How to Install Subway Tile Backsplash and Transform Your Living Space

Posted on by Sam J.

How to Install Subway Tile Backsplash and Transform Your Living Space

When aspiring homebuyers look at a new house that they are considering purchasing, the two places that generally get the most attention are the bathrooms and the kitchen. That is because people spend plenty of time in the kitchen cooking, eating, and socializing, while their grooming rituals take place in the bathroom. Because of this, you want your kitchen and any bathrooms in your house or apartment to look fantastic, and that’s why you should consider installing subway tile backsplash.

What is Subway Tile Backsplash?

For those unfamiliar, subway tile backsplash is small or medium-sized tiles that are rectangular and can be easily installed in a kitchen or bathroom. As the name indicates, they’re precisely the kind of tiles that you see on display in many subway systems, like the one in New York City, for instance.

This form of backsplash can be made from glass, high-end granite, ceramic, or other materials. The enormous variety of patterns and colors that exists can be used to create all kinds of fun looks, from modern to industrial. You can choose from among white, gray, or blue subway tiles, or you can opt for something more exotic. If you can imagine it, it is out there for sale.

How Do You Install It?

As for how to install subway tile in your bathroom or kitchen, it’s not as difficult as you might imagine. You will save yourself a chunk of money by making this a DIY project. The first thing you’ll need to do is take the outlet and switch covers off the walls and remove anything from the counter that might get in the way.

Next, purchase as much subway tile backsplash as you’ll need and have it ready to go. Be sure to measure how much wall space you have so that you won’t get too much backsplash or too little. You should be sure to choose between a 3 x 6 subway tile and a smaller 2 x 4. Both have the potential to look great; it’s just a matter of personal preference which one you think makes the most sense for your project.

Plan Your Pattern

You should then lay out your tile in such a way that it is obvious where everything is going to go. Getting some bullnose tile is advisable for the end pieces because some of the subway tiles might not perfectly terminate at the edge of the wall space that you are covering. Also (and this is crucial) buy an extra 10-15% of subway tile backsplash. If you’re a novice, then mistakes are definitely possible, and you’ll be glad to have the extra to patch up any errors that you happen to make. If anything goes awry, don’t panic. It’s a learning process.

Hang the Tile

Next up, have a premixed mastic on hand to spread across the wall where you’re going to hang the tile. Apply it with a trowel a little bit at a time. Try not to spread it on either too thick or too thin. This video can show you how to do that. If you put too much on the wall, you can use a V-notched trowel to wipe away any of the excess. If you hold the trowel at a 45-degree angle, then it creates grooves that will help the subway tile cling to the wall.  

Now that you’ve got your mastic on there, it’s time to hang the tile. You might be able to hang some full sheets if there is enough space for it, which is highly satisfying. You can do the job by yourself, but it’s easier with two people. You can take a section by each end and put it into position perfectly while each of you holds one side steady.

As you apply each section, you should take a step back to see if it is affixed in position properly. If it’s a little crooked, then you should adjust it quickly before the mastic dries. You have some wiggle room, and if you see a section that’s not quite right, then you should have the time to make the adjustment.

Cutting the Tile

If you need to cut the tile sections, as is likely, you’ll find that it’s not very difficult. The best tool for the job is a pair of sharp, sturdy pruning shears, the same as you’d use in your garden. Most of the subway tile sheets are held together with glue dots, and it is a simple matter to slice through them.

Now that your tile is applied, you can wait for it to dry and then reapply the electrical outlet covers. Most tile and mastic combinations will have dried firmly in place within 4-6 hours, but you might want to leave this last step till the next day just to be sure of total dryness. If the tile doesn’t quite look professional around the electrical outlets, never fear. Putting the covers back in place will hide any imperfections.

You should now be able to step back and enjoy the effect of your new subway tile backsplash. The more you install, the better you’ll get at it, and you may find that you have a real aptitude for DIY projects. The cost of a bathroom or a kitchen tile installation is quite reasonable if you eliminate paying for the labor. You can get a simple effect if you installed something like gray or blue subway tile or you can achieve a more fanciful look with something like green glass tile.

When you add subway tile backsplash to the rooms in your home, you’re doing more than making it a nice place in which to live. You’re also upping the resale value. As we mentioned, when the time comes for you to move on then your potential homebuyers are going to be quick to look at your bathrooms and kitchen. You can certainly command a higher asking price with some lovely backsplash in place.