How Hard Is It to Replace Backsplash?

Replacing your outdated or damaged backsplash can completely transform the look and feel of your kitchen. However, taking on a backsplash replacement project requires proper planning and preparation. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll discuss everything you need to know about how hard it is to replace backsplash, from evaluating your goals and selecting materials to prepping the space and installing your new backsplash.

An Introduction to Backsplash Replacement Projects

The backsplash is one of the most visible and functional areas of any kitchen. Located on the wall behind countertops, sinks, and ranges, the backsplash takes a beating from water, steam, grease, food splatters, and more. Over time, backsplashes can become stained, damaged, or simply look outdated.

Replacing your backsplash is an impactful kitchen upgrade that can modernize the space, introduce eye-catching designs, and improve functionality. However, backsplash installation does require some demolition, precise measurements, and careful installation. The complexity depends on factors like the backsplash materials you select and the amount of prep work required.

When evaluating how hard it is to replace your backsplash, consider these key factors:

  • Materials: Ceramic tile is relatively easy for DIYers to install. Large-format tiles like marble slabs require expert installation.
  • Layout: Simple layouts with whole tiles are easier than designs with cut tiles and decorative borders.
  • Prep work: Removing old backsplash materials, remediating wall damage, and ensuring a smooth surface will add time.
  • Scope of project: Full backsplash replacements are more work than a contained backsplash accent wall.
  • Expertise: Beginners will need more time to learn proper techniques compared to pros.

While backsplash installation takes skill and labor, the right planning makes the process very manageable as a DIY project. Keep reading our guide to learn backsplash replacement best practices from start to finish.

Determining Your Backsplash Replacement Goals

The first step in any backsplash replacement project is determining what you want to achieve with the renovation. Evaluating your goals and priorities will help guide important decisions like budget, materials, layout, and more.

Consider the following factors as you plan your backsplash replacement:

Aesthetic Goals

How do you want your new backsplash to look and feel? Some common backsplash design goals include:

  • Increasing brightness in a dark kitchen
  • Creating a focal point
  • Establishing a color scheme
  • Showcasing your style like modern, farmhouse, or industrial
  • Complementing countertops and cabinets

Functionality Goals

Beyond looks, what functions should your backsplash provide? Assess factors like:

  • Durability for high-traffic areas
  • Resistance to stains, moisture, grease, and grime
  • Ease of cleaning for maintenance and hygiene
  • Noise reduction from appliances, sinks, and more

Budget Goals

Backsplash materials range dramatically in pricing. Evaluate your budget realistically to narrow down materials that provide the right balance of affordability and design impact.

Skill Level Goals

Consider your DIY experience to determine if a pro installer is needed or if you can tackle the project yourself. Complex designs in stone, glass, or metal may require expert skills.

With your goals defined, you can make informed decisions in the planning process. And you’ll have a clearer vision of the finished look to guide your backsplash replacement.

Choosing New Backsplash Materials

The design options are nearly endless when selecting new backsplash materials. Consider the pros and cons of various backsplash materials based on your goals:

Ceramic Tile

  • Budget-friendly, starting around $5 per sq ft
  • Huge variety of colors, prints, shapes, and textures
  • Resists moisture and stains
  • Easy for DIY installation with basic tiling skills
  • Can be prone to cracks and chipping over time

Natural Stone Tile

  • Elegant and high-end aesthetic
  • Durable and naturally moisture-resistant
  • Natural texture and veining patterns
  • Cost varies based on material, starting around $15 per sq ft
  • Difficult for amateur installation, best left to pros

Glass Tile

  • Sleek, shiny, and modern
  • Available in bold colors and prints
  • Translucent for an illuminated effect
  • Can be fragile and prone to cracks if hit
  • Starts around $15 per sq ft

Metal Tile

  • Industrial chic appeal
  • Very durable and water-resistant
  • Range of finishes like stainless, copper, nickel
  • Higher cost, starting around $25 per sq ft
  • Challenging for DIY due to weight and cuts


  • DIY-friendly peel-and-stick application
  • Affordable, starting around $3 per sq ft
  • Wide range of imitation materials
  • Less durable than real stone, tile, glass, etc.
  • Prone to moisture damage if not properly sealed

Carefully select materials that align with your overall vision, needs, and skill level. You may also opt for a mixed media backsplash, combining materials like glass and stone.

Estimating Your Material Needs

Once you’ve selected your backsplash materials, it’s important to purchase the right quantities. You’ll want to avoid miscalculations that lead to you purchasing too little or having excess tiles.

Follow these steps to estimate how much backsplash material you need:

Step 1) Measure the total square footage of your backsplash area. Multiple the height by the length. Include all vertical spans you plan to cover.

Step 2) Read the coverage guidelines provided on your material packaging. Ceramic tiles may cover 5 sq ft per case. Stone veneer panels can cover 10 sq ft each.

Step 3) Purchase 10-15% extra to account for improper cuts, future repairs, and uneven walls requiring additional tiles.

Step 4) For unique patterns like herringbone layouts, do a dry layout on the floor first to visualize placements and identify potential issues. Adjust material quantities as needed.

