How to Tile a Backsplash

You don't have to be obsessive-compulsive to set tile, but it helps. In all seriousness, with a little planning, any careful DIYer with an eye for detail and the right tools can achieve great results with tile. A kitchen backsplash is great tile project for a first-timer; here's how to get started.

Plan ahead
With tile, investing time in the planning stage really helps you to avoid headaches later. The first step involves basic math: How much space do I have, and how many tiles will it take to fill that space? Careful measurement is essential, but you will encounter slight size variations from tile to tile. Sheets of tiles on a backing material such as paper, fiberglass mesh or plastic dots vary in size even more than single tiles. Even tiny size differences can quickly add up to a noticeable discrepancy from your plan. That's why I like to dry-fit a row of tiles before I begin so I can see exactly where I will need to make cuts.

Another important factor to consider when buying tile is whether you want whole tiles in the corners and along edges. If so, you'll need to select tiles that fit into these spaces. If you don't mind burying your cuts in the corners and under cabinets, you'll have more leeway in choosing tile size.

Even after careful planning, it's easy to make mistakes, so buy about 10 percent more tile than your square footage requires. If you mess up when cutting a tile, save it; you might be able to use it in a corner. Corners are often irregular, so the tiles at the end of each course may need to be custom cut. Sometimes, especially in older homes where there may be multiple layers of paint, plaster or caulking, a good scraping prior to setting the corner tiles may be necessary. In addition to tile, you'll need…