Installing our kitchen backsplash was my very first time working with tile. I think I googled, “how to install a backsplash” for two days before I got up enough nerve to just do it. I figured, what is the worst thing that can happen? I can cut my finger off with the wet saw, right? Yikes, I didn’t harp to long on that scenario. I purchased the Ryobi $125 wet saw at Home Depot, custom ordered the blue glass subway tile from Dahl tile along with the thin-set mortar, trowel, spacers and grout. I also decided to make the backsplash removable/modular. Yes, this entire backsplash can be removed with just a few screws. DIY at its finest!
Here is the kitchen before the backsplash.
Sorry but some of these pictures were taken with my phone so the quality is not the best. My motivation came from an email and phone call from an editor at Woman’s Day Magazine last August saying they would be at my house in 3 weeks to photograph our dining room and kitchen makeover. I almost had a heart attack because while I had never tiled before, I didn’t even know which tile I was going to use. Working under pressure is actually not a bad thing for me, it leaves out the time to procrastinate and over think a project. Does that make sense?
I made this kitchen backsplash removable. Yes, it’s a removable kitchen backsplash. I used Hardie Backer Board that I purchased at Home Depot to fit the backsplash area and then screwed it to the wall. This is essentially my “wall” to tile on. I put the board up in 3′ sections so it’s easier to remove. I wanted to create “tiled panels”.
I used my skill saw to cut the board (not recommended though) and then screwed the Hardie Backer Board to the wall. I should have used the table saw with a heavy duty blade but I was in a rush and didn’t have time to setup the table saw, hence the skill saw. What a mess! You can see the board below and the dry wall screw. The other white screw is part of the molding under the upper kitchen cabinet. Just ignore that.
You may be asking, how did you tile over the screw? I notched out a spot (with the wet saw) for the screw in the tile. You will see though that the under the cabinet isn’t perfect and that is where I placed a piece of molding (adhered to the existing molding under the cabinet with finish nails) to cover the screws and give the tile a finished look underneath the cabinet.
You will also need to cut out the outlet holes.
I started at one end of the wall and worked my way to the other end. The professionals will most likely tell you to start in the middle and work your way to each side.
I used the “back butter” method (you can see how to do that in our bathroom mosaic tiling tutorial) to apply the thin-set and used my v-notched trowel to remove most of the thin-set. The directions on the back of the thin-set are very self explanatory. I used the smallest spacers I could find (3/16″) simply because I wanted very small grout lines. I wanted the subway style look so placed the next level of tiles in the middle of the lower level edge. Don’t forget to use a level on every single tile!
I will not lie, this part was a painful. First I shut off the electrical breaker for these outlets, unscrewed the outlet and gently pulled it out. I then cut the tile to fit around the outlet. They sell plastic “electrical spacers” if you cannot get the outlet to rest on the tile properly. They are sold in the electrical department of Home Depot or Lowes and they saved me life on 3 outlets. In the picture below, you will see how I “notched” out a spot for the screws to fasten back to the outlet. I suppose if I wasn’t a rookie at tiling, this process would have went much smoother but this was the hardest part of the project, installing the tiling was easy compared to working around outlets.
You can see below how the tile is installed on top of the Hardie Backer Board (which is screwed to the existing wall). This is where I used a piece of decorative molding to hide my tile cuts and screws on the Hardie Backer Board. The beautiful thing about this is it’s hidden underneath the cabinet so you can’t even see it!
Wipe off any thin-set that you get on your tile. It is difficult to scrub off once it’s dry and where these were glass tiles, I didn’t want to scratch them. Work in small sections and clean as you go.
Do you like my ugly green diamond stencil attempt in the far corner? What a disaster that turned out to be.
As you can see below, my tile cuts were not exactly straight. My blade was getting dull and I figured that it would be covered by the decorative molding so I wasn’t to concerned about it. You can see where I notched out a portion of the tile for the screw. You may be asking, “how is she going to remove this Hardie Backer Board?” Can you see the little pencil mark on the white existing molding under the white screw? I marked every screw so I knew which tile I would need to pop off in order to remove the entire Hardie Backer Board panel. I am thinking that if I am tired of the blue glass in a couple years, I will simple pop off the tiles where the screws are and remove the entire piece and put it in our pool house. Remember, I put the Hardie Backer Board up in 3′ sections so they are essentially, tiled panels.
Blue glass tile isn’t for everyone and it’s more of a trendy color so that is another reason why I went with a “removable backsplash”. It’s now very easy to change out the tile with something new while not loosing the blue glass tiles.
Here is a full shot.
I love how the small canisters and wooden bread box look against the blue glass tile.
I used pre-mixed white sandless grout that I purchased at Home Depot and simply used my finger to fill in the grout lines. So easy! If you are using glass tile, you should consider using sandless grout so you don’t scratch the tile. I am so happy with how the backsplash turned out and do love the color. Glass tile is becoming very popular in kitchens and it can be pricey so shop around. I spent $320 on the tile, $19 on the Hardie Backer Board and about $50 on thin-set, grout and spacers. The best part about this tiling project though is that the entire backsplash is removable. I love that the Hardie Backer Board provides me with the modular tiling panels and the flexibility to change my backsplash in the future. Hopefully this, “how to install a backsplash” tutorial gives you the inspiration to go for it if you are on the fence about your own kitchen backsplash. Be sure to check out our tutorial on how I cut this glass tile as well.