Oro Valley resident Linda Patterson gets some tips from Brittany Lockwood of Home Depot as she applies grout to a backsplash during a demonstration at the SAHBA Fall Home & Garden Show at the Tucson Convention Center. Lockwood demonstrated a timesaving installation technique.

A.E. Araiza / Arizona Daily Star

The SAHBA Fall Home & Garden Show kicked off yesterday, filling the Tucson Convention Center with hundreds of exhibitors showing off the latest trends in home improvement, outdoor living and remodeling.

At the Home Depot stage, for instance, consumers watched a demonstration on installing a kitchen backsplash by Brittany Lockwood, one of the company’s design consultants. “With a little practice and time, it’s not hard. It’s really something you can do,” sh said.

Lockwood’s preferred method is using SimpleMat, sheets of double-sided adhesive, to stick the tile on the wall, as opposed to the traditional method of using mastic. “You can do it the old fashioned way and mix stuff, or you can use SimpleMat,” she said, as she pulled a sheet of the adhesive out, peeled the backing and stuck it onto her demonstration surface.

She said the adhesive sticks to drywall and smooth and textured surfaces. Once it is placed and the paper is peeled off, the next step is to place the tile on top of it. Lockwood demonstrated how the tile can be moved if it isn’t perfectly level on the first try.

Adding grout is the next step. Lockwood suggested using pre-mixed grout for added convenience. “It takes the guesswork out of getting the right consistency.”

After demonstrating how to put the grout on the tile using a float, Lockwood asked for volunteers. Oro Valley resident Linda Patterson got up to try it out. “I have always been afraid to try tile because I don’t have master skills,” Patterson said. “But it was the easiest thing I’ve done in this regard. ... Now I’m thinking of all the things I can do with it.”

Let the grout cure as per product directions, then wipe the tile down with a wet sponge to get the grout off. “It’ll give you smooth grout lines,” Lockwood said. Then, let the grout dry completely, and wipe it off with a dry cloth to remove residue, before adding a sealant.

“It’s literally that easy,” Lockwood said. “Anybody can do it. ... SimpleMat is the easiest way to install a backsplash.”

SimpleMat can be purchased at Home Depot or homedepot.com for $21 for 10 square feet or $48 for 30 square feet. Lockwood said you’ll spend a little bit more money to do it this way, “but you’ll spend two-thirds less time doing it.”

While demonstrations went on at the various stages of the Southern Arizona Home Builders Association show, exhibitors talked to passers-by about products and services they offered. Some had giveaways and special home show discounts.

The full parking lot was a welcome sign for Jeff Healam, owner of Tucson Rolling Shutters. “When I drive up and the parking lot is full, I know it’s going to be a good day,” Healam said.

Tucson Rolling Shutters participates in the home shows every year, and it has proven to be a great boost for the business. “Our display is visual,” Healam said. “It’s the best opportunity for our product because consumers love to see it operate.” The company offers a 10 percent home show discount.

This is the first home show for Rafe Teich, owner of Big Tyke Construction LLC, a family-run business that boasts giving clients more options. “We do the small things, too,” Teich said. “Like, we’ll install just trim or do the whole renovation ... no job is too small.”

Teich’s goal is to expand his client base by getting leads at the home show.

Erin Brayton, owner of Let’s Face It, which specializes in refacing cabinets, said the home show is a good “economy indicator.” Before the collapse of the economy, he said, the company would get 10 to 15 sales per day from the home show. But once the economy fell, sales went down to one or two per day.

This year, Brayton hopes to get at least 10 leads a day. “If I get 10 a day, I’ll sell to half of them. I think it’s going to be a good show.”

Contact reporter Angela Pittenger at 573-4137 or apitteng@azstarnet.com.