This story covers preparing, laying out, and tiling a kitchen backsplash.
Snap layout lines on the backsplash area to correspond to the grout lines for the tile size used. Set up the first row of tiles in a dry run, using nylon wedges to keep their top edges level. Mark the top edge on the wall and snap a level chalk line at this point, extending it beyond the end if possible.
Remove the dry-laid tiles and apply thinset mortar. If the backsplash continues up to the cabinets, work in small sections. Some areas may be hard to reach and will require more time for placing the tile. Working in small sections will avoid the risk of the adhesive setting up too soon.
Set the bottom row of tiles using the wedges to bring it level with the line you have marked on the wall. Set the remaining tiles, cleaning the grout lines with a utility knife as you go. Use spacers if appropriate to your tile and check the lines with a straightedge. Let the mortar cure.
Remove the wedges from beneath the bottom row of tiles. Apply grout to the joints with a grout float. Do not grout the joint below the bottom row. Work the float in both directions to fill the joints. Completing an upward stroke is difficult under a cabinet; instead pull the float down.
Let the grout set until it doesn't pull out of the joint when you run a damp sponge lightly across it. Then scrape the excess grout off the tile surface. Wring out a sponge completely and smooth the joints, removing the excess from the surface. Repeat the cleaning at least one more time.
At the horizontal and vertical midpoints, snap perpendicular chalk lines. From their intersection, measure out an equal distance on each line. At these points, draw lines perpendicular to the original lines, extending them until they intersect. Draw diagonal lines connecting the intersection points.
Using the diagonal lines as quadrants, trowel on thinset in one quadrant. Set tile within that quadrant and clean it. Then set and clean the remaining quadrants in any order. Remove any excess mortar from the joints. Let the mortar cure, then cut and install the edge tile.
Force grout into the joints with the grout float, working at right angles to the joints. Let the grout set up slightly and remove the excess grout from the tile with the float. Clean the surface at least twice with a damp sponge and clean water. Remove the haze from the surface with a clean rag.