DIY Vertical Backsplash Installation

After months of staring at this super frustrating half finished project with no energy I am excited to say I was able to jump back into working on it this week! You might remember when we started our backsplash installation that we decided to tile it vertically.

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We decided to install the tiles vertically to give it a unique look and to follow the vertical lines we have from the paneling on the bottom half of the room. This does result in a bit more complicated cuts (and it seems a bit more wasted pieces) but after two sessions of working with it I have a few tips to share.

First off there’s no reason to fear these little tiles, they aren’t nearly as hard to work with as you might think. For starters they come attached to the mesh backer which holds them securely into the thinset:

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Cutting the sheets is easy with a pair of scissors, though it does take a few tricks to get it going fast. You want to cut it with the mesh side up and move the tiles around your scissors to create the most open channel possible to get in for your cuts. You’ll notice in the image above, that for the upright cuts if you fold the tiles back on themselves this makes it much easier to slide your scissors in for a clean cut. So it turns into a bit of a pull snip, pull, snip motion to really get going.

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But be careful getting too fast (or getting distracted taking pictures) because its easy to accidentally over or under cut and end up like this:

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This process will get you down to the basic shape you need and then you need to start cutting the actual tiles to fit. The first step is getting an even base to work with. If you use the tiles as they are intended everything is already straight, but if you go vertical like we did you’ll be starting with edges that look like this:

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Using your glass tile nippers you simply place the nippers half way through the tile that needs to be cut and squeeze.

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It’s not 100% clean but for the most part it works. If you mess one up it’s simple enough to peel it off the mesh and add in a filler piece when you install it.

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That gives you a flat base to work with, you will want to use this edge on the bottom of your tile (butted up to counter top) and then cut the tile to fit your distance under your window ledges etc. This is because it’s much easier to get a clean looking line with this series of cuts directly in the middle of a tile then when you have to cut a tile 3/4 or 1/4 of the way through the tile.

Since we did 18 inches of tile we also used this first cut line for the top edge of our tiles to make that line as visually pleasing as well.

It is super important to lay out your tiles before hand to make sure you have enough to work with, and to precut your tiles before you start mixing up thinset. Once you have a batch going, it tends to dry out in a relatively short amount of time.

If you are doing 18 inches high you want to cut the sheets EXACTLY in half. You will have to add individual tiles along the seam to make it meet correctly but if you don’t do it this way you will not have enough tiles if you calculated 1 1/2 sheets for every 18 inches. Again this is another complication from doing the tiles vertically.

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In order to give yourself a gap at the bottom of the tiles to fill with caulk (as well as to protect your countertop) you’ll want to have a good amount of cardboard to tape right up to the edge where you are tiling. It’s very important that it all be from the same type of boxes so that it is equal in thickness.

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Overall other than those things installing the tiles vertically really is exactly the same as the standard installation. I followed this installation guide from This Old House primarily and recommend it. I did not have a notched trowel and found their instructions of smooth trowel, then notched trowel, then smooth trowel a bit silly so I simply applied the thinset in a thin layer and it seems to be holding quite well.

I also couldn’t easily fit a big trowel in the small areas I was working in so I used a smaller 3 inch rigid wall scraper. In hindsight a flexible one probably would have been easier to work with. If you are doing large areas I assume that a trowel would be faster and more uniform to work with in that application.

Check back soon for more progress! We can’t wait to see it finished!

Reviews & Comments Leave Your Own

  1. says

    I’ve always cut the mesh with a box cutter or similar blade, like from a carpet knife. If you do it that way you’ll want to have some heavy cardboard or something similar behind it to keep from scratching up nice surfaces. I like the vertical installation – I don’t think I’ve seen that done, but it looks fantastic! :)

    • says

      Thanks for commenting Laura! I too started with a utility blade but I found I liked this method better for some reason….maybe my blade needed changing or something. We love the vertical too! Now if I could just pry myself away from the garden maybe I could get this thing finished haha.

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