Using floor tile as a backsplash in your kitchen or bathroom can be a stylish and practical choice. Here is a detailed guide on whether you can use floor tile on walls, how to install it properly, and tips for choosing the right tiles.
What is a Backsplash?
A backsplash is a section of wall covering behind a sink, stove, or countertop that protects the wall from water damage and stains. Backsplashes became popular in kitchen design in the 1950s and are now seen as an opportunity to add style, color, and visual interest to the room.
Ceramic tile is one of the most common and versatile backsplash materials. It comes in a vast array of sizes, colors, textures, and patterns. Tile is water-resistant, easy to clean, durable, and can even be used to create murals or accents.
Can You Use Floor Tile as a Backsplash?
The short answer is yes, you can install floor tile on your backsplash or any vertical surface. Many of the same tiles used for floors can be applied to walls as well.
However, there are a few important considerations when using floor tile as a backsplash:
- Porcelain or ceramic tiles are better suited for walls than natural stone tiles which can be heavy.
- Check that porcelain or ceramic tiles are rated for walls and high-humidity environments.
- Smaller tiles like mosaics provide more grout lines for adhesion. Larger tiles may require special installation.
- Tiles with a matte or honed finish are better for backsplashes than glossy tiles that can show water spots and stains.
- Textured or patterned tile hides imperfections well.
- Mosaics and small tiles have more grout lines which provide grip.
- Use tiles rated for high durability and wet environments.
- Porcelain is more durable than ceramic.
- Avoid hand-painted or softer glazed tiles that can scratch and stain.
As long as the tiles are suitable for walls, a floor tile backsplash can be a distinct and durable accent in your home.
How to Install Floor Tile on a Backsplash
Installing floor tile vertically on a backsplash is a similar process to tiling floors but with a few important differences. Here are the basic steps:
Prepare the Surface
- Clean the wall thoroughly and repair any damage or imperfections.
- Apply a concrete backer board if the wall surface is plaster or drywall.
- Seal porous surfaces with a waterproof membrane.
Layout and Level
- Determine the tile layout and use spacers to set even gaps.
- Mark reference lines on the wall and ensure tiles will be level.
Apply Thinset Mortar
- Use a wall tile thinset adhesive instead of thicker floor tile mortar.
- Apply thinset with the proper sized notched trowel.
Set the Tiles
- Press tiles firmly into position in the thinset, using a beating block on large tiles.
- Check level and alignment as you go and make adjustments.
- Allow thinset to cure fully before grouting.
Grout and Seal
- Apply grout between tile joints, wiping away excess.
- Seal grout and tiles with a penetrating sealer.
- Use a specialty grout and sealant made for walls.
Take care to space and align floor tiles when setting them vertically. Allow for movement by not butting tiles tightly. With the right prep and materials, floor tile can make a striking backsplash accent.
Tips for Choosing Floor Tile for Backsplashes
When selecting floor tiles for a backsplash installation, keep these tips in mind:
- Go for small or mosaic tile sizes – Large format tiles may require specialist installation on walls and have fewer grout lines for adhesion.
- Pick matte or honed finishes – Glossy tiles show water marks while matte or textured finishes hide wall flaws.
- Use mesh-backed mosaics – Mesh backing provides stability and easier installation for mosaics.
- Choose rectangular subway tiles – Subway tile shapes are versatile and give a sense of height on walls.
- Contrast grout and tile colors – To make tiles stand out, select a contrasting grout color.
- Limit bold patterns – Busy or bold patterns can be overwhelming on a backsplash. Opt for solid colored or simple tiles.
- Consider special trim – Bullnose, chair rail, or listello trim adds finished edges.
With some clever mixing and matching, floor tiles can gain new life on your backsplash and give your space a stylish focal point.
Popular Types of Tile for Backsplashes
Looking for ideas on types of tile to use for your backsplash? Here are some of the most popular options:
A classic 3×6 rectangular glossy or matte ceramic tile. Available in endless colors and easily creates patterns.
Small glass mosaics reflect light. Often used for accents rather than whole backsplashes.
Marble, travertine, and granite backsplashes provide natural texture. Need sealing to prevent stains.
Stainless steel, tin, copper, and aluminum tiles give an industrial vibe. Great accent material.
Porcelain is dense, water-resistant, and grout-lines can be minimal. Mimics natural materials.
Tiny mosaic tiles made from glass, ceramic, or stone are used to create images or patterns.
FAQs about Using Floor Tile for Backsplashes
Can you put porcelain floor tile on a backsplash?
Yes, porcelain floor tiles can be installed on backsplashes if the tiles are rated for wall use. The dense, water-resistant material is well suited to kitchen backsplash use.
What thinset do you use for floor tile backsplash?
It’s best to use a wall tile thinset adhesive when installing floor tile vertically for backsplashes. The thinner consistency provides the right amount of grip.
Should tiles on a backsplash go all the way to the ceiling?
Backsplash tiles do not necessarily need to go all the way to the ceiling. Standard height is 4-6 inches above the countertop. Optional trim can be added to finish the top edge.
What is the maximum size tile for a backsplash?
6×6 inch tiles are about the largest size recommended for backsplash use without requiring special installation techniques. Mosaics, subways, and tiles under 4×4 inches are better options.
Can you put tile over existing backsplash?
In some cases, yes. Small wall tiles like mosaics, pennny tiles, or glass tiles can be installed over an existing backsplash. Larger tiles will require removal of old backsplash first.
How do you cut floor tile for a backsplash?
Use a wet saw with a diamond blade to accurately cut ceramic, porcelain, or stone floor tiles to size for your backsplash installation. Always wear safety gear when cutting tile.
Installing floor tile as a backsplash can give your kitchen or bathroom a unique, high-end custom look. Honed, textured, small format, and porcelain tiles work particularly well on backsplashes and provide a practical accent that is easy to clean.
With proper preparation of the wall surface and using quality thinset mortars and grouts suited for walls, floor tiles can be incorporated into backsplash designs. Be sure to choose tiles rated for high humidity and wall use.
Get creative with shapes, patterns, mixes of materials, and trim to create a backsplash that becomes a true decorative focal point using durable floor tiles.