Kitchen Project: Tile Backsplash

We’ve been gradually, gradually working to update our kitchen, and I am excited to show you our latest project– a shiny new backsplash!

Here’s the tile that we started with.  I slapped it up a few years ago, and never got around to grouting it.  It was fine at the time, but after a few years I was ready to see it go.  The little racks on the wall are plate racks– they’re out of here too.


When we went to rip off the tile, big chunks of the sheetrock wall came away as well, leaving quite the ugly mess. Some of it was patchable with mud, but in several places John had to cut out the ruined sheetrock and patch in new sheetrock.

Where the sheetrock got ugly

Here’s the wall with the sheetrock replaced.

patching holes

Then here it is with the mud on and smoothed out.

wallboard and mud

Once that was sanded smooth it was finally time to begin with tile.  Here’s the first section all laid out.  The tile comes in 12 inch by 12 inch sections, with individual tiles held together by a mesh backer.  That allowed us to cut out sections of tile where the outlets needed to go.

First course of tile

Here’s a closeup of tile around an outlet with new outlet covers in place. There’s no grout yet, and you may be able to see the tiny t-shaped spacers holding sections of tile apart where the sections of mesh backer came together. New outlet covers

Those little spacers turned out to be a dog to get out of all the cracks.  That’s what we were doing in this photo. I think we should have removed them the same day instead of waiting until the next day.

Picking away at the extra grout

The scariest part was the grouting process, because as you wipe off the grout, it smears all over the face of the tiles, making them muddy and ugly-looking.  Wiping the faces off with a damp sponge, per directions, helped clean them some.  But there was still a persistent film that we couldn’t fully remove until the next day when the rest of the grout was dry.

I was nervous about doing the silicone line at the bottom edge, but it turned out well enough that I went on to do new silicone around the kitchen sink AND around one of our bathroom sinks.  (The trick? Painter’s tape on both sides of your line so that it won’t spread further than you want it to.)

Before grout

Finally,  here are the ‘after’ pictures!  You should be able to click on the photos to enlarge them a bit.

Tile (14)

Installing a new tile backsplash





 Thoughts afterward:

I’m very glad that we chose one-inch tile for my first tile project.  I ended up only having to cut half a dozen tiles at the edge of one light switch, and almost all of them chipped or broke in half the wrong direction.  Thankfully the edge of the outlet cover hides them, and grouted they are plenty stable and should not cause any trouble.  You’ll only see them if you know exactly where to look, and it’s back in the corner behind the coffee pot, so it really is a non-issue. But looking back, a better way to handle the broken bits probably would have been to simply cut them off the mesh sheet and add in other individual tile that I actually was able to cut without breaking. Tile (9)

If we’d chosen large tile, I think the cutting would have been a lot harder and probably we’d have needed a wet saw. And given my lack of expertise, I’m glad this isn’t an area that gets buckets of water like a shower wall.  It was a low-stakes beginner project.


If I had it to do again, I might pick a lighter or more neutral color of grout– not pure white because I think that would be terrible to keep clean.  The darknesst of what I chose, however, made the tile lose a little of its sparkle.  The color was called ‘nutmeg’ and ended up matching a little too closely, I think.  But overall I am happy with how it turned out.  And even though in the middle of grouting I said I would never, never again install tile, I confess to wondering where else I might be able to practice my tile-laying skills.  Maybe I could get even better at it.

Installing a new tile backsplash


Past Kitchen Projects

2013: My new kitchen floor

2014: stain and hardware to refresh the cabinets

2015: New ceiling lighting



  1. It looks great – what a difference it makes visually! Definitely amps up the kitchen

  2. Jillbert says:

    I think it looks beautiful! Well done, Mary!

  3. Well, if you reeeeeeaalllly want another project you could come do my backsplash. 😉 Yours turned out gorgeous!

  4. Looks great! I’d say it’s a successful tiling venture! We are doing lots of small fix-ups this year — the first in a long time that we’re not saving for adoption expenses or travel. 🙂