Well, if you follow me on instagram @prvbsthirtyonegirl, many of you have noticed something a bit different in my kitchen.  And have asked about it.  Well, I’m FINALLY getting to put a blog up about the DIY subway tile backsplash I did on a whim a couple of weeks ago:)  I knew I wanted the classic subway tile ever since we moved here.  Honestly I wanted it in our last house as well, but that was a bit before my full fledge DIY days.  I wasn’t quite as ambitious back then, therefore it never got done.  I don’t know about you and your household, but the “extras” or “textural details” aren’t listed on the top of the priorities of the hubby’s list.  Quite honestly, I don’t think they ever make the cut is we had to have it hired out.  Hence the reason I took on the DIY attitude.  If I wasn’t going to do it, it wasn’t going to happen.

So, back to the beginning. I knew I wanted subway tile ever since we moved in this house.  It’s classic, goes great with farmhouse style, and in my opinion will never go out of style.  Oh and it’s cheap.  Yep, that might have been priority number 1!.  As in any good home demo/reno project there are phases.

Phase 1:  Be able to live in the house and move out of the camper parked in your driveway.

Phase 2:  Get all of the bare walls covered up flooring on the ground. Oh and a kitchen, get a kitchen of some sort in.  (yes, this all happened AFTER we moved in:)

Phase 3:  Bare bones, meaning everything is finished, but no extras. (paint, trim, floors, etc.)

Phase 4:  Make it your own.

Most people may only have 2 phases.  But if you are a true DIY’er, I’m sure you can relate to ours.  Currently, we are in phase 4. (insert applause here.)  Oh how I have waited for this day.  It means that the visions I had from the house from the beginning can actually start to take shape.  As the finances allow that is.  There is that.

So, my quest to DIY my own backsplash began.  I knew I always loved subway tile, and as the time came closer the question was what color grout did I want?  I love the classic white on white….

subway tile backsplash



and this…



Then then I started gravitating toward the gray grout, like this..

kitchen close up backsplash white subway tiles dark grey grout open shelving shelves marble countertops white cabinets


and this..




Gray it was.

Seeing as though I had wanted to do this for quite some time, I had been doing my research.  I found out that using tile setting mat was the easiest way to go about it.  It wasn’t the cheapest, (rarely do I do more expensive options) but this time I felt like it was worth it.  Especially since I would be doing it by myself.  Easy won.


On top of that I realized that I would need to use a tile saw to cut around outlets.  I figured out that after renting it, it was actually cheaper to buy one.  I found this one at Home Depot for $54.00 plus free shipping.


The last thing I got was my grout.  I picked warm gray unsanded grout from Lowes.  You want unsanded if you are having very small grout lines.  It’s nice and smooth then.  If you are going with bigger lines, you are going to want the sanded so that it holds.

Now to get started, first I cleaned my backsplash and cleared the area.

DIY backsplash

Then, I applied my tile setting mat to all of the areas that I wanted tiled.

Tile setting mat

You peel off the back and just stick it on.  You leave the front plastic on til you are ready to tile.  Super easy, it just gunks up your scissors pretty good, so you’ll want to use an old one, or I found a utility knife works really well.

Then it was time to put the first tile up.

Subway tile

I got these for the edge, they are a bit skinnier. This is the only place I needed edge tiles.  Most places that I researched said to start in the middle of your counter and work your way out, but the middle of mine was my oven, so I just opted to start at the end.


And this is where Allie ran into a problem.  Seeing as though our house is 100 years old, and although we did or best to try to level everything….it still wasn’t level.  I tried this first row of tiles about 5 times before I realized that from one counter to the next it was 1/4″ off.  doesn’t seem like much, but it stinks when you are working with straight rows.  So, I saw on another blog that they cut a 1×4 to put behind the stove to keep your straight line.  I ran out and cut one and screwed it up temporarily to have a line to go off of.  It helped, even if my tile still wasn’t 100 % level. Shh…

subway tile

Here you can see a little bit of the wave to it…but I did the best I could.  Good thing I’m no perfectionist!  Just a side note with the tile setting mat, once you place the tile you can pull it off, but if you do it too much it starts to loose it’s stickyness.  And it’s hard on the fingers!

