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Peel and Stick Subway Tile Backsplash Review

If you’re looking for a quick, easy, and gorgeous backsplash solution for your kitchen, laundry room, bathroom, or RV, don’t overlook a peel and stick subway tile backsplash! I’m reviewing Smart Tiles and sharing my installation tips.

Peel and stick subway tile backsplash: Smart Tiles review

DIY time! I realize it’s been a while since a good DIY…trust me, I’ve been doing them. But we have been so busy that I have just decided that I don’t have the patience to document everything.

If I’m doing a project for myself, I always ask myself—would other people find this interesting or valuable? If the answer is “meh” or “maybe,” I probably won’t do a post on it. I’ll just plow through the project like a normal person and get it done.

But if I do think it might be useful, I grab my phone and take pictures along the way! And this is one of those projects. Because I am absolutely blown away by the peel and stick subway tile backsplash I just installed. It looks so lovely!

Here’s the before of what the house looked like when we moved in. The previous owner hated the backsplash too but never got around to ripping it out. And let me tell you what, it was cathartic!

Turns out it was just these super thin tin-line panels glued onto the wall. Too flashy for me. I deeply enjoyed ripping them off.

kitchen with brown cabinets and a silver backsplash

For another non-mortar backsplash option, check out my Aspect Peel and Stick Glass Tiles Review!

Choosing the right backsplash…

So since this backsplash was just thin panels glued up, I figured I could just rip them out and replace them with something similar. I had a feeling that the glue would rip off some of the drywall, though, so I had to be mindful of how un-level the surface might be in some areas.

Would peel and stick subway tile work? Would it look tacky? Or would it be hard to install? Would it fall off? These (and more) are all questions I had. So I kicked off the project by ordering a few samples to check them out.

I ordered four samples from the brand Smart Tiles. This brand has excellent reviews, so I felt comfortable going with them. The four pictures below, in the order they are pictured, are as follows:

  • Subway Norden (small white subway “tile” with gray “grout”)
  • Subway White (small white subway “tile” with white “grout”)
  • Metro Blanco (wider white subway “tile” with white “grout”)
  • Penny Romy (white penny-style “tile” with white “grout”)
smart tiles peel and stick tile backsplash
smart tiles peel and stick tile backsplash
smart tiles peel and stick tile backsplash
smart tiles peel and stick tile backsplash

I should also say that there are a ton of amazing colors, styles, and patterns, but I wanted something super plain and simple. So I priced out how much I would need of each of the four options above.

I took that price and how I thought the samples looked to make up my mind: I chose the subway norden, which is the smaller white tile with a very light gray “grout.” Here’s how it looks…I tried to capture how thin the panels are in these pictures.

But don’t be fooled! They went on beautifully, even on my somewhat patchy walls. I was not about to patch the areas of drywall that the glue pulled off just to immediately cover it up!

smart tiles peel and stick tile backsplash
smart tiles peel and stick tile backsplash

So here’s what I used to install my peel and stick subway tile backsplash:

And here’s how I did it!

Step 1: Measure and order

When you decide what type of tile you want to order, pull it up on the Smart Tiles website. Scroll down to the area where the details and reviews tabs are. There should also be a tab called “calculator.”

This makes it super easy to figure out exactly how much you need to buy. I also love how the site lets you break it up into different sections you can measure individually.

screenshot of the smart tiles measurement website

In terms of ordering, you can order directly from the Smart Tiles website. Or you can Google and search around to find the best price. I ordered mine from the Smart Tiles Amazon store and ended up paying only $118.68 for all 40 tiles! It was four 10-packs.

But definitely shop around. One of the main reasons I picked subway norden was because the price was great. You will definitely spend a bit more if you go with one of the fancier patterns or colors.

Step 2: Start from the right

My first instinct is to start from the left. But the way these tiles work, you overlap them from the right. So you want to begin laying them from the right, too. You can see what I mean here—on the left, you see areas that say “overlap here.”

That’s because these don’t fit together like a puzzle. Instead, each piece overlaps just slightly. So keep that in mind when you’re laying. The overlap should be as tight and close as possible so the “grout” lines are not different widths.

showing how you can cut the tile panels with scissors

Step 3: Measure and cut as necessary

Ok, when I say this stuff is easy to cut and install, I mean it is e-a-s-y. I started off cutting with a Cricut True Control knife, which is kind of like an Exacto knife. But then I realized that I could just cut using regular scissors.

Below you can see where I started. I measured where I’d need to cut out the top of the tile sheet to accomodate the bottom of the double light switch panel. Again, I just marked this area with a marker and cut it out using scissors.

original backsplash removed from the wall
notch cut out of the smart tiles peel and stick panel
peel and stick subway tile backsplash applied to the wall

First panel on! I was already feeling great! It was definitely nerve-wracking to get that first panel on, but I found out a few things. First, the slightly uneven surface underneath the tiles was totally fine. You can’t tell at all.

