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How to install kitchen backsplash tile using adhesive mat instead of thin-set mortar.

We loved our peel and stick glass tile, but needed to do an update without the mess.

Our very first tile installation experience was extremely DIY friendly and pretty much the only skill we needed to learn, was how to make tricky cuts.

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Peel and stick tile from Aspect Tile at Home Depot

We stepped up our tiling game with our bathroom remodel, but I quickly learned I was not a fan of thin-set mortar.

Master Bathroom
Getting the right consistency of the mortar was tricky.

Figuring out the right consistency and working quickly enough so the thin-set didn’t dry out was not my favorite. It was messy and I wasted a ton of product, which looking back was totally a rookie mistake, but still. Not a fan.

Installing tile with thin-set mortar in section at a time.

When we decided to update our kitchen backsplash tile, I stumbled upon a tile adhesive mat. You can find this product here and a similar product here from Home Depot.

MusselBound adhesive mat
Mussle Bound tile adhesive is used in place of thin-set mortar

This tile adhesive mat gave us the ease of use we loved with our peel and stick tiles, but allowed us to use any tile we wanted. For this project we chose arabesque tile similar to this.

The first step to this project required removing the old peel and stick glass tile, which unlike removing tile set with thin-set mortar, came off really easy. Check out this video to see the process,

Woman removing peel and stick glass tile holding a hammer. White cabinets above her, gray countertop, and white cabinets under. Standing next to a black gas cooktop.
Demo Day Removing Peel and Stick Tile

How does tile adhesive mat work?

To use the adhesive tile mat, you start at the top and roll down like you would for wallpaper. One side of the mat is exposed adhesive and the other side has a paper covering sort of like a sticker. When you’re ready to install your tile, you simply pull the paper covering off exposing the adhesive underneath. Apply your tile and space like you would normal tile installed on thin-set mortar.

Watch the process here:

What are the benefits of adhesive mat for tile installation?

Unlike thin-set mortar, once you’re done installing your tile with the adhesive mat, you can immediately grout, there’s no waiting for anything to dry. Saving you time which is perfect for the weekend DIY warrior or anyone pressed for time.

The adhesive is strong and it’s recommended you lightly place the tile and ensure it’s where you want the tile before you firmly push the tile in place. I can attest first hand this is truth. You can pull the tile off if you accidentally place the tile incorrectly, but you’re going to have to work for it.

What is the cost comparison between thin-set mortar and adhesive mat?

Adhesive tile is more expensive, but you are paying for the convenience of not having to mix the thin-set mortar, deal with the potential mess/ clean up, and it will save you time since you can grout immediately after you install your tile. That peace of mind was worth every penny for me, especially since I am just installing a kitchen backsplash.

Tile installation tips with adhesive mat.

Dry tiles

We used a wet saw to make the cuts on our tile, which uses water. It’s super important to dry off your tile first prior to installation or else the tile won’t stick. I simply used a towel and a hairdryer for a few seconds and it worked like a charm.

Install tile in sections

Only pull of the protective paper sheet as you’re ready to install that section. You don’t want any dust, dirt, or debris getting stuck on the adhesive mat.

Be mindful of tile weight

In order to stick to the adhesive tile mat, read the instructions regarding the maximum weight allowance of the tiles installed. If the tiles are too heavy, the tile adhesive won’t be able to hold the tiles and they will fall.

Final thoughts

I am still super impressed with how easy the kitchen backsplash tile was to install thanks to the adhesive tile mat. From what I am hearing, anyone else who has installed tile using this method, said that the adhesive has held up. I would definitely use the adhesive mat when possible over using thin-set mortar.

I’m also very happy with how our kitchen update turned out.

White cabinets on the left with a cook top stove , teal peel and stick tile, brown wood floors
Kitchen backsplash before
White cabinets, gray counter, and new white arabesque tile with gray grout. Next to cabinets are dark gray stacked microwave and oven. Floor is brown wood looking and a black and white rug with a floral design sits on top.
I am in love with our new kitchen backsplash tile.

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