DIY: Tiling Our Bathroom Backsplash

Okay, I’ll admit it, I’ve never tiled anything in my entire life. I believe the last time I may have come close to tiling something was when I played with plaster and made a marble mosaic when I was maybe 7 years old. After that, I never really played with any type of plaster to make something other than hand or footprints.

Now that we’ve gotten my extensive tiling background out of the way, I’m going to show you how simple it is to learn something new! Chris and I have been intimidated by tiling for years. It’s the one thing we’ve never done in our old house, and up until now, have never done in the new house. Chris still doesn’t know how to tile, as this was a learning and doing experience all my own. He’s jealous of my new skills.

My main goal for this small DIY project was to not make it look awful and to learn how to do it the right way so that this fall I could tile our kitchen backsplash. We’ve been meaning to tile the kitchen since our Crab was born in August 2015. My how time flies…

We’ve had an open back to our downstairs sink for almost two years, and while it’s not gotten wet or ruined in any way, it just felt unfinished.

One day this summer, I decided to watch a ton of videos on tiling kitchen backsplashes to learn how to do it. There are a lot of great videos out there, and some not so great, but many are very detailed. From watching a variety of videos, I started to get the idea of the process involved in tiling.

After watching several videos a few times over, and then looking up the terms they were using to understand their meaning, I began to make a supply list.

The first time we went to the home improvement store, we were with the kids on another project venture. I looked briefly at the tiling supplies but vowed to return sans children another day to pick-up exactly what we needed.

When I went back, I picked out two sheets of tile to decide between. One was all glass, the other which I ended up using was a mix of glass and ceramic tiles. Then I purchased pre-mixed adhesive, pre-mixed grout, a trowel, the little spacers, a sponge, and a few other tools in case I needed them.

Before starting the project, I cleaned the wall gently and let it dry just to get off any dust that may have been there.

Next, I put up the adhesive with a trowel in a nice thin layer. It went on easy, and you have time to work with it as it takes a full 24+ hours to dry. I had to use snippers to remove some of the tile to fit around the electrical outlet, otherwise it was a perfect fit using regular scissors to cut the sheet to fit.

We could have moved the electrical outlet up or tiled higher to go around the socket, but to be honest, we didn’t want extra work. Chris didn’t want to have to move anything, as he was still in the middle of the major office renovation, and we didn’t have any touch-up paint leftover for this room. Which also made me nervous, as if this went all wrong, I couldn’t just paint and fix it easily.

So, I made the executive decision to just tile around the electrical outlet and it gave me good practice for snipping the tiles to fit.

I chose to start it from left to right, and leave the jagged and snipped edges near the outlet. Since the outlet is there, you don’t see much, and I used sandpaper on the glass and ceramic tiles to smooth the final right side edge before adhesion.

Once everything is set in place, you leave the spacers and everything as is for 24+ hours to dry. I was able to move tiles and shift slightly as I went along since the adhesive doesn’t dry super fast.

Also, I fitted the outlet cover next to the tiles often and had to cut them smaller a few times to get the fit just right. Thankfully, this part of the job gives you the flexibility to remove and replace before it’s permanently stuck to the wall.

After finishing the placement, I also made sure to use the stamper to press it in tightly to the wall and a small level to make sure it wasn’t sticking out on one side or the other.

The next step was grouting the tiles. I used a bright white grout which looked really nice. Grout, as opposed to the adhesive, dries within 15 minutes, so you’ve got to work fast and know what you’re doing or it’s going to be a mess. This part made me a little antsy before I started.

Initially, I put on a thin layer of grout but then realized I definitely needed to lay it on thicker. Quickly, I added more and used my finger in a few of the places near the bottom to get it in a bit thicker.

After grouting and cleaning the area with a wet sponge, I fitted the outlet cover on a few times and then added some grout around that space to clean up the edge a little more.

A close-up shows you the finished grout. I think next time, I might even put the grout on a bit thicker, as while it looks good, I think it’s still a little shallow for my tastes.

The grout cleaned up nicely off the glass tiles, and the ceramic tiles cleaned off decently with a wet cloth.

I don’t plan to buy or borrow a wet saw for any tiling jobs, as those make me nervous, but using simple snippers proved to be easy enough. Make sure to wear goggles while using them. Those little shards go all over and next time I’d snip them inside a cardboard box to stop from having pieces fall on the floor.

Here’s a look at the finished project. I used a white caulk as the very last step, smearing it with my finger to get a nice thin line at the top, bottom, and sides. I’m very happy with how it turned out, especially this being my first time tiling it without anyone to guide me through the process. I learned a lot from the videos, as well as a few things I would do differently the next time like snip inside a box, or remove the faucet for easier access.

I used to think it was so hard to do so many things, but about a decade ago I thought, everyone had to learn at some point, right? We aren’t born with this innate knowledge of trades or skills, we must be taught; by others or ourselves. I chose to work in libraries, because they offer a place to work where I can learn from a book or from other people on millions of topics; and teach others in the process.

Don’t be afraid of DIY or learning something new. The contractor you might hire may just be learning as well. You don’t know what you’re capable unless you try. Alway though, keep safety in mind.

What DIY projects have you attempted recently?

Have you tiled before? Do you find it easy or difficult?

I feel confident after this that I’ll easily tile the kitchen, and maybe one day the tub/shower when it comes time.