Second, the panels stick very well, but they are also somehow very easy to reposition as you’re trying to line up that “grout” line overlap to get it just right. I wouldn’t pull the tile panels off multiple times to reposition, but one or two was fine for me. The stickiness still stuck.

marking a cut line on a backsplash panel
applying the peel and stick subway tile backsplash in a kitchen
damaged wall from the previous backsplash removal
applying the peel and stick subway tile backsplash in a kitchen

Want more DIY home projects? Check out my luxury vinyl plank DIY installation tips, my DIY window trim tutorial, and my ReadySeal fence stain review.

screenshot of instagram account

Step 4: Clean up corners and edges

For the corners, I simply cut the sheet about there the corner would hit and tried to line them up as best as I could. You can see that here. It isn’t perfect, but I knew I’d be covering it up, so I wasn’t too worried about it.

Smart Tiles does sell “Smart Edges” that you can buy and stick on. Originally I was planning to just use those, but then I realized that the edging that the previous backsplash had was just a painted piece of quarter-round.

So I reused that and spray painted it white! You’ll see in the upcoming pics. This is an option for you, too—and you could paint it any color you wanted.

corner where the peel and stick backsplash meets
two pieces of quarter round painted gray

Step 5: Caulk, caulk, caulk

Caulk heals all DIY wounds 🙂 Overall this job needed much less caulk than I thought it would. The tile just went on so easily that there weren’t many weird gaps.

But I definitely wanted to run a line of caulk along where the tile panels met the counter. I also wanted to run some caulk down along where the edge of the tile panels met the trim.

So I grabbed some painter’s tap—which I love for caulking—and got to work. (For more on working with painter’s tape while caulking, check out my post about recaulking cracked staircase stringer seams.)

applying painter's tape to the kitchen to caulk
applying painter's tape to the kitchen to caulk
finished caulk line where the tiles meet the counter

And here’s the before and after for our peel and stick subway tile backsplash!

And full disclosure, I’d also painted the area above the cabinets in the after pictures. (I used Behr Silky White, which is a nice bright slightly off-white.) What a difference the paint and updated backsplash makes!!

The other thing we want to do is swap out the electrical receptacles and plates to make them all white. The beige isn’t ideal, but it’s going to have to do for now. Too many other priorities 🙂 I’ll certainly update this post in the future to share how the peel and stick subway tile backsplash is holding up!

Until then, I definitely recommend it. Very low effort, no special tools required, no mess or mortar and grout, relatively affordable, and looks fab!

kitchen with brown cabinets and a silver backsplash
beautiful bright kitchen with a peel and stick subway tile backsplash
beautiful kitchen with a peel and stick subway tile backsplash
beautiful bright kitchen with a peel and stick subway tile backsplash
smart tiles subway norden peel and stick backsplash
smart tiles subway norden peel and stick backsplash

Smart Tiles peel and stick subway tile backsplash FAQs

There are a few different questions I want to address about the Smart Tiles peel and stick subway tile backsplash process, too. Here they are—

1. Can you clean peel and stick tiles?

Yes, for the Smart Tiles, you can wipe them down with a mild cleaner. They are antimold and antibacterial as well. I do recommend caulking the seams and any areas where the tile panels meet the counters so water can’t seep in there.

2. Does a peel and stick subway tile backsplash actually look like real tile?

Yes. From a reasonable distance, it’s very difficult to tell that they are peel and stick. When you look super closely, you can see the “grout” lines where they overlap. But who is weird enough to get that close to your backsplash?

3. How long to these tiles last?

Smart Tiles says that they are guaranteed to stick for as long as you want them to. However, that assumes you’re installing them correctly and using them only in areas they should be used. (So, like, not in a shower.)

smart tiles subway norden peel and stick backsplash

4. Speaking of, can I use Smart Tiles in a shower?

No. They are waterproof, but they aren’t designed for direct contact with water. They can be used around sinks and whatnot where they’ll be exposed to humidity but minimal water.

5. Can I install Smart Tiles around a fireplace?

Yes, you can install them on a fireplace surround if it doesn’t exceed a temperature of 120 degrees Fahrenheit. No direct contact with heat or flame, so the exterior should be fine.

6. Can I install peel and stick subway tile backsplash over ceramic tiles?

It depends. Some of the Smart Tiles need to be installed over a super smooth surface. But some go on fine if your tiles are smooth. Read the full description of the tile you are considering before buying. I wanted one that had a warning about needing to be on a super smooth/sleek surface, so I ditched that one.

The ideal surfaces for these tiles are painted drywall, smooth ceramic tile, acrylic wall panels, wall linoleum, mirror, and unblemished wallpaper.

Smart tiles cannot be installed over porous wood, textured tiles, textured wallpaper, unpainted drywall, inside of any shower or on any floor, countertops, ceilings, brick, or stone. (My friend used stone in a different brand for her peel-and-stick stone backsplash.)

smart tiles subway norden peel and stick backsplash

7. Do Smart Tiles damage the wall they are installed on?

I can’t speak to this from firsthand experience, but Smart Tiles says they are easy to remove with little to no damage. They say to “use a blow dryer to warm up each tile to soften the adhesive and pull softly starting with the corners.” Then use a cleaning product to remove excess glue left by the tiles.

8. What are Smart Tiles made of?

The tiles consisted of a trademarked gel component that give the tiles a 3-dimensional look. I couldn’t find a ton of information about exactly how they are made, though.

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