If you’ve been following our RV remodeling projects, you know tiling our RV backsplash was the scariest part of the whole remodeling project. It was so scary, in fact, that we just painted the walls in the galley to see if that would make us happy enough. It was a vast improvement, I’ll admit, but I really wanted tile.
So what’s the big deal about tiling an RV backsplash, you might ask. Well … for the experienced person … it might not be a big deal — but if you’re a newbie tiler, like I am, you might have a challenge or two. Here were my top three…
- I’ve never tiled anything before.
- There is a large window with curved edges which meant I’d have to learn to cut curves into the tile.
- Because of the window, we couldn’t use 1/4″ thick tiles because it would leave an ugly raw edge next to the window.
After doing quite a lot of research on the internet, I found I could tile the RV backsplash and because of the window, we needed to use the extra thin glass tiles that you find at Home Depot.
The bad news about that is they come in a VERY LIMITED number of color combinations.
The good news is, they’re really inexpensive — just $4.99 a square foot!
PREPARE TO TILE YOUR RV BACKSPLASH
Here are the steps we took — and yes — I’ll probably give you more steps than you may need because I’m writing this for the newbie like myself who wants to tile but is skerrred!
- Find the right tiles for your RV. If you have anything other than a straight wall, where you can butt one end of the tile up to the corner and the other end can be finished off with a finishing tile — you’ll probably want to choose thin tiles like the glass tiles we choose. If you use standard thickness tiles, you’ll have raw edges around your windows.
- Measure your wall and buy one sheet more tiles than you think you’ll need. For my small space, I only needed six square feet, so I bought 7 sheets for a total cost of $35. Score!! I suggest you keep a spare sheet of tile in case you ever need to make repairs.
- Decide which kind of thinset/mortar, grout and tools you need.
There are a lot of opinions on what kind of thinset/mortar you need to use in an RV. The best consensus seems to be that you should use an epoxy thinset because it’s more flexible and since our RV homes move, the added flexability is important to prevent cracks.
Sometimes I’m a bit of a rebel and this time I didn’t choose epoxy thinset because it wasn’t pre-mixed and I didn’t want the hassle of measuring and getting the consistency correct.
More importantly to me, the guy at Home Depot said epoxy thinset is more difficult to work with — primarilybecause it dries much more quickly. Being new, quite honestly I was afraid of it, so I went with a standard thinset. I used Custom Building Prod. CTTSGQT Simpleset Pre-mixed Tile And Stone Thin-set Mortar. So far so good — no cracks. I’ll update this post if I get cracks. If you don’t see an update, you can presume all has gone well.
Pick the right grout for your project. Again, there are probably differing opinions on what’s best. To keep things simple — and with the recommendations of the Home Depot guy, I choose a ready to use grout in a sand color that is premixed and already has a sealant mixed in. Are you starting to realize I like to keep things as simple as possible?
Pick the right trowel for your project. I didn’t know what I was doing, so I just picked a trowel without really realizing there is any real difference. When I got home and got started with the project, I realized that the notched depth of my trowel was too deep for my tiles. My trowel was a standard 1/4″ but because my tiles were so thin, I needed a 3/16″ trowel. Since my closest Home Depot is 45 miles away, I made due with what I had, but it was a struggle the whole time. You’ll want to choose the right trowel for your RV backsplash project the first time around. If you’re using the thin glass mosaic tiles, I recommend the 3/16″ V-Notched Trowel.
Pick the right grout float for your project. I used two grout floats. One Full Size Grout Float for all the open areas. The larger surface of this float makes the grout job go more quickly. In my RV, there is a small space between the range hood and the wall. The standard size grout float didn’t work in that space, so I used a Narrow Grout Float in that area.
Use a 24-Inch Level to create your first straight line upon which all other lines will be based upon. In my kitchen, I leveled the outside vertical line. I felt that would be the most noticeable area and I wanted to be 100% confident that it would be perfectly straight.
You’ll need a thick tiling sponge and I choose the Haze Buffer And Sanded Grout Sponge. You’ll use this to wipe your grout about 20 minutes after you put it on, and also to do the final cleaning of your grout.
