DIY Kitchen Backsplash (Part 5): Grouting Backsplash Tiles

DIY Tiled Kitchen Backsplash: Part 5. How to grout your DIY kitchen backsplash. It's like spreading frosting over little glass tiles!

Here are are in Part 5 of our DIY kitchen backsplash – the homestretch!  In this detailed post, I’ll show you all the steps to grouting your backsplash tiles.

Catch up on our DIY kitchen backsplash series through these links: 

The tiles have been mortared to the wall, and after 20 hours of dry time we’re ready to fill the gaps between the tiles with a non-sanded grout.


Let’s get started!

Mixing Grout

Just like making mortar, making grout involves a box of grout powder from the local hardware store, water, and a bucket.  We cut the box’s formula in half, figuring that our 8 sq feet of tile didn’t need 20 sq feet worth of grout. (We still had plenty left over.)

Tip: Don’t start this step unless you have the next 4+ hours available.

Water + non-sanded grout powder + bucket = grout. We followed the box’s instructions and mixed it up with a metal scraper. (See the Supply List for a detailed list of everything we used.)

DIY Kitchen Backsplash: Mixing grout. If you can make brownies from a mix, you can make your own grout.

A bucket ‘o grout

It’s like a thick frosting, except not delicious.

Applying Grout

Get a nice big glob of grout onto the float trowel and smear it on!  Grouting is messy, tiresome business: apply it with a firm, strong arm so it squishes into the gaps between the tiles.  Continue around the entire backsplash.  Use your fingers to get grout into corners or places the trowel won’t fit.

Our 8 square foot backsplash took the two of us well over an hour to get grout into every crack.

Tip: Remember, you’re working against time here because the grout is slowly drying and hardening as you work.  A sheet of plastic wrap over the grout bucket can help slow the drying. If you have a very large area to grout, consider working in phases or getting more helpers.

DIY kitchen backsplash: spreading wet grout over tiles.

It began with a glob of grout.

I used my fingers to stuff grout into the corner where the tiles meet..

DIY kitchen backsplash: grouting the corner where the tiles meet.

Fingers are useful for getting grout into tight areas, such as corners.

…as well as into the tight area behind the faucet:

DIY kitchen backsplash: spreading grout into tiny cracks using my own fingers.

Fingers: the other home improvement tool

Cleaning Grout off Tile Faces

When about 75% of the cracks were filled, my helper switched to using a moist sponge to wipe grout off tile faces as I continued applying grout to un-grouted areas.

Tip: Go slowly and use a moist, not a wet sponge.  Remove grout in layers.  If the grout in the cracks starts to flow out of the cracks when it gets wet, wait 10 minutes before trying this step again.

DIY kitchen backsplash: wipe grout off tile faces using a moist sponge.

Using a moist sponge to slough grout off tile faces

Once the bulk of the grout was removed from the tile faces, I switched to using moistened paper towels to remove the final thin layers of grout from the tile faces, paying extra attention to the corners. This was tedious, careful work, but it left the tiles looking crisp.

DIY kitchen backsplash: remove haze from tiles using a moist paper towel.

Using a paper towel to remove haze and excess grout from tile faces.


DIY kitchen backsplash: polish grout off the tile corners so they look nice and crisp.

Grout is drying as I polish the corners.

Polish, polish, polish – this step is super tedious but 100% worth it.  Get those corners sharp, it makes a difference!

Grout Drying

We let the grout dry for just over an hour before returning to wipe any remaining haze off the tile fronts.  The grout now has to dry for three days before applying a coat of sealer.

DIY kitchen backsplash: another home improvement project, another mess! (Good thing we have Cheez-It!)

Grouting’s done, but there’s still an hour of clean up work to do.

DIY kitchen backsplash: Our 6" backsplash, freshly grouted and looking sharp.

Here’s how one of the backsplash edges turned out .

DIY kitchen backsplash: complete!

Kitchen cleaned up and looking sharp as the grout dries!

