Can You Install Backsplash Yourself? The Complete DIY Guide

Installing a backsplash in your kitchen can completely transform the look and feel of the space. But many homeowners wonder – can I actually install a backsplash myself? The answer is yes! With the right materials, tools, and a bit of skill and patience, you can absolutely take on this rewarding DIY project.

What is a Backsplash?

Before diving into the installation process, let’s first define what exactly a backsplash is. A backsplash is a decorative, protective wall treatment that is installed directly behind sinks, stoves, ranges, and other kitchen fixtures that are prone to splashes.

Typically backsplashes are made from tile, metal, glass, or other water-resistant materials. Not only do they add visual appeal to your kitchen décor, they also guard the walls from moisture, grease, food debris, and other messes that can cause stains and damage.

Backsplashes most commonly run horizontally along the wall between the countertops and kitchen cabinets. But they can also be installed in vertical sections or as full wall-to-wall treatments.

Benefits of Installing a Backsplash Yourself

Taking on a DIY backsplash installation project offers many advantages:

  • Cost savings – Hiring a professional tiler to install a backsplash can be expensive. Doing it yourself allows you to save a significant amount on labor costs.
  • Customization – When you install the backsplash, you can choose exactly the tiles or materials you want. You have creative control over the design, color, style, and configuration.
  • Satisfaction – There’s a sense of pride and accomplishment that comes from successfully tiling your own backsplash. You’ll get to stand back and appreciate all your hard work.
  • Flexible schedule – You can work on the project at your own pace and on your own timeline. No need to coordinate installer schedules.

As long as you have the basic tiling skills and tools, you can definitely take on a DIY backsplash project! But make sure to thoroughly plan it out upfront.

How to Install a Tile Backsplash Yourself

Follow these key steps to properly install a tile backsplash in your kitchen:

Gather Supplies and Tools

First, assemble all the items you will need:

  • Tile – Ceramic, porcelain, glass, metal, and stone tile are commonly used. Purchase enough to cover your backsplash area with a 10% overage.
  • Tile adhesive – Thinset mortar that is recommended for your tile material.
  • Grout – Grout matches the color of your tile. Use unsanded grout for joints 1/8″ or smaller.
  • Trowel – For spreading tile adhesive on the wall. Look for a notched edge design.
  • Spacers – Small crosses used between tiles to create uniform grout lines.
  • Tile cutter – Cuts tile to fit in edges and corners. A manual cutter is inexpensive.
  • Grout float – For smoothing and cleaning excess grout from tile joints.
  • Grout sponge – A dense sponge specially designed for wiping grout.
  • Bucket or basin – For mixing adhesive and grout.
  • Taping knives – For applying and spreading tile adhesive.
  • Wet saw – For intricate tile cutting (optional but useful).
  • Safety gear – Gloves, goggles, knee pads, etc.

Prepare the Surface

To start, thoroughly clean the backsplash area and remove any old wall materials, paint, or adhesive. Fill any holes or uneven spots with spackle and sand smooth.

The wall surface must be completely smooth and flat for proper tile installation. Uneven walls can cause the tiles to detach over time.

If necessary, attach cement backerboard to create an even and durable surface. Cut boards to size and fasten securely to wall studs with appropriate screws. Seal seams with fiberglass mesh tape and thinset mortar.

Plan Your Design

Now decide on the tile layout. Mark straight horizontal and vertical lines on the wall as guides. Dry lay a few rows of tile to determine optimal placement and get an idea of how the patterns and grout lines will look. Don’t adhere tiles yet.

Be sure to account for focal points in the kitchen, like the range or sink. Tiles may need to be cut and adjusted to fit around these fixtures. Allow a 1/8″ gap around cabinets, countertops, and appliances.

Carefully planning the tile layout will help the installation go smoothly and efficiently.

Install Tile Adhesive

Mix a batch of thinset mortar adhesive according to package directions. Use a notched trowel to spread a layer evenly across a small section of the backsplash area.

Spread only as much adhesive as you can tile within 10-15 minutes before it skins over. The adhesive should be about 3/16″ to 1/4″ thick after notching.

Set the Tiles

Now you’re ready to set and adhere tiles. Start near the bottom and work upwards in rows. Place spacers between each tile to allow for consistent grout line width.

Press tiles firmly into the adhesive and use a rubber mallet to set them in place, concentrating pressure on the tile corners. Check tiles for level placement and immediately remove and reapply any that are incorrectly set.

Continue setting tiles across the backsplash area, wiping away any excess adhesive as you work. Allow adhesive to cure fully (usually 24-48 hours) before grouting.

