tiled and grouted marble subway tile backsplash around utility sink

Tile-setting-withouto-thinset-mortar

You may remember years ago when I installed Smart Tile adhesive tiles in our laundry room. Well, truth be told, they weren’t looking so smart after 3 years and a water leak. I had a few leftover marble subway tiles from our kitchen backsplash and decided to use them to freshen up the laundry room. While I was at Lowe’s I decided to try Mussel Bound tile adhesive used for tile setting without thinset mortar. I figured this would be a good place for a trial in case I didn’t like the product.

smart-tiles-peeling-off

To remove the Smart Tiles you are supposed to use a hair dryer or heat gun to soften the adhesive. The tiles on my wall were already peeling off and they came off very easily.

peeling-off-the-smart-tiles

There was some minimal damage to the drywall, but if I had used the hairdryer it probably would have come off cleaner. To minimize any issues, be sure to clean your wall with a mixture of TSP (Trisodium Phosphate) and water using the instructions on the package.

Wipe the walls clean with a damp sponge after cleaning.

clean-wall-adhesive-with-TSP-trisodiuom-phosphate

Ready to start tiling with less mess?

Materials:
(Contains some affiliate links)

materials-mussel-bound-tiling

Optional: Grout Shield

Instructions:

Before you begin, layout your tiles and spacers to determine the height you desire for your backsplash. Transfer this height onto the wall around the sink.

measure-tile-height-for-layout

Use a laser level to mark the bottom and top lines of your backsplash.

find-laser-level-on-sink-bottom

Transfer the top and bottom lines onto adjoining walls.

transfer-level-line-onto-adjoining-wall

The Mussel Bound Adhesive Mat directions suggest applying directly to the wall and cut it at the bottom with an x-acto knife. I found it easier to pre-cut the adhesive sheets before applying them to the wall. You need to create a non-stick surface to cut on. Lay down a cutting mat first. Roll out wax paper on top of the cutting mat.

lay-out-wax-paper-cutting-board

Use pencil to mark the height of the backsplash onto the adhesive sheet. Use the x-acto knife and a metal ruler to cut the sheet to size.

cut-mussel-bond-sheet-wax-paper

Line up the top of the adhesive sheet with the line on the wall.

line-mussel-bond-sheet-up-with-level-line

Trim around windows and obstacles with an x-acto knife.

trim-mussel-bond-paper-around-window

Measure the space for your next sheet and continue cutting and applying the Mussel Bound tile adhesive sheets.

measure-next-space-for-mussel-bond

Use a grout float to press the adhesive sheets firmly against the wall.

push-mussel-bond-with-float

Peel the protective paper down to expose enough for the first layer of tile.

peel-mussel-bond-adhesive-paper-back

Mark the center of the backsplash and line up the first tile with that mark. Use a level to make sure the first tile is perfectly level. Press the tile firmly into the adhesive sheet.

level-first-subway-tile-backsplash

Set a second tile lightly into the adhesive, level…

level-top-row-subway-tiles

…and insert a spacer. Then press firmly into the sheet. If you mess up, removing the tiles is tricky, but can be popped up by pushing a thin blade or putty knife behind the tiles.

add-spacer-marble-subway-tiles

Continue setting tiles and spacers. Check the level as you go.

use-spacers-subway-tile

When you get to the edges you’ll need to cut tiles to fit. One downside of the Mussel Bound adhesive is that you can’t set a tile that is wet. If you used a wet saw you must allow the tiles to thoroughly dry before setting it. If you don’t wait, the tile will not adhere properly.

tile-set-mussel-bond-sheet-adhesive

To finish the edges of the backsplash use pencil tiles. For a finished look, miter the corners of the pencil tiles. This isn’t easy and chunks may break off. But, you can fill the gaps in with grout or caulk.

miter-marble-pencil-tile

Grout time!

I’m going to breeze through the grouting process. If you need more step-by-step instructions, you can read my tutorial on grouting a backsplash.

Begin by protecting the wall with painter’s tape. Cover the faucet and any surface that might get grout dropped on it. (If you are feeling ambitious, you can shut off the water and remove the faucet.) Flattened cardboard boxes work great for protecting counter tops and the sink.

prep-sink-to-grout-backsplash-cover

Mix up your grout. To extend work time, set your grout into a larger bucket with water and ice in it. I prefer using a grout sealant that is mixed into the grout. It lasts longer and doesn’t have to be reapplied in a few years. The additive grout sealant can be tricky to find, here’s a link for Grout Shield for your convenience (affiliate link).

mix-grout-and-grout-once-sealer

Apply the grout with a grout float. Squeegee the grout into the grooves at a 45 degree angle.

grout-marble-tiles

Use a damp (almost dry) grout sponge to wipe the grout off the tiles. Rinse the sponge frequently and repeat until there is no grout on the tiles.

sponge-off-grout-marble-tiles

Let the grout dry and buff the haze off the tiles.

grouted-backsplash

Apply painter’s tape around the edges of the backsplash.

painters-tape-around-edges-for-caulking

Seal the top, bottom and sides of the backsplash with silicone caulk. View my tutorial for applying caulk here.

spread-caulk-line-around-backsplash

Remove the tape while the caulk is still wet.

remove-painters-tape-caulk-backsplash

Use a moist baby wipe to clean up any caulk that isn’t smooth against the wall.

Wipe excess caulk off with baby wipe

Congrats! You are done! Do you remember the before?

laundry-room-sink-before

And the after:

installed-grouted-marble-subway-tile

Much better! I’ll be sharing a few more of the updates I made to the laundry room later this week. Stay tuned.

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29 replies
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  1. Dan
    Dan says:

    For all the nonsense of trying to do it “easier” than you could have tiled it right with thinset the correct waand had a beautiful, lasting, durable finish. In half the time. Do it right, or do it twice.

    Reply
  2. Ava G
    Ava G says:

    How is the mussel bound tile mat holding up? Are any tiles loose now that it’s been a few years or are they holding strong?
    Woukd you recommend using this product?
    Thanks for any input!!!

    Reply
  3. myperpetualproject
    myperpetualproject says:

    Really nice! I usually use a wet paper towel to smooth the caulk – baby wipes seem so much better! I’ve not used this method to tile before, next tiling project, I’ll definitely look into it though!

    Reply

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