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I wanted a super unique design for a tile backsplash but I needed to put time into the prepwork to make it right!

  1. The Prepwork
  2. Designing Backsplash
  3. Things to Note
  4. Laying the Tile Backsplash

I wanted to design a complex tile backsplash that looked awesome and complimented all the work we did on the kitchen remodel. My wife and I wanted to pick out the right tile and create a fun pattern but it took us some time to land on exactly what we wanted. 

1. The Prepwork

To start, I had to pick tile and when there’s a million different backsplash tiles out there in the world, this can take a lot (a lot) of time to decide. I went to a big box store website to easily filter out super pricey tile and find some basic sizes of what we were looking for. From there, I took 3 sizes, cut them out of plastic to visualize the sizes up on our wall. By doing that we were able to choose exactly the size tile we wanted – 2×10. Knowing the size we could go to the computer now to lay it out.

You can use Fusion 360, Inkscape, but I used Illustrator. I brought in a photo of our kitchen to lay the tile in Illustrator. With a scale drawing I’m able to count how many tile I’ll need to have while also getting a good picture of how things are going to look like. But the best way to go 1:1 scaling is to have to have the product right in front of us.

2. Designing the Backsplash

I ordered several boxes of tile which worked in my favor because a 2×10 tile isn’t exactly that size, it’s almost 1/4 of an inch shorter and 1/8 of an inch more narrow. The tile size could potentially cause a problem but we can work to avoid it. At this point, I’m going to lay out a huge piece of craft paper across our island to lay out the design with the actual tile. When laying it out, I used the bottom edge of the paper as the bottom edge of the countertop so I could make sure it lined up smoothly.

I needed to take exact measurements of the space in which the tile is interacting. For me, I needed to measure the vent hood, the stove, the countertops, the window frames, the light switch plates, all of it has to be relative to the bottom edge. Next, I drew out the measurements on the craft paper to lay out the tile. One important thing I marked was the center of the hood because that will be the center of the complex design. I wasn’t sure how things were going to lay out as far as starting/moving but the best part about laying this out first is being able to figure it out before it goes up on the wall. We also don’t know if we’re going to need to add spacers – those spacers will compound over the tiles and make a big difference over the few feet of tile. 

3. Things to Note

Immediately I was able to see that things were laying out differently than I had imagined. If I had just started laying the backsplash on the wall, I wouldn’t be able to adjust as easily as I could on the craft paper. With that, I had to start over. Once it was all laid back out, I could see that there was going to be an overlay of tile past the hood so I decided to add spacers. I used a 1/16 inch spacer which was the smallest one I could find locally and it actually helped a ton. 

I know laying out all the wall of tile can feel like a lot of time but it can help to prep what you want. And if the tile doesn’t work out, you can return it since you haven’t used it yet.

I also wanted to make note to cut a piece of your tile ahead of time to know how it cuts. With the tile I chose, there was some natural variation so the way it cut didn’t affect the design.

4. Laying the Tile Backsplash

Setting the tile is pretty easy and you can find a ton of different resources to help you along the way. One of the biggest tips I can share is to have your tile, mortar, tools – have everything out and ready when you start. Once you get mortar on the wall, you have a limited amount of time to get the tile up. Another note – make sure you know your time of year. I find that I lay tile mostly during winter and my wet tile saw tends to freeze – often. 

Once I felt comfortable with the design, I was ready to get the tile on the wall. I used a heavy duty tile cutter to trim any pieces that needed it. Next, I used a small torpedo level to make sure each tile was level as I placed it and then put the spacer in between. However, once I started placing tile I realized they were starting to sag where the range was. To fix that, I hung a piece of wood where the range sits to keep that tile from sagging. 

After that, things moved pretty quickly and smoothly. I’m very sure it went smoothly because of the amount of planning I did. Laying it out and prepping can help not only with complex designs but with simple ones too. It can help to save so much time and money to prep the design you’re doing. 

I’m sure there’s more tiling tips – share them below! We would love to hear more from you.

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