How to Install a Slate Tile Backsplash

What You'll Need
Tile cutter (wet saw)
Slate tiles
Tile nipper
Safety glasses
Chalk line
Rubber Grout Float
1/4 inch spacers
Tile Sealant

Installing a slate tile backsplash can be a great addition to your kitchen or bathroom as well as adding value to your home. The color and texture of slate tiles can dramatically change the look and feel of a room. Choose the color and style of tiles that will coordinate best with your current room design. Try to match colors that will blend with the paint, cabinets and appliances. There are many different colors and textures of tile available. Slate tiles tend to have much more texture rather than a smooth, standard tile. Measure the length and width of the space you will be tiling to determine the number of tiles you will need. It is a good idea to purchase 10% more tile to account for mistakes. For example, in a 4 by 8 foot area above a stove, you have 32 square feet of space. You should purchase 35 total tiles in case 1 or 2 accidentally break. 

Step 1 - Prepare the Surface

Make sure that the counter top is level. If it isn’t, you will have to add shims on one side to make sure it is level. Clean off the surface of the backsplash so it is dry and clear of debris. Now find the center of the backsplash by measuring the length, and marking the center. Depending on the size of the tile (6, 8 or 12 inches etc.) measure a distance away from the center line that is half the length of the tile. For example, for a 6 inch tile, measure 3 inches away from the original center line. With a level, mark a chalk line the entire height of the back splash. This will be your guideline to start tiling.

Step 2 - Tile Layout

It is a good idea to dry-fit a few of the tiles on the wall so you can see what the finished product will look like. Use the spacers to ensure equal spacing between all tiles. Keep in mind that slate tiles can be more fragile than ceramic tiles. Make sure to use a new, sharp blade to cut the tiles. Cut slowly, and be sure to use safety glasses to protect your eyes. Use a tile nipper to cut curves. It is a good idea to have all the pieces cut and ready to go prior to starting installation, so the mortar does not dry to quickly.

Step 3 - Adding Mortar and Tiles

Follow the instructions on the mortar package to ensure proper mixing of the mortar. If this is your first time installing tiles, only mix enough mortar to be used for 15 to 20 minutes so the mix doesn’t become hardened to fast. Using the trowel, add mortar on the wall to cover enough space to add 8 to 10 tiles. Use the notched side of the trowel to comb straight lines in the mortar. Add a tile to the mortar with a slight twisting motion to help the bond. Insert a spacer, and another tile next to the first. Start at the bottom and work your way up after the entire bottom row is completed. Do not start another row until the previous row is completed.

Step 4 - Grout and Sealer

After the mortar has dried completely (see package for dry times), you can grout the space between tiles. Choose a grout color that will blend with the tile and kitchen décor. Mix the grout according to the package instructions. Use a float to add grout between the tiles. Tilt the float at a 45 degree angle to remove excess grout on the tiles. After the grout has dried, take a moist sponge to clean off the grout on the tiles. Use a small circular motion to minimize disturbing the grout lines. When finished, take a soft cloth to remove the film that may be on the tiles. At this point, you have the option of different types of sealants, based on the look you are going for. You can use a high-gloss, a low-sheen, or a no-sheen. Check with the slate manufacturer to make sure the sealant will work on the slate tile before using.