Can You Glue Backsplash Tile?

Installing a backsplash is a great way to add visual interest and protect your walls in a kitchen or bathroom. While backsplashes are often made of tile, you may be wondering if you can use glue instead of mortar to install them. Here’s what you need to know about gluing backsplash tiles.

An Overview of Gluing Backsplash Tiles

It is possible to use adhesive instead of thinset mortar to install a backsplash made of tile. Tile adhesives generally come in two main types:

  • Mastic adhesive – Mastic is an acrylic or latex-based adhesive that remains flexible after drying. It is designed for use on surfaces like plaster or drywall.
  • Thinset mortar – Thinset contains cement, which makes it more rigid and durable once cured. It provides a stronger bond and is the preferred adhesive for tile in wet areas like around sinks or showers.

Many homeowners opt to use mastic for gluing smaller backsplash tiles in dry areas like behind a stove or decorative tiles above a kitchen sink. The mastic adhesive bonds well to surfaces like drywall and is flexible to allow for normal expansion and contraction of the tiles.

However, traditional mortar may still be a better choice for larger tiles or tiles going in wet areas. Mortar forms a very strong, rigid bond as it cures. The cement allows it to adhere well even in damp conditions.

Pros and Cons of Gluing Backsplashes


  • Easier and faster to apply than mixing up thinset mortar.
  • Mastic adhesive remains somewhat flexible when dry.
  • Good option for dry areas and small decorative tiles.


  • Not as strong a bond as thinset mortar provides.
  • Can sag or slip if too heavy tiles are applied.
  • Not ideal for wet areas or larger tiles that require durability.
  • Difficult to remove glued tiles later if repairs needed.

Tips for Gluing Backsplash Tiles

Gluing tile backsplashes can work well as long as proper precautions are taken. Here are some tips:

  • Only use adhesives designed for tile, not regular craft glues.
  • Follow all instructions for surface prep and application.
  • Consider mastic for backsplashes with tiles under 4 inches square.
  • Use notch trowels as directed to achieve proper adhesive thickness.
  • Work in small sections so adhesive does not dry out before tiles applied.
  • Be precise in aligning tiles since adjusting glued tiles is difficult.
  • Apply even pressure on tiles after placing to ensure good contact.
  • Allow adhesive to fully cure (typically 24-48 hours) before grouting.

With proper installation techniques, gluing a backsplash tile can provide a gorgeous focal point in your home. Be sure to use the right adhesive for the tile size and location. For heavy-duty applications, thinset mortar is still generally the best choice.

Frequently Asked Questions About Gluing Backsplash Tiles

Can I use regular glue instead of mastic or mortar to install a backsplash?

No, regular household glues and adhesives like wood glue or craft glue should never be used to install backsplash tiles. Always use a high quality tile adhesive made specifically for the purpose.

What surfaces can I glue backsplash tiles to?

Backsplash tiles can be glued to clean and prepared drywall, plaster, concrete, cement backer board, plywood, and existing tile. Ensure the surface is smooth, dry, and free of contaminants.

How do I apply mastic adhesive for backsplash tiles?

Spread mastic evenly across the surface using a notched trowel. Apply only as much as can be tiled over within 30 minutes before adhesive skins over. Press tiles into place with a slight twisting motion and use spacers for consistent grout lines.

Should I use mastic or thinset for backsplash tile in the kitchen?

For a kitchen backsplash with small mosaic tiles or tiles under 4 inches, mastic is generally fine since the area stays dry. Use thinset mortar for heavy tile, stone, or applications in wet areas around a sink.

What’s the difference between mastic and mortar?

Mastic is an acrylic adhesive that remains flexible when cured. Mortar is a cement-based rigid adhesive for heavy duty applications. Mastic bonds well to drywall but mortar is stronger for wet areas.

How long does mastic take to dry before grouting tiles?

Mastic adhesive generally takes 24-48 hours to fully cure before grouting. Cooler temperatures or high humidity can extend drying time. Always follow manufacturer’s instructions for curing times.

Can I use leftover thinset mortar instead of mastic for a backsplash?

Yes, thinset mortar can be used to adhere backsplash tiles instead of mastic adhesive. Make sure it is still within its usable timeframe and prepare/apply as per instructions.


Installing a tile backsplash using an adhesive is a DIY-friendly project that can quickly update your space. Opt for mastic when gluing smaller tiles in dry areas and thinset mortar for heavier applications. With proper prep and application, glued backsplash tiles can provide a beautiful and functional accent in bathrooms, kitchens, and more. Be sure to follow all manufacturer’s instructions for the adhesive product you select.