How to Install a Backsplash with SimpleMat

Want to tackle an inexpensive home improvement that has an instant impact? Install a tile backsplash! 

Of course, that’s easier said than done. Traditional backsplash installation takes more time and effort than many do-it-yourselfers would prefer. And the alternative — hiring a professional for the job — is too expensive.

Fortunately, there’s a third option, but I’ll get to that later! 


Backsplash Installation: What You Should Know 

The average backsplash costs about $1,000 to install, according to HomeAdvisor. You could pay more or less than that, depending on the materials, the job’s complexity, and even just transporting materials to your house. 

But one thing’s for sure: labor isn’t cheap! You may have to pay $400 to $500 per day just for a tile installer to do the job. And keep in mind that a professional backsplash installation often takes two days! 

The DIY route is attractive to many homeowners, but also has its share of issues. 

You have to prep the walls, spread mortar, install the tile, wait for it to set — which could take 24 hours — and then you still have to grout everything.  

Honestly, who has that kind of time? (Not this mother of three, that’s for sure!)

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: 

  • Sheets: Nine sheets — each is 9 inches by 8 inches — that cover 10 square feet. (I used sheets to create this backsplash in a Palmdale, California, home!) 
  • Rolls: Each one covers 30 square feet and makes it easier and faster to install tiles.

Speaking of which, let’s install a DIY backsplash!


Kitchen, seen before a remodeling
This kitchen’s walls look pretty bare — and they’re stain magnets — but I’m about to fix that. 

Backsplash Installation Materials:


“Today’s Homeowner” co-host Chelsea Lipford Wolf preps kitchen walls before installing a subway tile backsplash
Walls that are clean and free of grease are ones that are ready for a backsplash!

1. Prep and Measure

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

For backsplash installations, apply a degreaser or diluted dish soap and wipe the walls clean. Then let them dry completely. For countertops, remove dust and debris, de-grease the area and wipe it down with a damp sponge.

Next, lay out the area, using full sheets of SimpleMat 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.


Women install SimpleMat on a kitchen wall
Before you remove SimpleMat’s clear plastic film from the front, press the sheet onto the wall.

2. Apply Sheets and Prep Tiles

Remove SimpleMat’s paper backing and apply each sheet to the wall. Then use a grout float to flatten air bubbles and creases.

If your phone rings, feel free to answer it! SimpleMat is different from mortar in the best way because there’s no rush. Work at your own pace and set tiles on your timeline. 

After you’ve applied the sheets to the wall, measure your tiles and make cuts with a wet saw. 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. However, each tile shouldn’t be heavier than 7 pounds or larger than 8 inches by 8 inches.

Then clean the backs of the tiles or stones with a damp sponge and let dry.


Closeup of a subway tile backsplash installation with tile spacers
I love how easy it is to set these tiles. Repeat after me: no mortar.

3. Press in Tiles

Remove the clear plastic face of each SimpleMat sheet to expose the adhesive beads, and then lightly set tiles into place. I’m installing subway tiles, along with tile spacers to make sure all the gaps are consistent. 

While you’re installing the tiles, 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!


“Today’s Homeowner” co-host Chelsea Lipford Wolf grouts subway tile backsplash with help from a partner
There are so many grout colors to choose from! We chose a dark gray to really make the white tiles pop.

4. Grout the Tiles

Finally, it’s time to grout the backsplash. For the best results, do this immediately after setting the tile. If that’s not possible, just make sure you grout within 24 hours of setting the tile.

Hold a grout float at a 45-degree angle and apply Fusion Pro, Polyblend Plus Sanded Grout, SimpleGrout or Prism Ultimate Performance Grout to the surface.

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.


Subway tile backsplash, seen just after installation, while curing
Don’t forget to remove the excess grout — a damp sponge is perfect for the job!

5. Remove Haze and Residue 

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

Then you can remove any haze or residue with a clean, dry microfiber towel.

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!


Further Reading

12 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.

  6. My kitchen looks just like [this one]! Used the simple mat & took me 1 hrs start to finish! Swear by it now! Only thing & it’s not related to the Simplemat, is do you also have an issue with opening the drawer that’s to the right side of your dishwasher striking one against the other? The area is so close that I’ve replaced the drawer pull handle and even have gone so far as to reshape the drawer front to avoid the contact with the dishwasher handle. Finally, I’ve settled on taking the drawer out & lined the drawer cavity top, bottom & sides & then added mitered decorative face trim along the outside of the opening so the space is now a garage for either flat trays or a handy storage for those rolls foil, wax paper or plastic wrap.

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