How to Install a Backsplash with SimpleMat

Tile backsplashes, countertops and shower walls are popular home improvements, but homeowners face some common problems when considering these investments. 

The traditional way of installing a backsplash isn’t easy for do-it-yourselfers. And the alternative — hiring a professional for the job — is too expensive.

Kathrin Luton's kitchen, after its renovation with a new range hood and backsplash, in Palmdale, California.
A tile backsplash gives this California kitchen a finished look, and makes cooking messes easier to clean.

Backsplash Installation: What You Should Know 

The average backsplash costs about $1,000 to install, according to HomeAdvisor. The actual cost reflects materials used, the job’s complexity (like angles to work around), and even transporting materials to the job site. 

You may have to pay $400 to $500 per day, and that’s just for labor. Keep in mind that a professional backsplash installation often takes two days! 

Compared to those costs, the DIY route is more attractive to homeowners — and the simpler the project is, the better. But that’s a problem with thinset mortar, a tile adhesive.

First, you have to spread the mortar with the trowel’s flat side and then create ridges with its notched side. Then you have to wait for the tile to set — cure time varies a lot and could be 16 hours or more!

Slowly, but surely, the process comes together, but who has that kind of time?

That’s why I love time-saving tools like SimpleMat from Custom Building Products. This double-sided adhesive mat is designed to bond tile to drywall and many other surfaces without the hassle.

SimpleMat comes in two options, depending on your preference and coverage needs: 

  • Sheets: One box contains nine sheets — each 9 inches by 8 inches — that cover 10 square feet. (In fact, I used sheets to create this backsplash in a Palmdale, California, home!) 
  • Roll: The Contractor Roll, which covers 30 square feet, makes it even easier to install tile on countertops, backsplashes and shower walls in the quickest, cleanest way possible.

Both options do the same job — so you can just pick whichever is more convenient.

And now, let’s install a DIY backsplash!

Tile backsplash installed over kitchen range
With help from Custom Building Products, I easily covered a bare wall with this beautiful backsplash — and you can, too!

First, you have to spread the mortar with the trowel’s flat side and then create ridges with its notched side. Then you have to wait for the tile to set — cure time varies a lot and could be 16 hours or more!

Slowly, but surely, the process comes together, but who has that kind of time?

That’s why I love time-saving tools like SimpleMat from Custom Building Products. This double-sided adhesive mat is designed to bond tile to drywall and many other surfaces without the hassle.

SimpleMat comes in two options, depending on your preference and coverage needs: 

Sheets: One box contains nine sheets — each 9 inches by 8 inches — that cover 10 square feet

• Roll: The Contractor Roll, which covers 30 square feet, makes it even easier to install tile on countertops, backsplashes and shower walls in the quickest, cleanest way possible.

Both options do the same job — so you can just pick whichever is more convenient.

And now, let’s install a DIY backsplash!


Kitchen with black range, range hood and blue wall and white countertop
A tile backsplash requires less maintenance than drywall and enhances the kitchen’s design — that sounds like a win-win to me!

Backsplash Installation Materials:


Chelsea Lipford Wolf measures kitchen wall
Remember: measure twice, cut once.

1.  Measure the Area

SimpleMat, again, comes in rolls or sheets. We’re using sheets for this project because it’s a small space. But the rolls really come in handy for long walls. 

Chelsea Lipford Wolf lays out SimpleMat backsplash in a blue kitchen
Installing a backsplash is easy once you remove thinset mortar from the equation!

First, lay out the area, using full sheets when possible. Then, cut the remaining sheets to size with regular household scissors. Mark any cuts for obstacles such as electrical outlets, light switches and molding, and cut those out the same way or with a utility knife.


Kitchen with blue wall, oven, white cabinets and faux marble countertops
Walls that are clean and free of grease are ones that are ready for a backsplash!

2. Prep the Surface

Concrete, drywall, plywood and laminates are just some of the surfaces that you can tile over with SimpleMat. Regardless of the area you’re working on, it needs prepping.

For backsplash installations, use a degreaser or diluted dish soap and wipe the walls clean. Then let them dry completely.

For countertops, set a level on the surface to make sure they’re even. If they are, go ahead and remove dust and debris, de-grease the area and wipe it down with a damp sponge.


Chelsea Lipford Wolf presses SimpleMat into a blue wall
Before removing the clear plastic film from the front, press SimpleMat onto the wall.

