How Hard is it to Install Backsplash? The Complete Guide

Installing a backsplash in your kitchen or bathroom can totally transform the look and feel of the space. But many homeowners wonder – just how hard is it really to install backsplash tile? With the right materials, tools, and some patience, installing a backsplash is a very doable DIY project for most homeowners. Here is a complete guide to how hard (or easy) it is to install backsplash tile.

An Introduction to Installing Backsplash

Installing backsplash tile allows you to add visual interest, color, texture, and an element of personal style to your kitchen or bathroom. Backsplashes protect the walls from moisture damage and spills while also enhancing the overall aesthetic.

Backsplash projects can range from quick and simple to more complex, depending on the tile material, the size of the area being tiled, and the layout pattern. Ceramic and porcelain tile backsplashes are among the most popular and easiest to install. Natural stone, glass, and mosaic tiles add more intricate visual appeal but can be trickier to install.

How hard it is to install a backsplash really comes down to how comfortable you feel working with tiling materials and tools. Even beginner DIYers can successfully install a backsplash with careful planning, patience, and some perseverance.

Preparing the surface properly, using the right adhesive mortars and grouts for the material, taking accurate measurements, and applying a bit of creativity to the design are all keys to achieving a high-quality finished backsplash project. Let’s look at what’s involved so you know what to expect when installing backsplash tile.

What Makes Installing Backsplash Easy or Challenging?

Many factors determine whether installing backsplash tile will be an easy breezy project or one that challenges your skills and patience. Evaluate the following elements before deciding whether to DIY or hire a pro:

Type of Tile Material

  • Ceramic/Porcelain: Most DIY-friendly option. Relatively lightweight, affordable material, easy to cut, drill holes, and install.
  • Natural Stone: More challenging due to weight, irregular shapes, and vulnerability to staining/etching. Needs special tools and greater precision.
  • Glass: Difficult to cut and install. Glass tiles are prone to chipping and cracking. Smooth surfaces don’t bond as readily with mortar.
  • Mosaic: Intricate patterns take time and patience. Sheets can be trickier to work with on uneven surfaces. Grout application is more tedious.

Size of the Backsplash Area

  • Small: Quick and easy for DIYers. Good starter project before tackling larger backsplash.
  • Medium: Doable for an ambitious beginner willing to take it slow and steady. More cutting/grouting involved.
  • Large: Best left to tile professionals with experience installing over large surface areas. Requires special tools and skills for a flawless finish.

Layout Pattern and Design Complexity

  • Basic Grid: Straightforward layout perfect for DIYers. Easy to measure and cut tile. Minimal grout lines.
  • Subway Tile: Slightly more intricate than basic grid but still an easy beginner design. Straight lines keep it simple.
  • Herringbone: Angled tile pattern adds nice visual interest but requires more precision in tile-cutting and layout.
  • Intricate Patterns: From mosaics to artistic motifs, complex designs are challenging and best installed by pros.

The more intricate and expansive the design, the harder installing the backsplash becomes. Start with simple layouts if new to tiling.

Skill Level and Experience with Tiling

Be honest about your skill level and past experience when deciding whether to DIY a backsplash install.

  • Beginner DIYers: Simple designs with basic ceramic/porcelain tile are a good starting point to build skills.
  • Intermediate/Advanced: More comfortable working with backsplash tools, mortars, grouts, and achieving straight lines.
  • Professionals: Have mastery of all backsplash installation techniques and can flawlessly execute intricate designs. Know tricks of the trade.

Don’t bite off more than you can chew if new to backsplash installation. Hone your skills on a small project before tackling a large designer backsplash.

How Hard Is It to Install Backsplash?

Installing backsplash tile involves a sequence of steps, including proper surface prep, laying out your design, cutting and mounting the tile, then grouting and sealing the finished project. Here’s an overview of why each stage of the process may be easy or tricky:

Surface Preparation

  • Difficulty: Easy to Moderate
  • Why: Removing old backsplash and cleaning surface is straightforward but ensuring surface is smooth takes some work.

Planning Layout and Design

  • Difficulty: Easy to Moderate
  • Why: Achieving desired layout and pattern takes measuring precision. Creativity comes into play.

Cutting and Mounting Tile

  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Why: Careful tile cutting and using right techniques for your material takes practice and patience.

Grouting Tile

  • Difficulty: Easy to Moderate
  • Why: Applying grout is simple but cleaning haze off tile surface afterward takes finesse.

Sealing and Caulking

  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Why: Straightforward finishing steps complete the installation and further protect the backsplash.

With careful planning upfront and attentive work during the install, even DIYers with minimal experience can install a simple backsplash. More intricate designs or larger spaces may require calling in a professional installer. Set reasonable expectations based on your skill level.

DIY Backsplash Installation: Step-by-Step

If tackling a backsplash as a DIY project, follow this basic sequence of steps:

1. Prepare the Surface

  • Remove any existing backsplash tile or materials.
  • Thoroughly clean the wall surface. Scrub away any grime or oils.
  • Ensure the surface is smooth. Spackle or sand down any bumps or irregularities in the wall.
  • Prime and seal the surface using recommended primer for the backsplash material.