Cut Tiles to Fit

Use a wet saw or tile cutter to precisely cut border and edge tiles to size and shape. This allows them to fit around kitchen fixtures, outlets, and doorway trim.

Measure and mark tiles to be cut. Carefully score and snap tiles for straight cuts or use the wet saw for specialty cuts like L-shapes and curves. Smooth rough edges with a rubbing stone.

Cut tiles should have the same 1/8″ spacing from walls, cabinets, etc when installed. Take time to ensure custom cut tiles have a professional fit.

Apply the Grout

After the tile adhesive has fully cured, it’s time to grout the joints. Use unsanded grout for narrow joints less than 1/8″ wide. Sanded grout is best for wider grout lines.

Mix grout per package instructions to a thick, peanut butter-like consistency. Use a grout float or rubber trowel to spread it down into the seams, packing it tightly.

Drag the float diagonally across tiles to prevent pulling grout from the joints. Let installed grout dry slightly for 10-15 minutes.

Clean Excess Grout

Wipe a damp grout sponge diagonally across tiles to remove excess grout and smooth joints. Rinse the sponge frequently in clean water to eliminate haze.

Avoid wiping in a circular motion or you risk pulling grout from the joints. Allow grout to cure fully, usually 72 hours. Seal grout lines with a penetrating sealer for added protection.

With the tile set and grouted, your kitchen backsplash is complete! Bask in the satisfaction of a tiling job well done.

Tips for DIY Backsplash Success

To ensure your self-installed backsplash turns out perfectly, keep these tips in mind:

  • Carefully read all manufacturer’s instructions for adhesives, grout, and tile. Follow directions precisely.
  • Plan out your tile layout and design completely before starting. Measure twice, cut once.
  • Use level lines and temporary spacers to keep tiles even and straight.
  • Work in small sections across the backsplash area. Don’t spread too much adhesive at once.
  • Ensure backsplash tiles align with existing countertops, cabinets, and appliances.
  • Cut tiles slowly and carefully to avoid cracking or chipping edges.
  • Let adhesive and grout cure fully before moving on to the next step. Allow several days for proper drying.
  • Clean up spills, messes, and excess adhesive/grout promptly before they dry.
  • Seal grout lines once fully cured to protect from moisture and staining.

With proper planning, materials, and patience, you can achieve beautiful backsplash tile results even on your first try!

Common Backsplash Mistakes (And How to Avoid Them)

While tiling a backsplash is very doable, slip ups can happen. Be aware of these common mistakes DIYers make so you can dodge them on your project:

Using the wrong adhesive – Only use adhesive specially designed for the type of tile you’re installing. Many adhesives are material-specific.

Applying adhesive improperly – Don’t spread too far ahead or make the layer too thick. Follow instructions precisely.

Allowing adhesive to skin over – Set tiles immediately after applying adhesive. Don’t let it dry out and become unusable.

Not using spacers – Spacers allow for uniform grout line width. Skipping them can lead to uneven, sloppy joints.

Ignoring uneven walls – Any imperfections in the wall will transfer to the tile. Take time to start with a perfectly smooth, flat surface.

Not allowing proper drying time – Adhesive and grout need ample time to fully cure before moving between steps. Don’t rush it.

Applying grout carelessly – Grout needs to be packed deeply into joints. Sloppy technique leads to weak grout lines prone to cracking.

Missing grout in joints – Don’t leave gaps or voids in the grout lines. Any missing areas become vulnerabilities.

Wiping grout too soon – Let grout sit for 10-15 minutes before wiping to avoid pulling it out of joints.

Using wrong grout type – Match grout to the tile joints. Unsanded for small joints, sanded for wider joints.

With careful prep and installation technique, you can avoid these common pitfalls on your DIY backsplash project.

Alternative Backsplash Ideas (Beyond Just Tile)

While tile may be the most popular backsplash choice, it’s not the only material option. Consider these unique and stylish backsplash ideas:

  • Stainless steel – A modern, industrial look. Durable and water-resistant. Easily cut to fit the space.
  • Galvanized metal – Rustic, textured metal sheets create an eye-catching accent wall.
  • Glass tile – Available in every color, size, and texture. Provides brilliant sheen and sparkle.
  • Stone slabs – Natural stone like granite, marble, or travertine offer elegance. Great for a focal wall.
  • Reclaimed wood – Rustic, eco-friendly ambiance. Use varying wood grains and stains.
  • Penny tile – Vintage vibe. Tiny mosaic tiles arranged in penny-like sheets. Fun patterns.
  • Wallpaper – Self-adhesive wallpaper resists moisture. Contains colorful prints and textures.
  • Brick or stone veneer – Thin panels that simulate a natural brick or stone wall.
  • Beadboard – Timeless, classic wainscoting elegance with a built-in shelf ledge.
  • Metal – Copper, brass, or bronze sheets add glamorous warmth. Also try tin ceiling tiles.

