To install a glass tile backsplash on drywall, first prep the area by cleaning the drywall, removing switch plates, and covering the countertops with newspaper taped into place. Then, spread thinset mortar onto the drywall and set your glass tiles in place. Cut tiles to fit where necessary and leave adequate space at corners and joints. Once all the tiles are in place and the thinset has set up, grout the tiles with a grout designed for glass tiles. Finally, caulk the corners and edges of your new backsplash before your glass tile is safe for use.
Table of Contents
Can You Put a Glass Backsplash on Drywall?
You can install glass or mosaic tile backsplash directly onto drywall. There is no need for a specialized backer board for your backsplash. A water-resistant backer board is reserved for use in showers.
- It is safe to install glass tile directly onto drywall for a backsplash.
- Water-resistant backer board is only required in showers and areas that receive direct water spray.
- Prep your drywall by scraping away any loose paint and sanding glossy surfaces before tile installation.
Although a specialized backer board isn’t necessary for tile backsplashes, prepping your drywall is essential. Make sure your drywall surface is clean, that any loose paint has been scraped away, and that any glossy paint has been sanded with 100-grit sandpaper.
12 Steps to Install a Glass Tile Backsplash Over Drywall
Glass tile can transform a kitchen or bathroom from mundane to extraordinary. Even better, installing glass tile only differs from other tile installations in a few key areas. We will cover the full process of installing your own glass tile backsplash from start to finish, noting all specialized tools and techniques as we go.
Order Glass Tile
Before you can begin the installation, you’ll need your glass tile on hand. Measure your kitchen backsplash surface to find the length and width. Then, multiply these to find the square footage of the backsplash. This will help determine how many tiles you need.
- Measure the length and width of your backsplash. Then, multiply the length by the width to find the backsplash square footage.
- Multiply the backsplash square footage by 1.15. The resulting number is the square footage of tile you should order.
- Ordering tile with this overage accounts for cut tiles, ensuring you have enough material to finish the job.
Once you’ve discovered the square footage of your backsplash, multiply it by 1.15. This will provide you with the number of square feet of tile to order. By ordering tile with a 15% overage, you account for tiles that must be cut, as well as broken tiles or any other mishap.
Prep the Area
Before you can begin the installation, your kitchen must be prepped and ready. This will speed up the tiling process and prevent any mortar or grout from marring your countertops. Before installation you should:
- Clear all items off the kitchen counters.
- Remove ovens and cooking ranges to allow access to the backsplash area.
- Spread newspaper over the kitchen counters and tape it in place.
- Remove any switch plates from the wall where the backsplash will be installed.
- Use a scraper to remove any loose paint from the drywall.
- If the drywall is painted, sand it with 100-grit sandpaper to prepare for tile installation.
Lightly sanding painted walls before you begin your installation helps make sure the mortar adheres to the drywall. This will prevent tiles from coming loose or falling out.
Install a Ledger Board
Although the bottom edge of your tile backsplash will be determined by your countertop in most areas, there may be places where there is no countertop present to help keep the tile line level. For instance, there is usually a blank wall behind your oven. You will need to set a level line here to serve as a guide while tiling. This is done with a ledger board. Here’s how:
- Cut a 1×4 wooden board to fit the length of any areas where the backsplash will not have the countertop as a bottom edge.
- Choose the height of the wooden board. This is typically level with the counter or slightly lower.
- Use this carpenter’s level to ensure the ledger board is level.
- Drive screws into the ledger board to secure it in place.
Once the ledger board is secured and you have verified it is level, you will be able to continue a straight, uniform tile pattern throughout your backsplash.
Plan Tile Layout
Before you begin installing your tile, plan your desired effect. It often helps to lay the tiles out on top of the newspaper-covered countertop to see which pattern appeals most to you. For instance, glass subway tiles can be installed vertically or horizontally, depending on the look you prefer.
- Lay out tiles on your countertop in different patterns to determine what looks best.
- On long, narrow backsplashes a vertical pattern creates a feeling of increased height.
- On short, wide backsplashes, horizontal patterns make the space feel longer.
There are no rules when laying out your tile design. Treat tiling your wall as an art and experiment with different patterns before you begin.
With your kitchen prepped and your tile ready, it’s time to begin the installation. First, mix specialized thinset mortar for glass tile and spread it on a 2-foot by 2-foot section of wall to start. Do not spread mortar across the entire wall at once or it may dry too soon. When tiling, it’s best to work in sections.
- Use this thinset mortar designed for glass tiles.
- It’s essential to spread mortar using a grooved tile trowel.
- Spread the mortar with the flat side of the trowel, then pass over it with the grooved edge to achieve the correct mortar thickness.
A thin layer of mortar is all it takes to keep your tile in place. Spread the thinset in your 2-foot by 2-foot area, first using the flat side of the trowel. Then, pass over the mortar with the grooved side of the trowel to remove any excess. Now, the surface is prepped and ready for tiles to be pressed into place.
Set Your Tiles
Follow the pattern you laid out previously and press tiles into place in the mortared section of the backsplash. To ensure the pattern is maintained throughout the backsplash, use tile spacers at all four corners of each tile.
- Press the tiles firmly (but not hard enough to crack them) against the mortared wall.
- Use these tile spacers at the corners of each tile to space your glass tiles evenly.
- Spread additional mortar as you go, setting tiles section-by-section
Keep in mind, there is no need to hammer or use extreme pressure to set your tiles in place. Firm, even pressure with your hand is enough to adhere the tile to the mortar. Once it sets, the mortar will cement the tiles into position.
