The Goods

Give your kitchen backsplash a facelift with this simple tiling DIY

Contractor Darren Voros shares his tips for successful tiling at home

Contractor Darren Voros shares his tips for successful tiling at home

(Credit: iStock/Getty Images)

Contractor Darren Voros explained where to save and where to splurge on your home renos in order to get the biggest bang for your buck. He suggested you save on a kitchen reno,  so here's how to tile a surface with mesh backing without outside help. A tiling project can be very satisfying, and it will save you from having to hire someone to do the work for you, so let's learn how!

What you'll need:

  • Tiles
  • Tile glue
  • Wet saw
  • Notched trowel
  • Grout
  • Grout float
  • Sponge
  • A bucket with water

Starting out

Adding a backsplash to your kitchen is a great way to add value to your home without needing a ton of tools. If it's your first time tiling, stick to working with tiles with a mesh back – these are much simpler to work with than subway tile. With mesh, the grout lines are predetermined so you don't have to worry as much about being precise.

Make sure to plan out how you're going to lay the tile beforehand, and that you have enough supplies to cover the entire area you're working with. Doing your measurements before you get started will also help speed up the process.

Rent a machine

Rent a wet saw from a home center for about $50 to $70 a day to cut your tile. In most cases you will only need the machine for the day, so it's still cost effective. These machines look intimidating, but besides being careful you shouldn't be too nervous since wet saws don't have the sharpest blades on the market. It's called a wet saw because the blade needs to be wet to work properly. Darren suggests only cutting tile outside to avoid a mess. He likes to put warm water in it if you're outside and your hands are freezing.

Get started

Put on your safety glasses and ear protection. If you're starting near a wall, you'll need to cut along your tile so that you can start with a clean cut surface. Carefully use the saw to cut the tile in a straight line and continue cutting until you get what you need to cover your surface.  

Adhesive time

Lay out the tiles to make sure they all fit together. Once you have a plan in place you can start applying glue. Don't apply adhesive to the entire surface because it will dry by the time you get to tiling it. It's best to work with one 18 inch to 24 inch square space at a time.

There's a lot of different glue out there for different surfaces, so make sure you buy on that matches your tile. Marble glue goes with marble, ceramic glue with ceramic tile, etc. Darren likes using a premixed glue because you don't have to worry about getting the right ratios, but if you're mixing your own, your glue should be the consistency of peanut butter.

Spread it

Spread your glue evenly to get a good amount of it on the surface to start. Bring your trowel to a 45 degree angle to get the lines you're looking for. The glue has 15 to 20 minutes of pliable time, so you don't have to rush, but you don't have time for a coffee break. Make sure to apply the glue horizontally on backsplash tile. If you apply it vertically, the tile will start to slide down. You want the entire surface you're working with to be covered with a consistent layer.

Lay it down

Carefully lay your tile down on the glue where you'd like it to stick, and apply an even pressure along its surface. You can start tiling in the middle, or from a wall – but make sure your plan is executed correctly so you don't end up with any mismatched or uneven spots on the backsplash. When you're done laying the tile, wipe the surface down with a damp sponge or rag to remove any excess glue. You should leave this to dry for at least 24 hours.

Apply grout

Premixed grout is a cinch, but you can still get creative. You can buy grout in so many colours, or add tint to your own mix. Use a grout float to apply the grout. Put a small amount on the surface of your tile and spread it – be sure to apply lots of pressure. Again, make sure your tile is completely dry, otherwise all the downward pressure will slide the tile around when applying grout. Make sure to apply it at a 45 degree angle to prevent the grout from being taken out of the lines between the tiles. Scrape off as much excess on the surface as you can.

Clean it up

You only need to let the surface cure for 15 minutes before cleaning. Take a wet sponge and clean it off as best you can in one pass. Let it dry for another 15 minutes before you do a second cleaning pass with the sponge and you'll see it start to shine. Leave it for another 15 minutes and once you start to see a white haze form on top, take a dry cloth and buff it off.

Apply a sealant on top if you're using natural stone to avoid staining – this is especially important for kitchens!  

And there you have it. Yes, you can do it!

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