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My DIY Marble Backsplash

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There are only a few projects I’ve done that I’ve felt have substantially changed the feeling of my house.  And the DIY marble backsplash was one of them, for sure.

*Warning:  very long post ahead!*

I thought about this project quietly for a very long time.  I always hated that my kitchen lacked a proper backsplash, only having that little quartz lip of the countertop.  Every time I took a picture for Instagram or something I was practically embarrassed, even though I have a brand new white kitchen.  But NOW, now it’s something to be proud of.  Isn’t it?

marble subway tile backsplash

Yes, it’s gorgeous.  I’m not even going to pretend to be bashful about that.  I’m definitely not going to brag about what a great job I did, because I didn’t.  But the full, finished effect is just stunning.  This DIY marble backsplash is actually an affordable marble subway tile from Lowes.  I didn’t really shop around much but I knew from online tile shops that marble tile was $$$$.  And I had $.

tiled window

I debated this for a while…should I try to DIY it or hire it out?  I’d never done tile before.  I was extremely nervous, as I always am before trying something new.  I didn’t want to totally screw it up, it was the kitchen!  It’s something everyone sees.  And then there was the method of HOW to tile.  Should I use the sticky paper stuff?  Should I use mastic?  Should I use mortar?

marble backsplash

Now that I’ve done it, I understand the reaction that everyone gave me when I asked them how hard it was to tile.  They always said something like “It’s not that bad…” while looking away like please don’t ask me any more questions about that horrifying experience.  Because that’s exactly it.  It isn’t THAT bad.  But it is kind of a horrifying experience.  It’s just so messy and exhausting and ugh.

marble tiled kitchen backsplash

One day, after getting a sample box of tile and stacking it against my kitchen wall, I decided to go for it.  My Fall Craft Party was coming up and I wanted it done before that.  I went with my husband and the whole fam damily to Lowes and we filled up two carts full of crap for this project.  We also bought two new pendant lights, which I will share more about in another post.

marble tiled backsplash

As I was checking out, the sweet checkout girl said, “And by ‘we’ you mean him, right?” when I said WE were going to do a kitchen backsplash.  Um, no.  I mean ME.  My husband didn’t do a single thing.  It’s just annoying to me that everyone always assumes that this fragile girl couldn’t possibly do it.

I also went to Harbor Freight Tools and purchased a $50 tile saw.  This thing was cheap but it got the job done.  And there’s no way I could have done this without it.  So worth it.

The entire breakdown was around $500 for all the supplies, but bear in mind that the amount of work required for my backsplash probably would have cost over $2000 if I’d hired it out.

I bought the following:

(affiliate links)

  • 55 boxes of 3×6″ marble subway tile
  • 1 box of marble pencil tile (this is the stuff you put on the raw edges) and this box was $$$.  Save any you don’t use to return!
  • 2 medium tubs of tile adhesive (I ended up needing also a small container more.)
  • 1 tub of Mapei Ready to use Grout
  • 1 Rubber Grout Float, sponge, Notched Trowel, and 2 bags of marble tile spacers.
  • 1 Tile Saw, 4-Inch and diamond blade

So you will save some money if you already have some of that stuff or can borrow it.  I ended up doing mastic rather than sticky paper because I was nervous the sticky paper wouldn’t hold up the weight of marble tile.  I knew it would work great for subway tile, so if you’re doing that, totally go for the sticky paper.  So much less mess.

BEFORE:

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Step 1:  Rip off the Old Backsplash

The first step was to rip off the existing “backsplash”.  You don’t technically HAVE to do this but I hate the look of leaving it on.  I used a razor blade to cut the silicone and a table knife to pry it away from the wall.  The first one was simple, that tiny one by the fridge.  They didn’t glue that one.  But the rest they HAD glued (if you’re building, ask your builder to leave off the glue if you are planning on doing your own backsplash later) so I had to use a crowbar to pry it off and made some holes in the drywall.  No going back now!  Tip:  Use a studfinder to find studs and then slide the crowbar in that spot.  It will damage the wall less because the stud is behind the drywall.  But you can buy a patch and slap it over the top of the big holes.  And yes, I totally sliced my finger open with the razor blade at one point.  Ouch.

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Step 2:  Prepare the surface

I cleared everything off and covered my counters with contractor’s paper.  I made sure the walls were clean and relatively flat (you know, from all the crowbarring).  We pushed the oven out from the wall.  I turned off the electricity from the kitchen outlets and lights and then removed all the outlet covers.  You also have to unscrew the outlets themselves because you want the outlet to sit flush with the backsplash.  So I had to buy longer outlet screws to put them back in.  We have this cool electricity-sensing pen that you can touch to the outlet to make sure it’s not live anymore.

