Kitchen Tile Backsplash Tricks For Dealing With Appliances, Outlets

  • 01 of 08

    Kitchen Tile Backsplash Tricks For Dealing With Appliances, Outlets

    Tile Troubleshooting - Introduction
    © Rheney Williams

    As long as you've got a straight, flat, obstacle-less wall, it's easy to tile a kitchen backsplash.  Add an outlet or appliance, and things become a bit more difficult.  Given the fact that kitchens, by definition, have outlets and applications, you need to know how to deal with these situations.

    You'd never know from this sweet little picture that it's hiding a minefield of troublesome tile areas. Perhaps it's because these innocuous looking instigators are hiding in plain sight!

    When it comes to tiling a kitchen backsplash, the appliance wall (as it is in my case) presents a plethora of potential problems for the DIY tiler. In this one kitchen section alone we have an exposed edge to finish (preferably in a straight line), a range to tile behind and two separate outlets to tile around!

    Although many DIY-ers can overcome their initial intimidation and make the leap into the tiling game, there's a difference between a backsplash that looks like a professional installed it and one that looks 'homemade.' And isn't the point of any DIY job to execute it like a professional?

    I'm here to show you how to approach some of these trouble spots like a pro, helping you set your backsplash apart from the rest of the DIY pack. We'll take each one in turn by walking through the appliance wall backsplash I just completed in my own kitchen.

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  • 02 of 08

    Preparing to Tile The Backsplash

    Tile Troubleshooting - Layout
    © Rheney Williams

    The first step to putting tiles up on a wall is actually not putting tiles up on the wall! In other words, the majority of your work takes place beforehand in the preparation stages.

    That Miracle Tool:  Painter's Tape

    My first tile secret weapon is painter's tape. Although you may have known you can use it to tape off where your countertop meets the wall, did you realize you can also use it as a super simple way to create a straight edge when you're not using a border tile?

    I used the outer edge of my countertop as a guide and ran a piece of tape straight up the wall, checking the line with a ruler and level. I used this tape as a visual guide to ensure I had straight edges by simply 'tiling within the lines' as I went. No need to stop and check throughout the process!

    Protecting Your Countertops

    After taping off your edges, you'll need to protect your countertops, and as you can see, that protection doesn't need to be fancy! We had just installed a beautiful silver gray quartz countertop, so I simply cut open a cardboard box and used that as my protective workstation.

    If you are using individual subway tiles (like the white marble tiles I used), lay them out in front of the area you plan to tile so that you can rearrange them at will to get the perfect design beforehand.

    Tile Spacers

    Use spacers in between the countertop and the bottom row of tiles (this is for caulking at the end – never use grout between tiles and countertops because houses settle and you need a flexible joint here to allow for movement) and begin tiling from the bottom up, using each row as support for the row above it.

    Speaking of support, let's move on to our next construction curveball: How to tile behind a range.

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  • 03 of 08

    How to Tile Behind a Range

    Tile Troubleshooting - Before
    © Rheney Williams

    After you've moved your range away from the wall, you're left with a gap where there's no countertop to support the tiles. One simple remedy to this is to temporarily screw in a length of board (a 1" x 4" measured to fit the width of the space would be sufficient) and use that as a level guide and tile support.

    However, we had just gone through about six different repair jobs to the wall behind our electric range. Rather than creating yet another set of drywall holes we'd have to patch, we opted for a makeshift surface by instead using leftover hardwood flooring boards and old cabinet doors stacked on a barstool. Necessity truly is the mother of invention!

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  • 04 of 08

    After Removing the Tile Support Board...

    Tile Troubleshooting - After
    © Rheney Williams

    Once you remove the support, you are left with a level line of tile all the way across the wall behind your electric or gas range.

    Tip: For electric ranges with a raised back like mine: Behind the range is a perfect place to use all of those non-conforming tiles that would destroy the aesthetic anywhere else!

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  • 05 of 08

    How to Tile Your Backsplash Around Outlets

    Tile Troubleshooting - Going Around an Outlet
    © Rheney Williams

    Finally, don't forget about outlets. Although I could write an entirely separate article discussing tiling around outlets, when it comes to troubleshooting, my true secret weapon is the quilter's square. You can purchase this clear ruler in a craft store; it's great for marking cut lines because you can see the tile underneath.

    Ideally, you want the tile to end just below the outlet screws so that the little silver prongs are sitting on top; the quilter's square is indispensable in allowing you to make precise cuts!

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  • 06 of 08

    Kitchen Backplash Before the Grout Goes On

    Tile Troubleshooting - Pre-Grout
    © Rheney Williams

    Here's a shot of my appliance wall range and microwave tile after I removed all of the spacers but before I applied my grout. I settled on a silver gray grout to highlight the stainless steel finish of the appliances and to make the white marble pop from the wall.

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  • 07 of 08

    Kitchen Backsplash After Grouting

    Tile Troubleshooting - Post Grout
    © Rheney Williams

    If you are using colored grout, it will lighten up considerably as it dries. Here, the grout started off almost black but you can see the light gray taking shape.

    Although it would have been a different story if I had a flat cooktop, my electric range with the raised back does an exceptional job of hiding some of those problem tiles. And because the range is virtually flush against the wall, you can't tell the difference from the side!

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  • 08 of 08

    Finished Kitchen Backsplash

    Tile Trouibleshooting - Final
    © Rheney Williams

    From how the backsplash looks today, you'd never know it was a DIY job. By following some of the troubleshooting tips I've outlined above, hopefully, yours will look perfectly professional, too!

    What other curveballs have you encountered when tiling around appliances like a range or microwave?

    Rheney Williams writes about her DIY house projects for The Home Depot. She recently remodeled the kitchen in her Charleston, S.C., home, adding new tiling, cabinets, and appliances, including a fridge, microwave, and electric range.