DIY Subway Tile Backsplash

You know those projects that, in your head, seem so easy you guarantee you'll finish them in just an afternoon? This backsplash is one of them. Except it didn't turn out that way.

After a long summer of things being very quiet on the home-improvement front, we began our subway-tile backsplash almost three weeks ago. We bought our materials at Home Depot, read/watched a few tutorials and started putting tile to mortar to wall.

We purchased a "tile installation kit" from Home Depot that came with a notched trowel and a grout squeegee.

At the corners of each tile we placed a 1/16 spacer.

Once we got all our full tiles up on the wall, we were excited about how things were turning out. But we soon realized that, thanks to a couple of awkwardly positioned electrical outlets, we'd have to be doing a lot more tile cutting than we'd planned on. 

So rather than just moving onward and getting the job done, we took some time off, went on a trip to Door County and lived with our kitchen looking like the above for a couple of weeks...

After a weekend away, we returned clear headed and ready to finish our backsplash. Eric diligently got to work doing the extremely tedious task of measuring and cutting the tiles to fit, using a wet saw.

Honestly, everything about tiling a backsplash (especially in a small area, with no intricate patterns to work in) is very easy.... except the measuring and cutting part. I have to give Eric a million high-fives for his patience (though it waned throughout the day) in doing all the cutting and measuring. While he got to work on this part of the project early Saturday morning, I was out on a long run, enjoying the beautiful weather.... So, bonus points to him for being diligent.

Eric began the whole process at around 8:30 a.m. I returned from my run at around 10:30 and while he'd made progress, I could see he was frustrated. The previous owners installed our kitchen cabinets just a little unlevel, and because of this Eric had to cut and re-cut a few tiles that would line the cabinets to make them even. As he cut the tiles, I mortered them up and stuck them to the wall (using the notched trowel held at a 45-degree angle). Teamwork!

At around 2:30 that afternoon, Eric was spent. He threw his hands up, grabbed a beer and announced that he was done. He'd had a long, frustrating day, so he deserved some time to unwind.

The next day we decided to tackle the next step and finish everything up. I told Eric to relax, and that the grouting detail was up to me.
I feel a little bad, because grouting is probably the easiest step of the whole process.

Just dip your squeegee into the bucket of grout and spread it over the tiles, making sure to hold the squeegee at a 45 degree angle, spreading diagonally to ensure grout gets deep down into the crevices. And honestly, after a while I got a little dirty and just started slopping the grout into the gaps with my fingers and then smoothing with the squeegee. I found it was a little easier/more precise/kinda fun in the long run.

Also: Check out the name of our grout color! We knew we wanted a shade of gray (ugh... spare me the obvious "Which shade out of 50?" joke...), but once Eric saw our kitchen had the option to be sporting DELOREAN gray, that sealed the deal.

After I applied grout to about a two-foot square section of the tile, I wiped off the excess with a damp sponge, then continued on.

After letting it all sit for four hours, I went back with the lightly damp sponge and cleaned off any remaining haze from the tiles.

And with that, our kitchen's back has been splashed. 

Behold, the before and after of our kitchen:




 (Oh, what a surprise: Look who decided to hop up on the windowsill right as the camera came out so he could photobomb the pictures??)



We didn't have a huge space to work with, but I think this little bit of a change makes a huge impact. Doesn't it make the whole room seem brighter? I also like how it just makes everything seem more polished and all grown-up like.

What's more, because we didn't have a large space to tile, this project was super easy on the wallet. Here's the cost breakdown:

Case of 3x6 white subway tiles (enough to cover 12.5 square feet): $22.00

Grand total (minus tax): $42.44

And we still have about 20 tiles, 1/3 tub of grout and a TON of caulk left.... so cheap!

While it was a bit more tedious than we originally thought it would be, we're so happy we finally knocked this project out. We love the look of our new backsplash, and if you've got the patience to do all the measuring and cutting, it's really not a tough job to do on your own.

It feels great to have another project from our "home to-do list" checked off! Have you checked anything off your list this summer? We've had a hard time motivating ourselves to tackle any other large projects this summer between the intense heat and squeezing in all the fun we can!


  1. Wow! That looks amazing, Rachel!

  2. Amazing and great look. I think if you use different color may be it gives your more beautiful look.

  3. This comment has been removed by the author.

  4. Nice work .Thanks for the share. Keep up writing so that we can get more informative blogs like this one.
    subway tile

  5. Nice work .Thanks for the share. Keep up writing so that we can get more informative blogs like this one. tile installer

  6. This looks beautiful! Great job on the entire kitchen!!

  7. Needless to say, this thicker this precious stone cruet, greater high priced this edge are going to be. Most of these are created to supply together with moist tile saws.

  8. I like the new background of your kitchen. Surely, it took a while and hard work to make, but the result is very nice. Thanks for sharing this to us!

  9. Working with tiles can really ruin all the estimation efforts in your head. It sounds easy but cutting tiles to fit a certain corner or to bypass sockets are so fussy, not to mention you can't speed up the process.

  10. I am really enjoying reading your well written articles. It looks like you spend a lot of effort and time on your blog. I have bookmarked it and I am looking forward to reading new articles. sigma tile cutters

  11. Excellent jobs, looks great. Do you recall what size spacers were used?

  12. I was kind of set on using a simple pvc splashback for a kitchen i've been working on. But this article has inspired me to consider going tile. MY main concern was the time and cost investment. Looks easy enough and plain white tiles well - not too costly. Thanks!

  13. You already work full time Using your time away from work to clean... Can You Steam Mop Hardwood Floors?

  14. Your post really a great post. I inspired from your this post. I want to do something awesome for me. Please write more like this for us.


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