by Richard Thomas
A small do-it-yourself job that can greatly improve the appearance of your bathroom is installing a tile backsplash. This could be as simple as a double row of backsplash tiles where your bathroom wall meets the vanity or countertop or an elaborate tile backsplash framing the entire area around the bathroom sink. The skills involved in laying backsplash tiles are easy to master, but even a small backsplash will require some preparation, patience and at least three separate days to complete.
Start clean. Clean off the wall to provide a good surface for the tile adhesive. If there are no stains, this could be as simple as dusting off the wall. Otherwise you should scrub it with bathroom cleanser and a scrub brush, and then wipe it dry with a clean rag.
Draw a grid. Use a pencil to draw a tiling grid on your work area. You will need a tape measure and level to help you. Each column or row should be the width of your chosen tile plus one of your tiling spacers. When you are drawing the grid, decide where the spacer should be for each column and row. For example, it could always be on the bottom and left, so when you place the tile it should always be flush with the top and right.
Map your grid. Push thumb pins into each intersection on your grid. This will help you keep the guidelines in mind after you apply the tile adhesive.
Apply adhesive. Chose an area roughly 2 or 3 feet square and lay down a coating of tile adhesive with a tiling trowel. Remove and replace the push pins as you go. After the tile adhesive is on the wall, draw the toothed edge of the tiling trowel across the adhesive to cut channels on the surface.
Place the tiles. Lay a tile on the wall by pushing the tile into its place, using the push pins to guide your placement. Give the tile a slight twist on contact with the wall to give it a good purchase on the adhesive, and then twist it back into alignment and give it a firm press.
Use your spacers. Set spacers as necessary to help align further tiles. You can remove the spacers on the side of the tile once the next tile is in place, but the spacer on the top and bottom should remain to prevent the tiles from sliding down the adhesive.
Keep going. Repeat steps 4 through 6 until all of the tile in the backsplash has been laid. Let the adhesive dry overnight.
Apply grout. When the adhesive is dry, remove all the push pins and spacers. Mix your grout as directed by the manufacturer. Apply the grout to the wall by pushing it into the spaces between the tiles with a grout float. Let the grout dry overnight.
Clean the tile. Lay out a drop cloth underneath the backsplash. Make a cleaning solution of one part water to one part white vinegar. Clean the grout residue off the tiles with the solution using a sponge and scrubber.