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How to install a backsplash {tutorial}

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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!

how to install a backsplash

Items needed:

kitchen backsplash items needed

Here is the kitchen before the backsplash.

how to tile a backsplash kitchen

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”.

how to intall a removable backsplash

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.

how to install a removable backsplash

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.

how to install a kitchen backsplash

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.

how to install a removable backsplash

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!

how to install a kitchen backsplash

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.

how to install a kitchen backsplash DIY

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!

How to install a backsplash

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.

How to install a backsplash that is removable

Do you like my ugly green diamond stencil attempt in the far corner? What a disaster that turned out to be.

How to install a kitchen backsplash

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.

How to install a backsplash {kitchen}

Depending on the light, the glass tile looks aqua and sometimes deep blue. It’s such a fun and bright look!How to install a backsplash

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.

how to install a removable kitchen backsplash

Woman’s Day

how to install a backsplash

Here is a full shot.

How to install a backsplash

I love how the small canisters and wooden bread box look against the blue glass tile.

how to install a backsplash

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.

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Responses to How to install a backsplash {tutorial}

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  1. Jennifer February 19, 2013 at 10:06 pm #

    brilliant! love the tile…love that you can remove it when you need too; would of never thought of that!

  2. Sandi February 20, 2013 at 7:42 am #

    Looks beautiful! Awesome job, I was just thinking of removable backsplash the other day. Thanks for doing the “figure out how to do it” part for me! Love you blog!

    • Jessica Bruno February 25, 2013 at 4:32 pm #

      Thank you Sandi! I’m loving the fact that it is removable as well. So many things you can do with it after as well. I think it will look great as an accent piece in our pool house :)

  3. Debbie February 20, 2013 at 7:45 am #

    That is the best Idea. I am one that is always moving furniture and rearranging,changeing color schemes so this is the best idea for someone like myself. Two thumbs up to you. AWESOME

    Best regards
    Debbie

  4. Kim @ Sand & Sisal February 20, 2013 at 9:02 am #

    You amaze me Jess! Removable! Who would of thought! I love that feature. It looks beautiful, and yes, we will just ignore that stencil job…. heeheehee.

    • Jessica Bruno February 25, 2013 at 4:31 pm #

      haha thanks Kim. Yes, the stencil job was a disaster. You should have seen me using our outdoor lattice as my template. I thought it was going to be brilliant but no sir ree.:)

  5. Laura / The Shed blog by Pet Scribbles February 20, 2013 at 12:00 pm #

    Wow Jessica – the backsplash is stunning! And I love that you will be able to remove it so easily someday too! I’m super-impressed with you! Who cares about that silly stencil attempt? It pales in comparison to THIS project anyway! :)

    • Jessica Bruno February 25, 2013 at 4:36 pm #

      Thanks Laura!Yes the stencil job was a disaster but you are right, without that fail this project wouldn’t have happened :) Thanks again!

  6. Robin February 20, 2013 at 12:31 pm #

    Nice job thinking outside the box!! I rent, so it would be wonderful to do something simular to this somehow, and be able to remove it when you move out. We’re not suppose to put big holes in the walls-I’ve never heard of this type of board before-is it light weight? They re-did our kitchens here a couple of years ago and I asked for one of the lower cabinets. I had a few Mexican tiles in cobolt blue, white, and yellow. I went out and bought plain cobolt blue and white tiles to go with it. There are 76 tiles (4″ x 4″) all together, but the thing is I still haven’t done it. I think I just need the confidence–haha–I planned to make a bar-and get rid of my kitchen table. I know it’s gonna look good-hey, if you can do it and make it look great–I guess I should get going on mine too. Thanks for sharing this project-I love your tiles-and you were smart to make it so it can be removed sometime down the road when you get tired of the color. Great job!!!

    • Jessica Bruno February 25, 2013 at 4:30 pm #

      Thanks Robin! Yes get going on your project :) I bet you will LOVE it once it’s finished! Send me some after pictures. I would love to see it!

  7. Emily February 20, 2013 at 4:19 pm #

    Using glass tile was so smart – it reflects so much light into your kitchen. Great job!

    • Jessica Bruno February 25, 2013 at 4:28 pm #

      Thank you Emily. You are right, glass tile is so shimmery and reflects light perfectly :)

    • Jessica Bruno February 25, 2013 at 4:34 pm #

      Thank you Emily!

  8. Danielle February 20, 2013 at 6:26 pm #

    Jessica, this is brilliant. I love the color and the glass and love that it is removable. Great job and great tutorial!

  9. Stacy February 21, 2013 at 7:12 am #

    Do you mind sharing where you got your tile? I love the color. We have been looking for something similar and this looks like it matches our paint color in our connected dining space perfectly.

    • Jessica Bruno February 25, 2013 at 4:27 pm #

      Hi Stacy! The tile is called “blue lagoon” by Daltile. Good luck with your project and thank you for stopping by!

  10. Christina @ No. 29 Design February 22, 2013 at 10:04 am #

    Great job! It looks so bright and cheery!

  11. TidyMom February 22, 2013 at 12:07 pm #

    oh how I wish I could do this in our kitchen!! looks beautiful!

