A glass tile backsplash can transform the look and feel of any kitchen or bathroom. With proper planning and installation, you can create a stunning focal point that is durable, easy to clean, and enhances the overall design aesthetic. This guide covers everything you need to know to successfully plan and install a glass tile backsplash.
Selecting Glass Tile
The first step is choosing the right glass tile for your project. There are a few key considerations when selecting glass tile:
Glass tile comes in a huge range of colors, shapes, textures and finishes. Popular options include:
- Subway tile – Classic rectangular glass tiles in white, muted colors or bold hues
- Mosaic tile – Small, multi-colored tiles arranged in intricate patterns
- Metallic tile – Glass tiles with a shimmering metallic finish
- Iridescent tile – Tiles that change color depending on lighting and viewing angle
Consider the overall style you want to achieve – modern, rustic, minimalist, eclectic – and choose glass tiles that align with your vision.
Standard glass tile sizes include 1×1 inches, 2×2 inches, 3×6 inches and 4×4 inches. Large format tiles like 4×12 inches are also available. Decide if you want a seamless look with larger tiles or visual interest with mosaics.
Glass tile thickness is measured in millimeters. Thinner tiles (2mm) are suitable for walls. Thicker tiles (5mm) provide more durability for floors or heavy-use areas.
Options like crackled glass, pressed glass and frosted glass offer different levels of texture. Smoother tiles complement contemporary spaces, while more textural tiles suit rustic designs.
The color palette for glass tiles is limitless. opt for monochromatic hues for a clean look or bold, contrasting colors for drama. Neutrals like white and gray glass tile provide flexibility.
Glass tile contains recycled glass combined with pigments, fillers and bonding components. Opt for tiles with a high glass content for brilliance and longevity. Porcelain, stone and metal can also be incorporated with glass.
Glass tile is sold by the square foot. Expect to pay $10-20 per square foot on average. More intricate mosaic tiles, handmade tiles or specialty finishes can cost up to $50 per square foot.
Choosing the right glass tile comes down to determining the visual impact you want and selecting materials that bring your design vision to life.
How Much Tile is Needed?
Once you’ve selected your glass tile, calculate how much tile you need to purchase. Measure the surface area of the backsplash space:
- Measure the height in inches from the countertop to the bottom of the upper cabinets
- Measure the length in inches of the backsplash area
- Multiply height x width to get the square footage
Add an extra 10% to account for tile cuts, patterns and waste. Having extra tiles left over is better than running short mid-project.
If installing a mosaic pattern, purchase tile by the sheet rather than the box whenever possible. Tiles sold by the sheet come pre-arranged in the mosaic pattern for easier installation.
Grout fills the joints between tiles with color and texture. With glass tile, white or very light gray grout provides the best contrast. Stay away from dark grout colors, which can overpower the brilliance of glass tile.
Consider the following factors when selecting grout:
As noted above, white or light gray looks best with glass tile. Match or coordinate with your tile color.
Unsanded vs. Sanded
Unsanded grout is recommended for glass tile with joints 1/8” or smaller. Sanded grout can scratch smooth glass. Use sanded grout for large format glass tiles with wider grout lines.
Epoxy grout does not require sealing and is impervious to stains, making it a good choice for kitchen backsplashes. However, it can be difficult to work with and does not allow for color variation.
Cement grout is the most economical option. It allows subtle shading for a handcrafted look. But cement grout requires sealing to prevent staining.
Select the right grout color and material for your needs. Test grout colors on a single tile before doing the entire project.
Tools and Materials
Installing a glass tile backsplash requires the following tools and materials:
- Tile cutter – Specialty glass cutters like handheld cutters or wet saws are ideal
- Notched trowel – For spreading tile adhesive
- Grout float – For applying and finishing grout
- Sponges – For wiping away excess grout and cleaning
- Buckets – For mixing adhesive and grout
- Tile adhesive – Use white adhesive to prevent bleed-through
- Tile spacers – Ensure consistent grout lines between tiles
- Grout – Select sanded or unsanded grout
- Grout sealer – Seal cement grout to prevent staining
- Backer board – Cement, fiber cement or water-resistant drywall
Having the right tools and materials readily available will make the installation process go smoothly. Consider buying any specialized tools needed for cutting glass tiles.
Preparing the Surface
Proper surface preparation is crucial for a long-lasting installation. Follow these steps:
- Clean – Remove any existing backsplash. Clean the wall surface with a degreaser and rinse thoroughly.
- Remove Outlets – Take out any outlets or switches on the backsplash area.
- Install Backer Board – Cut cement backer board panels to size and attach to the wall studs with screws. Seal seams with mesh tape and thinset.
- Waterproof – Coat the backer board with a waterproofing membrane. RedGard and Laticrete Hydroban are two popular options. Apply two coats.
- Mark Tile Layout – Dry fit tiles and mark the center point. Use a level to ensure straight lines.
