Kitchen Remodeling – Backsplash

A kitchen backsplash will keep walls dry and make them look dramatic. Kitchen backsplash ideas can range from ceramic tile, solid stone, stamped metal (like copper), stainless steel, engineered stone and even plastic laminate. 

When you decide on the type of tile for your backsplash, take in account the cleaning that has to be done. Porous or unglazed tile for the backsplash behind or immediately adjacent to a cooktop can be permanently stained or discoloured when food and grease are ejected from pots and pans onto a backsplash. Always install a glazed tile near sinks and cooktops. Glazed tile has a thin coating of glass on the surface allowing food and grease to be easily and completely washed away.

Also take into consideration the type of adhesive that needs to be used with the tile, and if you need special tools to cut the tile. For example, popular glass tile needs to be glued to your wall with cement-based thinset instead of organic mastic. Glass tile and dense porcelain tiles must be cut with diamond wet saws, not the traditional tile scoring tools that allow you to snap a tile in two.


There are two main types of backsplash, straight and coved.

The coved backsplash eliminates corners. Note that the joint is curved and formed into one piece. It can be used on kitchen countertops and vanity tops. Cleaning is somewhat easier with a coved backsplash.

The straight backsplash features inconspicuous sealing between the countertop and backsplash. This eliminates the dirt-trapping line that you would find at the joint of an ordinary laminate, tile or stone countertop.

Stone Tiles

Natural stone tiles are another popular choice for the kitchen backsplash. They make a lovely choice in a kitchen with granite countertops and stone floors. Limestone, marble, and even plain old rocks can be used successfully in a backsplash, depending on the look of the rest of the room. Jagged pieces of stone can be used for a more natural look, or you can buy stone tiles that are as easy to install as ceramic tiles but with a much fancier look. You can create a very modern look by using the same material that was used in your kitchen countertops to make your backsplash.

Glass Tiles

Speaking of modern looks, glass kitchen backsplash tiles are an interesting choice for a kitchen full of sleek steel appliances or with an aquatic or beach theme. Glass tile is a popular choice for showers these days. The tiles come in all the colors of the rainbow and can be purchased in a couple of different sizes.

Glass tiles are a great choice for a mosaic project. You can even buy pre-mixed sheets of colored glass tiles, which are easy to install and look like they took a lot more time to put up than they did. 

Copper Backsplash

Copper backsplash tiles are a great way to add either a centerpiece wall hanging or an entire metal copper backsplash to your kitchen wall. Available in 6″, 8″, 10″ and 12″ square, it adds a nice splash of copper colour to match the copper hood and to the overall décor to your kitchen without spending thousands.

Some 12 ” copper tiles come with 2 hanging hooks on the back so they can be hung as a wall hanging if prefer. Alternatively, they can be attach to the wall or a backer board, such as plywood with a high quality epoxy adhesive, as you would for the smaller tiles. Use masking tape to protect the edge of the tile from scratching as you grout. Each tile has a rolled lip of approx 1/4″ so you can also align them with regular ceramic tiles of the same dimensions if you like.


Some copper backsplash tiles are lacquered so you have very little maintenance to do. The special patina finish will be protected against air and water to prevent any discoloration. Clean gently with a soft damp cloth. A mild detergent can be used but be careful not to scrub hard. Do not use harsh abrasives, scourers or acidic cleaning products.

Installing your backsplash


    * Tape measure

    * Level

    * Tile cutter

    * Tile nippers/tile saw

    * Goggles

    * Notched trowel

    * Rubber grout float


    * Waterproof mastic tile adhesive

    * Waterproof grout

    * Glazed wall tiles

    * Latex gloves

    * Plastic washers

    * Screws (1-1/4″ to 1-5/8″)

Check the soundness of the wall before tiling. Ensure that the wall is dry and that it is firm enough to hold the tile weight. If condensation is evident, wait for the area to dry before tiling. You can speed up drying with a dehumidifier. If the area isn\’t dry, the tile will seal in moisture and cause the wood in the wall to rot. If you have damaged drywall, be sure to repair it.

Before you choose the layout of the backsplash, prepare the walls for tiling. First, decide how far up the wall the backsplash should extend. Usually, a backsplash extends at least 4″ up from the countertop and sometimes all the way up to the bottom of the wall cabinets.

Tip: Always have spare tiles of the same dye lot for breakage or have to replace one in the future. If you can\’t get the same dye lot, mix all of the tiles together so the color difference won\’t be as noticeable.

Estimating the Amount of Tile Needed

Measure the length and width of the backsplash area. Determine the square footage by multiplying the length times the width. Wall tiles are typically available in 4 1/4″ to 6″ squares. A standard 4\’ x 1\’ backsplash requires at least twenty 6″ tiles.

Installing Tile

If your countertop is tiled, plan the layout so the backsplash grout veins line up with the countertop grout veins. If you don\’t have a tiled countertop, start the first tile in the center of the base of the backsplash.

Step 1 : Turn off the power to electrical outlets in the area where you are working. Remove electrical outlet covers. Clean the area with warm water and allow to dry.

Step 2 : Apply the manufacturer\’s recommended adhesive with a notched trowel. Hold the trowel at a 45° angle and spread a thin (approx. 1/16″) layer. Be sure to work in small 3\’ x 3\’ areas to prevent the adhesive from drying out.

Step 3 : Lay the first tile in the center at the base of the backsplash. Position the tile using a slight twisting motion. Use a level to make sure the tile is square. Place a spacer on each corner of the first tile. Cut one end of the spacers off in order to fit them between the countertop and the bottom of the tile. Push the spacers into the adhesive.

Tip : If you have to cut tile, mark the proposed cut on the glazed side of the tile corners. Don\’t mark on the clay side. The ink can be absorbed and bleed through to the other side

Step 4 : Working out from the first tile, continue laying the tiles in a row, flush to the spacers. Wipe off any excess adhesive that oozes up between the tiles. Leave enough space to fill in with grout. Occasionally check to make sure the tiles are level. After one row is complete, begin with the next row and follow the same pattern. Apply adhesive as needed.

Step 5 : If you need to cut tiles, score the tile with a tile cutter. Be careful not to score the area of the tile that will show. Use tile nippers or a saw to cut away the area carefully.

Step 6 : When you place the tiles around an outlet, be sure that the outlet cover hides the tile edges. Continue tiling as usual.

Step 7 : When you have laid all the tiles, wipe off any excess adhesive with a damp cloth. Use a rounded stick to clean between the tiles.

Step 8 : Allow the adhesive to set according to the manufacturer\’s instructions. After the adhesive sets, remove the spacers.

Step 9 : Apply the grout : Mix the grout according to the manufacturer\’s instructions. Since grout may irritate eyes and skin, wear safety goggles and latex gloves. Apply the grout using a rubber float. Spread the grout diagonally at a 45° angle across the tiles, packing the grout between the tiles. Wipe off the excess grout with a damp sponge when the grout becomes firm.

Step 10 : Shape the grout joints using a rounded stick. Clean the tiles again and smooth joints with a damp sponge.

Step 11 : After the grout dries and a haze forms, wipe off the tiles and shine them with a clean cloth.

Step 12 : Replace the electrical outlets and switches. You will need longer screws to replace the outlets covers. Use a 1-1/4″ to 1-5/8″ screws with plastic washers behind the outlet to bring the outlet out flush with the tile.