We have been debating whether or not to do DIY home improvements on our owned condo for the last year. We know we want to sell and relocate sooner than later and it's hard to continue making it a home when we know we will not be staying here forever. We compromised and did some smaller, less expensive DIYs in the meantime! We had been drooling over white subway tile backsplashes and didn't realize how cost effective it actually is!
Kitchen backsplashes have a million options on installation, but this is the one we went with. I warn you, the hard parts can definitely be done in a weekend, and although not necessarily difficult, some parts are a bit tedious- or at least were for us! I still strongly recommend doing it yourself! I wanted to share how we did ours in case anyone is interested! And for those wondering how inexpensive this can be- our initial expense was $131 for our space! We ended up exchanging some materials and purchasing others and I estimate we ended up spending no more than $150- I stopped keeping track after one too many trips to Home Depot or Lowe's!
1. Buy a sample of your desired tile. Go home and measure how much of it you would need to cover your space. If your backsplash includes behind your stove, make sure to account for the space behind it.
2. Purchase your supplies:
- Tiles (we originally wanted the larger 3x6 individual tiles but they were too big for part of our space so we opted for the smaller, which only came in a mosaic. We ended up buying enough for 24 square feet)
- Tile Adhesive (we bought the premixed kind and recommend it)
- Grout Float
- Grout Sponge
- Grout (we went with an non-sanded tinted grout- there are different color options and depending on the tile gap, you would get sanded or non-sanded. We were right at 1/8" and decided we'd prefer non-sanded; anything above 1/8", sanded is usually recommended)
- Tile spacers (we got one bag and ran out at the end and had to reuse the earlier used ones- if you're doing individual tiles or your space is bigger than ours, you'll definitely need more than one bag)
- Caulk (we originally went with a bright white and it looked way too bright compared to our grout. We ended up buying the same brand in the same color as the grout, and realized that this brand is so watery, it was such a pain to do it. I love caulking- it fixes everything- but this brand was way watery and I had to wait a few hours for it to dry, then add another layer so it looked thicker. If you want it to match as your caulk, then I recommend the headache, but if you want white, I'd recommend a regular silicone based caulk; by the way, we already had some regular caulk on hand and ended up needing it to fill in spaces, too).
- Grout sealer- this is the very last step and you apply it a day or two after everything is done- you can add an epoxy sealer to your grout and never have to seal but this was more cost effective for us.
- a piece of wood to act as a scaffold behind your stove (if this is applicable to your kitchen)
Turn off the electricity to your kitchen outlets via the breaker. Remove outlet covers, tape up your outlets, and cover your countertops- it gets messy!
Add that piece of wood behind your stove. Feel free to clean under it, too. I couldn't believe how dusty it was under there- isn't that a fire hazard?! Embarrassingly enough, I also found an avocado pit and a brand new cookie sheet. :/
2. Find the center of your kitchen. This will be your starting point. For us, this would be our sink. Lay out all of your tiles on the counters so you know approximations on where cuts will have to be made, what corners will look like, and where cabinets will meet. We did NOT do this and have some major headaches when we reached the top of our cabinets and realized that they were all installed crooked!!! Thanks, builders who did ours!
Apply your adhesive with your trowel. Follow the instructions on the label- super easy!
Tile away! If you are doing a mosaic, make sure the tiles are evenly spaced, you'll need spacers at the bottom to make room for your caulk line. If you are doing individual tiles, you'll need spacers throughout each tile. How you insert them is up to you- Geoff and I had two different methods and both worked!
Step 4: Cutting tiles
As soon as you hit your first outlet (can you believe our little space has EIGHT of them!?), you'll need to cut. We originally purchased a tile cutter attachment to the dremel- didn't work! Geoff tried a drill attachment- took way too long! Finally, he ended up just using his grinder and it worked perfectly! I don't have a picture of him doing this, but don't worry about cuts being perfect! They'll be hidden behind the outlet. Do make sure your outlet can still screw in properly, though!
Step 5: Admire your adhered tile and let it dry for 24 hours!
This is when we realized a couple of things: our cabinets were installed completely crooked, leaving very awkward gaps in our tile edges. We had to return our original tile ends and go to a different hardware store to find some that matched better. Geoff was a genius and literally grinded/sanded down each piece to fit the narrow, crooked space. Here is when we also found out that you can take marked tiles and get them cut for FREE and hassle free! What?! No one had ever told us this! I would definitely go this route next time! Lay out all of your tile, mark your cuts, go get them cut, and THEN start. As long as you measure correctly, it would make everything so much faster and easier!
Step 6: After 24 hours, it's time to apply your grout. Follow the instructions on the label, the application is pretty easy! When cleaning off the grout, you'll be rinsing your huge sponge a lot! Rinse it, fold in it half like a hamburger, and then wring it out!
see the crookedness below:
Step 7: Add your caulking! This took me a few steps and an extra day and even though we went with the harder to apply caulk, I'm really happy with the results. I also used regular white silicone caulk to hide all of the crooked areas and it worked seamlessly.
I hope this encourages you if you have been thinking of tackling this project! Let me know if you do!
P.S. A trip to the hardware store is never the same without this guy befriending everyone he meets and getting into mischievous trouble!