Can You Use Liquid Nails on Backsplash?

Backsplashes provide an attractive and functional accent for kitchens and bathrooms. When installing or replacing a backsplash, using the right adhesive is key to getting a durable, long-lasting result. Liquid nails is a popular adhesive, but is it the right choice for backsplash projects? Here is a detailed look at whether liquid nails should be used on backsplashes.

What is Liquid Nails?

Liquid nails is the brand name for a line of adhesives made by Liquid Nails Adhesives and Sealants. It is a latex-based construction adhesive available in both water-based and solvent-based formulas.

Some key features of liquid nails:

  • Strong adhesive power on a variety of materials including wood, drywall, tile, metal, concrete, stone, and more
  • Bonds surfaces together to create a tight seal
  • Provides impact and vibration resistance
  • Water resistant versions available
  • Solvent-based formulas offer strong fume odor
  • Easy to apply from the tube or cartridge

Liquid nails often serves as an alternative to traditional mortar when installing tile or securing trim. The thick consistency makes it easy to apply between uneven surfaces. It was designed as a general use adhesive for home improvement and construction projects.

Using Liquid Nails on Backsplashes

Liquid nails may seem like an ideal adhesive for backsplash projects, but it does have some drawbacks:

Not Designed for Tile

Tile manufacturers and industry organizations like the Tile Council of North America recommend using unmodified thinset mortar to install backsplashes and other tile projects. Thinset provides superior bonding strength and is formulated specifically to adhere tile.

Using the wrong materials can result in tiles shifting, cracking, or falling off over time as the adhesive fails. Liquid nails lack the composition needed to properly support tile.

Difficult to Work With

Applying an even coat of liquid nails takes skill. It can easily ooze out the sides or apply unevenly. The thick consistency makes it hard to work the adhesive into the crevices and grout lines of tile. Unmodified thinset is thinner and spreads more evenly.

Long Cure Time

Liquid nails take 24-48 hours to fully cure and gain strength. Grout and sealants applied too soon can compromise the bond. Thinset mortar cures firmly within 24 hours or less, allowing the project to be completed more quickly.

Can Stain and Discolor

The chemicals in some liquid nails formulas can cause staining or discoloration on porous tile and grout. This ruining the appearance of the finish. Thinset is less prone to alter the look of the tiles.

Solvent-Based Options Have Strong Odor

The solvent-based liquid nail adhesives rely on harsh chemicals for their ultra-strong bonding power. This makes them prone to emitting powerful and unpleasant fumes as they cure, making them unpleasant to work with. Water-based versions are lower odor.

Best Practice for Backsplash Adhesive

While liquid nails seem like an easy adhesive solution for DIYers, it poses risks for long-term durability and aesthetics. The tile industry recommendation is to always use unmodified thinset mortar rated for wall applications when installing backsplash tile. Consider the following best practices:

  • Consult the tile manufacturer’s instructions to identify the approved installation materials.
  • Choose an unmodified thinset mortar designed for walls and tile. These provide strong bonding without the risk of shrinkage.
  • Knee-high trowels are ideal for applying thinset to vertical surfaces like backsplashes.
  • Maintain the proper trowel angle and use even pressure to create a uniform adhesive layer.
  • Allow proper thinset cure time before grouting, typically 24 hours.
  • Use grout formulated for walls to avoid sagging and slumping.
  • Seal grout lines to protect from staining and improve water resistance.

Following the manufacturer’s specifications for all materials ensures the backsplash will adhere securely and look stunning for years to come. While liquid nails may seem like a shortcut, unmodified thinset is the recommended adhesive for a professional quality result.

Frequently Asked Questions About Using Liquid Nails on Backsplash

Can you use liquid nails to install backsplash tile?

It is not recommended. Tile industry guidelines advise using a wall-rated, unmodified thinset mortar to install backsplash tile. Liquid nails lack the composition and performance needed for a durable tile bond.

What happens if you use liquid nails instead of thinset for backsplash tile?

Using liquid nails risks tiles shifting, cracking, or popping off over time as the bond fails. It can also lead to a messy, uneven application and be prone to staining or discoloration issues.

Is liquid nails waterproof once it dries?

Liquid nails offers water resistance when dry, but it is not completely waterproof. Prolonged moisture exposure can still compromise its adhesion. Unmodified thinset provides superior water resistance and is the recommended adhesive for wet areas.

Can you use liquid nails on kitchen backsplash?

You can physically apply liquid nails to a kitchen backsplash, but it is not the recommended adhesive. Kitchen backsplashes perform best when installed with wall-rated, unmodified thinset mortar which provides maximum strength, durability, and water resistance.

What’s the difference between liquid nails and construction adhesive?

Liquid nails is a specific brand of construction adhesive. In general, construction adhesive is designed for attaching non-tile materials like wood, metal, and drywall. Tile industry standards advise using thinset mortar instead for installing tile backsplashes.


Backsplashes make a stylish focal point in kitchens and bathrooms. For best results, tile backsplashes should be installed using wall-rated, unmodified thinset mortar. While liquid nails seem like an easy adhesive solution, they lack the composition and performance qualities needed for durable tile bonds. Using the proper thinset ensures strong adhesion, proper cure time, and reduced risk of discoloration or other aesthetic issues. With the right materials and techniques, you can achieve a professional-quality backsplash that will be beautiful and functional for years to come.