How to Install a Subway Tile Backsplash

What You'll Need
Ruler or tape measure
Clean cloths
Notched tiling trowel
Glazed subway tiles
Laser or traditional level
Tile cutters
Waterproof grout
Paint scraper or sandpaper
Waterproof mastic tile adhesive
Tiling spacers
Wet tile saw
Latex gloves
Grout float or spreader

Installing a subway tile backsplash creates a unique style and adds more value to your bathroom or kitchen. The materials can be arranged in a manner that is similar to laid bricks, which mimics the tile arrangements found in many of the subway stations in New York. In addition, you can do the job without the help of a professional and using ordinary tools.

Step 1 – Measuring the Wall Space

Before beginning with the project, measure the space in the wall that you will tile. A backsplash should begin from the countertop to a rise of around 8 inches or to the cabinets installed above.

Step 2 – Purchasing the Tiles

When you buy the tiles, get enough that will cover the area you measured and add 20 percent to it. This will cover edges and breakage.

Step 3 – Preparing the Wall

Take out any switch covers or electric outlets that are in the area that will be tiled. Go about the area checking for unpatched cracks condensation or loose materials such as old wallpaper. If there is loose paint, scrape it away. Glossy painted surfaces should be sanded down. Once you are through with it, wash the entire wall area with warm water and allow to dry completely.

Step 4 – Applying Waterproof Adhesive

Using a notched trowel, apply 1/8 to 1/16 inch layers of waterproof adhesive. The material can dry fast, so divide your work area into 2 or 3 feet on a side squares.

Step 5 – Installing the First Tile

The first tile should be installed horizontally at the backsplash's center, immediately above the countertop. Twist the tile gently to set it in the waterproof adhesive.

Step 6 – Placing Spacers

Put a spacer on every corner of the tile and press them down into the adhesive. For corners that are bordering the counter top, cut one of the end of the spacers before installing them.

Step 7 – Installing the Rest of the Tiles and Spacers

Continue with the laying of tiles and spacers in whole rows. Make sure that you flush all the tiles and spacers and take note that some of the tiles may have tiny nibs that can be used in place for spacers to space the individual tiles evenly. Take out any adhesive that seep over the tile gaps with a damp cloth. After you are done with the first row, check its top line with a laser edge. Continue laying the other tile rows, making sure that each row is offset by ½ of the tile width. This will create a running brick pattern which is the signature look of subway tiles. Wipe off any remaining adhesive on the surface. Allow the tiles to set completely before removing the spacers.

Step 8 – Applying Grout

Wearing latex gloves, spread your grout over the tile gaps using a rubber float. Make sure that all crevices are packed with grout to have a water tight seal. Grout joints should be shaped with a grouting tool or rounded dowel. Wipe off excess grout with a damp cloth. Once the grout has dried completely, wipe the tiles with a dry cloth and buff them to a shine. Replace any switch covers and electrical outlets you have removed.