How to Install a Marble Tile Backsplash

I’m back to share all the details of how we installed the backsplash! In case you missed it, here’s how the backsplash is looking these days all finished.

And just to compare, here’s where we started, way back when. Dark and drab.

how to install marble tile backsplash

Then we got new appliances, installed Ikea cabinets, and put in some Kashmir White granite. Big improvement.

installing an ikea lidingo kitchen

And now the backsplash. Improving on the big improvement.

how to install a marble tile backsplash

There’s still some things left to finish (peninsula trim, crown molding, lighting), but this really helps the kitchen seem more complete.

We stared and stared at the samples, and finally decided to go with the Hampton Carrara Satin 3×6 subway tiles. The grout is Unsanded Whisper Gray, but we didn’t decide this until after we laid the tile. More on that later.

hampton carrara tile whisper grey grout

I went all over the place looking at marble tile, from Home Depot and Lowe’s to what seems like every local tile shop. The local shops had some beautiful tile and some were great prices, but the one thing I didn’t like was that all the shops I talked with, you have to special order it and there are no returns. You order a little bit extra to account for irregularities and if you mess up cutting, so if you have any left over you have to eat the cost. The Tile Shop lets you return tile as long as it’s a full box, so that really sold me.

We ended up ordering 40% more than our square footage. Why? Because I’m a tad tile crazy. The sales person was very nice and in fact very enabling of my tile craziness. I was worried we’d end up with a bunch of tiles that had all sorts of irregularities and colors I didn’t like, so he said we could just order a bunch extra and return the boxes we didn’t use. Sounds good to me.

The tile came in and was not, in fact, irregular or oddly speckled or anything like that. I still liked having the choice of tiles. First thing I did was start choosing the tiles I liked and laying out a pattern. I wanted it to look natural and varied, but in an orderly way. See, tile crazy.

hampton carrara marble backsplash

I really liked this tutorial from The DIY Show Off on how they installed their marble backsplash, so like them I used OmniGrip to set the tile.

how to install a marble tile backsplash

Start from the outside, or more visible side, and then go in. You want to end the tile on the least visible part of your backsplash.

how to install marble tile backsplash

Spread the Omni Grip on the wall with the flat end of the trowel, then scour it with the pointy end. Then push your tiles on, wiggle them around a bit, and use spacers between tiles. We used 1/16 inch spacers. We ended our tile where the cabinets ended. I used a level to make sure they were nice and straight.

how to install marble tile backsplash

Use a wet saw to make any cuts, and just cut really slowly. Pushing the tiles along the saw too quickly causes more chipping. The great thing about marble is that even if there is some chipping, you can sand it out. Marble is a “soft” stone, so it doesn’t take much to sand it.

This is what an edge looks like after cut.

how to install a marble tile backsplash

This one isn’t too bad in terms of chipping, but original edge of the tile had a slight bevel, so I wanted my cut edges to match the bevel on the other three sides and be nice and smooth. I wrapped some 220 grit sandpaper around an old sanding sponge that had lost its sandiness (good way to reuse those sanding sponges!), and lightly sanded the edge until it looked more like the original beveled edge. It doesn’t have to be perfect since once you grout, you won’t notice the edges that much, but again, I’m tile crazy so I did this to all my cut edges.

how to fix marble tile chipping

It was only about 20 seconds of sanding which I think is worth it to give it a more finished look.

how to fix chips on marble tile

Get all your tile set, and admire your work.

how to install carrara marble backsplash

Let it dry 24-48 hours before removing the spacers.

Seal the tile with a good stone sealer since marble will pick up the grout color and stain. We used TileLab Surface Guard Sealer.

how to seal marble tile backsplash

I’d recommend making some sample boards of grouts you are considering. This is what you can do with all your scrap pieces of tile (you’ll end up with a bunch). You can also test out your sealer to make sure it works.

This is bright white grout that my parents had on hand and let us test it out to see how white looked.

marble tile with bright white grout

This is the sample board I made for the Whisper Gray from the Tile Shop. Let the grout dry 24-48 hours before deciding because grout looks A LOT darker when it is wet.

tile shop whisper gray grout

We liked how the gray blended better with the tile and thought the white looked a little too stark against the tiles, so Whisper Gray it was.

Mix up your grout and use a grout float to spread it on the tile. I used a mud pan rather than a bucket. It’s easier to work with. I mixed up a small amount of grout at a time, just enough to use within 20 minutes or so.

You’re supposed to use a 45 degree angle to spread and a 90 degree angle to scrape off any excess. I’ll admit I never got the hang of the angles and just kind of spread and scraped it off using whatever angle seemed to work best :).

how to grout marble tile

Don’t grout the space between the tile and the counter or the tile and the cabinets. You will want to caulk this to allow for any slight shifting or movement in your floors and walls. If you grout these seams they can crack.

