How to Install a Glass Tile Backsplash

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1. Select your Glass Tile BackSplash: Tile offers a variety of glass tile selections including subway glass tiles and mosaic glass tiles. Click here for more glass tile options.

2. Determine the square footage of your backsplash:

Measure the length of the backsplash, in inches, and multiply it by the height, in inches.  Divide that number by 144 (the number of square inches in a square foot), which will give you the total square feet of your backsplash. Add 10% to cover waste, mis-cuts, etc.

Remember electrical outlets and switch plates will add several square feet to the total area of tile needed.

3. Preparing Tile for Application:

Gather all supplies necessary for tile installation.

Tile saw – The easiest and fastest way to cut tile is with a tile saw, preferably a wet saw, where blade is cooled with a film of water during cutting. Ceramic tiles cut easily, as do glass tiles, even those that are mesh-mounted. If you don’t want to purchase a wet saw, rent one or borrow one from a friend.

The secret to learning how to use a wet saw? Check out a YouTube video on the subject, ask someone in the tile department of your local hardware or home improvement store for assistance. If you know someone who has done a good DIY tiling project, ask them for any tips and tricks. Your tiling job will be much more professional in appearance by using a tile saw.

Since we are using glass tile, the mortar will show through it, so it is best to use white thin-set mortar such as Versa Bond, which will not change the color of the glass tile.

Mix the thin-set with water, according to package directions. Mix only as much thin-set mortar as you can use in an hour. Discard any remaining thin-set at the end of your work day and mix up a new batch if your job requires a second day of tiling.

Five-gallon bucket – You will mix your thin-set mortar in this container.

1/4” notched trowel for applying the thin-set mortar.

Scissors – You will need this if you decide to cut strips of tile from sheet-mounted tile.

3” stainless-steel flexible broadknife – Use this to transfer mixed thin-set from the 5-gallon pail to a paint tray on the countertop and to ‘back-butter’ cut tiles (apply a coat of mortar to the back of tiles). We always recommend a stainless-steel broadknife to eliminate the possibility of rusting. Get a flexible broadknife for easy use.

Paint tray – This makes a handy holder for a smaller amount of thin-set, taken from the 5-gallon mixing bucket. Keep it on the counter with you and use the broadknife to fill the notched trowel with a load of thin-set.

Pencil – Used for defining tile placement and marking tiles for cutting

Straight-edge, speed square, framing square – It really doesn’t matter what you choose to use, as long as it can help you draw a straight line.

Tape measure – This is needed for measuring any tiles that need to be cut.

Level – You’ll use this to confirm that your rows of tile are straight and true.

Spacers – Use 1/8” spacers under the first row of tiles. That space will filled with flexible caulk, in the same color as the grout, to allow for any movement caused by foundational shifts.

1/8” tile spacers - Most ceramic tiles come with built-in spacers, but if the tile you use does not have them, we suggest you use 1/16” spacers for a tiny grout line.

1/16” tile spacers - Remove the spacers after the thin-set has dried, before you start grouting. Keep them for future jobs by storing them in a Ziploc bag, being careful to keep each size separate. Write the spacer’s size on the bag with a permanent marker.

1 gallon bucket – Use this to prepare your grout.

Paint stir-stick – Use this to stir up your grout.

Non-sanded grout – It is important to use non-sanded grout with glass tile, so as not to scratch it.

Mix the grout in small batches, according to package directions, in a gallon bucket, using a gallon-size paint stir-stick.

Grout Float – This is what you use to pack grout into the spaces between the tiles (aka grout lines). Put a couple of blobs of grout on the float, then push the grout into the grout lines, making sure the float is at a 30-degree angle, to ensure each grout line is completely filled.

Grout Sponge – This is a MUST HAVE! Only a grout sponge has the correct cellular structure to remove grout from the face of tile. Don’t ruin a regular sponge by asking it to do a job for which it was not designed.

Use the grout sponge to remove excess grout from the face of the tile and the grout lines themselves. The goal is to have the grout lines filled, but not over-filled. Check the grout lines as you work to be sure they are not bulging with too much grout.

Color-coordinated tile caulk – This caulk is applied in the 1/8” space between the countertop material and the bottom row of tile, using a caulking gun.

Coordinate caulk color with grout color. One tube of caulk is more than enough for a backsplash project. After it has been opened, keep the caulk fresh by inserting a large nail into the nozzle

Caulking gun – Insert the tube of caulk into the caulking gun, then cut the tip at an angle with a sharp blade or knife, being careful not to cut too far down the tip.

Grout sealer – Allow the grout to cure for several days before sealing the grout. Apply the grout sealer according to the package directions.

4. Lay out your tiling plan -

You can have a designer draw up a tile plan for your kitchen or bathroom.

Typically with backsplash tile you want to center the tiles on that wall or appliance such as the stove. This way either side the pattern will be balanced. Not every wall will require this approach, but do take a few moments to see if your kitchen is a candidate for a symmetrical application.

5. Start laying tile -

Using the flexible broadknife, transfer a portion of thin-set to the paint tray. From there, put a couple of blobs of thin-set on the notched trowel and, at a 45-degree angle putting slightly more mortar on than the size of the tile. Then apply enough thin-set for roughly 15 minutes worth of tiling. Thin-set dries fairly quickly, so don’t get too far ahead of yourself. Check the thin-set frequently; if it is getting dry, scrape it off and apply new mortar.

After the tile dries overnight, it is time to grout. Mix up the grout according to the package directions. Use the flexible broadknife to put a couple of globs of grout on the grout float, then, holding the grout at a 30-degree angle, push the grout into the grout lines, using enough pressure to fill them. With a damp grout sponge, gently wash off any excess grout, taking care not to pull any grout out of the grout lines. Rinse the sponge frequently. After 30 to 60 minutes, use the damp grout sponge to finesse the grout lines, carefully removing any excess grout. Remove any grout haze.

Apply the grout sealer according to the package directions when the grout is dry. It’s really just a matter of getting the sealer on every grout joint and wiping away the drips. After the grout has been sealed, it’s time to caulk. Begin by placing the tube of caulk in the caulking gun. Using a sharp blade, cut the tip off the tube of caulk at an angle, being careful not to make too large an opening. Run a thin bead of caulk in the joint where the tile and countertop meet, as well as along the outside edges of the bullnose tile. Use a damp finger to smooth the caulk into place and follow up with a damp sponge to clean up any residue.

Finish the project by re-setting the outlets and switches with the longer screws, then replace the faceplate covers. Touch up the paint along the caulked edge.

Photo Credits: Tile Circle, Liz Marie Blog


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