Can You Use Floor Tile as Backsplash?

Using floor tile as a backsplash in your kitchen or bathroom can be an attractive, durable, and cost-effective option. With so many styles and materials available, floor tiles allow you to create a customized look that matches your design aesthetic. However, not all floor tiles are suitable for use as a backsplash. Understanding the pros, cons, and installation considerations will help ensure floor tiles successfully make the transition from floor to wall.

What to Consider When Using Floor Tile as Backsplash

There are several factors to weigh when deciding whether floor tile will work as a backsplash in your space:

Tile Material

  • Ceramic or porcelain – Glazed ceramic and porcelain tiles are naturally water-resistant, making them a great choice for kitchen backsplashes which see a lot of moisture. Their durable, scratch-resistant surface is easy to clean.
  • Natural stone – Materials like granite, marble or travertine can make a luxurious statement, but require extra sealing to prevent staining and etching from kitchen acids. Avoid porous, soft stones.
  • Glass – Prone to shattering, glass tile needs a highly stable wall surface. Its transparency also shows any wall flaws. Use extra caution if you have kids.
  • Metal – While eye-catching, unglazed metal tile can show water marks and fingerprints. The hardness of metals like stainless steel or tin can also make cutting and drilling difficult.

Tile Finish

  • Glossy – Reflective, shiny tile requires more frequent cleaning. The slick surface is not ideal for walls behind stoves.
  • Matte – With a subtle sheen, matte finish tile resists showing water marks or fingerprints. Good for busy kitchen walls.
  • Textured – Embossed, frosted or pebbled tiles help conceal wall imperfections. Textured surfaces also showcase less grime.

Tile Size

  • Small mosaics – Intricate backsplash patterns are possible with 1-inch mosaic tiles. But grout lines may be harder to keep clean.
  • Medium tiles – 4-inch tiles are a popular backsplash size, providing good blend of scale and grout line proportions.
  • Large tiles – For a minimalistic look, turn to 8-inch or 12-inch tiles. But there’s less margin for error in getting wall alignment perfect.

Tile Thickness

  • Thin tiles – Sheet mounted mosaics and 3/16-inch tiles follow wall contours better but may not have mesh backings for stability.
  • Standard tiles – 1/4-inch to 5/16-inch tiles are well-suited for backsplash use and are less prone to cracking or warping.
  • Thick tiles – Heavier 1/2-inch tiles require very flat, stable wall surfaces and are difficult to cut.

Tile PEI Rating

The PEI rating indicates a tile’s durability and abrasion resistance. For backsplashes:

  • PEI 1 and 2 tiles should be avoided
  • PEI 3 is okay for low-use backsplashes
  • PEI 4 and 5 tiles stand up best to heat, moisture and scrubbing

Pros of Using Floor Tile as Backsplash

Installing floor tile as a backsplash offers many advantages:

Greater Design Options

Floor tiles come in a vast array of sizes, colors, shapes, textures and materials. Using floor tile opens up limitless possibilities to create a whole new look by matching or contrasting with your existing flooring. For example, extending hardwood floors onto the backsplash as a rustic detail.

Cohesive Visual Flow

Installing the same tile on floors and walls creates a seamless, cohesive aesthetic. The continuous flow draws the eye through the entire space. It also makes rooms appear larger and more open.

Cost Savings

Buying enough floor tile for both your backsplash and flooring means purchasing only one product. You’ll need fewer supplies overall, rather than buying both floor tiles and wall tiles separately.

Ease of Replacement

If a section of your backsplash gets damaged later on, replacement tiles are readily at hand. Having spare floor tiles makes repairs a breeze while ensuring a perfect color match.


Floor tiles are designed to stand up to heavy foot traffic and scratching. When transferred to walls, their strength and abrasion-resistance provides superb protection from daily wear-and-tear.

Cons of Using Floor Tile as Backsplash

On the downside, there are some potential drawbacks:

Glossy Reflectivity

Some glossy floor tiles have a near-mirror finish. As a backsplash, the reflective surface can create strong glare in the kitchen or bath. This can be visually distracting and make lighting conditions more challenging.

Difficult Cleaning

If the textured floor tiles trap food, oil or grime in crevices and grout lines, cleaning the backsplash becomes much harder. The texture itself can obscure built-up messes.

Heavier Weight

Floor tiles are thicker and heavier than typical wall tile. The additional weight impacts installation, possibly requiring additional wall support. Cutting and drilling is also more difficult.

Limited Tile Choices

While wall tiles offer endless shapes and designs, floor tile styles are more restricted. Using floor tile on walls reduces the decorative freedom you’d have with ceramic wall tiles.

Excessive Grout Lines

Some floor tiles have wider grout line widths, which look overbearing on walls and can accumulate more dirt. Cleaning and maintaining the increased grout takes more effort.

How to Install Floor Tile as a Backsplash

With some adjustments, floor tile can successfully make the transition from floor to wall:

Select Lower Wall Area

Limit floor tile installation to a portion of the backsplash area, either as a decorative border or just the lower third. This keeps the project simple. Full floor-to-ceiling installations are possible but require expertise.

