This post is sponsored by The Tile Shop. We’re sharing the 5 things we do every single time we tile a backsplash that sets us up for success!
As many of you may have seen in Stories, we are really turning a corner at the Two Flat! We can kind-of-sort-of see the light at the end of the tunnel, and friends, it feels so good. Lately, our focus has shifted almost entirely towards the Unit 2 kitchen, and dare I say, we’re thisclose to calling it done? (Someone knock on wood!)
Most recently, we checked off Unit 2’s backsplash. I’d been pining for the day that I could lay the first tile in this room, and the end result is sweeter than I imagined. We used Stitch Indigo tile, 5″ x 5″ handmade-look tiles with a subtle pattern from The Tile Shop! Grey High pencil liner and standard white grout completed the look and cut down on contrast. (Alternately, could you imagine how pretty a soft taupe grout would look with this charming tile?)
We’ve tiled a handful of backsplashes over the years, and I still stand by it: Tiling a backsplash is a great project for the beginner DIY-er! It’s a satisfying project that yields high impact, instant results, and you’ll earn the respective bragging rights in your household for at least a month. (You could try for longer, certainly.) And because there are countless tiling tutorials floating around already (here’s ours!), I thought it would be more beneficial to share the 5 things we do every single time we tile a backsplash that sets us up for success!
1| Find a Starting Point
Where’s the focal point in the room? Although your impulse may be to lay the first tile in the corner, I urge you to consider the layout of your kitchen (or bathroom). In our case, the gas range is front and center, and we would be installing the tile higher above the range than around the rest of the perimeter. Because of this, we knew it was more important that the tile be centered directly above the range, and the rest would need to fall in place around it.
2| Level Along the Way
Level, level, level – and once you think you no longer need to level, level again. One small misstep during installation could start the domino effect that sets your whole project off-course! We keep a small level nearby and constantly check that our tiles are staying in line, and the moment we notice a small dip or rise, we course correct. Often times, a small spacer (such as a piece of cardboard from the box your tiles come in!) can be the added ‘lift’ you need to stay on track.
3| Back Butter Your Tile In a Tight Spot
Every now and then, you’ll run into a tight spot that a trowel refuses to fit into. It’s during times like this that back buttering your tile – applying mastic directly to the tile, rather than the wall – is your best bet! I also recommend purchasing pre-mixed mastic, which is already mixed to the perfect consistency and takes the guesswork off your shoulders.
4| Skip the Spacers
Most modern tile has a natural easement along each edge, which acts as a built-in spacer. It’s true! Toss your spacers! Okay, okay, before you toss the spacers, here are a few tests to see if you truly need them for your project:
- Hold the tile you’ll be using up to eye level. If your tile has an easement, you’ll notice a slight outward slope around the edges.
- Run your finger along the edge of the tile. If you feel a small ridge, you can skip the spacers!
- Lay two tiles together on a flat surface, such as the kitchen countertop. If you can see space between them, toss. those. spacers!
I didn’t use a single spacer for this backsplash project, and you can see in the photo above that I still have a thin, even grout line. I prefer the look of a small grout line, so unless you like the look of a thick grout line, save yourself that added step.
5| Know Your End Point Before You Start
Where will the tile end? Under the cabinets? The ceiling? Will your tile waterfall down the edge of your countertop and meet the baseboard? This is important to decide before you begin – heck, it’s important to know before you order your quantity – but it’s purely personal preference. I recommend looking closely at photos that inspire you, and take note of where the tile stops and starts.
Our Finished Tile Backsplash!
We’re in love, we’re in love, and we don’t care who knows it! The Stitch Indigo tile is a subtle vintage touch to our (very) vintage home, yet it somehow feels fresh and modern at the same time. We still need to add floating shelves to the left and right of the gas range (we shared this process in our Stories and will be writing a full tutorial), but whew, this kitchen makes us so happy.
What other tips + tricks would you add?
Unit 2 Kitchen Sources:
Wall color: Sherwin-Williams Heron Plume SW 6070 | upper cabinet color: Sherwin-Williams Magnetic Gray SW 7058 | base cabinet shaker panels | Stitch Indigo 5″ x 5″ tile | Grey High pencil liner | standard white grout | gas range | counter-depth refrigerator | brass ball knobs | brass pulls | ceiling flush mount light
Looks so great! My main fear is cutting the tiles! Eek!
When it comes to cutting, slow and steady. You got this!
Hi Kim! Great tips! I think I might attempt my kitchen backsplash. Have you seen any good tips on how to remove existing tile and prep the walls?
Hi Daisy, what you’ll need is a hammer and the smallest pry bar possible (or a cat’s claw), lots of patience and a gentle touch. Pull away from the drywall, as opposed to pushing INTO it for leverage. Know that you may cause some drywall damage, so prepare yourself for some skim coating and sanding to prep it for the new tile. Luckily, it will be completely hidden by the new tile, so toss perfection out the window during your repairs!
