Saturday, March 9, 2013


We’ve recently taken on the task of turning our kitchen upside down and updating it, while sticking to a budget. Although we are SO close to having it complete, there are still a few items I have to check off my list.

Since we bought the house, I have been dying to add subway tile as a back splash in our kitchen, but knew I had to wait until we first replaced our counter tops. If you are looking to add a back splash to your kitchen, subway tile is inexpensive and classic. It isn’t going out of style anytime soon! I read a few blogs and watched a few YouTube videos before tackling this project. Here’s a how-to on installing subway tile back splash by yourself!

Once you have your counter top of choice installed (important to do this first if you are thinking of replacing yours) it’s time to head to Home Depot and pick up your materials.

You will need:
• Grout – think outside the box, gray or white you can’t go wrong!
• Mortar or Adhesive – we used Simplemat’s Tile Setting Mats (3 boxes)
• 3x6 Subway tile – make sure to measure your area, we have a smaller kitchen so we grabbed 3 boxes of tile
• Subway tile end pieces – one side has a bull nose, it’s one option for finishing the tile to the end of the wall (optional)
• Scissors – if using a mat
• Screwdrivers – to remove your outlet plates
• Sponge
• Wet Saw
• Tile Spacers
• Grout Float

The first thing I did was measure the exact area I was tiling and lay the pattern out on the floor. This is helpful to do – if I hadn’t done it, I wouldn’t have known to send my hubby to the store to pick up more tile before beginning the process on the wall.

Next, I took my adhesive mats and lined them up against the walls, marking where my outlets were. Let me tell you, these mats made the application super easy! They are double sided so you are able to stick them to the wall ahead of time and when you are ready, you peel off the top plastic and you are ready to go!

After cutting where I marked our outlets were, I lined the entire space with the mats. I knew I wanted to tile the entire  way up the wall between the two cabinets to add height. I'll eventually convince Chris to help me build shelving for that area.

The tile setting mat instructed you to remove all air bubbles. You can easily do this with your grout float.

Next, I started laying the tile and my mom made cuts when needed (around the outlets, around cabinets, on ends). My mom is the best - she is always there when I am doing a project solo to offer me a hand. Sometimes it's nice having someone with you while you are working!

You can see I used the tile spacers to make sure everything was aligned - the good thing about this mat is you have some flexibility to move the tile before grouting (see our end pieces, I fixed them before we grouted).

Another thing to keep in mind is to turn off your electricity (duh!) - I got shocked a few times messing with moving the outlets because I was too lazy to shut it off. And nowhere online did anyone mention securing your outlet boxes on top of your tile. So that was another thing I learned along the way.

Next, mix your grout in a plastic container (with a spatula if you wish) until it is the consistency of brownie batter (we don't measure in this house - we do what feels right).

Plop some on your grout float and start making crescent strokes until all of your spaces are filled with grout. I read the grout box instructions - so I definitely recommend following their mixing and application instructions.

Note: if using mortar you will need to wait several hours before applying the grout. The tile setting mats we purchased allowed us to set the tiles and grout right away. So if you are impatient like me, this is the way to go!

Once our grout was on and 20 minutes passed, I took my damp sponge and wiped off the excess grout. I also removed the grout I spread onto the ceiling, cabinets and counters ;-)

Since we are strange around here, we made sure all of the grout looked pretty by moving our sponge along the direction of the grout so there were no bumps or lines. This took serious arm muscle!


And here we are all complete! I still need to run my towel over all of the tile to remove any excess haze that may be causing a slight hue and put grout sealer on, but I am obsessed with how well this turned out!

And because I am super proud of everything we have done so far - here is a reminder of our "before".

And our "progress"

Price breakdown: (rough estimates from my memory)
3 boxes of 3x6 snow white subway tile - $60
3 boxes of SimpleMat Tile Setting Mat - $60
1 box of white unsanded grout - $30
1 bag of 250 tile spacers - $15
1 spray bottle of grout sealer - $10
Tile end pieces - $9

Less than $200 for a big impact back splash that won't go out of style!


  1. You are awesome! I love seeing these posts on the house. Everything is looking so amazing!!

  2. did an AMAZINGGGG job! It looks fantastic!! I love the end guys should be SO proud! :)

  3. Wow, what a difference! I love it!

  4. I just finished the blog. Really very helpful. Thanks for sharing such an amazing blog.
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  5. It’s really a nice and useful piece of information. Thanks for the share.
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  6. Nice article and great knowledge about subway tile. I love this story and enjoy with your words!

  7. looking to do the same project myself. I am interested to know how the simplemat product held up. Any issues or regrets with using it. I have read alot of mixed reviews. Have you had any issues with tiles falling out?

  8. Very helpful! I am glad to know that you laid out the pattern on the floor first, since that is what I was thinking of doing when no one was watching me! I have trouble visualizing. Your concise step by step instructions were very helpful!

  9. It's rejuvenating to read a high quality article for a change. You have made many interesting factors and I agree. This kind of has made me think and then for that I say thanks to you.
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