how hard is doing a tile backsplash in the kitchen?

ardcpMarch 26, 2014

we are having new cabs and granite counters put in. the counters will not have that 4" backsplash. i would like to save labor costs by doing the backsplash myself. i have never worked with tile but i have figured out how to change faucets and lighting just by reading directions, otherwise no real construction experience. i have watched a lot of videos and home shows on tiling a backsplash and it doesn't look too complicated. question one- am i oversimplifying? is it way too much for a beginner?
question two- what would be the easiest tile to work with? i like subway tile but is that more complex than the mosaic that comes on a backer?
i got a quote for $1000 for about 35 sq ft and i really hope i can save that cash for appliances. any help is appreciated!

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happy2b…gw

Hopefully a professional will respond; however, my husband is an experienced do it your selfer. I read him your post, and he thinks installing backsplash is definitely do-able and relatively easy. He strongly advises purchasing a water saw - about $84 from home depot and a level. Subway tile reduces the amount of grout surface. Mosaics will show more grout. The color of the grout should blend rather than contrast; however, that may be a personal preference. Have a plan how to work around the outlets. Disconnect them and reinstall over the tile. Buying a sample of the tile to be sure of your selection is my advice. Also the home depot in my area offers a workshop on weekends on working with tile. It may be worth inquiring about. I hope your project goes well, and you enjoy the experience.

    Bookmark   March 26, 2014 at 9:37PM
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Trebruchet

ardcp:

A tile backsplash is a great place for a beginning DIYer to start. Watch a few videos and maybe pick up a copy of Michael Byrns book by Taunton Press. Just do whatever he says. You'll be fine and save some cash.

    Bookmark   March 26, 2014 at 9:47PM
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lam702

My husband just finished our backsplash, subway tile with a mosaic border. A wet saw and a level are must haves, as the other post said. If you choose something relatively simple, like a subway tile, its not a bad job. Something like a diagonal pattern means more cuts. With tile spacers, its not hard to space the tile properly, so no need to get mosaics on a sheet unless you prefer that look.

    Bookmark   March 27, 2014 at 6:42AM
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homebound

I disagree. Every time I see a DIY backsplash, it screams "amateur" and it's not a place to have that. When one begins to consider edges, working around outlets, etc. it comes into focus real quick. I would shop around for a couple more quotes. Make sure to call a tile pro, not a generalist.

Edit: to save money on your appliances, focus on the sales and installation charges. Memorial day is quite a good one. And certainly price shop the competition.

(For the record, I do a fair amount of tilework.)

This post was edited by homebound on Thu, Mar 27, 14 at 9:49

    Bookmark   March 27, 2014 at 9:43AM
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sjhockeyfan325

My son and DIL just did their own backsplash (subway tile) and it looks great. It was their first-ever DIY project.

    Bookmark   March 27, 2014 at 1:56PM
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weedyacres

A backsplash is definitely DIY-able. If you've got a good eye for detail and patience to do the job right, so that you'll pull out a tile that doesn't set quite right and re-do it, rather than saying "that's good enough" and moving on, then you can do good work.

Subway tiles are easy to work with because they're small and have built-in spacers on them. Mosaics may seem easier, but sometimes the little pieces aren't exactly right on the mesh, so you have to look carefully and fix anything out of alignment. Also, it's important to get the spacing between the mesh sheets right so you can't see where the seams are.

The key to a good-looking backsplash lies largely in the planning and layout. That's where the stuff homebound mentions can come into play. Figure out where the layout will start so that the edges, outlets and corners will fall and you can avoid slivers.

None of it is rocket science. Just patience and a good eye.

    Bookmark   March 27, 2014 at 2:01PM
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lam702

Our backsplash came out great, I doubt anyone could tell it was DIY. But, my husband is very handy and has done a lot of home improvements over the years, including some tile work, although this was his first backsplash. I still think though, that with a simple pattern, its definitely a do-able project for someone who is moderately handy. With ours, the subway tile cuts were not too bad, although the outlet cuts were a bit more tricky, but still came out well. I wouldn't advise doing a very elaborate pattern if you don't have much experience, but a simple subway or square pattern can be done by yourself.

    Bookmark   March 27, 2014 at 3:03PM
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ardcp

Thanks to everyone for advice and encouragement! I am going to get some tiling books, watch a few more videos and try it. I am a perfectionist and would not be happy if the tiles were placed improperly and that is one of the reasons I wanted to do it myself. I hate hiring someone only to find out after the fact that they didn't take the time to do it properly! Time is money for someone I hire but I don't have to rush through it so in theory it will work out. I think the only things that scare or confuse me right now are the thought of using a wet saw and figuring out the outlet extension thing. Some DIY videos show some sort of outlet extender and some don't.
Anyone want to comment on what the did to their outlets? I guess I thought I would just get longer screws for the covers but does that work or is modifying the outlet box necessary?
I am thinking I can avoid the wet saw if I don't use glass and just use one of those tile scoring things?

    Bookmark   March 27, 2014 at 4:31PM
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debrak2008

Buy the wet saw. Maybe look on craigslist for a good used one. After this project you may be inspired to keep tiling.

Plan your layout. Don't get too complicated. Measure three times.

Buy the wet saw.

    Bookmark   March 27, 2014 at 4:38PM
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cat_ky

I used outlet extensions. Around 2.00 an outlet. Mine happened to be metal, since my outlet boxes were metal, but, I have seen plastic ones too. Very easy to use.

Here is a link that might be useful: outlet extensions

    Bookmark   March 27, 2014 at 4:42PM
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homebound

Ok, you seem sufficiently motivated. I suggest some reading, searching and posting at the john bridge tile forums. Great guys. They'll walk you through your project. Best of luck!

    Bookmark   March 27, 2014 at 6:31PM
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lam702

Yes, I would get the wet saw. They are not that expensive and much easier and neater cuts than scoring and breaking. You'll use that wet saw again, I bet.

    Bookmark   March 27, 2014 at 11:05PM
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snookums2

My mother did a beautiful job on hers, tackling it when she was in her sixties. It included decos (no cutting) and a border tile. Still standing as beautiful today.

    Bookmark   March 28, 2014 at 2:43AM
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lam702

My sister does beautiful tile work. She's done backsplashes, floors, bathrooms. All self taught. Her husband lets her do the tiling because even he admits she does a better job than he does.

    Bookmark   March 28, 2014 at 1:26PM
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weedyacres

Why does a wet saw scare you? The blade is actually toothless, so you can't cut your fingers off.

    Bookmark   March 28, 2014 at 1:52PM
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ardcp

weedyacres- i did not know that! it looks like it could cut your finger off like a circular saw. so no teeth and not scary for newbies? i will check them out at hd then. i have 3 or areas i would love to tile if i can figure it out.

    Bookmark   March 28, 2014 at 2:07PM
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mellyc123

Try to borrow a wetsaw, are you sure no one else you know has one?
They may even be willing to cut the tiles for you and share their expertise.

My husband I went to a huge tile warehouse that had diy classes and we were able to mix the grout and set a few tiles and try it.

    Bookmark   March 30, 2014 at 9:41AM
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mellyc123

Try to borrow a wetsaw, are you sure no one else you know has one?
They may even be willing to cut the tiles for you and share their expertise.

My husband I went to a huge tile warehouse that had diy classes and we were able to mix the grout and set a few tiles and try it.

    Bookmark   March 30, 2014 at 9:42AM
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