Cheap and easy! I have no construction skills and was able to do this.
I bought the cheapest 4″ by 4″ white tile possible ($1.50 per sqft) and then some sheets of sparkly glass/marbled tile for accents ($8 per sqft). By only adding the expensive tile as accents this save a ton of money. Also, by using the accent tile around the border of the backsplash I no longer needed expensive white tile with rounded edges that were about $1.50-$2.50 per tile. I had measured before to ensure there were very few cuts. We realized early on that the back wall would need a one inch row of tile at the top and those are hard to cut, so we added a second row of the glass tile to the bottom of the backsplash which made it so we did not have to cut those tile. Most of the design was based on how to cut the fewest tile and it worked well.
The other needed supplies were a basic manual tile cutter for $20, a bag of powder cement, a box of white grout (no sand), and two tools. The tile had build in spacers but otherwise I would have bought a pack of spacers. I have used premixed cement in the past to lay the tile and it was about 4x as expensive and never dried correctly. Mixing the cement is the hardest part physically. But it is really no worse than making mixing cake batter or making bread.
First I picked a pattern and laid it out. I cut the glass tile sheets into strips of two tile. This made a nice highlight line in the middle of the plain white tile pattern and also worked well for any borders.
The first step was mixing the cement. I bought white cement, it dries white but is dark grey when wet. I mix it outside and use a hose for water because it is messy. Mix up some in a bucket to the consistency of peanut butter. If it is too wet, then add more cement powder and if it is too dry then add more water. It is pretty forgiving. Then apply the cement to the wall area with the $2.50 tool that has little teeth. Make it at even as possible. (I got a bit annoyed at one point and just put glops of the wet cement on the wall by hands while wearing gloves then evened it out with the tool.) The tile went on fast. Use spacers so the tile don’t slide down the wall. I laid the first row of tile, directly on the counter top and this really helped with gravity. It was a bit messy but just wipe anything up with a wet sponge. This is a completely forgiving process as a bit of water will wash away any mess. Clean any grout lines with a tiny screwdriver. I actually did each wall on a separate day for three days and each wall took just over an hour.
The next step was grout. I did this all in one day. Mix the grout in a bucket outdoors like the package says, to the consistency of peanut butter. Then there is a tool that is like the trowel but is rubbery. Get the grout on the wall then use the tool to squeegy the grout into the holes. This goes pretty fast; the whole thing took about 1.5 hours. Mostly, follow the box instructions. I spent the majority of the time using a wet sponge and cleaning off the tile. Then a couple hours later you wipe them down again. By now it looks done but I like to use a grout sealer to protect the grout from soaking in liquids or oils. I used a spray on grout sealer. In the picture below I did spend some time cleaning the edges of the tile and repainting around the backsplash.
- White unsanded grout
- White tile cement/mortar – its heavy 50lb!!!! $10-$15
- 3 boxes of white ceramic tile $0.17 per 4″ by 4″ tile (about $1.50 per sqft)
- 7-8 sheets of glass and marble tile (about $8 per sqft) make sure they are the same thickness as the white ceramic tile
- Tile cutter $20
- Trowel for cement (1/4 by 1/4 by 1/4 teeth or something similar) $3.00
- Rubber grout float $5
- Scissors for cutting the glass tile mesh
- Small screwdriver for cleaning between tile
- Water, lots of water for cleaning the tile
- Plastic spacers to help keep the tile in place