DIY Kitchen Backsplash (Part 2): How to Choose Kitchen Backsplash Tiles

Welcome to Part 2 of our completely modest, totally DIY kitchen backsplash project!  In this post, I’ll tell you what to think about when picking out tiles and how to choose kitchen backsplash tiles for your DIY kitchen remodel.

Catch up on our DIY kitchen backsplash series through these links: 

When I was researching kitchen backsplash ideas, I found that most of what I was reading assumed I had a sky-high budget and a kitchen straight out of Better Homes & Gardens.

high end kitchen

Gasp-inducing kitchen is lovely but so not in my budget! Photo credit:

My kitchen’s from 1977, and it’s about what you’d expect from a single family standalone home built 30+ years ago.

level up house kitchen solid surface countertop mint color

My actual kitchen!

Contractors we discussed possibilities with wanted to tear out walls and completely change the layout of our downstairs to “modernize” it, but I can’t afford that.  So we’re facelifting this kitchen instead of gutting it, spreading the costs out, and doing as much as we can ourselves.

This DIY kitchen backsplash project’s goals are:

  • Simple design – like Legos!

  • Easy DIY installation

  • No tile cutting

  • No tools we don’t already own

  • Under $400 for the whole shebang (most of the cost is in the tiles themselves)

I don’t want (and can’t afford) those crazy counter-to-ceiling tiled walls with glittery tiles cut from slabs found in the enchanted quarry. :)

If yours is too, then read on for Part 2 of our DIY Kitchen Backsplash series: choosing the right backsplash tile!

Your Tile Budget

expensive tile

This diamond tile will set you back just $1 million per square meter

Your tiles will be the single largest expense of your DIY kitchen backsplash.  Tile is usually priced by the square foot, and most prices we found were between $18/sq foot and $90+ sq/foot (omg).

If you haven’t yet, take a minute to estimate how much square footage of tile you actually need.

Next, figure out how much you’re willing to spend.  The cheapest you’ll probably get away with is $250-$500 (USD) for a modest, short backsplash.

Divide your budget by how many square feet you’ll need.  If your budget is $300 and you need 15 square feet, your sheets should cost about $20/each. 


Figuring this out before you step into a tile store will save you a ton of time: you can just look at the price first, and if it’s too much, keep looking.  You won’t waste time on tile you can’t afford.

Where to Shop for Tiles

We’re in the Pacific Northwest, and our favorite places for tile are The Home Depot (which is where we got our bathroom tiles from) and Tile for Less (which is where we shopped for this project).  If Home Depot is the McDonalds of tiles, then Tile for Less is the Olive Garden.  Neither are particularly expensive, and both have enough variety for just about anyone, but it’s a lot easier to “splash out” and spend a fortune at Tile for Less.

There are two more reasons to visit Tile for Less.

Reason #1 – This awesome Tile for Less mosaic sign:

Tile for Less sign mosaic tiled

Reason #2 – This faux dinosaur fossil mosaic I pay homage to every time I visit Tile for Less:


There are also tons of online tile stores.  I didn’t shop for tiles online; I just wanted to see the tiles in person and find something locally, but I would have ended up online if Tile for Less couldn’t deliver the goods.

What Kind of Tiles To Buy

There are about as many choices in tiles as there are people buying tiles, so a lot of this is up to personal preference.

This is my advice to anyone trying to choose tiles:

  • Neutral colors (white and grey in our case) because I hate experimenting with expensive things that get glued to the wall.  Bland colors for things that are permanent, that’s my motto. :)

  • Under $30/sq foot.  Just a simple budget preference. Some sheets we liked were $70+ per sq. ft which I think is just insane for a bunch of rocks you glue to a wall. Your mileage will vary here.

  • Must fit under our window sill which is 3 ¾” because I don’t want to turn a countertop project into a window project as well

  • Must include 1” tiles for filling in gaps because I don’t want to cut tiles if I can avoid it

  • Flat surfaces because I don’t want to scrub grime out of wavy tiles or sculpted designs

  • It’s hard to go wrong with subway tiles

So, with all that in mind, you’d probably be surprised to know those criteria didn’t severely limit our choices.

