A Stone Tile Kitchen Backsplash

Don’t date your kitchen with arbitrary design choices. Instead, make sure that your design and materials choices compliment the overall age and heritage of your home. This post describes how an inexpensive solid stone tile kitchen backsplash can transform a midcentury home’s kitchen.

A typical unfortunate kitchen reno “before” pic.
Not too hard to beat!

Houses built in the 1950s and 1960s often had wonderful Frank Lloyd Wright -like design flourishes that got ripped out in unfortunate 1970s and 1980s re-decorations and recent housing market bubble home-flips. This project shows how to turn the clock back on that!

The Mosaic Tile Design Challenge?

Mosaic tile sheets almost never come with matching bullnose edge trim pieces. For a purposeful but minimalist look, you need to figure out a way to make the mosaic tile itself work for 90deg outside corners and uncovered edges.

Stone tile outside corner

For example, the client on this project wanted to extend the stone tile kitchen backsplash into the windowsash above the sink. This required getting creative with the tile placement, as you can see from the pic. The nice thing about solid stone tile is that it’s literally solid all the way through. So, you can polish up uncovered cuts to look finished. And staggering grout joints ensures that even outside corners left open will still make a good looking and durable finish.

Although a little difficult, installing uncovered stone mosaic outside corners is definitely not impossible. Tile experts did this all the time in the 1950s and 60s, after all. It just takes a bit more time and patience to make a minimalist open tile edge look purposeful.

The Kitchen Backsplash Install Tips!

Another challenge for natural stone mosaics is grouting. Most stone tile pieces have surface pits that can really grab and hold onto grout. So, before installation, make certain you triple-seal the tile surface with a good penetrating stone tile sealant. You’ll thank yourself once you get to the grouting step.

Another general tip for any backsplash install is DO NOT USE PLAIN PAINTER’s CAULK OR GENERIC SILICONE CAULK FOR THE TILE TO COUNTERTOP JOINT! You cannot pack pack the backsplash/counter seam with grout since this will cause the grout joint to crack and chip out over time. Grout doesn’t work for 90deg inside seams where tile meets a tub or countertop. So, some hack tile installers will use just plain ‘ol construction caulk to cover this seam, which inevitably looks terrible.

Instead, use color-matched sanded grout caulk. This type of siliconized epoxy caulk will not only match the grout color but also resist discoloration and dirt over time. It’s specifically formulated for this job, so use it!

Here are some example caulk installation pics from a different kitchen backsplash installation. It doesn’t matter whether your tile is natural stone, porcelain ceramic, or glass. Using quality painter’s tape to mask off hte grout joints will give perfect results every time.

If you just use a finger and a prayer, you won’t get a perfect result. Like anything, prep time is time well spent.

The Stone Tile Backsplash Result?

Judge for yourself. The most important result for this stone tile kitchen backsplash project was a happy client!