How hard is it to do a backsplash?

Installing a backsplash in your kitchen can really transform the look and feel of the space. But how difficult is it actually to do a backsplash yourself? With some planning and preparation, it’s definitely a manageable DIY project for many homeowners. Here’s an overview of what’s involved in installing a backsplash and some tips to make the process go smoothly.

What is a backsplash?

A backsplash is a decorative, protective surface that is installed on the wall behind a countertop, most commonly behind a kitchen counter or bathroom vanity. Backsplashes are typically made of tile, metal, glass, or other water-resistant materials.

The main purposes of a backsplash are to:

  • Protect the wall from water damage, splashes, and stains
  • Add visual interest and personality to the kitchen or bath
  • Tie together the countertop and wall colors/materials
  • Conceal any gaps between the countertop and wall

So in short, a backsplash serves both practical and aesthetic functions.

How hard is it to install a backsplash?

Installing a tile or panel backsplash is considered an intermediate DIY project. It’s more involved than simply painting a wall, but it’s very doable for someone who is reasonably handy and has some tiling experience. Here are some factors to consider:

Time commitment

You should budget several days to install a backsplash from start to finish. Rushing through the steps will likely result in a subpar end result. The overall timeline will vary based on the size of your backsplash, as well as your skill level. But in general, you’ll need time for:

  • Shopping for supplies
  • Prepping the surface
  • Measuring and cutting tile
  • Installing the tile
  • Grouting the tile
  • Sealing and cleaning the backsplash


The actual installation process involves several key steps:

  • Properly preparing the surface by cleaning and applying primer/mortar
  • Accurate measurement and cutting of the tile or panels
  • Achieving a straight layout and proper spacing of tiles
  • Mixing and applying the mortar or adhesive
  • Carefully applying grout between the tiles
  • Cleaning and sealing the backsplash after grouting

Mistakes in any of these steps can lead to a crooked, uneven backsplash. The more intricate the tile pattern, the more time and focus the installation will require.


Material costs can range widely, but expect to spend at least $100-200 on supplies for a small backsplash. The main expenses will be:

  • Tile, panels, or other backsplash materials
  • Mortar, grout, or adhesive
  • Tiling tools like a tile cutter and spacers
  • Additional supplies like grout sealer, gloves, etc.

Hiring a professional to install your backsplash can cost anywhere from $500 into the thousands, depending on the size of the job and the materials used. Doing it yourself is significantly cheaper.

Skills needed

To successfully DIY a backsplash installation, basic skills like these will help:

  • Familiarity with using tile cutters, spacers, and other tiling tools
  • Experience mixing and applying mortar or adhesives
  • Attention to detail and patience for precise tile cutting
  • Ability to follow directions and problem-solve
  • Handiness with household projects and minor repairs

Many homeowners have the ability to learn these skills. But if you’ve never tiled or done home repairs before, the learning curve may feel steep.

Tips for a successful backsplash installation

If you decide to tackle a backsplash project yourself, here are some tips to make the process smoother:

Choose an appropriate backsplash material

  • For beginners, glass tile or panels are easier to work with than ceramic or stone.
  • Make sure the material suits the space. Kitchen backsplashes often use ceramic or glass mosaic tile.
  • Measure the area thoroughly so you buy enough tile to complete the job.

Prepare the surface

  • Remove any old backsplash and thoroughly clean the wall area first.
  • Apply primer and mortar as needed to create a smooth, consistent surface.

Use spacers for consistent tile spacing

  • Plastic spacers placed between tiles ensure even grout lines.
  • Lay out tiles in a dry run first before applying mortar to test the spacing.

Take your time cutting tiles

  • Carefully measure and double check cuts to avoid wasted tiles.
  • Use a wet saw for intricate curved or shaped cuts.

Apply grout properly

  • Follow directions so grout fully fills joint spaces without being too thick.
  • Grout small areas in sections to keep it from drying too quickly.

Seal and maintain the backsplash

  • Seal grout and tiles with a waterproof sealer once fully cured.
  • Use caution when cleaning to avoid dulling or damaging the tiles.


Installing a backsplash is a very approachable DIY project for motivated homeowners willing to learn basic tiling techniques. While it does take time, care, and patience, the results are well worth the effort. The key is taking it step-by-step to ensure proper surface prep, precise tile cutting, even tile placement, and thorough grouting. With the right materials and some perseverance, you can transform your kitchen or bath with a stylish, quality backsplash. Approach the project with realistic expectations, allow plenty of time, and don’t be afraid to call in a professional if certain steps prove too difficult.

FAQs about Backsplash Installation

How do I pick the right backsplash tile?

Consider the style you want, how the tile will coordinate with your cabinets and countertops, and the functionality required. Look for tiles that are resistant to moisture, grease, and abrasion.

What tools will I need to install a backsplash?

Essential tools include a tape measure, pencil, level, tile cutter, grout float, spacers, and sponges. You may also need a wet saw for specialty tiles. Have safety gear like gloves and eye protection.

What is the best surface to install a backsplash on?

Properly primed and painted drywall or moisture-resistant wallboard like cementboard provide excellent backsplash surfaces. Existing tile, laminate, or well-bonded painted surfaces also work.

How are backsplash tiles cut?

Use a manual tile cutter for straight cuts and a wet saw fitted with a diamond blade for specialty cuts like curves or holes. The saw keeps dust down and provides a smooth edge.

Should I use mortar, thinset, or adhesive for the backsplash tiles?

Thinset mortar is ideal for walls and showers. Lightweight panel adhesive works for backsplashes using materials like glass mosaic sheets. Follow manufacturer guidelines.

How long does backsplash tile installation take?

The timeline can range from 2-5 days depending on the size of the project and your skill level. Allow time for surface prep, precise tile cutting, setting the tiles, proper grouting, and sealing once cured.

What’s the best way to get an even layout?

Start by mapping out your tile layout with spacers in a dry run. Use a level and take precise measurements to keep tiles even. Work in small sections for best results.

When can I use the backsplash after installing?

Allow the mortar and grout to fully cure first, typically 24-48 hours. Avoid direct water contact for approximately 7 days. Then you can enjoy your new backsplash!

Key Takeaways

  • Installing a backsplash is an intermediate DIY project, doable for someone with basic tiling experience.
  • Key steps include prepping the surface, precise tile cutting, proper mortar application, even tile placement, and thorough grouting.
  • Completing a backsplash takes 2-5 days depending on the size and your skills. Patience is required!
  • Choosing appropriate backsplash materials and taking a methodical approach significantly improves results.
  • With proper preparation and care, you can install an attractive, functional backsplash and improve your kitchen or bath.