Our Tile Choice (and Runners-Up)

This is the tile I liked as soon as I stepped into the store.  Bellavita Boulder Series in “Snow” checks all our boxes. I love it.


But just to be sure, we wasted another 2 hours looking at more tiles to make sure it was The One (it was).

In the interest of sharing our decision-making process, here are some runners-up that didn’t make the cut. The one on the left was nice, and the 1″ tiles were perfect, but it was way more expensive.  The one in the middle was ultimtely too dark and also too many fiddly bits to deal with individually for the edges/corners.


I super loved the look of this Meier tile but I didn’t super love its price, which if I recall was like $60 a square foot or something crazy.  But I did seriously consider it for a few minutes.


We also brought a sample home to look at it there, because I like to be super-duper sure before I spend $300 on a nonrefundable box of rocks.  Finally, we bought our 9 sheets and left satisfied with our decision.  Our grand total for 9 sheets+tax came to $320.

Since these tiles are stone, we’ll have to seal them as well.  (We’ll talk more about sealing when we get to the supply-buying and installation steps.)

The Tiles Arrive!

Tile for Less had our tile order ready for pickup in like, four days, so they arrived weeks ahead of our planned November installation. The tiles came in a square box and none of the sheets were broken or chipped.

Our box of rocks is home!

Stay tuned for Part 3, where we stick our box of rocks to the wall.

DIY Kitchen Backsplash (Part 1): Planning a Kitchen Backsplash

DIY kitchen backsplash tiling project

Welcome to Part 1 of our DIY tiled kitchen backsplash project! This first post is about planning a kitchen backsplash.

See the entire DIY kitchen backsplash series:

A year ago we replaced our kitchen’s old with a super nice Staron solid surface countertop from Home d’Pot and planned to tile our own backsplash. Now it’s time to finish the backsplash!

DIY kitchen backsplash planning a kitchen backsplash

To be frank, the idea of permanently gluing little bits of ceramic and glass to our kitchen walls is super intimidating.  We’ve only tiled one thing before (a stripe down our bathroom wall) and that was a messy and intense experience.  You just don’t get much room for messing up when you’re working with tile (but everything went fine in our bathroom tiling project).

our previous tiling experience in a bathroom

It took us some time (and a bunch of YouTube videos) to get the confidence that we could tile our own kitchen backsplash.

Kitchen Ambition

The best place to begin is to determine how ambitious (translation: expensive) the project will be.  This is true of virtually any kind of project you might plan, but it’s especially true when working with expensive materials that the store won’t let you return.

We decided to keep our kitchen backsplash project very modest.  Our backsplash will be 6” tall with varying width tiles, which should allow us flexibility to fill in gaps and avoid cutting tiles. Hopefully, simplicity will pay off in the end.

Why not tile the whole wall?  Well, for one, it’s a trend I just don’t like that much. I think a wall of tile is overwhelming, and it doesn’t let you repaint the kitchen walls (which is something I like doing :D).

Two, it’s expensive.  To tile our entire wall would require 66 square feet of materials, which would cost over $2000 in materials alone.  Our 6” backsplash materials came in around $320.

cost to tile entire kitchen wall is too expensive

Three, we probably couldn’t do a fully tiled wall ourselves.  We would have to remove and re-install the range hood over the tile, and cut the tiles to accommodate the electrical outlets.

So I’ll leave the fully-tiled-wall look to the pros and I’ll stick with what I can actually do myself.

6 inch backsplash is much more affordable

Figuring these things out before you begin is super important.  Knowing the scope of your project lets you estimate costs, which is usually why we DIY these things in the first place.  We got two professional quotes for the kitchen backsplash, and both came at around $650 and $800.  Yeah, thanks, but we’ll pass on that.  Doing it ourselves should come in under $400, for a savings of at least $250.  (I don’t know about you, but I think that stuff adds up.  That’s like, a quarter of the way to another trip to Disneyland!)

