As promised I’m going to share how I installed my marble subway tile backsplash today. This post is part of our slowly progressing kitchen makeover. Previously I cut down our kitchen half wall so we could add a large countertop island and also added a nice thick kitchen counter post to the front of the cabinets.
It was a somewhat bumpy road but I got it done. I’m very proud of myself that I have installed it all by myself and it turned out fantastic.
How to install a marble subway tile backsplash
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I’m not going to lie, I watched a ton of youtube videos on how to apply a tiled backsplash. There are lots of knowledgeable handymen out there with awesome video tutorials but I hope I gathered enough information for you in this post that you don’t need to do your own research.
A tile calculator helped me so much to figure out the square footage and how many marble tiles I would need for the project. It’s also always better to buy too many which you can return later than having not enough and them being sold out.
supplies and tools used:
- honed or polished marble subway tile (I used Hampton Carrara Polished 3″ x 6″ subway tiles or HERE)
- tile wet saw
- I used 1/8-inch tile spacers
- tile caulk
- unsanded grout (I used bright white since my cabinets and walls are bright white)
- grout sealer
- electrical receptacle box extension ring
- grout sponge
- grout float
- notched thinset trowel
- drill and mixing paddle
- rubber mallet
- eye protection goggles
What is the difference between honed and polished marble?
When marble is polished, it creates an extremely smooth surface that allows to reflect light.
Honed marble is the opposite and has a dull finish that doesn’t reflect light.
Honed marble tends to be more durable because if it gets scratched, the scratches won’t show as easily as they do on shiny polished marble. Polished marble can be honed but it’s best to have a professional do this job since it isn’t an easy job.
So why did I pick polished marble subway tile for my backsplash if honed is more durable?
Well, it was available at the time and I figured that a backsplash doesn’t get much wear and tear. Update: We’ve had it for 7 years now and it still looks great. It was a good choice for us in the end.
I chose a marble countertop for our powder room and in that case, I picked honed marble.
marble subway tile backsplash installation instructions
Before getting started, I had to decide which on how I wanted to lay the tile and how I wanted to end it to the left of the window. Below you can see 4 different options.
While most of the time you see option number 1 done in similar kitchens, I decided on option number 4.
Then it was time to remove the molding under the window that I installed last year when I was convinced that I didn’t need a backsplash. Haha, what was I thinking!?!?! I’m glad I waited though.
Then I caulked the gap between the wall and the countertop. There was a pretty big gap!
I installed some molding around the upper part of the window.
Those tiles are only leaning against the wall by the way to try it out.
Below are some of the 1/8-inch tile spacers that I used.
Usually, you find the center of the area you want to tile and tile out from there but since the edge of my counter is so “in your face” I wanted to start from there. I had tried it out first too by dry laying the tile, which is certainly recommended. The left side is more visible in my kitchen and I wanted to end the tile in a less visible tile by the fridge and behind the coffee maker.
This way you can also figure out if you need to move everything a bit to avoid awkward cuts around outlets and molding.
Use the level to draw a line for where you are beginning to lay the tile.
I spread the mixed tile adhesive on the wall with my adhesive spreader and in tight spaces, and put it right on the back of my tile.
I had to buy more tile spacers along the way and those large green ones were all I could find, but they worked great. It just shows that you can easily use both types.
I had to cut around the window. Which was actually not that bad.
Don’t forget to turn off your electrical outlet when working on and around it!
The outlets and light switches were a little harder to cut around. I also had to use receptacle box extension pieces for the outlets to make them flush with the wall again. The reason for this is that the existing outlets are flush with the drywall and when you add the tile to the wall, you can’t screw the faceplates back on because the outlets are set too far back. When you add the extension pieces to the outlet box, you can easily screw the faceplate back onto the outlet.
I added a piece of wood (or I should call it leftover molding) under the stove section to support the tiles while drying. I simply nailed it in the wall and it didn’t have to be super sturdy either but it did the job. (After I was done I removed it again.)
The rest went pretty smoothly. I also used a rubber mallet to tap the tiles into place.
Occasionally I needed some painter’s tape to keep tiles in place.
And back to cutting the tiles. I used a wet tile saw. This photo was actually taken two days after I started the project.
I actually couldn’t take any photos of me cutting the tile on the first day because this is what I looked like.
Not only was the water splashing everywhere from the saw. Nope, it was also pouring rain. I wasn’t going to carry my camera out there and have it get ruined.
After the tile adhesive was set for 24 hours, it was time to do some grouting.
I mixed the grout according to the package and then applied it to my backsplash.
You need to wipe the access and after letting it set for a little you can wipe and buff the wall tile with a haze remover.
When the grout has dried for a couple of days, apply the grout sealer according to the manufacturer’s instructions. For that job, I use a small artist’s brush and I tried really hard to not apply too much all over the tile and keep it within the grout lines.
One more thing…I actually bought an old stove on craigslist for our kitchen. It was a total nightmare. People on Craigslist are just so shady and untrustworthy. That’s all I got to say. I’m still so so angry. I might write a post about it some other day. (Update: I gave our old stove a makeover to turn it into a high-end looking colored stove)
In case you are wondering why I didn’t buy stainless steel appliances. Well first of all we have a very tight budget. And second, I don’t even really love the look and taking care of the fingerprints on the appliances. They aren’t easy to take care of.
The tips that I have learned along the way while installing the marble subway backsplash
- Lay your tile out ahead of time so you can come up with a plan.
- Work in small sections at a time, don’t just spread the adhesive all over the place because it might dry before you can add the tile
- Don’t forget to seal the grout!
- Make sure you have enough tile ahead of time (A tile calculator helps a lot!)
- Practice cutting a spare tile with the wet tile saw ahead of your project.
- Make a template out of cardboard for difficult cuts. It helped me a lot.
- Store some extra tile for emergencies!!! This is my number 1 tip for sure. Our microwave above the sotve broke and we couldn’t find the same size no matter how hard we looked. We ended up with a gap that had to be filled with tile and I was so glad to have had extra tile in storage at home.
photos of finished backsplash
Our kitchen makeover has not been a giant before and after but has progressed slowly over time. It’s definitely not how it is on other blogs or on TV where there is a brand new kitchen suddenly in a matter of a couple of weeks.
Below you can see the white marble backsplash right after I finished it with our mostly white kitchen. Carrara marble has such a beautiful classic look. I don’t think I will get tired of it any time soon.
Also, check out my stylish high-quality DIY wooden drawer pulls I made for the above-mentioned makeovers. Such a great way to update your cabinet hardware without spending much money.
Can you believe that this is what our kitchen used to look like years ago? The transformation was a slow process but I had a vision and stayed focused on that. One of the things I’d still like to do is run all the cabinets to the ceiling. But even without that detail, we are super happy with our kitchen at this point.
So what do you think? Are you going to tackle a project like this any time soon?
You might also want to check out my installation and review of cheap peel and stick floor tiles which could also be used as a backsplash.