Ceramic tile is the most popular and probably the cheapest kitchen backsplash solution. It's easy to keep clean and there is a million different looks and tons of insert tiles (tiles with a fancy scene or design that differs from the field tiles) to choose from.
If you have been to home depot recently, you will see a natural stone mosaic in different cream and brown hues that most every store carries. They are fairly expensive but the look you can get is just spectacular. These tile are soft so you can cut them with a grinding wheel, water saw, dremel tool or other similar device quite easily. Keep in mind that they are quite thick so i reccomend using receptacle extension kits (which should be required by code anyway) on your electric socktes. Extension kits are basically a metal sleeve that come with longer screws, used mainly for receptacles in wainscotting or any thick wood wall for fire safety. Of course natural stone is a lot harder to keep clean so you should have them sealed very well so they dont absorb messes.
Ceramic tiles are the easiest to keep clean as long as you have a nice glazed surface, porous or unglazed tiles are a bad choice, especially around the stove or cooktop area.
When shopping for tiles, i reccomend you also check a local tile store as they often have very good clearance sales.It is also very important to ensure your current drywall is clean and in good shape.
Lets prepare your area, make sure your drywall is clean and remove any existing tile, wallboard or whatever you had there before. Remove the receptacle cover plates and scrape the walls carefully. Also remove any old silacone or caulking thats on the counter.
Next you want to figure out where your going to start tiling and how you want to lay your tile, sometimes laying a standard 4x4 tile on a diagonal can spruce up the look for no extra price. Adhesives - I don't care for mastic products and would normally use a white thinset on wall tile. Mastic does do the job but remember if it ever gets wet in behind there the mastic will break down and even mold a lot faster.
Next step is grouting. Purchase a grout float so you can pack the grout into the joints better, you want to get it in there deeply. Then you let it sit, when the surface of the tile starts to haze over its almost ready. I prefer to let it sit even longer so you get a nice high grout line. When its ready, and because you have a sink handy. I would just run the water on the sponge and wipe the tile gently on a diagonal so you dont remove too much grout from the line. This is the part that takes practice, look at every single grout joint and make sure its smooth. If any holes pop up simply grab some extra grout with your finger and fill it in. When you are happy that its all smoooth and the surface is fairly clean let it site for 20 minutes atleast. After a while the grout will haze on the surface and the grout in the joints will start to lighten in color as it dries. Grab a rag, an old dishtowel will do and gently wipe the face of the tile until its shiney again being careful not to touch the grout joints too much.
After its all clean and shiny its time to silacone, its a good idea to wait until the next day if possible as the grout line at the counter will surely crack. I always use 100% silacone in areas like this, I just dont like the latex kinds as they tend to mildew and crack faster. I never cut the caulking tube hole on an angle as its much harder to lay silacone that way and you need to rotate the gun often around a sink spout. Cut the tube strait across with the smallest hole possible, lay a very small bead of caulking and smooth it out with your finger. You're done.
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