If you’re using glass tiles, you need a tile cutter (or two). I used two different tools and the Wheeled Mosaic Glass Tile Cutter was by far my most useful tool that gave me the most consistent cuts. The other tool I used was Glass Cutter Pliers which was useful, but for a newbie, the cuts weren’t quite as consistent.
STEP BY STEP INSTRUCTIONS TO TILE YOUR RV BACKSPLASH
Prepare your backsplash wall. Make sure it’s clean. Easy.
Protect your countertops. I simply used blue painters tape and paper towels. It’s a small area so it doesn’t take much.
Use your level to create your straight edge guide (or two). I only used one straight line and it was the vertical line on the outside edge of my RV backsplash tile project. I used the countertop as my other “straight edge”. You’ll have to determine which line or lines are best for your own tiling project.
Layout your tiling “blueprint” for your RV Backsplash. For me this meant laying my tile sheets across base of my RV backsplash to see if they would fit perfectly across or if I would need to cut the tiles on one edge or the other.
Because there are no edge tiles for these glass tiles, I couldn’t have a cut edge on the outside edge of my tile project. That meant I knew I’d need to start tiling on the left and work toward the right. I lucked out in that five tiles was a perfect fit from the edge of my countertop to the left edge of my window which meant the only cuts I’d need on the outer edge would be at the top, directly under the upper cupboards.
Things got more challenging from there because the wall height between the countertop and the edge of the windows would only allow for two rows of whole tiles. I’d need to cut tiles to fit around the bottom edge of the window and around the corner curves.
As I moved towards the right side of the window, once again, six whole tiles were a perfect fit between the right window edge and the edge of the cabinet that holds the microwave. Yeah! No cuts there (except at the top).
Now here’s where I made a big mistake — as I “blueprinted” the remainder of the wall — the area above the stove — I could see that if I squeezed the tiles just a bit tighter than the mesh they’re on, I could fit entire sheets and not need to cut the tiles on the inside edge. That’s what I decided to do and as you can see in the closeup of the stove area — the tiles got really crooked because they were pushed together. I think it looks worse than if I’d cut each tile on the inside edge.
I definitely don’t recommend squeezing the tiles — you’re much better off to cut them and if you use my tips below, it won’t be difficult.
If you look at the close-up image of the window area (above), you’ll notice that I didn’t cut tiles to go around the curve of the window. I left this area without tile because I knew I would be putting window coverings up and I didn’t want to have to drill through the tile. I kept an extra sheet of tile in case the new owner (when I eventually sell) decides she wants tiles in that area or in case I need to replace any because of cracks, etc.
INSTALLING YOUR GLASS MOSAIC TILE RV BACKSPLASH
You’ve laid out your blueprint — you’ve decided where you’ll cut your sheets on the whole tile areas, now it’s time to get started with the install.
When setting 1″ glass mosaics a 3/16″ V-Notched Trowel trowel is recommended, while a ¼” x ¼” square notch trowel is preferred for installing field tile. Spread as much adhesive with a notched trowel in an area no larger than what can be covered within 15 minutes. Using the flat side of the trowel flatten the notches to achieve a smooth consistent setting bed approximately 1/8” thick for mosaics and 3/16” thick for field tile.
Carefully apply sheets into the setting bed ensuring that grout lines are evenly spaced and that sheets are uniform and level. I used the grout float to gently press individual and side by side sheets until they are accurately placed according to my installation blueprint.
I installed all of my whole tile sections first and then I went back and cut and installed the pieces that I needed for fill-ins. An expert would probably cut as they go, but that’s not what I did. I’m not sure if there is a right or wrong. My method worked well for me.
CUTTING GLASS MOSAIC TILES FOR YOUR RV BACKSPLASH
It’s very likely you’ll need to cut some of your tiles to go in the narrow areas, or even around a curved window. This is one of the reasons why I suggested you purchase an extra sheet of tiles. You, like me, may make some mistakes cutting the glass and you’ll have some waste. If you use these few tips, the job should be much easier.
When I started the project, all I had was the Glass Cutter Pliers. Glass cutters have tungsten carbide scribing wheel, and “breaking wings” which allow clean breaks with minimal pressure. These take a bit of getting used to.
