam for the bar top comes down) was a different story. It just looked odd to leave it without tile, not to mention whoever installed the granite counters before we bought the house, hadn't done a stellar job with it, hence all of the splattered, and uneven, white caulking around the edges. 

I took a coffee break to mull things over and decided that I would take apart some of the mosaic pieces from the mesh backing (and use all of our small scrap pieces from where we'd cut around the outlets) to just individually stack each stone so that I could make sure it was flush. 

Success! It took me way longer than it probably should have, but it was kind of like putting together a giant puzzle, which I think I enjoyed a little too much.....

Sam was finishing up the other side of the wall while I was busily stacking stones, so there's a lack of photographs on the rest of the process, but that was basically it! 

Here's the backsplash at the end of Day 2, pretty much done, minus the outlet touchups and covers, and the moulding over the sink:

It took us a couple of weeks to finish it up, mostly because we were being lazy and just didn't take the time to do the final touches. So yesterday, I buckled down and put the second coat of sealant over the stone, took a few "staged" pictures and finito!

Here's a before and after side by side so you can really see the difference (and yes, my husband was trying to cook scrambled eggs when I took the before picture, but don't worry, the eggs did not burn!). 

Pre-backsplash, I really wan't crazy about the black granite counters (don't get me wrong, they are really nice and I'm happy to have them, but I'm more of a gray marble or quartz kind of gal), however, with the backsplash I've actually decided that I like them now! The stone really adds a lot of visual interest to the space and ties together the SW Agreeable Gray paint color on the walls with the counters and cabinets for a way more cohesive look.

You also may be wondering.....Where'd the coffee maker go?!  We created a little "coffee bar" nook in the corner of the kitchen with some shelving, which really makes the countertops look a lot less cluttered and provides a nice storage area for all of my many coffee accessories.  You can find my post about the coffee bar here.

I'd love to hear your questions and comments about our "new" kitchen! Share them here, or tag me on Instagram @_AlchemyHome to show off your DIY kitchen backsplash and I may share them on my page! 

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