Proper surface prep prevents adhesion issues down the road. Don’t skip this important first step!

2. Plan the Layout

  • Measure the backsplash area and sketch out tile layout options on graph paper.
  • Purchase enough tile to account for broken tiles and errors. Have extra tile for future repairs.
  • For intricate patterns, do a test layout first on the floor with spacers to preview full design.

Take time in layout planning to avoid headaches later in installation. Measure twice, buy once!

3. Cut and Shape Tile

  • Use the right tools for your tile material to make any necessary cuts or drilling. Safety goggles and gloves are a must.
  • Make precision cuts slowly and carefully to avoid cracking or chipping tile edges.
  • Shape or notch tile as needed to fit around outlets, pipes, or corners.
  • Soak porous natural stone tile in water before cutting to prevent dust.

Patience and the proper cutting tools are key to achieving a flawless custom tile layout.

4. Mount Backsplash Tile

  • Spread thinset mortar adhesive on the wall using proper trowel for your tile. Work in small sections.
  • Back-butter each tile with adhesive before mounting it to the wall, adding spacers between tiles.
  • Check tiles are level and aligned as you go. Make adjustments quickly before mortar dries.
  • Allow tile to set 24 hours before grouting.

Meticulous mortar application and tile mounting ensures a lasting backsplash installation.

5. Grout and Seal the Tile

  • Mix and apply grout with a grout float, packing it thoroughly into tile joints.
  • Wipe away excess grout carefully with a damp sponge. Rinse sponge frequently.
  • Once grout has cured, apply grout sealer according to manufacturer directions.
  • Finally, caulk junctions between countertop and backsplash.

Proper grouting and sealing protects the finish and prevents staining or moisture issues.

With the right prep work, materials, tools, and techniques, you can achieve a backsplash installation you’ll enjoy for years. Watch online tutorial videos to pick up tips before tackling a DIY backsplash project from start to finish.

Backsplash Installation Tips and Tricks

Installing backsplash tile successfully relies not just on following the right steps, but having the insider knowledge to work with various materials and get details right. Keep these handy tips in mind:

  • Create a standardized tile layout to minimize cuts and waste. Lay out the design and make a tile cutting plan.
  • Use plastic tile spacers for consistent grout line widths. Avoid “eyeballing” tile spacing.
  • Be extra diligent cleaning excess grout from textured tiles to avoid permanently lodging grout in crevices.
  • Use painter’s tape edges and appliance surfaces to protect from adhesive and grout during installation.
  • Check for level and plumb often as you install tile. Make alignment adjustments right away as needed.
  • Use a grout release agent on polished stone tile to prevent grout from bonding and staining the surface.
  • Seal natural stone and porous tiles before and after installation to guard against staining and moisture.
  • Let mortar and grout cure fully (24-48 hours) before sealing or applying final caulk. Patience pays!

Knowing these insider tips ahead of time will help prevent setbacks or tile disasters during your backsplash installation.

Common Backsplash Installation Mistakes to Avoid

While installing backsplash tile takes careful work, some mistakes will instantly make the quality suffer. Avoid these all-too-common pitfalls:

  • Skipping Surface Prep: Adhesive failure or ugly cracks often trace back to an uneven or dirty substrate.
  • Eyeballing Layout: No measurements and tile spacers leads to a sloppy finished look.
  • Using Wrong Mortar: Be sure mortar suits the tile material (e.g. mastic for glass tile).
  • Rushing Grout Clean-up: Hazed tiles from grout residue ruins the entire look of the backsplash.
  • Using Wrong Grout Type: Match grout type and sanded vs. unsanded to the tile size and setting.
  • Neglecting Expansion Joints: Lack of movement joints in large backsplashes causes cracking.
  • Not Sealing Grout: Unsealed grout leads to staining, discoloration, and moisture absorption.

With care and patience, you can avoid amateur mistakes on your backsplash installation. Take your time and utilize the right materials for the tile type.

Tips for Removing and Re-installing Backsplash

Sometimes you need a complete backsplash makeover. Removing existing backsplash tile takes elbow grease while re-installing a new backsplash requires the same perfect prep and precision as a new install. Follow these pro tips to make the process go smoothly:

Removing Old Backsplash Tile

  • Protect nearby surfaces from debris and damage
  • Score grout lines with utility knife before prying off tile
  • Start from top and work horizontally to remove tile
  • Be prepared to also chisel out old mortar from substrate
  • Wear safety goggles and gloves to protect yourself

Removing old tile without damaging the wall takes the proper tools, technique, and safety precautions.

Prepping for New Backsplash

  • Clear away remaining debris, grout, and old mortar
  • Fill any gouges or uneven spots with spackle; let dry completely
  • Sand wall smooth; vacuum away dust
  • Wash and rinse wall thoroughly
  • Follow same surface prep as new installation

Proper prep work for the new backsplash prevents problems down the road. Don’t rush this important step!