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Step 3:  Start tiling!

Writing this post is bringing back all the memories of being totally exhausted.  Anyway, I started tiling in the smallest, least conspicuous spot.  This way I could lessen the visibility of rookie mistakes.  Having read the reviews online of the tile I bought, I was aware that I needed to open many boxes of tile at once and mix them up with each other.  Because they were varying shades of white and gray and you wanted a more random pattern.  I actually laid out what I wanted on the countertop.  This was helpful.

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I used a level to draw a straight line from the edge of the countertop up the wall.  This was my starting point.  I used my notched trowel to spread some of the mastic, but it was rather large and awkward for how small the space was.  So I ended up back buttering (putting the mastic right on the back of the tile) a lot of them.  Later on, my friend helped me for a bit and showed me to apply the mastic with a small paint scraper and then notch it with the trowel for awkward small spaces.  This saved time.  This little section took me HOURS.  I knew I was in for a long week.

I marked out the space I needed to cut for each outlet, making sure that I cut it close to where the actual drywall was cut.  But I also had to make sure my staggered subway tile pattern didn’t get disrupted by taking a shortcut around an outlet (you’ll understand what I mean once you start doing it.)  Sometimes you’re like “But this piece HERE fits so perfectly in this tiny spot” but if you use it, you could mess up the pattern.  Stupid pattern, wasting my time.

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Tiling Tips:

  • Behind the oven, I put a 1×2 piece of wood on the wall with a nail gun so it could act as the countertop guide (you can kind of see it in this picture) But I actually put it a whole row below where the countertop ended because we eventually want to replace our builder grade oven with a backless one.  This will give it the appearance of the tile going all the way down behind it.
  • For spaces that a single tile will cover an outlet, you have to cut a notch in the tile.  These are very time consuming, but you do it just like notching wood.  Just cut each marked side and then do a bunch of little cuts next to each other until it’s all cleared out.  And pray you don’t have very many of those.  They take forever.
  • When wanting to take a break, make sure you wipe off any mastic that hasn’t been covered by a tile.  It will dry and make the space rough and awkward.
  • Please do this with someone else.  It will go a lot faster and be less traumatizing.
  • Make sure each bottom row is level.  The counter where my sink is was not level.  I used shims to hold the tiles in place.
  • Don’t stress if your cuts aren’t super accurate and it looks crappy while you are putting it up.  The grout makes everything all better and you don’t even notice.

Step 4:  Grout

I finally finished on Friday morning (I started Tuesday) and I had literally worked nearly every waking moment of every day.  All the cutting took so much longer.  I listened to a super long audio book while I did it.  But I had to work fast because I hated having my kitchen torn apart.  We were eating hot dogs and frozen food for dinner every night.

We used this type of grout which said that it never had to be sealed and it was already pre-mixed.  But it WAS sanded grout, even though I really wished I had unsanded.  The package didn’t say anything about it being sanded.  Although the sand made it harder to wash off, it didn’t scratch the tile. I used the grout float a bit, but also my hands quite a bit.  They got extremely exfoliated, but it was the best way to make sure the grout got in between the fine lines (the marble spacers by the way are extremely thin but I used them a lot.)  I worked in sections, washing off the backsplash after I grouted a space.  It really is pretty easy, but just a lot of work.  Even washing the grout was a lot of work.  There are still spots not completely free of sand.  I got burned out.

It was done!  Hooray!  I just needed to caulk some lines, but that wasn’t very easy.  I had some large gaps in between the upper cabinets and the tile, and I filled it with a lot of caulk.  But I think one of these days I will just get a piece of white wood and put it over the whole thing.  Same with the ceiling/tile area on the wall with windows.

I was able to get any residual grout off my counters with a paint scraper and Goof Off.   Then I cleaned everything up and put the outlets back (with longer screws) and covers on and we were back in business!  Overall, I couldn’t be happier with the way this turned out.  As much as I still love the solid white subway tile, my kitchen is already SO white, adding in the variation and contrast helped a lot.  And once the backsplash was done, the pendant lights just seemed to match so much better.  I love it!

DIY marble tile backsplash

tiled window

What a post!  If you made it this far, congrats.  But also, don’t feel discouraged by my honesty.  It really won’t be a cakewalk.  It is some serious hard work.  But it’s extremely worth it, and now that it’s done, I’m super happy I did it.  It also might have seemed harder because I was coming down with a cold at the same time and didn’t feel well.  But either way, just get some willing volunteers to help you out and you can totally do this project.  Good luck!