3. Apply Sheets to the Wall

Remove SimpleMat’s paper backing and apply each sheet to the wall. (We’re sticking the back of the mat to the wall right now — we’ll work with the front of the mat later.) Then use a grout float to flatten air bubbles and creases.

If the phone rings while you’re doing all this, feel free to answer it! SimpleMat is different from mortar in the best way because there’s no rush. You can work at your own pace and set tile on your timeline. 

Be sure to wait until your tiles are prepped before removing the clear plastic film, though! Once you expose the adhesive beads, you’ll need to work as quickly as possible.

 

Cutting tiles with a wet saw
You can rent a portable wet saw for $50 per day, or even buy one for that amount.

4. Prep the Tiles

Now it’s the tiles’ turn for prepping. You can use SimpleMat with ceramic, porcelain, stone or glass tile that’s 1 inch by 1 inch or larger. Mosaic tile with an open mesh backing can also be used for backsplash installations. Tile shouldn’t be heavier than 7 pounds or larger than 8 inches by 8 inches.

I’m working with small tiles that are matted together. It makes cutting a lot easier than trying to cut tiny, individual tiles!

Measure the tiles and make cuts as needed with a wet saw. Then clean the backs of the tiles or stones with a damp sponge and let dry.


Pressing tile backsplash into a SimpleMat
I’m loving how easy it is to set these tiles. Repeat after me: no mortar.  

5. Press in Tiles

Remove each sheet’s clear plastic to expose the adhesive beads, and then lightly set tiles into place.

It’s OK if you make a mistake; adjust as needed! When you are ready to commit to a position, use a grout float to press the tile firmly into place.

Keep in mind, we’ve just applied SimpleMat and pressed our tiles onto the sheets at this point — no thinset mortar to deal with, and no excessive drying times to juggle.

Can you feel how much time and energy we’ve saved so far? I sure can!


Gloved hand trowels grout over a tile backsplash
What’s so soothing about grouting tiles? I don’t know, but I could do this all day!

6. Grout the Tiles

Finally, we’re grouting the backsplash. For the best results, do this immediately and always within 24 hours of setting the tile.

Hold a grout float at a 45-degree angle and apply Fusion ProPolyblend GroutSimpleGrout or Prism Ultimate Performance Grout to the surface.


Gloved hand wipes grout off tile backsplash with a damp sponge
Don’t forget to remove the excess grout — a damp sponge is perfect for the job!
 

Carefully spread the grout into each joint, going over in multiple directions if necessary.

After you’re done with a small area, clean off the excess with a damp sponge using a circular motion.

Wait for the grout to set and harden; this varies a lot, so always read the grout’s instructions.

Then you can remove any haze with a clean, dry cheesecloth.

And that’s it!

You now have a beautiful backsplash in a fraction of the time it would take to use traditional installation methods.

Try this project, and let me know how it goes in the comments below!


 

10 COMMENTS

  1. Love you Chelsea. You and your dad make everything so fun to watch. Great tips also. Miss the shows on WKRG on Sat.

    • Hi, Judy!
      Our show is still airing in Mobile. We’re checking with WKRG on current times, but you can also view locally on WFNA. 🙂

  2. The Simplemat web site says the tiles should be no bigger than 8”x8”. It looks like yours are about a square ft. Does the simplemat work with tiles that size?

  3. I checked out the website you linked but did not see a floor tile option. Do you know if there is a version of the mat for floors? Thanks for the informative article!

    • Hi, Jacquie,
      SimpleMat is designed for backsplashes, countertops and shower walls.
      It should not be used outside, on floors, ceilings or shower floors.

  4. Thanks Chelsea for this tip I’m retiring soon and I’m doing some DIY home makeover. And you are my inspirational. I really need your tips.

    • Glad to hear you enjoyed this content! Please share it with friends — that’s how we’re able to create similar content.

  5. Can I use SimpleMat to cover OVER existing tile backsplash? I know it will need to be thoroughly degreased but it is porcelain cobalt blue tiles with a trailing white rose pattern in one horizontal row all along the backsplash. Seems pretty dated for today’s kitchens but I don’t want to have to remove the existing tile because my corian countertops butt right up to the bottom of the tile and I’m afraid the countertop would be damaged — and then a MUCH more expensive project would be necessary! I love the concept of the SimpleMat!!! Makes me feel brave enough to tackle this! BTW, I’m a senior who mentally is still in my prime but my physical body is slowing me down. I want to keep doing projects to make me feel like I’m accomplishing something.

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