Use a sponge to wipe any excess off the tiles. You can use the corner of the sponge to clean go over the grout lines so they are smooth and clean. With marble, you want to get it cleaned off as much as possible because you can’t use any acidic grout haze removers on marble. I used clean water from the sink rather than a bucket for the sponge to help with this.

using sponge to clean grout

Don’t worry if it looks dark after applying. It will lighten up considerably when it fully dries.

how to grout marble tile backsplash

Caulk between the counters and tile and the cabinets and tile. We got the matching Unsanded Whisper Gray caulk. I taped off where I caulked so it would be a nice thin line that resembled grout.

unsanded caulk carrara marble backsplash

Seal your grout. I used the same Tile Lab sealer that I used to seal the marble since it is also recommended for grout sealing.

Enjoy your new backsplash!

how to install marble tile backsplash

how to install carrara marble tile backsplash

Update: Check out our finished kitchen! You can see all of my kitchen posts here.

Total Kitchen Reno for $8,500 Using Ikea Cabinets


 

Comments

  1. says

    Awesome tutorial (thanks for the shout out). I LOVE your entire kitchen! What a gorgeous transformation…from dark to bright and cheerful. The materials you’ve chosen are beautiful. Super job!

  2. says

    Looks great! Thanks for the tutorial.

    I’m actually planning to finally do our backsplash, in a similar carrara marble, very soon!

    Did you end up doing anything different to the tiles on the far right where they meet the drywall? It doesn’t look like you used bull nosed pieces, so does it look okay without them? I’m considering doing this too, but I didn’t know how it looks in person with regular tile on the edge. Thanks!

    • Jena says

      If using ceramic or porcelain, I would use a bull nose or some kind of end trim piece since those don’t look finished from the side. Marble and other stones generally look okay without a bullnose or trim piece since they are solid stone throughout, so the sides look about the same as the front of the tile (unlike ceramic where the sides are not glazed). We just made sure to use the super smooth factory cut side on the end for any tiles that we cut (so the cut side faced into the grout and was hidden). Our tile saw did an okay job cutting, but the manufacturers was better :).

  3. says

    Love what you’ve done to transform your kitchen. I’ve got white cabinets too, with Carrara marble on my perimeter counters and walnut on my island counter. We chose white subway tiles for the backsplash, but I do really love marble!

    Unfortunately our tile contractor (we built new, so no DIY for us!) used grout between the counter and backsplash, and it has totally pulled away as the house has settled. Ugh!

  4. says

    Thanks for posting this! We are doing marble tile floors in our bathroom, and it’s been stressing me out :) Can you elaborate on the pre-grout sealing you did? How long did you wait between installing the tile and sealing it? Did you have to wipe it off, or does it get absorbed by the stone? How long did you wait after that to start grouting? Thanks again – after reading this and seeing how great your backsplash looks, we are probably going to switch from bright white to “whisper gray” grout!

    • Jena says

      We just followed the directions on the stone sealer for pre grout sealing :). There should be directions for different applications and what you are trying to achieve. If not, make sure to get a sealer that says it is for pre-grout stone sealing. It was probably a week between grouting and sealing, but that was due more to our lack of time than anything! You do have to wipe the sealer off between coats.

  5. Kamal says

    Great write up! We’re halfway through having our tumbled marble installed, and I hadn’t thought about making sure they seal it before grouting. That’s a great tip, thank you!

  6. Dibbs says

    Thank you, thank you ,thank you. We are installing our own polished marble backsplash as well. Great directions. Our tile sealer says to apply sealer with cloth or sponge on marble instead of spraying as to avoid “landing marks”. However our tile is polished. Did you spray or apply with cloth? Any issues? We were originally going to use a sealer for the grout that is mixed directly into grout. But the sealer we got specifies that it is for grout as well so we were thinking of using it for both . should we spray or apply with cloth?What do you think?

    • Jena M says

      Our tile was what they called a satin finish, similar to a honed finish, so I’m not sure about how to work with polished. I sprayed it on and wiped it off before grouting. I believe I did it three times, just to be on the safe side. I would definitely also seal the grout after when it dries. I used the same sealer for both since it said it could be used for marble and grout.

  7. Sandra says

    Thanks for the courage to install my own backsplash…I just bought White Grecian Marble subway tile at Home Depot and it looks very similar to yours. So excited! I’m probably going to switch to whisper gray grout. Thanks

    • Jena M says

      Hi Joe, nope, no problems yet. I checked the OmniGrip website, and it says to not use on resin backed stone which ours weren’t. They didn’t have any mesh or other backing on them.

  8. Melodee Pedersen says

    Thanks so much for the detailed instructions! From your pics, it looks like you installed your tile directly onto drywall, is that correct? How thick were your tiles?

    • Jena M says

      Hi Melodee, that’s correct. We did it directly on the drywall. I’m not sure how thick they were, but I believe they were pretty standard for marble tiles. It is Hampton Carrara from the Tile Shop. Hope this helps!

  9. Karen says

    Greatly appreciate the step-by-step and the photos. I like your description of how you tried to apply grout at 45-degree angle but just jammed it in the cracks the best way possible. That’s been my experience, too. 45-degrees may work for experts, but in small spaces like under cabinets, you end up working at multiple angles to apply grout. Your advice on sealing the marble before applying the grout was extremely helpful (keeps grout from sticking to a porous stone). Again, thanks for your thorough instructions!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>