    • Jessica Bruno February 25, 2013 at 4:22 pm #

      Oh Cheryl I bet you could!!! Just go for it :)

  12. cynthia February 24, 2013 at 4:43 am #

    bravo! I think you did a wonderful job! and thanks for sharing the how-to!

  13. Peggy February 25, 2013 at 5:26 pm #

    What a genius idea! We’re in the market for a house right now, so I know that if we end up with a less-than-stellar backsplash in our kitchen, it’s an easy fix!

    • Jessica Bruno March 3, 2013 at 8:49 pm #

      Glad you like it Peggy! Thank you for stopping by :)

  14. Capturing Joy with Kristen Duke March 1, 2013 at 10:04 am #

    It looks fabulous!!!

  15. Tonya @ Love of Family & Home March 1, 2013 at 12:24 pm #

    Your backsplash looks great girl!! I love the color!!

  16. Connie March 22, 2013 at 3:31 pm #

    Jessica, you are brilliant!!!! I have been on the fence about the color of my glass tile. I didn’t want it to be trendy, and I NEVER thought about making it removable!!! So awesome!!!

    Thank you for the step by step, it looks wonderful and I think even I could do this. My hubby is not looking forward to re-do my kitchen (30 year argument) so I am taking some of the bull by the horns and trying to do things myself. I can now be a little more adventurous and not feel torn!

    Thanks again! Love your tutorials!
    Connie

  17. Kay June 13, 2013 at 11:47 am #

    Do you happen to have more detailed pics of where the backer board stops/starts on each wall? With the running bond pattern of the tile, how will you cut them apart to get them off the wall? Did you consider removing the little backsplash base thing and tiling all the way to the counter top? Why didn’t you remove it?

    Thank you. I am really inspired!!!

  18. Linda Cabral July 22, 2013 at 7:14 am #

    Thank-you so much for sharing this! I live in a rented house and would love to bring some new life into the dated kitchen; this is the perfect way to do that :) I LOVE the glass tiles!

  19. Terry November 1, 2013 at 8:26 pm #

    I love the idea of being able to change out back splash colors. You are brave to tackle this! Thanks.

    • Jessica Bruno November 5, 2013 at 4:16 pm #

      Thanks Terry. Tiling was actually the easy part, the hardibacker board and cutting around the outlets was the torturous part :(

  20. Maria November 5, 2013 at 9:20 am #

    Hello – Love this! Just removed old tile and am retiling and was just thinking, “how can I do this so that when the time comes that I want new tile I don’t have to tear it out again” How did you deal with the end of the backsplash? Can you see the hardie board under the tile? Do you need to put molding there as well? Thanks!

    • Jessica Bruno November 5, 2013 at 9:26 am #

      Hi, we used trim molding (home depot or lowes) on the end/edges. You can’t see the hardibacker because you cover it with thin set and then grout in between the tiles. I marked on my cabinets where the screws are (you can’t see the mark, it’s underneath the cabinet) on the hardibacker. So when I want to remove, I will have to pop off a few tiles to get at the screw. I also didn’t apply thin set over the screw so that I can remove easily. Once you unscrew the hardibacker from the wall, the entire section of tile on the hardibacker board will come off. (I did the backsplash in sections of hardibacker). Does that make sense? Good luck! :)

      • heidi walker January 21, 2014 at 5:27 pm #

        Hi Jess,
        I just found your site and love your ideas! Hoping to learn to be brave like you and tackle some home projects. First on that list is painting and I love the blue green color you have on your walls. The color in your kitchen looks similar to the pool house color? Would you mind sharing the color with me? It looks like a Benjamin Moore color I have been thinking about. I LOVE your kitchen and the way you decorate/organize your home. Beautiful work. Thank you!

        • Jessica Bruno January 21, 2014 at 9:26 pm #

          Thank you Heidi! It’s Wythe Blue by Benjamin Moore :)

  21. Nova February 12, 2014 at 2:45 pm #

    Fabulous. I live in an apartment and hate my kitchen. The walls are all a dingy off-white. This will let me update it with some color, while being able to easily revert it once I move out!

  22. Emmy March 4, 2014 at 10:26 am #

    That is such a good idea to use the backer board, never have heard of that but yes then you could “easily” change it up. Looks awesome.

  23. Robin R. May 19, 2014 at 10:34 pm #

    You have inspired me to finally tackle my backsplash! I was wondering if there are any close up shots of the trim you used over the tile edges. Btw, love the tile color!

    • Jessica Bruno May 25, 2014 at 8:35 am #

      Thanks Robin and good luck :)! You will love it!

  24. Glory/ Glorious Treats June 5, 2014 at 6:40 pm #

    Super pretty! I love the blue and have always loved blue, so I think I would be ok loving it forever, but the way you made it easily removable was super smart! Thanks for all the step by step details!

  25. Adrianne July 17, 2014 at 8:46 am #

    If you didn’t have to cut out for outlets, do you think you could affix the tile and grout it to the hardiboard THEN glue the board to the wall? I’m doing a tile that is very difficult to grout and it would be so much easier to do it on a flat horizontal surface first!

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