 

 

84 Comments

  1. Wow you should be so very proud of yourself and extremely happy with the outcome both in looks and money saved. You did an awesome job – Congratulations it turned out just beautiful.

    1. Heidi @ Honeybear Lane says:

      Thank you! I am both proud and happy!

      1. Hi it looks lovely. What is the name of the tile?

  2. This is absolutely gorgeous and you need to be extremely proud of yourself. You did an awesome job.

    1. Heidi @ Honeybear Lane says:

      Thank you so much!

  3. Heidi – This looks SO AMAZING!! I’m always impressed by your talent and creativity.

    1. Heidi @ Honeybear Lane says:

      Thanks Rachel!

  4. Your backsplash looks amazing, came across it as I’ll be doing ours soon (my first tile experience). However I MUST know where you purchased the hanging lights above your island? We have the larger version above our kitchen table and an even larger rectangular one in our dining room but I wasn’t able to find the smaller ones for the island, HELP PLEASE… I need them 🙂

    1. Heidi @ Honeybear Lane says:

      They are actually just from Lowes! They were a great price too.

  5. WOW! WOW! WOW! You’ve done an AMAZING job! Your kitchen is BEAUTIFUL!!

    1. Heidi @ Honeybear Lane says:

      Thank you!

  6. It looks beautiful. Thank you for all your detailed descriptions of each step.

    1. Heidi @ Honeybear Lane says:

      Thanks!

  7. Looks beautiful!!!! Really want to know where you got your lights, love them too

    1. Heidi @ Honeybear Lane says:

      They are from Lowes!

  8. Eileen Roscoe says:

    You did a beautiful job! It sounds exaustive ! Made me tired just reading it. As it sounds like something I would do. I think you did it in record time! With having a family to take care of also.! Congrats!!!

    1. Heidi @ Honeybear Lane says:

      Well thank you! It really was tiring but it had to be done lol!

  9. lisa Cuddy says:

    Your kitchen is BEAUTIFUL! I love everything about it. In fact it is the kitchen of my dreams. What brand of cabinets are they? We jus bout a 115 year old house with the tiniest, most dysfunctional kitchen I’ve ever had. At some point we hope to remodel it, with cabinets like yours, Carrera marble or soapstone counters, and a white subway tile backsplash. But seeing your backsplash has made me rethink the subway tile. Congratulations on such a beautiful, amazing kitchen. Blessed be.

    1. Heidi @ Honeybear Lane says:

      What a great compliment! My kitchen cabinets were put in by a local Utah company called Quality Craft, but there are lots of cabinet companies that would probably do a plain white shaker. Thanks again and best of luck in your remodel!

  10. Hi Heidi, Your kitchen looks absolutely amazing. To me it looked pretty good before as well – embarrassed ???? – don’t ever come to my apt lol. I can never get passed the point of ‘the fear to try.’ You sure get kudo’s for courage as well as the great job you did.

    1. Heidi @ Honeybear Lane says:

      Thank you! I wasn’t really embarrassed lol but just in my head things all look much better than the reality. Don’t be afraid to try! Ask around to see if anyone is going to do tile in their home soon and maybe ask if you can come by and watch and help out! Great way to try it out!

  11. You did a fantastic job, and your hard work really paid off on the final “grand” look. I love it! You had writte you bought 55 boxes and used 8. Did you use 8 out of each box to vary the look, or did you use all 55 boxes?

    1. Heidi @ Honeybear Lane says:

      So there were 8 tiles in each box and I used almost all of them. They were in good enough shape. I had to open multiple boxes at once and mix up the tones.

  12. Hi! Your kitchen is gorgeous!! I’m doing this very same backsplash this weekend! I was wondering what paint color you used in your kitchen? That’s the exact gray I’m looking for!

    1. Heidi @ Honeybear Lane says:

      It’s Passive Gray by Sherwin Williams. Thanks!

  13. Wow, I do all kinds of projects but never tile. Looks terrific.. Good job

    1. Heidi @ Honeybear Lane says:

      Thanks!

  14. Beautiful! Where did you get your black hardware?
    🙂

  15. Beautiful! Where did you get your black hardware?
    🙂

  16. I apologize ignore my last question, I now realize it is not black-

  17. What are the dimensions of your kitchen? And your island? We are building a house and I am in love with the layout of yours! It looks like it functions well! And it’s beautiful 🙂

    1. Heidi @ Honeybear Lane says:

      You can find my house plan on edgehomes.com under floor plans. Mine is the Vanessa.

