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view of white kitchen with white tile backsplash
Home Improvement

Free Home Depot Workshop: Installing Tile Backsplash

Mike and I have been binging a lot of Flip or Flop lately. This has us thinking about all the ways we’re going to decorate our home in the future. What I’m always thinking about throughout every episode is how pricey some of those home improvement projects can be.

I always marvel at how the contractors on the show can demo and install practically everything in those houses, and I think about how if I even knew how to do a sliver of that work, we can save some money in the future. And I think it’s important to feel somewhat handy in your own home.

So when a friend of mine told me that Home Depot has FREE home improvement and DIY workshops, I signed us up right away. The first class? How to lay backsplash. In Flip or Flop, the backsplashes they use in the kitchen and bathrooms are always so chic and modern, and I love how it transforms the entire room. Being able to do this ourselves made me so excited.

We showed up bright-eyed and bushy-tailed over Memorial Day Weekend, ready to embrace all the DIY knowledge we were about to receive.

orange Home Depot cart holding backsplash supplies for the workshop
supplies from the home depot workshop

They set up the class in the middle of aisle 7, where all the tile lives. We had a store teammate, Rudy, show us the ropes. It ended up being Mike and I, along with one other guy, taking part in the workshop. But that’s okay, more for us to do!

We were shown two ways on how to lay backsplash: the traditional way with mastic (which I never knew existed before then, oops), and a cleaner version with Simple Mat, which is essentially a backsplash adhesive.

We started with the traditional way. Working off a cement board, we were shown how to apply the mastic. One pro tip is to make sure you don’t have too much mastic in one place and that it’s evenly spread. When you go to lay the tile down, it’ll squeeze through the sides, and you’ll have more of a mess to clean (and wasted product). Make sure the grooves from your tile trowel create deep enough grooves so that you can see your base. You can see it in the picture below. Rudy applied this at a 45 degree angle.

Once your mastic is laid down, you can start to lay down your tile. Did you know that you’re supposed to start in the middle, and work your way out? I didn’t. Since this was a rough demonstration, we tried to do this, but Rudy was more concerned that we got to lay down tile ourselves. Which we did! We were working with a high-gloss ceramic subway tile (which is my fave AND they use it on Flip or Flop a lot!!) and a larger tile.

We didn’t use spacers (Rudy was a pro), but I will definitely invest in them when we’re ready to lay down our own backsplash.

If we were laying this at home, we were told to wait at least four hours before applying the grout. Rudy told us it’s best if we wait up to 24-hours, to let the mastic really settle and stick, so you don’t run the risk of shifting your tiles as you’re applying the grout.

While that dried, we started working on the other alternative to laying backsplash, which was with the Simple Mat adhesive. It was a day of firsts for me – not only did I learn what mastic was, but I learned that this backsplash adhesive makes installation a little easier and cleaner.

ceramic tile being laid on Simple Mat

You have to be quick when you’re laying down the Simple Mat adhesive and the tile on top. Unlike using mastic, you don’t have the luxury of moving around your tiles once you set them. It’s secure, but you better make sure you’re accurate the first time.

Once we laid that down, Rudy showed us the next process is laying backsplash, which is adding the grout!

We learned that there’s two types of grout – sanded and not sanded. If you’re using a high-gloss or glass tile, you’ll want to use the non-sanded type. (That’s what we used since we were using the subway and mosaic tiles.)

laying down grout over tile
Mike applying the grout
laying down grout over ceramic tile

We were also using an all-in-one grout which meant there was a sealer mixed in. People can buy these separately, but it can become costly. For just a few dollars more, you can buy a bucket of grout that has it mixed in, saving you the trouble of an extra step. The purpose of a sealer? It makes wiping away stains much easier.

When applying the grout, you want to be quick since it dries quickly. Try packing the grout into the spaces of the tile as much as you can. Once it’s packed, start wiping away the excess.

After about an hour of hands-on fun, we had a finished product!!! Since this was a rough demonstration, we weren’t going for perfection here. But I didn’t care, this was a work of art!

finished product after laying down the tile
finished product on the Simple Mat adhesive

We didn’t get into using saws to cut tile. Patterns like the one we used on the Simple Mat (or any tile, really) would require a custom cut if we were applying this in an actual kitchen. Rudy did mention that a wet saw allows you to get more custom with your cuts, whereas a regular tile cutter is limited (usually only to straight lines).

An hour later and now Mike and I feel that much more knowledgeable about embarking on our own home improvement project(s) when the time comes. A free, hands-on course like this is so valuable; it’s a shame more people didn’t attend!

Not only did we get to experience a fun (and FREE) workshop, but we walked out to the store manager cooking up HOT DOGS in the spirit of Memorial Day Weekend. If I didn’t love Home Depot before….I did now.

table outside of home depot with condiments for hot dogs

To register for a class near you, head over to

Btw none of this is sponsored. I’m just a fan of a free, handy workshop and hope others see the value in it, too!

Know of any more free workshops like this? Did you sign up for one? Let us know in the comments!


  1. Hannah

    I never knew Home Depot had free courses like that! Really good to know!

    • jamiereedy

      Thanks, Hannah! They were awesome 🙂

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