Backsplash Tiles — Save Money by Making Your Own

Posted by on Apr 07, 2011

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You've planned out a masterpiece of a meal. You're almost giddy anticipating the reactions of your friends and family as they enjoy the culinary experience you've carefully crafted for them in your home. Too bad your next few hours will be spent staring at the ugly, oil-stained wall behind your stove and sink. That is, of course, unless you're up for an easy do-it-yourself solution: backsplash tiles.

Installing glass, metal, glazed stone or ceramic tiles (backsplash tiles) on that little area behind your stove or sink can infuse the entire kitchen with your personality and style, and it's a lot easier to clean than drywall.

flower backsplash
Shopping for Tiles

First, check your local hardware and home improvement stores' selections of backsplash tiles. Glass tiles are a good choice because they're non-porous and therefore won't absorb moisture and will naturally resist mildew. Ceramic and stone tiles add a welcoming rustic feel to your kitchen, but need to come sealed or non-porous to avoid soaking in grease and moisture. Metal tiles are light and can be painted to match your kitchen, but have to be handled with care to prevent denting the surface. 

If your local store doesn't have anything that catches your eye, they may be able to special order something for you. It's most cost effective to buy your tiles locally instead of ordering online, that way you don't have to pay shipping. Unless, of course, you find an online source that offers free shipping, since tiles are kinda heavy, hence expensive, to mail. 

You can also buy some plain-ish tiles locally and go online to find a few flashy accent pieces. Glass Tile Oasis, Glass Tile Store, My Tile Backsplash, and Amazon have great selections of accent and background tiles. Another option is to get some china or ceramic dishes from a resale shop, carefully cut them into pieces with tile snips and use them to make a mosaic backsplash. While you're at the hardware store, you should also pick up your sandpaper, sponges, tile adhesive (also called tile mastic or thin-set mortar), grout, caulk and silicone grout sealer.
mosaic backsplash
Preparing Your Backsplash

If you have to remove current backsplash tiles from your kitchen, it's best to replace the entire drywall before adding new tiles. Make a scale drawing of your design on graph paper, or make a full-size template of the backsplash area using cardboard and lay out your tiles before putting them on the wall.

Either way, measure carefully and include any outlets or light switches in your design. Leave about 1/8" between the tiles so that the grout can get through and attach to the wall later. You will most likely need to cut some of your tiles to fit around the edges, but never fear, you can rent a tile cutter for about $10 - $20 per day.
tiled backsplash
Installing the Tiles

Now here comes the serious part. Lightly sand the drywall in the area where the tiles will be placed, then wipe off the dust with a damp sponge. Once the area is dry, you can start putting up your tiles. Start with the bottom, center tile and work outward, then upward. Apply tile adhesive onto the back of the tile or onto a small section of the wall. Remember to leave your 1/8" space between tiles as you put them up and let the adhesive dry overnight.
flower backsplash
Finishing Touches

After letting the adhesive dry, apply grout according to the manufacturer's directions. In about an hour it will be ready to get wiped off the tile with a damp sponge. If needed, lightly buff the tiles with a soft, dry cloth. Apply a strip of caulk along the bottom of the backsplash between the tiles and the counter, step back, and enjoy the new view! To keep your backsplash looking new for years, wait about a week then apply a silicone grout sealer. This prevents the grout from staining. For step-by-step pictures and video of backsplash installation visit This Old House and DIY Network.


Installing a backsplash is permanent. As in, you can't take it with you when you move out of your home. If you’re a renter, you should run the project by your landlord before starting. Hey — who knows — if he likes it, you might get a job making backsplashes for the rest of his spaces!

Image credits (from top): Petar Neychev,,, and

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