How Hard is it to Do a Kitchen Backsplash?

Adding a kitchen backsplash is one of the best ways to update the look of your cooking space. With so many gorgeous materials and designs to choose from, it can transform the entire aesthetic. But before jumping in, it’s important to have realistic expectations about the project. Here’s a detailed look at what’s involved so you can determine how hard it really is to do a kitchen backsplash.

Planning Your Backsplash Design

The first step is deciding on the right backsplash for your goals and style. There are a dizzying array of materials, colors, patterns and textures to consider. A few popular options include:

  • Tile – Ceramic, porcelain or natural stone in endless shapes, sizes and finishes. Classic subway tile is a perennial favorite.
  • Metal – Copper, stainless steel, tin and other metals make a contemporary statement.
  • Glass – Subway tiles, mosaic sheets or large panels available. Tinted, frosted or reflective glass offer different moods.
  • Stone Slab – Marble, granite, slate and other stone slabs for a substantial, upscale look.
  • Concrete – For an edgy, industrial vibe in gray or vivid hues.
  • Panel – Thin panels of materials like metal, HPL or phenolic offer modern appeal.

Take time to browse options to find the one that best suits your kitchen’s esthetic. Think about factors like your cabinetry, countertops, flooring and overall decor style. A backsplash can nicely tie everything together.

Measure precisely to determine what size tile or panels to purchase. Plan a layout that works with the dimensions of your wall space. Decide if you want a full wall of backsplash or just certain areas.

Gathering Supplies

Once you’ve settled on a backsplash design, make a list of everything needed for the installation. Basic supplies typically include:

  • Backsplash materials – Tile, metal panels, glass mosaic sheets, etc. Purchase 10-15% extra to allow for cuts and waste.
  • Mortar or adhesive – Choose the right adhesive for the backsplash type. Thinset for tile, construction adhesive for panels.
  • Grout – Grout color should complement backsplash materials. Unsanded grout for narrow joints.
  • Trowel – Correct shape/size trowel for spreading mortar or adhesive.
  • Spacers – Plastic spacers keep tile/panels aligned and joints consistent.
  • Wet saw – For accurately cutting tile and stone materials to size.
  • Grout sealer – Protects grout from stains. Look for water-based sealers.

Check that your walls are properly prepared. Repair any flaws in drywall and paint before starting. Have all supplies and tools ready to go before installation day.

Installation Process

How difficult the actual backsplash installation is depends on your skill level and the type of material you chose. Here is an overview of the process:

Prep Work

It’s crucial to start with a smooth, clean surface. Remove any accessories or existing backsplash. Eliminate grease and scrub off dirt. Fill any holes or imperfections with spackle.

Cut outlet holes with a rotary tool. Tape over edges. Protect countertops, cooktop and flooring with rosin paper and painter’s tape.

Applying Mortar and Materials

Mix thinset mortar following package directions. Apply even layer with proper trowel. Press tiles into mortar, using spacers between. Check for level placement. Allow to dry per product guidelines.

For panels, apply adhesive in small sections. Press panels into place. Use brad nails above the wall line for extra support if needed.

Cutting and Finishing Touches

Measure and mark cuts needed. Carefully score and snap tile. Cut metal, glass or stone with wet saw. Use nippers on off-angle edges. Smooth cut edges with sandpaper or stone.

Mix grout. Apply over joints with grout float or squeegee. Let sit briefly, then wipe away excess grout. Remove spacers. Allow to fully cure.

Seal grout once dry. Add caulk in change-of-plane joints. Clean and polish materials. Seal natural stone. Install fixtures and accessories.

Tips for Success

  • Watch tutorial videos to understand each step before starting.
  • Thoroughly mix mortar and grout. Let materials fully dry between steps.
  • Carefully double check measurements before cutting. Practice first if unsure.
  • Work in small sections for easiest application and best results.
  • Clean up adhesive, grout or mortar as you go to keep the project neat.
  • Follow all manufacturer’s instructions for best long-term performance.

DIY vs Hiring a Pro

Installing a backsplash yourself can save on labor costs. But undertake a DIY project only if you:

  • Are very handy and have tiling experience. It’s an advanced skill.
  • Can invest significant time without rushing important steps.
  • Have patience and attention to detail. Precise work is required.
  • Will carefully follow instructions and safety tips. Use power tools properly.

For many homeowners, hiring a professional offers advantages:

  • Experts properly assess the space and conditions to plan the job.
  • They have specialized skills and the right tools to install with quality results.
  • The work gets completed efficiently and correctly in less time.
  • You avoid frustration, wasted supplies from mistakes, or potential injuries.
  • Pros can suggest customized options to match your kitchen perfectly.
  • Additional services like countertop templating, plumbing fixes or cabinet adjustments can be included.

Either route you choose, be sure to research and understand everything involved before tackling a backsplash project. Advanced planning, the right materials and proper techniques are key to achieving beautiful results with a new backsplash that you’ll enjoy for years. With realistic expectations about the process, you can decide if a stylish kitchen backsplash upgrade is right for your skill level and budget.

Frequently Asked Questions

How long does it take to install a kitchen backsplash?

For an experienced DIYer, plan on a full weekend to install a tile backsplash properly. Allow around 5 hours for a simple peel-and-stick tile project. Hiring a pro to install typically takes 1-2 days.

What tools do I need for a backsplash install?

Basic tools include a tape measure, level, trowel, spacers, grout float, buckets, mixer, utility knife, rotary tool, hammer, saw, nippers and sandpaper. A wet saw is also recommended for cutting stone tile. Always use proper safety gear too.

Should I install backsplash before or after countertops?

It’s best to install backsplash after countertops. This allows you to fully seal the countertop and fit the backsplash snugly against it. Coordinating templating is also easier.

How do I cut metal, glass or stone backsplash materials?

Tile nippers and rod cutters work for irregular notches on softer materials like glass or ceramic. A quality wet saw is ideal for precision cuts of stone, concrete or marble tiles and strips. Use a circular saw with a carbide blade for metal cuts.

Can you put backsplash over existing tile?

Installing new backsplash over old often doesn’t adhere well long-term. It’s best to remove old tile completely. If the old tile is in very good shape, you can apply a skim coat of mortar to level it out before adding new backsplash.


Installing a new kitchen backsplash brings a fresh, easy update to your space. While it’s not necessarily quick or easy, with proper planning, materials and technique, a motivated DIYer can achieve beautiful results and save on labor costs. If tiling sounds daunting, or time is limited, hiring a backsplash installation pro may be worth the expense for a seamless experience and quality outcome. With realistic expectations set, you can decide which route works best, confident you’ll gain an eye-catching, long-lasting backsplash.