It’s so cute! I’ve looked everywhere, can you please tell me what your countertops are? Thank you!
They’re Formica! I’m working on a post all about them which should hit the blog in a couple of weeks.
WHAT??? No way. They look amazing.
OMG…I LOVE this tile so much! Gives a little something something to the kitchen, yet still subtle enough to be the perfect backdrop. I have been toying with the idea of trying to re-tile my kitchen. I think you have given me the green light to give it a whirl. It really looks amazing!
You’re so right – this tile treads the line between the lead and a supporting role. Restrained ‘oomph’!
Do you have a recommendation for a tile cutter you like? Thx
We use a Kobalt wet saw and LOVE it! A good wet saw is worth it, especially if you’ll have other tiling jobs in your future. Otherwise, check out Facebook Marketplace or Craigslist to get one second hand, and then sell it when you’re done! I think some places may rent them as well.
Hi, how do you feel about putting up cement board for the backsplash – is it necessary? Thank you :)
Hi Alena, it’s not absolutely necessary for a kitchen backsplash, but if you’re starting from scratch (i.e., you have no drywall in place right now), it doesn’t hurt!
I can’t tell you how much I have enjoyed watching you guys do ALL the amazing things to the two flat! You are no doubt ecstatic like we all are to see all your hard work come to fruition. So I hate to say this out loud (or type it out loud), but I am going to have serious renovation/design withdrawal now you’re finishing everything up… Without jumping any guns or getting ahead of anything, please say you have more projects in the works. Can’t imagine my morning coffee without being able to peak at your latest renovation masterpiece.
Haha, thanks! We definitely need some time to decompress, but we’re really looking forward to taking on different types of projects in the new year!
I really love these posts with specific tips, so thank you! It’s a beautiful little kitchen!
Hi Kim – been following you guys for so long (since the first faux denza!). Thanks for all the inspiration! Thinking of trying this in my kitchen and going all the way up to the ceiling in some parts, then adding floating corner shelves. I have two questions: 1) thinking simple white subway tile, but worry about getting the pattern consistent. What are your thoughts on the tile sheets? They seem easier to apply but tougher to cut? 2) is your preference to do all the tiling and hang the shelves on top of the tile, or hang the shelves first then tile around? Thanks for your thoughts!!
Hi Kristina, thanks for commenting! I think it’s going to depend on what kind of shelves you’re using. We tiled around the floating shelves in our Tree House kitchen, but we’ve also tiled first and installed on top (you just need to use the right drill bit and anchors, it’s not so scary, promise). As for tile sheets vs. subway tile, I personally LOVE subway tile over the sheets, because sheets are much harder to cut. That said, subway tile isn’t as tricky as you might think. Once you get the first set of tiles laid and stacked, the rest will fall in line. Just make sure to measure the first stacked tile properly! Also: subway tile most likely won’t need spacers, but tile sheets WILL need spacers.
Hi Kim! Thanks so much for replying… your insight is so helpful! I can’t say enough how much you guys help all of us out here! I’d also like to mention that I was poking for a tutorial on how to rub ‘n buff a light fixture and I found yours! Gave me the confidence to go ahead! You guys do everything!! Thanks again!
Love hearing that!
Have been following your blog for long time, even sharing it with friend and first time ever commenting. I love your tile backsplash and we’re in the midst of redoing our kitchen. The link to your tile takes me to tile shop but it says “page cannot be found”; tried searching “Stitch indigo” but that’s not working either. Please help!
Hi, Nancy! I notice that, too – let me check in with Tile Shop to see!
Okay, update: Sadly, the vendor discontinued this tile! The Tile Shop is working on a solution for a similar design, but in the meantime, these tiles have a handmade look and feel that come close.
We are getting ready to do our first backsplash and I love the idea of a THIN grout line. It appears our subway tile has the spacing ledge you referred to. My husband‘s question: is it challenging to get grout into the thinner spaces and is there a particular grout necessary? When I’ve perused grout at Home Depot I know I’ve seen that there is non-sanded and sanded and that seems to have something to do with spacing. :) Thanks for weighing in with your experience and expertise!
Hi Anne! The general rule is to use unsanded grout in grout joints less than 1/8 inch thick and use sanded grout joints for 1/8 inch thick or wider grout joints. Hope this helps!
I love the tile in the kitchen, but cannot find it on The Tile Shop’s site (I looked at all 1000!). The name “Stitch Indigo” does not come up. Is there an item #, or perhaps it has been discontinued? Thank you!
Thanks for the kind words! Unfortunately, it was discontinued.