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How to Install a Mosaic Tile Backsplash

Estimated Reading Time: 9 min

Installing a tile backsplash can be intimidating, but we’re here to simplify the process in this DIY-friendly, step-by-step guide.

Skill Level
Approximate Time 2-3 hours
plus 24 hours curing time

A new tile backsplash is a great way to add your personal touch to any kitchen build or renovation, and mosaic tiles make it even easier to achieve. They’re available in a wide range of sizes, materials, styles, and colors to suit your personal tastes. Plus, their fiberglass mesh backing makes it easy to cut the sheets with tile nippers or a utility knife so you can cut them to fit under windows, around outlets, or other tricky spots for a seamless finish.

While the installation process may seem tricky at first glance, we’re here to walk you through it step-by-step so you can go into this project feeling confident.

Here's what you'll need:

  • Mosaic Tile Sheets
  • Tile Adhesive
  • Grout
  • Cardboard
  • Wall Primer
  • Paper and Pencil
  • Caulk
  • Grout Haze Remover
  • Optional: Edge Protectors
  • Tape Measure
  • Razor Scraper
  • Screwdriver
  • V-Notched Trowel
  • Grout Float
  • Utility Knife
  • Tile Nippers
  • Grout Sponge
For Your Safety
  • Safety Goggles
  • Rubber Gloves

Step 1

Calculate How Much Tile You’ll Need to Finish the Job Without Waste

Before you rush off to your local home improvement store, it’s important to know just how much tile you’ll need to complete the job without over or under buying materials. This means that you’ll need to calculate the total square footage of your project.

Thankfully, this is easy to do. All you need is a tape measure and a piece of paper where you can jot down your measurements.

Here’s the equation: Length of Wall x Height of Wall = Total Square Footage of Project.

For example, if your project measures five by two feet, the equation would look like this: 5ft x 2ft = 10ft2.

Easy as that!

It can get a bit tricky if you’re working with a disproportionate wall, but if you section it off into smaller squares the formula will work just the same.

tiling walls with different segment dimensions

Once you’ve calculated the total square footage for your walls, you’ll want to include an additional 10% to your total to cover any small gaps under windows, around outlets, or to replace any mosaic sheets that may have been damaged during shipping and handling.

Just take your total square footage and multiply it by 1.1 to get your new total square footage, then take your page of calculations with you to the store.

Step 2

Prep Your Workspace

After you’ve brought your new tiles home, now’s the time to start all other planning and prep work that needs to get done before you can start placing tile on your walls. This is typically the point in time that will make or break the success of your project, so be sure to check off everything on this list.

Scrape, Repair, and Clean Your Walls

This includes scraping off old, flaking paint, filling and sanding down holes, dents, and divots, and wiping down your walls with warm, soapy water.

Grease stains or other discolorations on your wall may need to be covered with the appropriate paint primer before you can backsplash. Leaving these blemishes on your walls can make it hard for the tile adhesive to stick to your walls, which may lead to your backsplash shifting or even falling away over time.

This is also the time to be sure that your walls are level. An unstable application is just as bad as placing tile over a grease spot.

Outline and Remove Outlet Coverings and Appliances

Use a pencil to lightly outline any outlets or light switch covers before you remove them. You’ll use these outlines as a guiding line when installing your mosaic tile.

Set aside all outlet and switch covers and screws in a safe location before clearing your counters of any utensils, decorations, or appliances. If you need to, pull your oven away from the wall so you can tile behind it, or you can remove it from your work area completely. Follow your manufacturer’s instructions when handling the appliance.

For added safety, be sure to disconnect all appliances and shut off power to all electrical outlets and light switches in your workspace. Now wouldn’t be a great time for a nasty shock.

Optional, but Recommended

Cover Your Counters

Cover your counters with cardboard (any broken down cardboard box will do just fine) or heavy-duty craft paper and tape it into place to protect your counters from debris.

Install Edge Protectors

While not required, edge protectors are a great way to protect the vulnerable outside edges of your tiles against damage. And just like mosaic tiles themselves, edge protectors are available in a wide range of colors and finishes so you can pick out the best fit for the look you’re trying to achieve.

Be sure to follow all manufacturer instructions during installation.

