How to Tile a Backsplash – Step by Step

Tiling your own backsplash can be a satisfying DIY project that adds personality and visual interest to your kitchen. With some planning, the right materials, and a little tile-setting know-how, you can transform your backsplash into a stylish focal point. Follow this step-by-step guide to learn how to tile a backsplash like a pro.

Choose Your Tile

The first step in tiling a backsplash is selecting your tile. There are countless backsplash tile options to match any design aesthetic. Consider the following when choosing tile for your backsplash:

Tile Material

  • Ceramic: A classic option available in a huge range of styles, sizes, colors, and patterns. Durable and budget-friendly.
  • Porcelain: Similar look and feel as ceramic, but denser and more impervious to moisture. Stain, scratch and fade resistant.
  • Glass: Sophisticated and modern. Translucent finish with iridescent glow. Smooth texture.
  • Metal: Bold contemporary option. Stainless steel, copper, brass finishes. Can be expensive.
  • Mosaic: Small tiles mounted in sheets create a mosaic pattern. Great for DIY. Peel-and-stick available.
  • Stone: Elegant natural option like marble, travertine, slate. Requires sealing. Higher cost.

Tile Shape

  • Subway: Rectangular tiles with length twice the height. Classic, versatile style.
  • Hexagon: Six-sided shape popular for modern geometric patterns.
  • Octagon & dot: For unique Moroccan-inspired designs.
  • Penny round: Small, round tiles that mimic look of pennies.
  • Brick: Rectangular, bricklike elongated shape.

Tile Finish

  • Glossy: Reflective, shiny surface. Modern appeal. Easier to wipe clean.
  • Matte: Understated, subtle. More textured look. Hides dirt well.
  • Textured: Adds dimension. Options like crackle glaze, stone look.
  • Iridescent: Shimmery, opalescent sheen. Glamorous effect.

Tile Color

Select a tile color that complements your cabinets, countertops, flooring and overall kitchen decor. Considerlight neutral shades for a clean,bright look or bold colors and patterns for drama.

Tile Size

Smaller tiles like 2” x 2” mosaicscreate a busy pattern. Larger tiles like 4” x 12” subway have cleaner lines. Varying tile sizes add interest.

Tile Layout

Look for tiles with decorative patterns so they align when installed. Plan tile layout to avoid awkward cuts.

Calculate How Much Tile You Need

Once you’ve selected your perfect backsplash tile, it’s important to purchase the right amount. Don’t underestimate how much tile you’ll need. Running short of tiles mid-project can be disastrous. Avoid costly mistakes by taking careful measurements and using the tile manufacturer’s coverage calculator.

Measure Your Backsplash Area

Use a measuring tape to measure the height and length of the backsplash area. Don’t forget to account for any focal points, stove hoods, electrical outlets, cabinets and other areas that won’t be tiled. Multiply the height times the length to determine the total square footage.

Account for Edges and Irregular Sections

Add an extra 10-15% of tile to allow for misshaped sections, edges, pattern matching and tile cuts. It’s always better to overestimate than run short!

Use Manufacturer’s Coverage Calculator

Tile manufacturer’s list how many tiles are included per square foot. Don’t rely on approximate tile dimensions. Double check with manufacturer’s coverage calculator.

Factor in Design Elements

You may need specialty trim, accent and border tiles. Buy these tiles in addition to field tiles for main backsplash area.

Once you have precise tile measurements and manufacturer’s coverage info, you can determine how many tile packs to purchase. Having extra tiles left over is ideal in case you break or damage any tiles during installation.

