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How to Install a Tile Backsplash: Designing the Right Ceramic Tile Layout

Ceramic tile backsplash ideas seem endless considering the versatility and wide range of color options. Let the kitchen or bathroom guide the back splash’s scale and pattern, and then let your taste dictate its color and other decorative aspects. If you've been wondering how to install a tile backsplash, the following inspirational ideas and basic installation tips can help you start planning your design today.

Assess the Room

How you choose to install a ceramic tile backsplash starts with an assessment of the room. If the room has a high ceiling or a generous amount of square feet, large-format tiles offer scale and drama. On the contrary, a small or low space suits small-format tiles, such as a ceramic mosaic backsplash.

Naturally, the eye scans the tile runs, making them seem longer in the direction they flow, so consider installing a tile such as a timeless subway tile in a horizontal layout to give the idea of a longer wall, or install it vertically to make a low ceiling appear higher.

In any case, you'll want to install the backsplash on a cleanly prepped wall that's free of residue from old tiles. A well-sealed backer board will ensure a secure, watertight application. If you're laying the tile yourself, you should have a tile cutter, tile saw, drill with a hole saw for cutting around pipes, and the right size mortar trowel—basically, the bigger the tile, the bigger the trowel's notches.

Choose a Ceramic Tile Color

When it comes to tile color, it's best to think long term. For instance, are you going to appreciate a brightly colored focal wall a dozen or more years from now? Or are potential buyers going to admire your multicolored walls if you ever decide to sell the home? Chances are that you answered "probably not" or "no" on both counts.

A neutral backsplash doesn't have to be boring; for inspiration, look to unusually shaped white tiles that you can pepper with black, gray, or tan tiles. And an ultra-contemporary home or condo can benefit from a bit of snappy color, but look to nature for inspiration, including the Honeydew, Sunset, or Wisteria options from the Natural Hues collection. If you're interested in opting for small mosaic tiles, they are usually mounted on sheets, making handling and installation easy.

Either way, measure the wall and estimate at least 10 percent more tile for cuts and waste, including extra materials for any eye-catching details you'll use for decorative presence.

Don't Forget the Details

When you're contemplating adding tile details, such as medallions, decorative accents and trim, look to your home's overall vibe, style or period for cues. For example, to complement a rustic home, opt for rugged edges and accents around and between natural stone tiles that are laid diagonally. For instance, consider going with the Heathland collection.

Before settling on a design, lay out your pattern and consider applying backsplash tiles from the middle of each wall, outward. Center and snap each wall's perpendicular chalk lines as a guide and check the intersections with a framing square. Use the chalk visual to help you create the best design layout for the wall area, and to align any midpoint details. The smaller the tiles are, and the more detailed the design, the more cuts required, so practice on scraps to ensure a good-looking finished product.

Do a Dry Run

If you're not sure how to install a tile backsplash, make sure you lay out the pattern on the floor or counter before adhering the ceramic tile to the wall. This allows you to see how each tile works together, and to make changes before mounting the tiles with mortar. But what about the grout lines? Grout requires more upkeep than tile, so a narrow line is often better than wide, especially in a kitchen where splatter happens. Make sure to seal the grout well and as needed. When properly sealed, your grout and tile will look great for years to come.

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