Check Tile Flatness

Any warping or curvature makes floor tiles prone to cracking when applied to vertical surfaces. Use only very flat tiles. Thinner mosaic sheets typically adapt better than thick tiles.

Prepare Wall Surface

Floor tile needs an absolutely smooth, flat substrate – ensure the wall has no bumps, debris or texture. High-quality cement board is ideal. Old surfaces may require skim coating first.

Use Appropriate Adhesive

Choose tile mastic specially formulated for walls, as floor tile adhesives are too rigid. Using the right adhesive keeps the tilebond intact despite wall vibrations and seasonal shifts.

Adjust Tile Layout

Stacking floor tiles vertically on a wall looks awkward. Adjust layout patterns and orientation to suit the proportions. Running bond, brick joint or offset brick patterns work well.

Use Proper Grout Width

Grout lines should be narrower for walls, as thicker floor grout draws the eye too much vertically. Adjust guidelines so joints are 1/8-inch or less if possible.

Seal Grout and Tiles

Applying grout sealer protects polished tile finishes from staining and discoloration during installation. Sealing natural stone tiles is mandatory. Re-seal tiles periodically.

Add Backing for Heavy Tiles

With large format tiles or natural stone, embed fiberglass mesh in the thinset mortar for added stability. This reinforces the bond and prevents tiles from detaching.

With careful prep and installation, floor tile can provide a durable, high-end designer look on walls while being budget-friendly. Consult professional tile installers for guidance on more complex projects. But for small backsplash areas, homeowners can tackle floor tile installation themselves by following best practices. With so many styles to explore, floor tiles are a versatile option to create a custom backsplash look.

Frequently Asked Questions About Using Floor Tile as Backsplash

Can you use polished porcelain floor tiles for a kitchen backsplash?

Yes, polished porcelain floor tiles are well-suited for backsplash use. Their dense composition resists moisture penetration while the glazed surface wipes clean easily. Select porcelain tiles with a PEI rating of 4 or higher. Apply a quality tile mastic and seal the grout lines.

What issues should be considered when using 12×24 floor tiles on a backsplash?

Large format 12×24 floor tiles require a perfectly flat, plumb wall surface for successful installation. Movement or imperfections in the wall will lead to cracking or loosening. Have a professional assess if wall framing reinforcement is needed to handle the weight. Use fiberglass mesh in the mastic for extra bonding.

Should floor tile backsplashes go all the way to the ceiling?

It’s best to limit floor tile backsplashes to a portion of the wall, around 4 feet or less. Installing floor tile edge-to-edge from counter to ceiling requires special expertise. The wall must be strengthened to prevent detachment or slippage of heavy tiles at the top.

How do you cut floor tiles for use as a kitchen backsplash?

Cutting floor tile for the irregular shapes needed on backsplashes takes special tools like a wet saw with a diamond blade. Rent this equipment for DIY projects. Make precise measurements before cutting tile to avoid errors. Always wear safety goggles when cutting or drilling tile.

Can you put marble floor tile on a bathroom backsplash?

Natural stone floor tiles like marble can create a high-end look, but are prone to staining and etching from splashes. Seal the marble tiles thoroughly with a penetrating sealer and reapply yearly. Pre-seal marble before installation. For bathrooms, buffed matte marble finishes hide water marks better than polished marble.

Should floor tile backsplashes be installed horizontally or vertically?

Stacking floor tiles vertically on walls tends to look awkward and emphasizes the grout lines. Adjusting the orientation to horizontal or diagonal layouts creates a smoother flow. Offset patterns or swapping dimensions (using taller orientation horizontally) also improves proportions.

How are floor tiles adhered to cement board backer for a backsplash?

Use a quality polymer-modified wall tile mastic to adhere floor tiles to cement backerboard. Apply a notched trowel coat to both the back of each tile and to the wall surface. Be sure tiles are pressed firmly into the fresh mastic. Clamp large format tiles if necessary while the mastic cures.

Can you put 12×12 granite floor tiles on the kitchen backsplash?

Granite floor tiles make a dramatic yet durable backsplash statement. Be sure the 12×12 tiles come from the same lot for color consistency. Granite tiles are heavy, so the wall must be braced and have plywood sheathing under the cement board. Use fiberglass mesh in the thinset for reinforcement before applying granite tiles.

What kind of tile edging works best with floor tile backsplashes?

Bullnose edging tiles with a rounded profile are a great choice for finishing floor tile backsplashes. The curved edge minimizes sharp corners and gives a polished, built-in look. Bullnose tiles come in materials matching the floor tile. Use mitered corners and caulk joints for smooth transitions.


Installing floor tile on walls for a backsplash or shower surround allows you to extend beautiful flooring materials onto other surfaces within your space. From natural stone to ceramic and porcelain, floor tiles open up many distinctive design options not found with conventional wall tile. With special consideration for the installation specifics, floor tile can make a durable, easy-to-maintain backsplash solution. Follow best practices for surface prep, tile selection, layout adjustments and grout sealing. With some tiles requiring extra steps like reinforcement, consult a tile pro for guidance on your project. But for many typical backsplash situations, you can achieve custom, high-end looks installing floor tile yourself. Let floor tile add artful appeal taking your backsplash from drab to dramatic.