subway tile

This side was so good to me because it only had 1 outlet to work around.  Gotta love that.  I decided to place my tiles close together, and they actually have a bit of a spacer built into them.  I do recommend still buying spacers though, because sometimes with the tile setting mat they can sag a bit and the spacers just help to hold them in place until you are read to grout.

subway tile

Also, before grout always looks worse than after.  So don’t beat yourself up too much about it!  You can’t see in this picture, but on the far right I can a couple of tiles pieces that were about a 1/2′ wide.  Really small pieces that didn’t stick to the mat, so I just put a little bit of caulk on the back and stuck them on.  I had to do that to a couple of tiles actually that didn’t want to stick the best.  It seemed to work great and I haven’t had any fall off yet!

On to the other side!


Oh how I wish it went that fast!  As you can tell it is now dark!  Another thing I do not recommend.  I started this project at 11:00 a.m. and finished with grout at about 10:30 p.m.  They say that you are supposed to grout within 8 hours of putting the tile on the mat, which is nice in the fact that you have to get it done, but stinks when it’s 9:30 and you are tired and sore and just want to shower and go to bed!

I missed quite a few pictures, but I bought the unmixed grout.  To mix I just added 2 bottles of water and about half of the pack of grout. I use my hand to mix it til it is smooth.  The consistency should be like frosting or toothpaste, just a little bit of stiffness.  It’s actually super easy to do, I’d just recommend only mixing up half so you have some to work with.

We had a grout float from doing our bathroom floor that I used to grout with, and then sponged the grout off about 5 minutes after it set.  Once that was done I went to bed and woke up and caulked it in the morning.  Caulk is amazing to finish off all the rough edges.  It hides a multitude of sins:)

So, onto the finished product…

Subway Tile

It went from dark black to bright white, so it took me a few days to decide if I really loved it.  But after living with it for a couple of weeks now, I love how bright it makes the room!

White subway tile

I just put the stick em stuff on the back of the metal EAT letters and they’ve been staying great!


I still haven’t gotten my IKEA rail hung back up under the cabinet yet.  We did buy the diamond bit to drill into tile, I’m just a bit nervous and am going to make the hubby do that one!

subway tile

And I may still have a few nail holes to fill:)


If you look closely you’ll find a couple of spots where you can tell it was a DIY job…


Whoops.  But it only cost me $38 in tile, $14 in grout, $40 in tile setting mat and $54 in a saw.  But….I did do 2 other tile projects since that will cover the cost of my saw:)  So, for that price I”m okay with a little blub here and there. And I could say I did it myself:)


The light switch took a beating too, gotta get another one of those!


When you live in a smaller home and you make an improvement like this it’s so fun because you can see it from almost anywhere in the house:)  Always looking for the positive!

So, just because it’s so much fun I’m going to take on a journey through our phases.

Phase 1: Complete Demo:


Phase 2:  Moved in with a kitchen….Sort of..


Phase 3: Functioning Kitchen


Phase 4….The pretties:)

subway tile


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  1. Hello! love your kitchen what an amazing job! we moved into our house in September and are updating it project by project! we just did our floors in a dark hard wood and i love it. However now this moves us onto the backsplash, i love the look of the white subway tiles very clean.. Where did you purchase your tiles and supplies from, after the huge expense of the floors im trying to minimize how much we spend on the back splash! I would love to hear back from you!
    DIYer of Michigan!

    1. Hi Shannon,
      Thanks so much for the sweet comment. Yay on renovating, such a fun/crazy process:) We got our subway tile from Menards, it’s just their basic subway tile, and we originally used a warm grey grout from lowes, but ended up going a little darker to a dark grey. I believe you could find something very similiar at menards as well. We used the powder grout and not the pre-mix, which also saves money:) I think we did our whole backsplash for around $75…so definitely an inexpensive option! Hope that helps!:)

  2. I like the shelves you have between the cabinet and wall – looks like they might be stainless floating? are they and where did you find?

  3. I am confused. Could you please help me? I see in one pic that you have a curtain under your sink. In another pic you have the cabinet. I want a farm sink badly but every time I go to purchase one I am told that I need a special cabinet. In your picture it looks like you used an existing cabinet. How did you use an existing cabinet? Please help. Thank you.