I also highly recommend figuring out what you want in terms of color and style before you go to a tile store where you’ll get overwhelmed by the possibilities.  Spend an hour on Google figuring out what you like and what you hate.  Virtually everything looks nice in the tile store, so make sure you know what looks right in your kitchen before you go there.

Determine Your Backsplash’s Height

This part’s easy: how high do you want your backsplash to be?   Some go halfway up the wall, some go to the ceiling, and some are a little more modest and stop about where we’re stopping ours.

We chose 6” because it would let us cut our 12”x12” tile sheets evenly in half and because 6” is slightly lower than our electrical outlets.  Not having to cut tiles to fit around outlets sounds like a good time to me.

6 inch tall backsplash avoids electrical outlets

Determine Your Backsplash’s Width

This part’s easy, too: measure the width of the area you’ll be tiling. In our case, the window wall is 113″ wide and the oven’s wall is 82″ wide.

Calculate the area

Multiply your width by your intended backsplash height to get the square inches you’ll need to fill with tile (in inches).  Divide it by 12 to convert the square inches into feet, and then divide by 12 again to convert into square feet.  (Unless you’re using metric, in which case you can probably do the math in your head…)

I bought one full extra sheet to be safe, so 10 sheets total. (At $30 a sheet, I didn’t want to go crazy buying extra sheets.)

planning a kitchen backsplash

Figure out what you want over the stove

We left the area above the stove empty – it will just be the painted wall it already is.  We chose this to save money (less tile to buy) and because I’m not convinced it needs a backsplash.  We’re daily cooks and I haven’t felt the need for an elaborate backsplash behind the stove yet, so we’ll leave that to the magazines.

If you do want something over your stove (something taller than the rest of your backsplash, perhaps), be sure to calculate its dimensions as well.  If you want it to use a variety of tiles (say, a border or a special design), also calculate the area of those special features.

Any special cases?

Our “special case” is the space between the counter and the window ledge.  The space is just a TEENY TINY BIT less than 4″, so we’re gonna try to make it work with 1″ tiles.

Ready to Shop for Tiles!

With our quantity and budget determined, we’re ready to go to the tile store and see what they’ve got!  I know we’ll be looking for tiles that can fit under the window ledge and match our countertop.

What to bring with to the tile store:

  • Measuring tape

  • Counter sample, if you have one, for comparisons (a painted sample of your wall color and a cabinet door wouldn’t hurt, either)

  • Kitchen measurements

Once the backsplash was planned, the next step was visiting a tile store and choosing tiles.

Budget DIY Kitchen Remodel Progress: July

I don’t think I’ve written an update on our budget DIY kitchen remodel in a while.  Here’s what we’ve been up to these last couple months.

February: I started refinishing the cabinets and tearing out cabinets to make room for the range hood
March: Purchased and installed range hood
April: Spent this month tearing up the many floor layers
May: Popcorn ceiling removed, countertop installed, laminate flooring installed

Unfortunately, I have a crappy tradition of getting sick at the start of summer.  Being sick and recovering knocked the motivation out of me for about five weeks.  During this time I didn’t do jack on the house, but now we’re back at it.

July: Installed the cabinet pulls and reattached most of the doors to the frames.

Here’s a snapshot I took today:

budget diy kitchen remodel progress

To Do: 

  • Paint the interior of the ceiling lighting recess (Dad and Jim installed two LED can lights into here, they’re awesome)
  • Hide the cord from the range hood
  • Hide the range hood’s duct
  • Install wall shelving to the left of the range hood
  • Tile a backsplash around the kitchen

By spreading the work out over a long period of time we’re preserving our sanity (kitchen has experienced nearly 100% uptime through all this work) and putting months between major expenses.  I don’t know how people spend 50-100 grand on a kitchen. Those fortunate people live in a different world than I do.

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