How to tile a kitchen splashback
Here's how to cut tiles with a manual or wet tile cutter, then lay a kitchen splashback with sleek metro tiles
It’s easier than you might think to tile a kitchen splashback. The key is taking time to plan in advance. When you plan where you want your tiles to go, you will see where your tiles end up sitting around windows, sockets and where your worktop ends.
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You can change the pattern, or possibly even the shape, to avoid the trickiest areas – you can also avoid being left with any tricky 5mm cuts, for instance. This splashback uses a running bond (bricklaying pattern) with sleek metro tiles – the result is neat, stylish, and no one will ever believe it was a DIY job!
You will need
- Metro white ceramic tiles
- Tile adhesive
- Tile adhesive trowel
- Spirit level
- 2mm tile spacers
- BAL primer
- Manual tile cutter
- Wet tile cutter with diamond blade (if you need to cut awkward shapes)
- 10mm plastic square edge trim
- Plastic sheet with masking tape on roll
- Tape measure
- Mini mitre block
- Junior hacksaw
- Grout (we used Ultra Tile Flex ProGrout Flexible)
- Blu Tack
- Bostik Fix & Flash
- Grouting sponge
- White silicone sealant and gun
- Spray bottle with diluted washing up liquid
- Credit card (or a plastic card with curved corners)
- Stone sealer
- Microfibre cloth
How to cut tiles
With a manual cutter
Measure the space you need your tile to fill, and deduct a 2mm tile spacer gap. Transfer your measurement to the tile, then line up the mark to the top of the tile cutter. Starting from the bottom, gently push the handle down while moving forward to score the tile.
Once you’ve got to the top, make sure the metal pressure piece is resting on the top edge of the tile. Then gently push down the handle until it cuts in half. Practice makes perfect, and these metro tiles are inexpensive, so if you make a cut you’re not happy with, simply repeat until you get it right.
With a wet tile cutter
If you need to take a section out of a tile, then using a wet tile cutter with a diamond blade is the quickest. Measure and mark the notch to cut out, pour water into the cutter and, wearing goggles, cut carefully.
It may feel a little intimidating at first, but it gets much easier with practice.
How to tile a kitchen splashback
Spread the tile adhesive. Make sure your walls are sound, level and with no loose bits. Here, we will be tiling directly onto plasterboard and wood. To prep, brush the surface with a BAL primer when tiling a porous area, like plaster or wood, if suggested on the tile adhesive (some are self-priming). Protect your worktop and sink using a plastic sheet secured with masking tape.
Measure out the centre point of your splashback and draw a vertical centre line in pencil. Using a tile adhesive trowel, spread adhesive out from the centre and base of your splashback area, making sure you only use just enough. The adhesive sets after around 30 minutes. (If you do spread too much, you’ll need to scrape it off and prime again.)
Lay your rows. Place spacers along the bottom edge of your tiling area (optional), then line your first tile up with your centre line, leaving a slight gap for the spacer, and press firmly onto the wall. Place spacers on either side of the tile and press a second tile snugly alongside.
Continue to lay the rest of the row, and check that the row is level. On this splashback, the left-hand edge stops partway along a wall – this needs tiles cut to size and a tile trim to finish off that vertical edge. If your splashback is like this, then don’t tile to the very end of the exposed side just yet. To begin the second row of the running bond, measure and mark the centre point of a tile and line this up with a vertical gap between two tiles on the wall. Continue to adhere tiles as before.
Prep the tile trim. Now it’s time to mitre the vertical and horizontal lengths of tile trim, if needed. Place your trim in the mitre block and cut towards the end with a hacksaw. Gently sand the raw edge with 240 grit sandpaper.
Trim roughly down to size, leaving 1-2cm extra. Lay your new cut on top of another length of trim (as pictured) and draw along it for a visual guide. Place the newly marked trim in the mitre block, line it up with the correct angle and saw again.
Tack out tricky sections. With any small, awkward sections of your splashback – such as the left-hand edge of this project – you can use Blu Tack to temporarily attach tiles, trim and spacers to the wall.
Arrange your design on the wall and make accurate markings before you cut any tiles to fit. Place, mark and cut your lengths of trim, as well.
Tile and trim. Carefully take down your arranged section, and cut any tiles as needed.
Continue tiling as before and, when you get to an edge that requires trim, add your adhesive first, place the trim on top, then lay the tiles in place last. Once you have laid the last tile and trim section, leave overnight.
Prep for grout. After leaving the tiles and trim to dry overnight, remove the spacers between the tiles and the plastic sheet. You may need a pair of pliers to remove any spacers that are tricky to pull out by hand.
Using a damp plastic scourer, scrub away any adhesive that is stuck to the tiles and any excess between the tiles, as this will show up after grouting – essential if you are using a contrasting grout colour.
Mixing grout. Recover your worktop and sink with a fresh length of plastic sheet. Wearing gloves and eye protection and with good ventilation, pour 300ml water into a clean bucket, then slowly stir in 1kg of grout (or follow packet instructions if you’re using a different product).
It sets within 30 minutes, so work in small batches. Apply the grout using a hard rubber squeegee. It’s best to apply using a 45˚ angle to really press and pack the grout into all of the 2mm gaps. Leave each section to set for 15 minutes, then remove the excess with a damp grouting sponge, rubbing away from the gaps and not with them. Repeat until the whole splashback is grouted. After a few hours, buff the remaining grout off the surface of the tiles with a clean microfibre cloth for a shiny finish.
Seal your splashback. Remove the plastic sheet and run masking tape along the back edge of your worktop, a few millimetres away from the tiles. Take your silicone sealant and apply as consistent a bead as possible – practise on a scrap surface first to get a feel for it. (Your bead of silicone should not sit over your masking tape, otherwise it will form a lip.)
Now, spray the silicone with diluted washing-up liquid and smoothly run along it with the corner of a credit card. This also spreads any excess for you as you go. Try not to contaminate it with your fingers. Carefully pull up the protective tape. After your silicone has set, take a brush and apply a stone sealer all over the grout and leave to dry. Remove any excess with a clean cloth and repeat three times. This will ensure your grout is completely waterproof and will help to prevent stains.
This project was created by blogger Vikkie Lee, a DIY & Home Improvement blogger – check out her blog thecarpentersdaughter.co.uk for many more inspiring DIY projects, and to see how they all come together in her home.