  18. Adrienne Branchaud says:

    Do you happen to know the exact name of the tiles that you got for your backsplash? We are in the middle of redoing our kitchen and I’ve been looking for those tiles. The Lowe’s has marble subway tile but it doesn’t have the variety of Gray in it like yours does and I love that!

    1. Heidi @ Honeybear Lane says:

      I don’t know the exact name but the boxes have lots of variation in the tiles, from box to box. I bought many many boxes and laid a lot of them out before tiling so I could get an equal amount of colors spread throughout.

  19. Hi! Your kitchen is beautiful! I’m starting a kitchen remodel and wanted Carrara marble counters but am too klutzy! It looks like your counters are Quartz. If they are, do you know the name of the Quartz? Would you have preferred something else or granite or are you happy with them?

    1. Heidi @ Honeybear Lane says:

      Thanks! The Quartz is Hanstone Tranquility. I love it!

  20. heres why I WONT be subscriing to your blog ~ because the share blocks on the side made it impossible to read anything on the page ~ and if there is a way to hide the share blocks it was probably covered up by them ~ in fact I cant even see the side of this box I am typing in to read my own post!

  21. Excellent post! I love your honesty and all the helpful tips. It came out gorgeous!

    1. Heidi @ Honeybear Lane says:

      Thank you!

  22. your kitchen is beautiful and the backsplash is just the icing on the cake! I was wondering, what kind of flooring do you have? Did you install it yourself?

  23. OMG…..Beautiful and lot of hard work…i wanted to do same but cant get courage to start all by my self…i brought the same tiles….your make over is really awesome..good job!!
    myblessednestsite.wordpress.com

    1. Heidi @ Honeybear Lane says:

      Thank you! Maybe you could try it on a smaller scale, like a bathroom or laundry room?

  24. what wood floor do you have and color?

    1. Heidi @ Honeybear Lane says:

      It’s laminate and it’s Mannington Historic Oak in Ash.

  25. I love the tile! Can you tell me where you purchased it and who makes it.

    1. Heidi @ Honeybear Lane says:

      I’m not sure who makes it but I got it at Lowes.

  26. You are my heroine, Heidi! This looks absolutely stunning!!! I love the subtle gray lines in the tiles…it softens the “starkness” of an all white subway tile look! I am such a newbie as renovations! I am so impressed by all the home talk peeps out there!

    1. Heidi @ Honeybear Lane says:

      Thank you!

  27. My kitchen is the same color and we have been thinking about the perfect backsplash. I like this one so much, I’m going to send it to my husband.

  28. OMG! My husband LOVES marble and this would make him so happy! You have done an amazing job of tiling. It looks nothing short of spectacular! Thank for detailing out your super job so well. I cannot wait to try it.

    1. Heidi @ Honeybear Lane says:

      Thank you! It was an intense project but well worth it!

  29. Wow, it looks gorgeous. What a beautiful kitchen you have.

    1. Heidi @ Honeybear Lane says:

      Thank you!

  30. Lovely job! Am so proud of you. Where is the post about the pendNt lights? Did you get them at Loews also?

    1. Heidi @ Honeybear Lane says:

      Thank you! I did get the pendants from Lowes.

  31. Beautiful job! I’m getting ready to do a “ light remodel” in my white kitchen, and your tile job is exactly what I’m thinking! I’m so happy I found your post. Thanks for such a detailed account. Next week I’m trying my hand at a bathroom sink backsplash 1st to test it all out. Thanks again!

  32. Everyone is totally correct, the back splash you created looks wonderful, good job. Also wanted to say that this is one of the first times I have seen cabinets that go ALL the way to the ceiling! That is so smart and makes the kitchen look spacious; I don’t care if they are empty cabinets, it looks good and makes so much sense! Well Done! Show Everyone!

  33. great job. Can you tell me what color grout you used and what size are the spaces between the tiles?

  34. Beautiful! I have told my husband no projects this year. I just wanna enjoy our home. Now that I’ve seen this I cant resist! I am a DIY girl myself and he is good to help. I’m gonna show him this and start making plans. Did you paint your cabinets or purchase them finished in white? It’s all beautiful and I’m thinking I need to paint mine.

    1. Heidi @ Honeybear Lane says:

      Thank you! We bought our house with white cabinets. Good luck!

  35. Goodness, I do a wide range of tasks yet never tile. Looks tremendous. Great job.

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