Tiling a Backsplash with Decorative Tile Inserts
Learn how to lay out and cut wall tiles to leave room for accents that will spruce up the look of any backsplash.
One way to add more detail to a basic backsplash is by interspersing some decorative (deco) tiles among the field tiles. This example shows a pattern of diagonally oriented deco tiles set in an alternating pattern across the backsplash. Decide on your layout before you begin.
You’ll start setting tile from a plumb vertical line on the wall that’s lined up with a grout joint in the center of your countertop 1. After cutting field tiles as necessary to fit around the decos, spread thinset over the area on one side of the line and press the first tile firmly in place 2. Continue setting cut and uncut tiles, as specified by your pattern, spreading more thinset as necessary for subsequent rows 3. Use a beating block and hammer to embed the tiles into the thinset, making sure their faces are flush with one another. Use wedges under the first row of tiles to form an even joint between the backsplash and the countertop tile (you’ll caulk this later). Continue inserting wedges between subsequent rows of tiles to hold them in place while the thinset dries 4.
If you need to tweak the position of tiles, try lifting them with a margin trowel, checking each row to make sure it’s level 5. Once a section of the backsplash is set with field tiles, set the decos in place while the thinset is still wet 6. If the thinset has skinned over, scrape it off, back-butter the deco tile, and install it. Use wedges to adjust the position of each deco, so it’s evenly spaced from the surrounding field tiles 7, 8. Continue spreading thinset and setting tile on the other side of the reference line.
If the splash will butt up to an upper cabinet or shelf, measure, cut, and install those tiles as you go. Be sure to leave a small gap between the top of the tiles and the cabinet for a caulk joint.