Install River Rock Tile as a Backsplash

  • 4-20 hours
  • Intermediate
  • 250-1,000
What You'll Need
River rock tiles
Loose river rocks
Thinset mortar
Notched trowel
Sharp straight edge knife
Mild detergent
Warm water
Old towel
Penetrating sealer
Sanded grout
Rubber float
Stiff-bristled brush

River rock tile is a stylish and affordable option for backsplash installation. It consists of beach stones attached to a mesh backing. The tiles are produced in 1 by 1 foot panels which makes it easy to install them on a backsplash. The tiles interlock to create a virtually seamless appearance. You can easily attach the tiles onto your backsplash with the help of the guide below.

Step 1 – Prepare the Wall

The wall should be clean and dry before you attach the tiles. This enables a more effective attachment of the tiles. Prepare a solution of warm water and mild detergent in a bucket. Use a sponge to wash the installation site. Rinse with cool water and wipe dry with an old towel. Allow 24 hours for the wall to air dry.

Step 2 – Apply Mortar

Begin at one corner of the wall just below the cabinets. Spread some mortar lightly with your trowel over a small area of about 3 by 3 square feet. If you spread mortar over a large section, it is likely to dry up before you attach the tiles. Distribute the mortar to create an even coat on the wall.

Step 3 – Attach Tiles

Take one panel of tiles and press firmly into the mortar. The mesh backing should sink into the mortar but not the tile. Press the panel all round to achieve a balanced attachment. Once the first panel has attached, proceed to apply adhesive next to the panel as outlined in Step 2. Attach another panel. Work in this way until the entire site is covered with the tiles.

Step 4 – Filling in

You may end up with some spaces that cannot accommodate an entire panel. This is most likely to occur at one of the wall edges and the area closest to the countertop. Measure the space to be filled. Turn over a panel and mark a cut line with a pencil. Cut along the line with a sharp straight edge knife. Apply thinset to the site and attach your cut piece of panel. You may also obtain loose river rocks from the store where you purchased the tiles. These come in handy if you want to create a more intricate pattern on your backsplash. You may wish to set the individual rocks as a borderline for greater visual appeal.

Step 5 – Seal the Tiles

Use a large sponge to spread a light coat of sealer on the river rocks. Strive for even distribution. The sealer should dry for the stipulated duration before you proceed to the next section.

Step 6 – Apply Grout

Spread some sanded grout with a rubber float over the tiles. Work in 3 square foot sections. Once you’ve applied over the entire site, allow about 1 hour for the grout to dry. Clear away the loose grout with a stiff-bristled brush and damp sponge.

Step 7 – Sealing

Use a sponge to apply a second coat of sealer on the tiles.