The wall where you are placing your tile should be
clean and free of debris. It also needs to be fairly straight. Beyond leveling
the surface, the amount of surface preparation necessary will depend on the tile
adhesive you use and the amount of abuse that the tiles will receive. The
example in the photos for this project is simply drywall with a coat of latex
primer. The tile adhesive we used was purchased from a local hardware store,
nothing special. Check the mastic's label to make sure that it is compatible
with your surface.
Another task you must accomplish is to locate the
center of the wall you want to tile. Measure from end to end and make a mark in
the center. Use a square to extend this line from the counter top up to where
the tile will stop. Now, center a tile on this line and layout an entire
course. This will help you make adjustments so that the cuts on the tiles at
the end of the course are the same. When placing the tile on the wall, I
normally work from the center out. If the area you are tiling is large you
might want to use a chalk line to snap a straight line.
For most backsplashes, a wall-grade mastic is
generally sufficient. Mastic is nice to work with as it has a longer open time
than thinset. Normal wall tile will hold nicely with mastic but some stone
tiles need special adhesives. Marble is a good example.
Put the adhesive on the wall
The adhesive goes onto the wall with the
notched trowel. I used a trowel w/ 1/4" notches for the job so that the "Corn Rows"
would show up. You should probably use one with smaller grooves for 4"x4"
tile. When applying the adhesive, use the flat edge to apply a layer of
adhesive first. Next, hold the trowel at a 45 degree angle to the wall and
"comb" the mastic out. The result should be nice even "corn rows" of adhesive
(picture at left). Don't get too far ahead of yourself, only put up as much
adhesive on as you can cover in the next several minutes, especially if you have
to cut the tile as you go.