    1. Susan, we did use our preexisting cabinet. With that being said, I originally wanted the double sink from IKEA and purchased that one to go there, but when we went to put it in, it was too big, which means I had to settle for the single sink. I still love it and was glad it worked with our space. I have cabinet doors for under the sink as it is just a regular cabinet, but switched it out for the curtain because I like the more “farmhouse” feel it gave:) I hope that helps! I’m thinking if you do an undermount farmhouse sink then you may need a special cabinet, but not with the IKEA one since it rests on your countertops!

  4. I just came across your blog, You have a beautiful home!! I am deciding between the small white subway tiles attached to a mat or the larger 3 x 6 for my kitchen. I love the look of the gray grout. You mentioned you used soft gray from Lowes, but I can’t seem to find that color. They have Dove gray, Standard, Delorean, Silverado and Mist. The gray you used looks perfect, I am in search of that soft gray look.

  5. Hi! Your kitchen looks beautiful! I’m wanting to do the same look jn my kitchen but trying to do it as cheap as possible, the cheapest I’ve found the tiles is $3.48 at lowes. Just wanted to make sure the blogging world didn’t hAve a secret place to get tile super cheap :)

    1. Hi Kayla, I got my tiles from Menards on sale and I think they were around 12 or 19 cents a tile. I only spent about $75 on all the tiles. Hope that helps?? Thanks for the sweet comment!

    1. I actually bought it from a friend, but she got it from Pier 1. I did paint the bottom and add different hardware, but he chunky butcher block had me at hello:)

    1. I used the single subway tiles you can purchase that are about 2″x4 1/2″. I’ve also done a kitchen with the smaller subway tiles that are attached to a mat and I really like the looks of those as well. Best of luck!

  6. I enjoyed your blog, and want to thank you for the info on the tile saw. I wouldn’t have guessed it was so cheap. I bought the exact same one and it worked beautifully. My husband was able to cut tiles shapes for some very difficult areas. I used the old fashioned regular mortar and found it very easy as well.
    Anyways we will keep the saw and use it for our next job in the laundry room!
    Thanks again!

  7. Hello! I just found your blog and I LOVE the transformation. The white tile looks amazing. We are getting ready to do subway tile as a backsplash in our kitchen and I’m just curious where you bought your tile from? I found some cheap from lowes, but it’s so hard to tell against my white cabinets if it’s totally the wrong shade of white. Are all white subway tiles created equal? Haha. I know it’s a weird question. If by some chance you see this, and have a second to respond, I would love that!! Thank you!

    1. I love it…and I’m not sure about if they are all created equal?? :) I know there lots of different types of subway tile but we just wanted classic white, so I got it from Menards. 19 cents a tile, super high end:):) I’m sure it’s the same as lowes and I’m sure you’ll love it…I do:) Best of luck!!

      1. Same problem here. I’m confused as to what size tile I should be getting. What size did you use? Your whole place is amazing. Awesome job!

  8. How did your seal it? We knocked out house down to the foundation in July and are just finishing up the kitchen. We had tile in our old kitchen, but it was stained and the grout had cracked.

    1. Well that’s a great point:) I haven’t sealed it yet, but plan too. Our bathroom tile we just sealed with a sealer that you paint on with a brush, not sure what it was called but it seemed to do the trick! Thanks for reminding me….. :)

  9. Allie,

    Question for you…..How did that tile mat hold up? Was it easy to work with? I have heard both positive and negatives about it and was just wondering what your thoughts were on the product?

    By the way, the project turned out awesome!

    1. Thanks Michael:) The mat worked pretty well. It stuck to the wall great, but sometimes the sticky part that stuck to the tile would get some dust on from the tiles and not hold well. I had to use caulk on a few of them. I was a bit nervous that I’d come down in the morning and tiles would have fallen off, but a few weeks later and nothing has moved yet! I’m just hoping it holds up to the test of time! It was super easy to work with, which was huge for me since I was doing it by myself, and not messy at all, huge plus! I’m pretty sure I’d use it again:)

  10. I am blown away by your talents. It looks beautiful. I am glad I have a kindred spirit in you bc I long to have the moxie to JUST DO IT. I know you will continue to inspire me and maybe help nudge me along.


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