Order the tile
Stainless steel tile is available from several online sources. Once you find a tile size and style you like, decide on
an installation pattern. You can combine different
shapes to form a design or install the tiles in a traditional
stacked or subway style like ours.
Most stainless steel tiles have a backing that
makes them easy to install. Some even
have a peel-and-stick back. You can choose from cork, hardboard
and cement board backing. Cork is
good for backsplash installations. Use cement
board in wet areas like showers.
Use graph paper or a computer
drawing program to plan the pattern
and calculate how many pieces of each
size of tile you'll need. Order several extra
tiles in case you miscut one or miscalculate the amount. We decided on a subway pattern using 12 x 2-1/4-in. tiles. If you have an open end on your wall and you're
installing the tile in a subway pattern, make sure to order
half tiles to start every other row (Photo 2).
Prepare for tiling
Before you get started, find a long straight board or metal
straightedge and use it to determine whether the walls in the
backsplash area are flat. If the walls have humps or depressions,
the tile will be uneven. For a great-looking job, you
should fix these problems now, either by filling in the low
spots with a layer of joint compound or by filling alongside
humps and feathering them out to make them less
Next, plan the installation to avoid skinny tile cuts if possible.
Photo 1 shows one method. You can also make a scale
drawing and sketch the layout on paper, or make a template
of your backsplash with butcher paper or cardboard and lay
the tiles over it. The idea is to adjust the layout for the most
It's dangerous to work around live outlets with metal tiles.
Before you begin the installation, turn off the power to the
kitchen outlets and lights at the main electrical panel. We
removed the outlets and switches in the backsplash area and
capped the wires because we planned to replace the ivory-colored
devices with gray ones. If you plan to keep the same
outlets and switches, wrap two layers of wide blue painter's
tape around the entire device to cover the face and terminal
screws. Then twist the device so that you can push it partially
into the box where it will be out of the way. Leave the
power turned off while you install the tiles.
Before you reinstall the outlets and switches, add box
extensions to bring the face of the electrical box flush to the
face of the tile. You'll find plastic box extensions at home
centers and hardware stores.
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Glue the tiles to the wall
The cork-backed stainless steel tiles we used are held to the
wall with construction adhesive. You can leave spaces between the tiles
and grout them just like ceramic tiles, but they look better
set tight together. Grout lines detract from the metallic look.
Peel off the protective plastic coating after you're finished
installing the tiles.
The best way to cut stainless steel tiles is with a diamond
wet saw. Cut the tile face up so that any lip that forms is on
the back of the tile. Handle the tile carefully. The cut metal
edges are very sharp. It's difficult to cut notches with a wet
saw. A rotary tool fitted with a metal-cutting disc is a good
tool for cutting notches and other intricate shapes (Photo 4).
Rest the first row of tile on thin cardboard shims (Photo 2).
Cardboard from the back of a legal pad is the right thickness. This leaves a space for caulk under the tiles and allows you
a little room to adjust the tile if the countertop isn't perfectly
flat. When you're done installing the tile, fill this gap with
a very thin bead of clear silicone caulk.