HOW TO | Install a Subway Tile Splashback

Timeframe: 1-2 Days  

Tools Required: Tile cutter, notched trowel, grout float, level, from Trade Depot. Angle grinder with tile cutting disc, tape measure, pencil, ruler, buckets, sponge, scraper, cleaning equipment, adhesive mixer (optional to use a mixing tool on an electric drill), protective equipment (Dust mask, Earmuffs, Eye protection), caulking gun all from our Tool Shed.

Materials Required: Wall Tiles, tile adhesive, tile grout from Trade Depot. tile trims, tile spacers, silicone sealant, protective coverings for surfaces.

Splashbacks are a practical option for your kitchen, offering protection for walls from cooking and cleaning splashes. A tiled splashback also adds to the design of your kitchen, gloss tiles reflect light making the space appear brighter, the pattern of the tile adds dynamics and energy visually and it gives the kitchen an expensive looks - without the price tag.

Making the most of Trade Depot’s affordable products and home delivery service, we tiled the around the whole surrounding of the benchtop and behind the freestanding stove for under $250. If you have a straightforward area to tile, this DIY task will be simple to achieve. And even if you have some more difficult elements to your surface area (like ours), with some extra patience, planning and care you’ll be able to master this skill. Here is all you need to know to Install a Subway Tile Splashback yourself:

Step One - Planning

  • Have a clear plan, working out your tile layout and set out point, knowing where you are going to start your tiling from and you are happy with where cut tiles will end up.

  • If you are unsure of the layout, use your pencil, measure and level to mark out the rows of your tile on the wall. This will give you an idea on how it will look before you lay the tiles. It’s easier to make changes now than before the adhesive starts setting.

Step Two - Preparation

  • Clear out your working space and surfaces.  Clean and dry the surfaces you will be tiling. Lay out protective coverings over your bench and floor.

  • If you have power outlets/switches to tile around - make sure power is safely turned off to these areas and unscrew from wall to allow for tiling

  • Get equipment and materials in order. Ready to use when you need them.

  • If you have a gap in your benchtop to tile across (common if you have a freestanding oven) screw a piece of timber across the gap level with your benchtop. This will support your tiles when you tile this gap, and keep them level.

  • Make sure you have all your tools and material nearby, room prepared and a plan in place before mixing up that adhesive.

Step Three - Apply Tile Adhesive

  • Mix your tile adhesive in a bucket using the product suppliers recommendations. An electric drill and mixing tool make it easier. You want to end up with a thick toothpaste consistency. And when applied on the wall, will not slump.

  • Using your trowel, start from your benchtop and apply your adhesive to your wall.  Once spread, use the notched side of the trowel to create an even notched spread across the wall.

  • Apply adhesive to a small area to start with. Begin with the bottom row of tiles, however as you get more confident and quicker you can do larger areas. Approximately 1m2 at a time.

Step Four - Lay first row of tiles

  • Starting from your setout point, apply your first row of tiles onto the adhesive. Press evenly on the tile to ensure adhesive spreads to the back of the tile, but not so hard that it compresses out the sides.

  • Take time to make sure the first row of tiles is level and plumb - use a spirit level. Getting this right will set you up for the rest of the rows. Use tile wedges underneath to assist with getting the tiles level, as well as creating a small gap between the bench to allow for any movement.

  • Between each tile, add tile spacers to provide a consistent gap for grout between tiles.

Step Five - Cut Tiles

  • For straight cuts - spin your tile 180, line it up with the space to be tiled, use a pen to mark the location of then cut. Making sure you allow space for the grout

  • For straight cuts, a tile cutter makes this process simple. Line your tile up with the cutting wheel on the tile cutter, using firm and even pressure score your tile, then snap the tile by pressing down with the handle.

  • When using cut tiles, put the cut edges facing into the corner or perimeter of your splashback. Always have pre-finished edges facing each other.

Step Six - Repeat tile laying

  • Once you have the first row of tiles laid and level, continue up with the next rows. Using the same process of applying the tile adhesive, followed by tiles and spacers.

  • Regularly use your level to make sure your tiles stay level and plumb, and the pattern lines up. As well as using a flat edge to make sure the face of the tiles is consistent across the splashback.

  • Clean any adhesive excess off tiles as you go, as well as making sure spaces between tiles are mostly free from adhesive. You want clear gaps for when you apply the grout. This can be done later, but easier to clean before adhesive sets.  

Cutting tiles for outlets

  • For cutting tiles around outlets, use your tape measure and mark on the tile the exact size of the opening needed. Wearing PPE, Use an angle grinder with tile cutting disc to cut these lines. Take care, as it is easy to break tiles in this process.

Step Seven - Apply tile trims

  • If you are using tile trims around the perimeter of your splashback, clean any adhesive excess from where the trims will be used,  cut trims to measure and then apply behind your tiles before the adhesive sets.

Step Eight - Grout tiles

  • After your tile adhesive has set (approx 1 day, depending on the product used), you can apply the grout.

  • Remove spacers from between the tiles and any dried adhesive which may be on your tiles or sticking out from the grout gaps. A pair of pliers helps here if spacers are glued in place. And a scraper will help remove adhesive, but be careful not to scratch tiles.

  • Mix your grout in a bucket to the product specification, around toothpaste consistency.

  • Using your grout float, apply grout to the spaces between your tiles.

  • Make sure you fill all of the gaps with grout. Applying grout on an angle, at 45 degrees, will help push grout consistently between all tiles. Repeat process to make sure gaps are completely full.

  • Remove grout excess as you go and follow with using a damp sponge to remove/clean excess grout from tiles before drying.

  • If your grout is not consistently level. You can use your finger, or a damp cloth, to apply light pressure across joints as the grout is drying - which will get a consistent finish.

Step Nine - Clean tiles

  • When your grout has hardened, you can clean your tiles. Use a sponge or cloth to wipe excess grout off and polish your tiles. Be cautious still with grout joints as this stage.  

Step Ten - Apply Silicone

  • Finally, use silicone sealant from tiles to benchtops, perimeters or architraves. Using an appropriate silicone for wet areas.


This blog was brought to you by Trade Depot whose mission is to provide Kiwis with the best value home improvement products at incredible prices with great backing and service.

As a 100% NZ owned business, they value and support the great Kiwi DIY mindset and believe that you don't have to pay a premium for good quality product but also shouldn't have to throw your money away on low quality items.



Posted on April 30, 2019 and filed under HOW TO.