Subway Tile Backsplash Install

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For me, the sawdust is where it is AT.

Wood is my medium of choice.  I love how easy to cut wood is, how naturally beautiful it is.  I love how it smells when you work with it, I love how functional it becomes when you use it.  I love that wood is renewable, and while it renews, it renews our air.  I love working with wood.

But while taking on a Momplex, we've had to work with alot of other mediums.  Styrofoam blocks, poured concrete, and drywall.  Drywall was definitely my least favorite.

What always amazes me, no matter the project, no matter the materials you are using, the same principles apply: start square, cut square, take your time and be precise, don't skip steps, work with your materials, think ahead.  If you can do that and use a saw, you can do pretty much any DIY project around your house.

For the Momplex Vanilla kitchen, Mom-Who-Likes-to-Sew really wanted white on white on white.  With our dark winters, she wanted a bright, fresh kitchen.  So when it came time to tackle the backsplash, we choose white subway tile.

I also loved that the subway tile is shiny - there's no windows on this wall because it's the shared wall between the two duplex units.  So the shine gives the illusion of a window or at least depth.

After DIY-ing the countertops, for easy clean up we took a second to cover the countertops with paper.  Preparation is key to a successful project.  It's taken me years to get that.

Because we only have about 30 square feet to cover in tile, we went with a pre-mixed thin set.  It's a little more expensive, but for this quantity, we are talking a few dollars difference to have the premix over mixing it ourselves.  That, and we don't have running water at the sink yet to mix and clean up, so this stuff is the ticket for us.

Per the tile we are using (following directions on the thinset), we applied the thinset to the wall.  First we applied the thinset, then we used the grooved edge of the trowel to make the grooves.  The grooves allow the tile to adhere without air pockets building up behind the tile.

Another note - if you are using white grout (as we are) make sure you use white thinset.  I once made the mistake of not caring what color thinset I used, and I can still see it peeking out in the grout.  You live and learn!

Then the tile just gets applied to the wall over the thinset.  


We worked in small areas so the thinset wouldn't dry out before we got the tiles layed.

The subway tile we used is mesh backed, and you just flip it to get the tiles to stagger. 

We used alot of spacer to help us keep the grout lines consistent.

Where there are no electrical outlets, things went pretty fast.

But here's where they start to slow down.  We got to cut tile.

For $25 we rented a tile saw.

Grandpa Tim showed up and helped us out by cutting the tile.  I liked how he used a clamp to hold the tile in place while he cut.

It's hard to see, but we did get super lucky with our tile install (but it may be something you want to plan for if you tile a backsplash).  All of our electrical outlets landed exactly on the fourth and fifth row of tiles - so all we had to do was cut those tiles for the electrical outlets.  

We ended the tile with a bullnose.

Then we waited overnight for the thinset to dry (per thinset recommendations).  

Grout time!!!

We choose a premixed grout as well to save on time, waste and cleanup.

We grouted the tiles, using a grout float, pushing the grout in between the tiles,

Isn't it looking good???  I love this part of a project, where you are so close to being done, and you get newly inspired!

Thank goodness we covered the countertops in paper, because that grout made a giant mess.

Grandpa Tim showed up and helped us clean the grout off the tiles.  

After that, we sealed the grout lines right away.  Gotta keep the white grout white!

The subway tile is one of my favorite parts of Mom's new kitchen!  She loves it too.

I love how the electrical outlets are hardly even noticeable in the tile!

So what do you think?  Have you tiled a backsplash before?  With subway tile?  Did you like it?  We'd love to hear your side too!

Thanks for reading!

XO Ana + Fam

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We have been following the MomPlex since the beginning and we think it looks fabulous. It has been so educational and inspirational following your progress.

I am interested in installing a tile backsplash in my kitchen and was happy to see this post. I was happy to see the bullnose because I didn't know about that, but I am curious to know how you sealed the grout and what you used.


I think that you have a very nice taste for design also, I am also interested to know how you sealed the grout, was not specified. I found a lot of wonderful and easy to follow wood projects, I had to buy it, but it was worth:

Hi Linda - thanks! We used a grout sealer (sorry we failed you on photos) just applying with a sponge as directed on the can. It doesn't take long, but make sure you do it before you start using the kitchen because the grout will stain (especially white grout).

Good luck if you do tile a backsplash and thank you for following along!


I've enjoyed following your build. I would love to do the same someday, but I know hubby would never agree!

I tiled my back splash a few years ago. I got lucky and found 2 full boxes of 4" white tile at the thrift shop for only $5 each. With all the other supplies I needed, my finished price was under $100. I did NOT get as lucky as you with outlet placement. I had to cut WAY too many corners out of tiles. You can see my back splash here:

Hi Wendy, thanks!

You know, after the happy accident with the electrical outlets, I think I'd consider (no happy accident case) ripping the bottom row of tiles down so the tiles do land on the outlets - it really saved a ton and we didn't have to cut little corner pieces out of the tiles.

Another great option is the outlet strips that install at the base of the wall cabinets - those are slick!

Thanks so much!

Ana, I love your style and your work! Your craftsmanship is fantastic and I really enjoy your site! Thank you for sharing your designs! I am setting out to make my very first project - the doll house shelf for my daughter and all of her books. I will post pictures, which writing makes me nervous - wish me luck!

I am just getting ready to use the same tile in a bathroom.

The manufacturer did not have a matching bullnose. It looks like you did the same thing I was considering, by using another manufacturer. After it was grouted did you notice a color difference? It looks like there is one before grouting (at least the ones I have look slightly different).

I don't want to get it up and hate it! It goes against all my training to use different manufacturers. ;-) Thanks!

The kitchen looks great, by the way! Nice and bright...which I am sure is a plus in AK!