A: DEAR MARA: Tile for a backsplash is not much different from regular ceramic tile. What's important, in my opinion, is that it have a durable glaze, especially where it will get wet and soiled. You don't want to stain the tile with any chemicals that might be used in your bathroom. Accidents happen, but a good glaze can prevent permanent damage.
Backsplash tiles come in all sorts of designs. Go to a specialty tile store, and you'll get a feel for the hundreds, if not thousands, of tiles available to use as a backsplash. On one end of the spectrum, there's standard tile with regular bullnose finishing tile; on the other, there are custom-made tiles. Between these two extremes are endless possibilities that will make your bathroom stand out from the crowd.
My wife just selected a subway tile with beveled edges to use as a wainscot tile in our master bathroom. The tile we chose came with accessory tiles that we used as a backsplash. It's a two-part backsplash tile, with the bottom tile measuring 3 inches by 6 inches. This tile has a repeating pattern of concentric circles and leaves.
On top of this decorative tile, we placed a tile that mimics crown molding. This tile is only 1 1/4 inches high, but it's 6 inches long. It has a finished top edge that sticks out from the wall nearly three-quarters of an inch. It's distinctive and makes it look as if the tile were installed in the early 1900s.
There are more tips about tile than I have room to share here. Suffice it to say that the wall surface needs to be clean, free of defects, and smooth or flat. The tile you select will determine the mastic you use to attach the tile to the wall. I had to use organic mastic for the decorative tile but cement thinset to permanently bond the crown-molding tile to the wall.
Be sure to think about how the tile will end. Most tiles do not have glazed edges. Tile manufacturers almost always make special accessory tiles that allow you to terminate the tile so you don't see an unfinished edge. Be sure you talk about this with the salesperson at the tile store.
I recommend you take along some rough drawings of what you want to do, as well as photographs of your current room, to show the tile salesperson the challenges you face. The last thing you want to discover is that you can't get the exact look you're going for.
Be aware that to get a great bond, you can't leave organic mastic open to the air for long. This is especially true in hot, dry climates. If the mastic starts to develop a skin, the tile will not bond well. You may discover that it's best to apply the mastic to each tile separately rather than spread the mastic on the wall. If you spread the mastic on the wall, keep in mind that it works best if you cover it with the tile within 10 minutes.
Cement-based thinset works the same way. Once mixed with water, you only have so many minutes to use it. You should mix only as much thinset as you can use and cover it with tile in one hour or less.
Tim Carter can be contacted via his Web site, http:/
Source : http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/08/20/AR2009082004686.html