10 things I learned from DIY-ing Backsplash

Now that I’ve tackled a DIY backsplash alongside my dad, I’m a lot more confident to do it all over again.  Hopefully bigger, better, and with less supervision from the boss! We were both first-timers and I think if we had to team up again to tackle a backsplash, we would feel a lot more comfortable because we learned little tips along the way that made a big difference!

Here are the 10 things I learned after DIY-ing backsplash for the first time:kitchen backsplash
1. Have lots of drop clothes, painter’s tape, and even plastic to protect your kitchen! 

Tiling is a hot mess! Think dust + a wet cement-like substance get together, have kids, and throw a party for all of their dirty, dusty relatives. If you think that’s dirty… multiply those thoughts by 3 and prepare for that mess. Drop cloths, painter’s tape to line the counters/cabinets, and plastic to cover another layer of dust will come in handy! Oh, and PLENTYYYYYY of rags on hand. Trust me… kitchentile tools2. Spacers are super important and so are a few other supplies

Those white “x’s” are spacers, which are super cheap yet extremely helpful to keep tile evenly spaced. However, a few other supplies that you should definitely have on hand:
– level
– pencil
– straight edge blade
– screw drivers
– scraper
– wet saw
– sponge/rags
– bucket
in progress backsplash3. Turn off your electricity
Safety first– or 3rd (?) in this case. Turning off your electricity is an important step in staying safe when applying the tile and manipulating the areas around these outlets throughout the process.
backsplash4. If possible, save the really tough cuts until the very end
As you experiment with the wet saw, you’ll definitely get better as the day goes on. If possible, put off those intricate cuts using the wet saw until the end of the day. This will ensure you give it your best shot and get your best results when it really matters. outlet5. Same color grout is more forgiving & hides imperfections
I never really thought about this when picking my grout color, but man… I really got lucky when I picked to pair white grout with the white tile. Before we put in the grout, we could see a few imperfections here and there. Of course, we were being way more critical on ourselves than anyone else would have been. However, after the white grout was applied, those imperfections were gone hidden! The white grout made our tiling talents look better than they actually are. A part of the process that we’re definitely not complaining about….
kitchen backsplash

6. Start at the countertop and move up

Yes, your first layer should start at the countertop for a few different reasons. Number one- this will ensure the tile is level because it will rest along the countertop (that’s if your countertop is level of course). Second– starting the tile at the counter and moving up will allow you to cut the tile (if necessary) at the top of the backsplash, usually a place where the tile is hidden under the top cabinets. Your cuts won’t have to be as “perfect” because they will be hidden at the very top of the backsplash, which is not the case if you started on the top of the backsplash and moved down toward the counters. The cuts would be right where everyone could see <– Eek!
backsplash DIY7. Set yourself up for success with some extra support

Long story short, we were resting the tile along the counter and adding spacers as we made our way down the wall. When we finally got to tiling behind the oven, we noticed that no matter how  hard we tried, the tile was drooping and causing an uneven line of tile. Not the look we wanted.

We quickly realized that this was because we didn’t have the counter to guide us, act as a support for the tile, while also keeping the tile level with the rest of the backsplash. To align the tiles once again, we nailed in a temporary piece of wood behind the oven to act as a temporary countertop guide.
tileThe next day, when the tile was dry, we detached the piece of wood from the wall and were left with a line of level tile. <– Genius problem solving skills dad!
backsplashtile8. Grout is very messy… prepare for the worst!

Remember when I said tile is a hot mess? Grout is worse! This plastic helped protect our counters from the “heavy stuff”, but I would also recommend lots and lots of painter’s tape. Put it on outlets, covering cabinets, anywhere possible to help contain the mess.
tileI do have to say…. the grout grossness is totally worth the mess! So keep your eye on the prize… the mess will be over before you know it!
tiletile9. A finished edge isn’t as scary as it looks

I used to look at “finished” edges and think, “how does that happen?” As you can see in the photo above, we cut the tiles on the end as a straight line right where to cabinets ended. Then, we bought a separate piece of tile edging ($7 each) and placed it along the line of cuts. With a little glue and grout, we were able to make a finished looking edge that looks a lot more impressive than it actually is!
tiletileIMG_057510. Don’t leave your grout and sealer materials in the garage to freeze!

Rookie Fail — I should have known better!! I should have known that the latex in the sealer and in the grout mixture would be forever RUINED if I left it in the garage to freeze during the weeks leading up to this project. When it came time for the project, the materials had ice cubes floating in them and I had to throw them ALL away and buy all new because the deep freeze ruined them. =( Huge bummer, but a valuable lesson learned. Hopefully I made that mistake on behalf of all of us.

Extra Credit Tip –> 11. Hands down my biggest lesson learned from this DIY adventure?! You never know what you can do until you try! So, what the heck… why not give it a try?!

TILE-003

Pin now, save for when you’re ready to get started!! You can do this!

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Leave a Comment

  • Laura @ Rather Square

    So helpful. It’s encouraging to see a “rookie” creating such a professional-looking backsplash – really nice! I’ll be pinning this for our future kitchen reno. Thanks for posting!

    • Thanks so much Laura, and good luck! I’d love to see the final product and hear what you think of the process after it’s done. Stay in touch!

  • BethRy

    Wow! Such great tips! If I ever try this kind of project, I will definitely keep all of this in mind!

  • Katie

    Looks great! I like the choice of tile. I wish I had heard of those edge pieces when we put in a new backsplash.

    • Right?! Those pieces totally take the tedious work out of creating the perfect edge. I can’t imagine tiling without them!

  • Cathy Cortes

    That turned out so good! Thanks for all the tips. The temporary board behind the stove is genius!

    • That board was so simple and TOTALLY saved the day!

  • Nicole

    Hi, can you give the details about the tile you used (name, store purchased, color, size…). Many Thanks!