Gather Your Tiling Supplies

Installing a tile backsplash requires some specific tools and materials. Be sure to have all the essential tiling supplies on hand before starting your project:


  • Field tiles
  • Accent tiles
  • Trim tiles

Adhesives & Grout

  • Thinset mortar
  • Grout (sanded or unsanded)
  • Grout sealer


  • V-notch trowel for backsplash tile
  • Grout float for applying grout

Cutting Tools

  • Tile cutter
  • Tile nippers
  • Tile file

Additional Supplies

  • Painter’s tape
  • Tile spacers
  • Mixing bucket
  • Grout sponge
  • Sealer applicator
  • Safety gear – gloves, goggles, mask

Shop smart – only buy what you need for your specific backsplash design. Don’t overbuy supplies.

Prepare the Backsplash Surface

Before installing backsplash tile, it’s important to properly prepare the surface area:

Clean Thoroughly

Use soap and water to thoroughly clean the entire backsplash area. Remove any existing backsplash, residue, grease or debris.

Evaluate Surface Flatness

Use a level to check for any dips, bumps or uneven areas on the backsplash surface. Fill small holes with spackle.

Repair Drywall if Needed

Repair any drywall damage, holes or imperfections. Let drywall repairs dry completely before tiling.

Prime Painted Surfaces

If tiling over painted drywall, apply an adhesive primer coat so the thinset mortar adheres properly.

Prepping the surface takes a bit of work, but it’s an essential step to ensure backsplash tiles adhere evenly and properly.

Plan Your Tile Layout

Carefully plotting out your tile layout ahead of installation will help avoid mistakes and keep your tiles aligned. Consider the following:

Make a Scale Drawing

Sketch a plan of your backsplash including measurements, windows, outlets and cabinets. Draw tile layout to scale.

Mark Center Point

Calculate and mark a center point of the backsplash area. Use plumb lines to mark center point vertically too.

Dry Lay Tiles

Place tiles on floor in arrangement you plan to install. Evaluate pattern, color and placement.

Choose Installation Pattern

Typical layouts include brick pattern, offset brick or stacked.

Work Out Trim Tile Placement

Determine border and accent tile placement. Mark where tiles need cuts.

Draw Layout on Wall

Once design is finalized, use a pencil to outline tile pattern on backsplash so you know exactly where to place each tile.

Ready the Tile for Installation

To ready your tile for installation:

Group Tiles by Color/Shading

Tiles can vary slightly in color/pattern. Group similar tiles together for consistent appearance.

Arrange Desired Pattern

Organize tiles in the sequence needed to achieve desired layout. This makes installing quicker.

Cut Tiles If Needed

Use a wet tile saw to pre-cut any tiles needed for edges and around outlets.

Mix Thinset Mortar

In a bucket, mix thinset mortar using manufacturer’s instructions. Let sit 10 minutes.

Install Backsplashes First

Adhere any backsplashes for sinks, stoves first since they go behind lower field tiles.

Advance planning and prep work helps the installation go smoothly and ensures your design vision becomes reality!

Install the Tile

Now comes the fun part – it’s finally time to start installing your tiles! Follow these pro tips:

Apply Thinset Mortar

Use the notched edge of trowel to evenly spread thinset adhesive on the backsplash area, using sweeping strokes.

Place Wall Tiles

Starting at center point, press tiles firmly into thinset mortar. Push in a downward motion to set.

Maintain Even Grout Lines

Use plastic spacers between tiles to maintain even grout line width.

Work in Sections

Tiles one section at a time, typically working left to right. Completely finishing one area before moving to the next.

Avoid “Lipping”

As you place tile, slide it back and forth perpendicular to grout lines to avoid lipping, leaving one edge higher than the next.

Check Alignment

Use level frequently to ensure tiles align properly. Don’t let thinset dry on surface.

Cut Edge & Outlet Tiles

Measure and cut tiles to appropriate size to fill edges and openings using tile cutter. Use nibblers to trim.

Install Accent Tiles

Press any accent tiles carefully into place when main field is complete. Use spacers to align.

Take your time and don’t rush the installation. If thinset dries too quickly, remove and reapply fresh mortar before placing tile.

Apply the Grout

Once your tiles are firmly adhered, it’s time to grout:

Clean Tile Surface

Use damp sponge to wipe any thinset mortar haze off top of tiles before grouting.