Step 3

Map Mosaic Tile Layout

Before moving on from the previous step, take the time to wipe down your walls with a damp rag or sponge (wring well) to remove any lingering dust. Then, once your walls are clean and level (and your edge protectors, if you’re using them, are installed), grab a pencil and map out a few tile sheets starting along the bottom edge and working your way up.

Pro Tip

After mapping out a few sheets, open a couple more boxes. Grab a single sheet from each box and stack in an alternating pattern (this is crucial for natural stone tiles!), that way any color differences between the individual sheets will meld seamlessly on your walls when you install them.

Step 4

Spread Tile Adhesive with a V-notched Trowel

use v notched trowel to spread adhesive

To prevent overspreading material, work in sections!

Starting in the corner of your first mapped out section, use your V-Notched Trowel to scoop a liberal amount of tile adhesive and apply an even layer to your wall. Then use the notched edge to create uniform notches in the adhesive.

All notches should go in the same direction for the best results.

Note: If you’re mixing your own tile adhesive, follow all manufacturer instructions as written on the label.

Step 5

Place Tile

place mosaic tile sheets on wall

Just like how you mapped them out, place your first full tile sheet along the bottom edge of your first section and use a rubber Tile Float to press it into place (hold for several seconds to prevent rippling).

Take care that your grout joints (those small gaps between the individual tiles making up the mosaic sheet) are even as you continue placing full sheets of tile until that section is completely covered.

Step 6

Cut Tile as Necessary to Cover Your Walls

As you finish each of your mapped out sections, or when you reach hard to navigate areas, such as those around outlets, under windows, or along the outside edges, you’ll likely need to cut your tile sheets to the appropriate size to fit the space.

Q: What kind of tile cutter do I need?

A: For most all tile types, you can get away with using a pair of tile nippers and a wet tile saw to cut and trim your tiles to size. If you’re using glass tiles, switch out the standard tile nippers for a pair of glass nippers. Remember: always wear the proper eye protection when using these tools.

You can also use a utility knife to quickly cut through the fiberglass mesh backing to fill any small, single tile sized gaps in your backsplash.

If you’re having trouble squeezing your notched trowel into these spaces, you may need to switch to a V-notched margin trowel. To help these trimmed tiles stick, backbutter (coat the back of the tile in a thin, even layer of tile adhesive) them before pressing into the notched adhesive on your wall.

Repeat this process for all sections until your walls are completely covered, then allow the adhesive to set before grouting.

Step 7

Prep Tile and Apply Grout

To prep your backsplash for grouting, wipe it down with a damp towel or sponge to remove any dust that may have gathered overnight and allow it to dry. This should take no more than 10 minutes. In the meantime, mix your grout according to the manufacturer’s instructions as written on the label.

Once your grout is mixed thoroughly (it should have a thick, mud-like consistency), allow the mixture to slake (a fancy industry term for “soak up the remaining water”) for 5-10 minutes before remixing without any additional water. Remix periodically to keep a good consistency.

Note: Once your grout is mixed, you have a limited time to use it (typically two hours after it’s mixed).

spread grout over tile with grout float

Apply the grout to your backsplash with a Grout Float held at a 45-degree angle (like that shown above) and work in sections.

Then hold the float at a 90-degree angle and scrape over the surface of your tiles to remove excess grout. Once the bulk of the grout has been cleared away, wipe down the tiles and shape your joints with a damp Grout Sponge or rag.

Continue this process along the entire wall until all tiles are grouted and wiped down before allowing the grout to dry.

Pro Tip

If you notice a film developing on your tiles, don’t worry. This is known as grout haze, and it can easily be removed with grout haze remover. Pick up a bottle while you’re in the tiling section.

Step 8

Caulk Outside Edges

You’re nearly there!

Apply caulk along edges where your backsplash meets the counters and cabinets to protect them against any moisture that may seep into and ruin your underlying surface. Finally, wipe down your new, fresh, and trendy backsplash with a damp rag or sponge and that’s it. You’ve done it!

Step 9

Apply Grout Haze Remover as Needed, Let Dry, and Enjoy

Grout can oftentimes leave a haze over tile after it dries down. Use a grout haze remover and a damp sponge to wipe down the tiles, then allow it to dry. Always follow the manufacturer's instructions regarding use and safety when using products containing hazardous materials.

Once all the haze is removed, you can finally enjoy your finished backsplash.

finish mosaic backsplash


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