Prepping the surface takes time but prevents future tile failures or water damage behind the wall.
Installing the Tile
Once the prep work is complete, you’re ready to install the glass tile backsplash:
- Apply Adhesive – Use a notched trowel to spread a thin layer of tile adhesive on the installation surface. Apply only enough adhesive that can be tiled in 10-15 minutes.
- Set Tiles – Place glass tiles in the adhesive, using spacers to maintain even grout lines. Press tiles firmly into the adhesive.
- Cut Tiles – Measure and cut any partial tiles around outlets, corners or edges using a glass tile cutter.
- Check Alignment – As you go, check alignment and make sure tiles are level and evenly spaced.
- Let Cure – Let the tile adhesive fully cure for 24-48 hours before grouting.
Thoroughly clean excess adhesive as you go along. Follow all adhesive manufacturer instructions.
Grouting the Tile
Grout fills the joints between tiles. Follow these steps to grout glass tile:
- Mix Grout – Prepare grout per package directions. Do not add too much water, which can cause shrinkage.
- Apply Grout – Holding the grout float at a 45° angle, spread grout over the tile surface, forcing it into the joints.
- Clean Excess Grout – Let the grout become firm, then use a damp sponge to wipe diagonally across tiles to remove excess grout. Rinse sponge frequently.
- Final Cleaning – Once grout has fully cured, use a soft cloth to polish the tiles and remove any remaining haze or film.
- Seal Grout – For cement grout, apply grout sealer 1-2 days after grouting per manufacturer recommendations.
Clean up spills or excess wet grout immediately to prevent staining on the tile surface.
The final steps complete your new glass tile backsplash installation:
- Caulk perimeter joints and edges using a flexible silicone caulk. Allow caulk to fully cure before exposing to water.
- Re-install any outlets or switches that were removed. Make sure waterproofing membranes are intact around openings.
- Treat any superficial scratches or nicks on the tile surface using a glass polish compound.
- Seal cement grout once again 2-3 months after installation for added protection and stain resistance.
With proper planning, preparation, installation and finishing, your glass tile backsplash will be a gorgeous focal point you can enjoy for years to come. The tile should last indefinitely with proper care and maintenance.
To keep your glass tile backsplash looking like new:
- Use a pH-neutral gentle cleaner for regular upkeep. Avoid harsh chemicals.
- Re-seal cement grout once a year to prevent staining and discoloration.
- Inspect grout lines for cracks annual and re-grout if needed.
- Avoid scraping or hitting the tile to prevent chips and cracks. Use soft cloths or sponges for cleaning.
- Immediately clean spills, splatters and soils to prevent staining. Soak stains in vinegar and scrub gently to remove.
With minimal care, a glass tile backsplash will provide endless style and visual interest in your home.
What’s the best way to cut glass mosaic tiles?
Use a wet saw with a diamond glass blade or a handheld glass cutter. The water prevents heat buildup and chipping. Take extra care when cutting mosaic sheets to preserve the pattern.
Should I seal glass tile?
Unlike porcelain or natural stone, glass tile itself does not require sealing as it is impervious to stains. But cement grout will need occasional sealing.
How do I prep glossy glass tile for grouting?
Glossy glass can be difficult to grout. Lightly brush the tile surface with a white scrub pad before grouting to enable the grout to adhere properly.
Can you install glass tile over existing tile?
This is generally not recommended. Remove existing tile, re-prep the surface and address any underlying moisture issues to ensure a long-lasting result.
How long does a glass tile backsplash installation take?
Plan on the installation taking 2-3 days from start to finish. Exact timeframe depends on tile layout, prep work and size of the area. Letting adhesive and grout fully cure adds time as well.
What’s the best grout color with glass tile?
White or very light gray provides the best contrast and really makes the glass tile stand out. Dark grout can take away from the brilliance of glass tile. Consider a hint of color like pale blue if you want to complement the tile.
Is glass tile suitable for kitchen backsplashes?
Absolutely. Glass tile is an excellent choice for kitchen backsplashes as it is moisture-resistant, easy to clean, durable and adds reflective light. Use thicker tile and select grout carefully for high-use areas.
Can you install glass tile over drywall or plywood?
Glass tile should be installed over cement backer board, fiber cement, concrete or other reinforced surfaces. Water-resistant drywall can work in dry areas only.
Installing a glass tile backsplash enhances any space with eye-catching style, unique visual texture, and chic reflective sheen. By following the best practices for planning, preparation, installation and care outlined here, you can achieve a stunning backsplash that becomes a focal point in your kitchen or bathroom. With an endless array of colors, shapes, and finishes to choose from, a glass tile backsplash is guaranteed to bring your design vision to life. Paired with proper grout selection and maintenance, the finished project will be durable, easy to clean and stay looking beautiful for years of enjoyment.