How to Install a Marble Tile Backsplash

Boost your kitchen's wow factor in a three-day weekend by installing a timeless Carrara marble backsplash in an updated subway tile pattern.

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The key to completing this project in a weekend is careful planning and having all the materials on hand before you start. To determine how much tile you'll need, use a tape measure to determine the length and height of all areas to be tiled and jot down these measurements in feet. To calculate square footage, multiply length by height, then add 10 percent to your total to allow for waste. Check local tile or big box stores to ensure they have enough of your chosen tile in stock. If not, you may have to special order, which typically requires 2-4 weeks for delivery. Also, call around to local tool rental shops to compare prices and place a reserve on a wet tile saw for the weekend you plan on tiling.

Materials Needed:

  • 2" x 4" marble subway tile on mesh backing (or whatever size you prefer)
  • marble "pencil" trim (these act as a border between tiled and non-tiled areas)
  • heavy-duty paper or plastic drop cloth
  • painter's tape
  • mixer bar
  • electric drill
  • tile adhesive or mortar made specifically for marble
  • unsanded grout (best for joints less than 1/8")
  • flexible grout admixture (reduces grout shrinking and cracking)
  • natural stone sealer
  • tile spacers (I used 3/32", 1/16" and 1/8")
  • rubber grout float
  • large bucket
  • orbital sander or sandpaper
  • razor blade or scissors
  • V-notched trowel
  • wooden stir stick
  • spirit level
  • tape measure
  • wet tile saw
  • dust mask and eye protection
  • soft cotton rags and paper towels
  • vacuum cleaner or tack cloth
  • grouting sponge
  • pencil
  • acrylic caulk and caulking gun

Prep Kitchen

Completely clear countertops and remove any items hanging under cabinets (Image 1). Protect countertops by covering them with a heavy-duty paper or plastic drop cloth and painter's tape (Image 2). Remove switch plates and attach screws to plate backs with a piece of painter's tape so they won't become lost.

Sand Backsplash Area

Use a spirit level to draw straight lines delineating areas, like behind the stove, where tile will continue beyond the countertop. Cover this line with painter's tape (Image 1).

Tip: These tape lines will protect paint that will not be tiled over when sanding. Using an orbital sander, go over all the areas where tile will be applied to smooth out any high spots and create a more tactile surface for applying mortar (Image 2). Clean up any residual dust with a vacuum cleaner or tack cloth (Image 3).

Mix Tile Adhesive

Following manufacturer's instructions, combine water and mortar mix in a deep bucket (Image 1). Fit mixer bar into electric drill and thoroughly mix until the mortar is lump-free and the consistency of peanut butter (Image 2).

Tip: For beginning tilers, it's best to mix mortar in small batches that you can use within 20 minutes. Simply divide the manufacturer's measurements for mortar and water in halves or quarters to ensure a proper ratio.

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