Re-installing Fresh Backsplash

  • Check for level and plumb at start and throughout install
  • Follow same best practices for tile cutting, mounting, grouting, sealing, etc.
  • Take time re-doing layout and design elements
  • Use updated backsplash materials and styles

Treat a backsplash re-do just like a new installation. Invest time in creating a layout you’ll love!

With meticulous removal of the old backsplash and impeccable prep for the new tile, you can achieve a brand new designer backsplash on any budget.

Backsplash Installation Costs

If hiring a pro for all or part of your backsplash project, here are average per square foot costs to install backsplash tile:

  • Ceramic tile backsplash: $10-$25 per sq. ft.
  • Glass backsplash: $25-$50 per sq. ft.
  • Mosaic backsplash: $15-$35 per sq. ft.
  • Stone backsplash: $40-$100 per sq. ft.

Factors like layout complexity, tile size, accessibility, and local labor costs also impact the final project price. Expect to spend $500+ for a professionally installed designer backsplash.

Hiring a Pro vs. DIY Backsplash

Deciding whether to install a backsplash tile yourself or hire a professional comes down to the size of the project and your skill level and time commitment. Consider the pros and cons:

Benefits of Hiring a Professional

  • No learning curve – has mastered proper technique
  • Has right tools for every installation scenario
  • Precisely measures and cuts even intricate tile shapes
  • Achieves perfectly straight layout lines
  • Provides expert recommendations on tile solutions
  • Installs quickly with minimal mess or damage

Benefits of DIY Backsplash Installation

  • Cost savings on labor charges
  • Personal satisfaction of completing the project yourself
  • Tailor backsplash design to your unique taste
  • Install on your own timeline when convenient
  • Learn useful tiling skills for future projects
  • Repair any damage or mistakes immediately

Evaluate whether the DIY project fits your abilities or if hiring a pro fits your budget and goals. For DIYers with beginner skills, start with a simple backsplash design before attempting large statement backsplashes spanning multiple surfaces.

Backsplash Tile Ideas and Design Inspiration

The design options are endless when installing a new kitchen or bathroom backsplash. Let your creativity run wild! Here are some inspiration ideas:


  • Ceramic or handmade subway tile
  • Marble, travertine or granite stone mosaic
  • Rustic wood plank tile
  • Bright and bold glass tile
  • Multicolored patterned porcelain tile
  • Glazed ceramic fish scale tile
  • Metallic antique mirror or tin backsplash tiles

Patterns and Textures

  • Classic staggered brick layout
  • Geometric moroccan fish scale
  • 3D dimensional waved tile
  • Graphic patterned mosaics
  • Horizontal stripe backsplash
  • Mini penny round mosaic
  • Weathered unfinished wood planks


  • Neutrals like white, beige, ivory, light gray
  • Cool tones like pale blue, aqua, mint green
  • Warm tones like sunny yellow, terra cotta, salmon pink
  • Bold jewel tones like cobalt blue, emerald green, rich purple

Let the existing cabinetry, countertops, flooring, and decor guide the backsplash color and material to achieve a cohesive look. Browse Houzz, Pinterest, and home decor sites for endless backsplash inspiration to find your dream design.

Backsplash Installation FAQs

Still have questions about installing backsplash tile? Here are answers to the most frequently asked questions:

How Hard Is It for a Beginner to Install Backsplash?

For a total beginner, an easy ceramic subway tile backsplash is a good first project. Carefully follow instructions and watch tutorial videos to ensure proper techniques. Have patience, go slow, and don’t get in over your head on the first try.

What is the Easiest Backsplash to Install?

Simple white 3×6 subway tiles with a basic staggered brick pattern is one of the easiest backsplash designs for DIY installation. Large format rectangular porcelain or ceramic tiles are also beginner-friendly. Avoid intricate patterns or natural stone for your first backsplash.

How Do I Install Backsplash Tile Sheets?

Pre-assembled tile sheets make installing mosaic or other small tile patterns much easier. Follow the same preparation, mortar, and grouting steps as individual tiles. Use additional adhesive strips on the back of sheets as needed. Cut sheets to fit with tile nippers versus a tile saw.

Can You Install Backsplash Over Existing Tile?

It is possible but not recommended. The layers of old thinset mortar make it difficult to achieve proper adhesion. Removing old tile allows you to remedy any underlying issues and start fresh with the proper surface prep.

How is Backsplash Tile Cut?

Use a wet saw with a diamond blade designed for your material (ceramic, porcelain, glass, etc.) to make straight cuts. A tile nipper tool is used for quick small cuts on mosaic tiles, wall edges, outlets. Alternatively, a manual tile cutter scores and snaps tile. Ensure safety with goggles, mask, and gloves.


Installing backsplash tile can give your kitchen or bathroom a fresh new look with personality. While advanced designs and large spaces benefit from hiring a professional, beginners can tackle DIY installation with the right prep work, materials, tools, safety measures, and by sticking to simpler tile layouts. Follow the best practices outlined here to learn how to install backsplash tile successfully. With careful planning and persistence through the process, you can gain satisfying tiling skills and enjoy your beautiful new backsplash design.