30 Hour Backsplash

Jennifer —  August 31, 2012 — 2 Comments

A few years ago I tiled my kitchen backsplash with subway tile.

It was my first tiling project and I really enjoyed doing it.  It took me forever but I learned a ton.  Since that time I have helped a friend tile her shower, I also helped her tile a backsplash and paint her countertops.  The hubs and I tiled our master bathroom:

The Hubs and I tiled two floors in a house we renovated.  Part of the budget for that renovation was a tile wet saw, which is one of my favorite tools.

When Debbie called me and asked me to come, she asked if we would have time to do a tiled backsplash.  I told her it depended on how fast everything else went but I would bring my tile saw just in case.  Their budget was a  $100 for the backsplash.    They have a really small kitchen as you can see below.   They had 48 inches long and 14 inches high on the window side.  On the fridge side, they had 85 inches long and 16 inched tall.  They didn”t have alot to tile so I figured we could get it done quickly.


With subway tile being .22¢ at Home Depot.  I only needed 115 tiles.  All my former math teachers should be proud.  I used my math skills.   I really only needed 100 tiles but I knew I would mess up on some of the tile cuts so I got extra.

Price of tile:  $26

Did I mention that I had about 30 hours to do this project?  That meant no mortar.  Yep, you have to wait 24 hours for your mortar to dry before you grout. and then another 24 hours for grout.  No worries.  I decided to use this product.

I have used Bondera, which is a different brand of tile adhesive mats and loved it.  I used it for replacing tile in this bathroom.  I had not heard of this brand of tile adhesive, but Home Depot didn”t have anything different…so we went for it.  Here are the other tools needed:

Description of Tools:

Most are from Home Depot.
  • 2 boxes of – $20.00 a box – $40.00
  • Tiles:  $26.00
  • 1 small can of simple grout:  $10.00
  • 1  $5.00
  • 1 Tile Sponge:  $2
  • Bag of   (not pictured)  $3
  • Grout Sealer (not pictured): $10.00
  • Level:  Free (we had it)
  • Screw Drivers:  For outlet removal.
  •  $3
  • Wet Saw:  Free – we had it.  If you don”t have one you can rent one.  Most tool shops will rent one for $20-$30 a day.
  • goggles – Free, we had them.  You need them for the wet saw.  It”s a must.  You don”t want shards of tile in your eye.
  • Scissors (not pictured):  Free (we had them)
  • Pencil (not pictured):  For tile cutting

Total:  $99.00  We were $1.00 under budget!

Here is How I did it:

1. )  Cut your breaker off in the kitchen.

2.)  Remove outlet plates and unscrew the outlets.  (see the picture below..sorry, I forgot to get a close up)

3.)  Prep the service as instructed by the SimpleMat Instructions

4.)  Use your level and draw a level line where the bottom of your first row of tiles will rest.  You will be able to see the line behind the Simple Mat and the tile/grout will cover it when you are done.  Lucky for me, the countertop was level.  So I just used a spacer between the countertop and the tile to give myself a little space between the first row of tiles and the counter.  This is important just incase you ever want to change your countertops and keep your tile.  All Debbie and her husband will have to do is break the caulk line between the tile and counter…order a counter the same dimensions and then re-caulk between the new counter and the tile.

4.)  Attach SimpleMat per instructions.  It was so easy, you remove the back and stick it on.  Then you use your grout float to smooth it on.  (The front has plastic sheeting over it.  You just run your grout float over the top of that to make sure its stuck to the wall.

Important things

to note:

  • You will have to cut pieces of the SimpleMat to make it fit.  Cut before you remove the back.
  • Don”t remove the plastic top sheet until you are ready to put the tile on.  The glue will dry out quickly.  Make your cuts before you remove the plastic.  Once you remove the plastic you have about 10-15 minutes to put the tile on it before it dries out.

5.)  Remove the plastic (slowly, as you go) and start tiling

Important things to note:

  • Figure out how many tiles make a full (vertical) row.   This backsplash it was 5.  (don”t forget to account for the spacers space between the tile)
  • Make your cuts first.  The goal is the least amount of cuts as possible.  Since I had 5 tiles high, I made sure that 3 of the 5 tiles were full tiles. That means my first, third, and 5th rows where full tiles.  To subway tile, every other vertical row has to start with a half tile.  I cut two tiles in half before I start tiling.  (To get the same exact cut, by setting the tile saw guide) 
  • I tile horizontal rows as far as I can, putting spacers on the sides and middle.  Since the SimpleMat will lose its adhesive, I take a little bit of the plastic off, tile everywhere exposed and them removed more as I got there.  Again, don”t let the adhesive go dry.  Since I had to move so fast, I couldn”t get a picture in the process but you can see how I started in this picture

6.)  Cut around the outlets.  I am not a professional so I learned by doing.  I have a pencil on hand and I hold up a full tile and mark where I need to cut out for the outlet.  I cut my marks on the tile saw.  This takes a little practice.  If you have tile mats like this one you really don”t have to do that.  You can just pop out the tiles you don”t need. The goal maintain the normal pattern of the tile, but to have a cut out where the outlet would be.  It doesn”t have to be perfect.  Remember that the outlet cover will cover the hole and cut imperfections.


7.)  Grout.  You don”t have to wait 24 hours with the SimpleMat.  You can grout immediately.  Make sure you lay something down your countertops before you start so that you can protect them.

Important tips: 

  • Again, I am not a professional so therefore, I only have tips.  My advice is to use an online grout tutorial to help you.  I usually make sure I wipe off the excess grout with a damp sponge as I go.  You don”t want the grout to harden on your tile.

8.)  Let the grout dry 24 hours

9.)  Seal the Grout.  I just followed the instructions on the spray can.

10.)  Screw your outlets and switches back in using outlet spacers. Then screw your plates back on your outlets.

These were so easy.  You just fold a few together, put them behind where you screw your outlet it and it brings it forward so your outlet can rest on your new tile.


11.) Caulk.  We just had to caulk the space between the countertop and the tile and then the space between the tile and the cabinet bottom.

30 hours later we went from this


To this….


…to this

…and this:


This was so easy and had very little mess.  You don”t have to worry if your mortar is even…you just tile.  You can do it!

Thanks for reading,


If you liked this post you might like these:

Pot Rack DIY

Paint a Splash Guard

Galley Kitchen Rehab


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2 responses to 30 Hour Backsplash

  1. So I’m just going to say it, this subway tile looks chic as hell! Of course, you always make these huge undertakings look super easy, even though I’m sure it was daunting. Great job, I may just get up the courage to try it myself!

    • Thanks so much! I think you should try it. It really was easy. The tile saw is the hardest thing so buy some extra tiles and practice a little and you will be great.

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