Subway Tile Backsplash

I’m sorry I’ve been so remiss in posting here.  Between a trip to NY for New Years (!), catching up at work, and saving my pennies for my next big project, I’ve been amazingly busy.

But, last week the tile for my backsplash project came in the mail (does it seem silly that Home Depot doesn’t have white 3×6″ subway tile in stock to anyone else?) and I was so giddy about getting started that I actually dreamed about it.

Yep, I was that excited about it.

What you need:

  • Tile & edge tile (measure the area you’re planning to tile and figure out your square footage– THIS is a great explanation on how to do that.
  • Adhesive (or thinset)  I used Omni-Grip and purchased the larger 4-gallon bucket from HD.  I used more than half of it.
  • Grout.  I used Custom Building Products in Bright White from HD.
  • Grout float
  • Square notch trowel (the size of the notched depends on the size of the tile you’re using)
  • Wet saw (if you have any intricate corners or switches to work around, you’ll definitely need one of these, but you can rent them for a day)  If you only have straight cuts to make, you can probably get along with a Snap Cutter
  • Level
  • Tape & butcher paper (or plastic)

Here is a true “before” picture.  This was taken a couple of months ago for my one-year “House-versary”

And this is what it looked like once I ripped the awful laminate “backsplash” that was already up.  You can just barely see it in the picture, but it was gross.  Super thin with really ugly metal quarter round at the top and by the counter.  Plus, it wasn’t sealed correctly and it was always teeming with ants.  GROSS.

What to do:

1. wash the backsplash area with TSP, to get rid of any oils, grease, or whatnot off the wall.  Better safe than sorry.

2. If you’ll be tiling behind an oven/range, then cut a board (or scrap) to a few inches shorter than the opening.  Using your level, nail it securely (but not so tight you can’t remove it later) to the wall.

3. Figure out where your edge pieces need to go, use the level to measure a straight line guide on the wall.

4. Lay out your tile pattern with your edge pieces and start making your first cuts.

5. Use the notched trowel to put adhesive on the wall where you want to lay the tile.  I used the un-notched side to get it on the wall initially, then switched to the notched side to keep the layer of adhesive even.

This is a great video for technique.

6. Lay on each tile and push in securely to make sure it’s stuck.  And make sure that you use spacers between your bottom tile and counter.  Subway tiles are amazing and self-space themselves, but if you’re using a tile that doesn’t self-space, make sure you buy spacers and use them to keep even grout lines.

7. I found it easiest (and most encouraging) to keep placing as many whole tiles as I could before I started cutting weirdly-sized pieces.  Just make sure you leave enough room for the cut pieces to add in later.

Keep going around the room until you’re done.

Then just grout according to the instructions on the box (mix, wait, apply, wait, wash off, buff, done!)

And now I have shiny, beautiful tile.


  • If you’re buying multiple packages of tile (in one color), make sure you mix the boxes before you start to discourage discoloration lines from one color batch to the next.
  • Buy AT LEAST 15% more tile than you need for square footage.  If you have to order it to be shipped to you, expect that some will break in transit, others will break when you try to cut them.  I needed 38 sq. ft, I purchased 50 sq ft, I only had about 3-4 sq. ft of tile left.
  • Turn off the power to your electrical outlets–I shocked myself at least a dozen times when I got too close.
  • Don’t put too much adhesive on the back of the tiles.  Too little adhesive and the tiles won’t stick, too much and it will come through the crack in between the tiles.
  • Borrow, rent, or purchase a wet saw.  They’re amazing.  And a huge time saver for difficult, but necessary cuts.

I’m linking up with My Repurposed Life, to see all the links, go HERE.

I was “caught” by My Repurposed Life.  Check out some other great tutorials/project there!


11 responses

  1. whoa! I am so impressed! Super tute, tips and more! You did a fabulous job with your backsplash! I have never tiled… someday I will.

    thank you for linking up and linking back to catch as catch can!

  2. I really like your tile redo. I have grey and blue tile in my kitchen right now. I think I might paint it white. You have inspired me!
    Clara from Redeemed Junk and Stuff

  3. Pingback: Total Kitchen Makeover $550 | DIY Project-aholic

  4. Pingback: Sealing grout & tile | DIY Project-aholic

  5. Great job! Quick question…about how much did the project cost you? I got a quote to have someone do it for me for 1000. Just making sure its worth the cost to do it myself:)

    • Hey! Thanks for stopping by! I spent about $180 on my backsplash including tile, tools, grout, adhesive, etc. It’s COMPLETELY worth your money to do it yourself. Although I do recommend borrowing or renting a wet saw if you try it at home– I borrowed one from a friend and it made the work a lot easier. Let me know if you have any more questions!

      • Wow. Thanks so much for your reply! You don’t know how much it would cost to install my own granite countertops do you? 🙂

      • Sorry, I don’t. I know that installing counters yourself can help on the install costs, but the slab will still cost the same. Uneven walls, leveling issues, and the sheer weight of counters has, to this point in time, scared me away from doing them myself. But if you decide to tackle that project yourself I would love to see your completed pictures!

    • Hi Lindsey,

      I used a “5 in 1 tool” or just a metal sparkle knife to pry behind it. Once I had an end loose, it was fairly easy to pull the remainder off the wall holding the end of the laminate. Let me know if you have any more questions!

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