Scoring the Glass
Scoring the glass is disrupting the surface integrity along a thin line. For the straight cuts, this tool works well. Simply score the glass, position it under the ‘wings’ and push down lightly: the glass is broken cleanly into two pieces.
Oil your cutting wheel with 3-IN-ONE OIL and make sure you keep oiling it often. This helps prevent your cutting wheel from getting dull too quickly, but also helps keep the small fragments of glass from lodging in the grooves of the wheel mechanism.
When using a wheel cutter, it should be vertical. (like car wheels on the road, not a motorcycle going around a bend) A moderate downward pressure as you roll the cutter along the glass is required, and you should hear a noise that falls somewhere on the mild side of a screech. Use too little pressure, and you won’t score the glass, (and you won’t hear the noise) use too much, and you throw tiny chips off the score which can then get under the wheel, resulting in accelerated dulling of your cutter. After you do it a couple times, you’ll know the sound.
Though in theory, the Glass Cutter Pliers should be able to cut curves, I found it difficult on small 1″ tiles. If you’re using larger tiles, this may be the only tool you’ll need. I’ve used it for other glass cutting projects and it’s brilliant, it just wasn’t my favorite on 1″ mosaic tiles.
Because of the curves I needed for the curve edged RV window, I had to stop midway in my project and run out and buy a Wheeled Mosaic Glass Tile Cutter. This was by far my favorite tool and if you’re cutting glass mosaic tiles, I’d suggest you purchase this one before you get started on your project!!!!
This acts much more like the tile nips you’ve probably used or seen. I loved these because they easily cut the straight lines and they also cut the curves simply by nipping away at the edge until I got the shape I wanted.
These come with a little tool to keep the wheels nice and tight and you’ll want to use it often. If the wheels get at all loose, your cuts will get crooked. Also be sure to keep this well oiled with the 3-IN-ONE OIL.
My biggest tip for using this tool is to do it with confidence. Apply even, strong pressure. Don’t be timid.
I think you’ll find this tool to be the most useful of the two because it can do the straight cuts with ease, as well as nip away at your curves. You can also nip off just the tiniest of bits — or half the tile! Love it!
SAFETY FIRST. Need I remind you to wear safety glasses whenever you’re cutting glass? I didn’t think so
GROUTING YOUR RV BACKSPLASH TILE PROJECT
Prior to starting my project, I read somewhere that grout hides a plethora of mistakes. I couldn’t agree less. I think the grout highlights the mistakes I made — so my suggestion is to work carefully on your project and try to get your tile even, your cuts well done, etc., from the beginning. Don’t count on the grout to hide your mistakes!
I waited 24 hours between setting the tiles and grouting the tiles and I’d suggest you do the same.
Apply the grout with a float, gliding over the tiles at a 45-degree angle . Don’t apply too much pressure or you might sink the tiles into the thin-set or push them out of plumb.
Back off from your work now and again to check that no tiles have moved and everything is in order.
By the time you get to the end of one wall, the first section of tiles should be dry enough to wet sponge. Wipe the grouted tiles clean with a damp Haze Buffer And Sanded Grout Sponge, applied at a 45-degree angle, being careful to keep from indenting the grout lines. Don’t get the sponge too wet or you’ll risk pulling the grout out of the lines.
When the grout is dry (48 hours), polish the haze off the tiles with the white side of the sponge.
YOUR RV BACKSPLASH TILING PROJECT IS DONE!
I know the above instructions are long and involved and it may scare you to get started, but trust me, it’s easier than you may think. I tried to write EVERYTHING down for those newbies — like myself — who might want ALL the details.
If you tile your RV backsplash and you’d like to share your pictures, please email them to me. I’d love to share them with our community!
Have fun — have faith — it will turn out beautiful (or at least acceptable) and you’ll be glad you did it! It’s an inexpensive, easy way to update the look of your RV.
HERE’S HOW MY RV KITCHEN GALLEY REMODEL PROJECT TURNED OUT
And that’s about it! We love the updated look and it suits us perfectly!
How about you? What have you done to your RV Galley that you love?
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Peace, Love, and Flip Flops,
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