Easy Way to Tile a Backsplash
Tom Silva demonstrates how to install a simple glass mosaic tile backsplash
I’m planning to add a glass-tile backsplash in my kitchen. I’ve never done tile work before, and I’m not sure if I can do it alone. Can I apply thinset directly to painted drywall?
—Christopher Doughman, East Falmouth, MA
I’m not an expert tiler, either. But there are products out there that make a simple job like installing a backsplash —even over painted drywall—nearly foolproof.
Normally, a project like this would involve mixing up thinset mortar and spreading it over the wall with a notched trowel. Thinset does a great job, as long as it’s the right consistency and you don’t mind waiting until the next day to fill the joints with grout. But self-adhering tile mats such as do away with the mess of mixing and the wait time. You just cut the mat to size with scissors, peel off the backing, and stick the mat to a clean, dry countertop or wall. Work carefully; bubbles or creases are hard to remove once the mat is in place. Do the same with the remaining mat pieces, and overlap their edges by 1⁄4 inch. Tamp the entire mat firmly against the wall using a grout float, then peel the covering off its face to expose its adhesive.
You can start setting tile right away. It’s best to use tiles mounted on mesh sheets; the mat’s adhesive is so sticky it makes it difficult to reposition individual tiles. Simply line up the bottom edge of the sheet parallel with the counter, then press the tiles in place.
Grouting can begin as soon as the tile is up. To save time, fill the joints with a stain-resistant premixed product like , which sets in about 4 hours. Wear gloves as you carefully wipe off the grout residue with a damp sponge.
Shown: Mosaic tiles mounted on a mesh backing, like these, are a good choice when using a self-adhering tile mat. That’s because the gap between the tiles is already set; there’s no need for adjustments.