Cut Tiles to Fit
In order to create your pattern, fit the dimensions of your backsplash, and leave openings for electrical sockets, it will be necessary to cut glass tiles to fit. The best options for cutting glass tiles are to rent a water-cooled wet saw from a local hardware store or use a manual tile-cutting tool.
- Cut tiles to fit around electrical sockets and other wall elements.
- A wet saw suitable for cutting glass tile can be rented from many home improvement stores.
- Use this tile cutter to make cuts in glass tile.
Precise cuts are essential for maintaining a professional finished look. Take your time measuring and cutting tile. Remember, the overage you ordered is your safety net. If you’re not happy with a cut, cut another tile to get the perfect fit.
Maintain Proper Spacing at Corners and Edges
When tiling a backsplash it’s essential to leave a ⅛ inch (3 mm) gap where the tile meets the countertop, cabinets, or any other surface. You should also leave a ⅛ inch gap at corners, even where tile meets the tile. This is essential so that these seams can be properly sealed with caulk in a later step.
- Leave a ⅛-inch gap where tile meets your countertop, cabinets, oven hood, or other surface.
- Leave a ⅛-inch gap at the corners, even if both walls are tiled.
- If there is not a proper gap it will lead to a finished product that is prone to water infiltration and wall damage.
If you do not leave adequate spacing between tile and other surfaces, you won’t be able to seal the gap properly. This will lead to moisture seeping behind your tile, causing mold, mildew, and wall damage.
Wait for Adhesive to Cure
Once you have installed all of your tiles with the proper pattern and spacing, allow 24–48 hours for the tile mastic or mortar to fully cure. This step is essential. If your mortar is not fully cured before you move on to grouting, the mortar may not ever set properly. This can lead to tiles coming loose and falling off your backsplash.
- Wait 24–48 hours after completing tile installation so the mortar can cure.
- Grouting before the mortar has cured can cause tiles to come loose and fall out.
- The appearance of the mortar is not an accurate indicator of whether or not it has cured.
Do not rely on the appearance of the mortar to determine whether or not it is cured. The mortar may look dry where it is exposed to the air in the space between tiles, but this is not an accurate indicator of dryness beneath the tiles. Due to the decreased air exposure under the tiles, it takes at least 24 hours for the mortar to fully cure.
Apply Specialized Glass Tile Grout
When grouting glass tiles, do not use standard grout. The opaque look of standard grout will dampen the shine of your glass tiles. Instead, choose a translucent grout that includes glass in the grout. It will reflect light and truly allow your glass tiles to look their best.
- Use this specialized translucent grout to allow the vibrance of your glass tiles to show through after installation.
- Apply grout with this grout float.
- When applying translucent glass tile grout, work in small sections. Sponge off the excess grout as you go.
- Remove all tile spacers as you grout. Grouting over spacers will lead to a poor finished product.
Before you begin grouting, remove the tile spacers so that the grout will sit correctly. Then, begin working in small sections when grouting glass tile. Translucent grout dries faster than standard grout and can fuse to the surface of glass tiles if it is left to dry. To prevent this, apply grout in 1-foot-by-1-foot sections, working it into the grout lines between tiles with a grout float. Once the grout is in place, use a damp sponge to clean the excess grout off the glass tiles before it hardens. Then, move on to the next section.
Remove Grout Fog
After grouting, you will still be left with a murky residue on the surface of your glass tiles. Don’t worry, this is typical and can be corrected. To do so, use a scrubber pad and warm water to thoroughly scrub the surface of the glass tiles.
- Even the best grouting job will leave a “fog” of grout residue on the tile surface.
- Scrub the grout residue off the tiles with warm water and these scrubbers.
- After scrubbing, wipe the tiles with a soft rag or cleaning cloth.
Once you’ve scrubbed off the fog, quickly wipe down the tile with a dry cloth. This will reveal the natural shine and vibrance of your new translucent tile backsplash.
Caulk Corners and Edges
When grouting your tiles, it’s essential to keep in mind that the edges where your tiles meet countertops, cabinets, or the wall should not be grouted. Corners, where tile meets tile, should also be grout-free. Instead, these places should be sealed with silicone caulk. Caulk will flex with the different heat expansion rates of the surfaces, creating a waterproof seal where grout will fail.
- Seal corners, edges, and the seams between tile and countertop with this silicone caulk.
- Use silicone caulk only. Latex and other materials will not hold up well.
When caulking glass tile, the best choice is clear silicone caulk, or to match the color of the grout. It will not detract from the appearance of the tile and it will maintain a waterproof seal for years to come. Latex and other caulk materials can crack, leading to water infiltration, as well as providing a place for bacteria and mold to multiply.
How Do You Install a Glass Tile Backsplash on Drywall?
To install a glass tile backsplash over drywall, you will have to take a few special steps and use some specialized products to achieve an ideal finished product. The best method for glass tile backsplash installation is:
- Order tile with a 15% overage to ensure you have enough tile for the job.
- Clear off the kitchen counters and protect them with newspaper taped in place.
- Install a ledger board where there is no countertop below the backsplash, to ensure a level line.
- Plan your tile layout.
- Spread adhesive on the drywall using a mortar trowel.
- Press tiles into place, using spacers to keep them uniformly separated.
- Cut tiles to fit at edges and around electrical outlets.
- Leave a ⅛-inch gap between tile and other surfaces, such as countertops and cabinets.
- Wait 24–48 hours for adhesive to cure after installation is complete.
- Apply a specialized translucent glass tile grout.
- Scrub the glass tiles to remove any residual “fog” left behind during grouting.
- Seal the edges and corners of the backsplash with silicone caulk.
With these steps completed, you will have a glass tile backsplash that is both durable and beautiful. Using the right materials for glass tile ensures you get the best look. Plus, the tile installation will stand up to cleaning and kitchen use.