Apply Grout

Use grout float to spread grout over the surface, pressing into joints between tiles. Spread diagonally across joints.

Clean Excess Grout

Use damp sponge in circular motion to clean any excess grout off the surface of the tiles. Rinse sponge frequently.

Seal Grout

Once grout has cured, apply grout sealer according to manufacturer’s directions to protect from moisture and staining.

Take care wiping excess grout. Any stubborn haze can be cleaned off tiles with vinegar once fully cured. Using coordinating colored grout highlights the tile design. Contrasting grout makes the tiles pop.

Finish and Seal the Installation

The final steps complete your backsplash tile installation:

Caulk Perimeters

Once grout is fully cured, caulk along countertops, cabinets, edges. Smooth with wet fingertip.

Seal Grout

Allow grout to cure fully then apply a penetrating grout sealer. Follow manufacturer’s directions.

Clean Surface

Use a pH neutral cleaner and soft cloth to wash the entire surface. Rinse any cleaner residue.

Repair Damage

If any tiles crack, pop off, or become damaged, remove and replace them as needed.

Admire Your Work

Stand back and admire your gorgeous, professionally-tiled backsplash! Enjoy for years to come.

With proper prep, patience, and maintenance your tile backsplash will withstand heavy use and look beautiful for many years.

Frequently Asked Questions About Tiling a Backsplash

Tiling your own backsplash can seem daunting, but becomes much more manageable if you know what to expect. Here are answers to some frequently asked DIY backsplash tiling questions:

What kind of tile is best for backsplash?

Ceramic and porcelain tile are most commonly used. Options like glass or metal create a high-end look. Mosaic tiles make DIY installation easier. Choose a durable, moisture-resistant material.

What thickness of tile should I use?

A standard thickness is 1⁄4 inch, but 1/8 inch mosaic sheets or thinner porcelain slabs are also popular options. Thicker tiles are heavier and require more adhesive.

How do I cut holes in tile for outlets?

Use a rotary tool or small hammer and tile nippers to break tile edges. File sharp edges smooth. Turn off power before working around outlets!

Should I use different grout color than the tiles?

Matching grout highlights the tile shape and pattern. Contrasting grout makes the tiles pop. White grout gets dirty easily. Use optional grout colorant.

How soon can I use my backsplash after tiling?

Wait at least 24 hours for thinset mortar to fully cure before using. Wait 72 hours for grout to cure completely to avoid damaging the joints.

Do I need to seal my backsplash tile?

Sealing is recommended for natural stone tile to prevent staining and moisture damage in the porous material. Use a penetrating sealer for grout as well.

How do I remove old tile backsplash?

Carefully pry tiles off the wall using a putty knife or pry bar. Soak stubborn adhesives with hot water or adhesive remover solution before scraping.

Can I install backsplash tile over existing tile?

It’s possible but not ideal. Adding a second layer of tile leads to a thicker, potentially uneven surface. Best to remove old tile first.

What’s the most common size for backsplash tiles?

4 x 4 inch, 3 x 6 inch or 1 x 4 inch subway style tiles are versatile sizes fitting most backsplash areas. Play with different sizes for interest.

Should I hire a pro for my backsplash tile?

An experienced tile setter can install flawlessly, but with proper planning DIY is very doable. Backsplashes are great intro to tiling!


Tiling your own backsplash has many advantages over hiring a professional. Not only does DIY tiling cost a fraction of paying someone, it allows you to customize everything to your specific taste. While tiling does take some careful planning, patience and perseverance, the sense of accomplishment you’ll feel when gazing at your beautiful, professionally-looking backsplash makes it all worthwhile. Just be sure to gather all the required tools and materials, thoroughly prepare your backsplash surface, thoughtfully lay out your tile design, and work slowly and meticulously for best results. With this step-by-step guide, you now have all the information needed to tile your backsplash like an expert.