How to Install a Mosaic Tile Backsplash
By: Danny Lipford
Mosaic tile come in sheets with a mesh backing to make it easy to install.
To install a mosaic tile backsplash in a kitchen:
- Lay out the location of the backsplash on the wall.
- Cover the countertop with plastic sheeting held in place with masking tape.
- Apply thin-set adhesive to the wall using a notched trowel.
- Position the sheet on the wall, and press it into the wet thin-set adhesive.
- Mark electrical outlets by applying lipstick to the outlets, then press the sheet of tile against it to transfer the mark to the back of the tile.
- Use a utility knife to cut through the mesh on the sheet of tile around the outlet.
- Cut the tile to size using a special tile saw that available for rent at tool centers.
- Allow the thin-set adhesive to dry overnight.
- Remove any protruding thin-set from the tile joints with a flat-head screwdriver.
- Dampen the surface of the tile with water on a sponge before applying grout.
- Use a rubber float to apply the grout to the tile joints, pressing the grout into the tile at a 45° angle.
- When the grout starts to set, go over the tile surface multiple times with a sponge dampened with clean water to wipe off any excess grout.
- After the grout has dried, use a soft cloth to remove any grout haze from the surface.
Watch this video to find out more.
- How to Install a Ceramic Tile Backsplash (video)
- Ceramic Tile Backsplash Project (article)
- Tools Used to Cut Ceramic Tile (video)
- How to Cut Tile Around Electrical Outlets (article)
To begin installing a tile backsplash, you should first determine the boundaries that will contain it. Creating a plumb, or perfectly vertical, line from the countertop up to the cabinetry is a good way to do that.
The tiles will be held on the wall with thin-set or mastic. This material is applied with a V-notch trowel. The size of the notches in the trowel are important and will vary depending on the size and type of tile being installed, so check the label on the thin-set or mastic.
Position each piece, using the counter as a guide, and press it firmly into the thin-set. To cut around obstacles, like outlets, you can mark the tiles for cutting by applying lipstick to the outlet and pressing the tile, or mosaic of tiles, in position over it.
For sheets of mosaic tiles, most of your cutting will be done to the mesh mat that holds the tile. After you position the piece around the obstacle, you can add back in little individual tile pieces to complete the pattern. To cut the tiles themselves, it’s best to rent a saw designed for cutting ceramic, stone, or glass.
Now once the tile is all in, it will need to dry overnight before you continue. Apply masking tape around the tile before applying the grout to simplify cleanup. And remove any chunks of thin-set left showing between the tiles, so they don’t show through the grout.
To reduce grout cleaning later, dampen the surface of the tiles before you begin applying the grout. The grout is applied with a rubber grout float turn partially on edge. Push the grout across the wall at a 45-degree angle to the lines between tiles, so the float doesn’t catch the edges and dig out the grout.
As the grout begins to dry, begin to wash off the excess with a damp sponge—regularly rinsing it out in clean water. Circular motions work well to remove grout from the tile surface without taking it out of the grooves between tiles. Even after the grout is completely dry, there will be a slight haze over the tile which can be removed by buffing it with a soft cloth.