You’re not limited to just standard ceramic or porcelain tile. Get creative with unique and distinctive backsplash materials to make your kitchen pop!

Cost To Install a Backsplash Yourself

What can you expect to spend if you install a backsplash DIY style? Here are typical price ranges for materials:

  • Low end tile – $2 to $10 per sq ft
  • Mid range tile – $10 – $25 per sq ft
  • High end tile – $25+ per sq ft
  • Thinset adhesive – $10 to $20 per 50 lb bag
  • Grout – $10 – $30 per 25 lb bag

Other materials – Backerboard, grout sealer, spacers, tools – $50 – $150

A typical 10 sq ft backsplash could cost $200 – $600 or more depending on tile and materials selected. High-end stone, glass, or metal tiles add to the total cost significantly.

However, remember that you’ll be saving substantially on the labor expense if doing it yourself. A pro may charge $50+ per sq ft for installation and materials.

Can I Install a Backsplash Over Existing Tile?

What if you want to refresh your backsplash but don’t want to tear out the existing tile? Installing right over old tile is an option, but take these considerations into account:

  • The surface must be completely clean and free of grease, soap scum, and loose grout. Scrub vigorously with degreasing cleaners.
  • Chip away any cracked, damaged, or loose tiles and replace them. Fill any missing grout lines.
  • Existing tile must be firmly adhered to the wall. Re-attach any loose areas.
  • Use a level to identify any uneven tile segments. Use thinset to build up low areas.
  • The new tile must be compatible with the old. Porcelain on porcelain, natural stone on stone, etc.
  • A cement backerboard layer over the old tile provides a sturdy substrate for the new tile.
  • Use a quality polymer-modified thinset adhesive designed to bond new tile to old.

Installing over existing backsplash tile is convenient but requires careful prep work. In some cases, it may be easier to remove and replace the entire backsplash instead.

Hiring a Pro vs DIY Backsplash

Is installing a backsplash something you should DIY or hire out? Consider the pros and cons of both approaches:

Hiring a Professional Tiler


  • Perfect results with no mistakes
  • Project completed quickly
  • No learning curve – experts do the work


  • High labor costs
  • Wait for installer availability

DIY Backsplash Install


  • Cost savings on labor
  • Customize to your taste
  • Learn a new skill
  • Fun project for weekends


  • Results depend on your skill level
  • Mistakes require rework
  • Projects takes more time

Assess your skill level, budget, and how quickly you want the project done. For many homeowners, DIY backsplash install is the best option. With proper planning and care, you can achieve beautiful, quality results.

FAQs: DIY Backsplash Installation

What tile tools will I need?

At minimum, a tile cutter, trowels, grout float, sponges, mixing bucket, tile spacers, safety gear, and wet saw (for specialty cuts).

What tile adhesive is best?

A polymer-modified thinset mortar designed for the specific tile material you’re installing.

How long does tile adhesive take to cure?

24-48 hours. Don’t grout until adhesive has fully cured.

What size tile spacers should I use?

1/16 inch spacers are common for joints 1/8 inch or smaller. Use larger spacers for wider grout lines.

How soon can I use the kitchen after tiling?

Wait a full 72 hours after grouting for everything to fully cure before regular kitchen use.

What’s the best way to cut backsplash tiles?

A wet saw with a diamond blade. Use a sharp tile cutter for straight cuts. Cut slowly.

Do I need to seal the grout?

Sealing is recommended to protect grout from stains. Use a penetrating sealer made for grout.

How do I prevent cracking or detached tiles?

Ensure the wall is perfectly smooth. Use proper adhesives and techniques. Allow full curing time.


Installing a kitchen backsplash tile yourself is an achievable DIY! Follow the techniques and tips outlined to ensure success on your project. With strategic planning, care, and patience, you can gain quality results and significant cost savings.

The sense of accomplishment from tiling your own backsplash makes the hard work worthwhile. You’ll save money and be able to customize it exactly as you envisioned.

With the rightknow-how, tools,and materials, you can definitely take on this gratifying backsplash project yourself. Just tackle each step carefully and intentionally. Take your time with precision cutting and proper curing. Soon you’ll have a gorgeous new focal point to enjoy in your kitchen for years to come!