With a straight, flat, obstacle-free wall, it can be quite easy to tile a kitchen backsplash. Tiling a backsplash is one of the most straight-forward tiling jobs you can take on. In fact, backsplashes are a great way to learn how to tile in the first place.
But when you add an outlet or appliance, the project becomes more difficult. Given the fact that kitchens always have outlets, stoves, and other appliances, it is important to know how to deal with these situations and find a number of workarounds.
Kitchen Backsplash Tiling Preparation
The first step in a clean, attractive tile backsplash installation takes place in the preparation stages.
Lay floor protection paper, found at your local home center, on your countertops to protect them during tiling. Lay the paper about 1-inch from all edges, then secure the edges with painter's tape. This paper, found in 36-inch by 100-foot rolls, will be valuable for other home improvement projects. One benefit of purchasing this type of paper is that you can arrange and rearrange tiles on the paper and mark up the paper with a pencil.
If you do not wish to purchase floor protection paper, alternatives include: sheet plastic, flattened tile boxes, or contractor's plastic bags flattened and taped to the countertop.
Valuable Tools: Painter's Tape and Tile Spacers
Other than holding down the protective paper, low-stick painter's tape is a great way to define a straight edge when you are not using border tile. For example, you can use the outer edge of your countertop as a guide and run a strip of tape straight up the wall, checking the line with a ruler and level. This tape then becomes a visual guide to make sure that you have straight edges and that you are keeping within the lines. For painted walls that you do not wish to mark up, painter's tape provides a line that can easily be removed after the tile has been installed.
For any vertical tile application, tile spacers are invaluable. Add space between the bottom row of tiles and the countertop, then later fill in that space with caulk. Next, space the subsequent rows as you work upward. Because tile spacers are cross-shaped, they also help you space tiles horizontally.
Note: Spacers are not always necessary with certain porcelain and ceramic tiles. They often have small "bumps" on the edges that space them properly.
Tile a Backsplash Behind or Around a Stove
When tiling a backsplash or heat guard behind or around a stove, the best course, if at all possible, is to move the stove away from the wall. With electric stove-oven ranges, it is fairly simple to slide the range forward or tip it forward to access the plug and unplug it. Protect the floor with towels and slide the stove forward and off to the side.
Gas ranges, larger electric ranges, and cooktops built into countertops are more difficult to remove from the work area. Some display consoles have an eased edge in the back and sides that may allow you to bring the tile close to the stove without touching it.
Small, long tiles such as border tiles or listellos also are helpful for defining a border around stoves.
Tile a Backsplash Around Electrical Outlets
Should you run the backsplash tile up to the electrical outlet faceplate or under the faceplate? Electrical outlet faceplates present a unique challenge when tiling the backsplash because they are one of the few kitchen tiling obstacles that touch upon a building code: in this case, the electrical code as adopted by your community.
Avoid lateral spaces (horizontal or vertical) between the kitchen backsplash tile and the outlet faceplate. Instead, aim to bring the tile to the buffer area between the faceplate perimeter and the outlet box perimeter. Lay the faceplate over the outlet, making sure to match up the screw holes, and mark a border with the pencil. You will then need to bring the tile just within that border, or about 1/8-inch.
To avoid electrical code violations, if you do need to extend the outlet not laterally but in the direction of the kitchen, you must use an approved electrical box extender. This inexpensive plastic item enlarges the box while remaining within the code.
Tile a Backsplash Next to or Around a Refrigerator
When you need to bring the backsplash up to a refrigerator and do not want a border, it is usually easiest to move the refrigerator. Remove as many items from the fridge as you can, then move it out enough so that you can access the plug. Unplug the fridge and slide it the rest of the way.