If handling multiple tile sizes like listellos and mosaics, calculate materials separately. For shareability, consider purchasing tile samples to verify colors match other kitchen finishes. Getting measurements right the first time prevents return trips to the store.

Preparing Your Backsplash Area

Once you have the right materials purchased, proper prep work is crucial. Rushing into backsplash installation without preparing the space can compromise aesthetics and durability.

Follow these steps to get your backsplash area into install-ready condition:

Remove Existing Backsplash

Use a putty knife, hammer, and wire brush to safely scrape off and pry out the old backsplash without damaging drywall. Wear eye protection and gloves when demolishing tile and fiberglass materials.

Clean and Sand the Wall

Remove any remaining debris, old mortar, and adhesive with sandpaper, an abrasive sponge, and cleaning solutions. Wipe away dust.

Inspect and Repair Drywall

Look for any water damage or imperfections. Seal cracks and holes with caulk or drywall mud. This provides a smooth, even surface.

Prime the Wall

Applying tile primer helps new backsplash materials adhere properly to the wall and prevents moisture issues. Allow primer to fully dry.

Layout Your Backsplash

Use painters tape to mark the perimeter and create a plumb line for the first row. Test a dry layout with tiles before applying any adhesive.

With thorough prep, you can help create a successful finished product. Don’t risk shortcuts that could jeopardize performance down the road.

Installation Tips by Material

The installation process varies based on your backsplash material selection. Follow this advice for proper installation:

Ceramic and Porcelain Tile

  • Use a tile saw with diamond blade for precise cuts
  • Spread thinset mortar evenly using a notched trowel at a 45 degree angle
  • Use tile spacers between pieces for consistent grout lines
  • Allow tiles to set 24 hours before removing spacers and applying grout

Natural Stone Tile

  • Cut stone with a wet saw to minimize dust and cracking
  • Use a bonding epoxy stone adhesive for a stronger hold
  • Take extra care to use shims and wedges to support heavy stone
  • Grout with flexible epoxy grout designed for stone application

Glass Tile

  • Use specialized glass cutters and nippers, not typical tile saws
  • Only apply adhesive to small sections to prevent it drying before tile applied
  • Gently press tiles into place rather than sliding them
  • Use premixed grout designed for glass tiles

Metal Tile

  • Make precision cuts with an angle grinder and metal blade
  • Stick tiles to backer boards like Durock before attaching to wall studs
  • Use silicone adhesive and non-corrosive mechanical fasteners
  • Apply grout carefully to avoid scratching metal

Follow all manufacturer specifications for prep, adhesive use, and installation. Don’t rush through steps or tile setting and grouting. Careful installation ensures your backsplash lasts for years to come.

Grouting and Sealing the Backsplash

Once your tiles or panels are firmly attached, properly grouting and sealing the backsplash is essential to maximize durability. This process fills in joints and creates a water resistant barrier.

Here are tips for grouting and sealing success:

  • Always use sanded grout for joints wider than 1/8 inch like natural stone tiles. Use non-sanded for thinner grout lines.
  • Wipe away excess grout with a damp sponge before it dries. Work diagonally to prevent pulling grout from joints.
  • Allow grout to cure fully for 72 hours before sealing or exposing to moisture.
  • Apply sealant throughout grout lines and tile surfaces. Re-seal annually.
  • With glass tiles, use silicone sealant along the perimeter edges for flexibility.
  • Always follow manufacturer instructions for products and drying times.

Rushing through grouting and sealing could lead to cracks, discoloration, and moisture issues over time. Invest the proper time into this crucial finishing step.

Cost Factors in Backsplash Replacements

When budgeting for a backsplash replacement, consider both material costs and potential labor costs if hiring a pro. Cost factors include:

  • Backsplash materials selected, which range from $3 to $25+ per square foot
  • Demolition and disposal fees if removing the old backsplash
  • Size of the project based on total square footage
  • Complexity factors like cut tile work and niche recesses
  • Accessibility factors if scaffolding is needed
  • Required repairs to wall infrastructure before installing
  • Local labor rates if using a professional contractor

A DIY ceramic or laminate backsplash can often be completed for under $500. A professionally-installed designer backsplash in natural stone may cost $2,000 to $5,000 or more. Create a detailed budget upfront so there are no cost surprises down the road.

Evaluating Skill Level Needs

Can you tackle a backsplash replacement as a DIY project or is a professional installer required? Honestly evaluate your skills:

DIY-Friendly Projects

Beginners can often handle backsplash materials like:

  • Peel-and-stick vinyl films and papers
  • Self-adhesive plastic and laminate panels
  • Simple ceramic tile layouts with straight cuts

Intermediate DIY Skills Needed

Comfortable DIYers can potentially manage:

  • Standard rectangular ceramic tile installation
  • Glass mosaics without intricate cuts
  • Some natural stone tiles if using a wet saw

Professional Installer Recommended

Consider hiring a pro for:

  • Large-format stone slabs like granite or marble
  • Intricate patterns and decorative borders
  • Heavy glass or metal tiles requiring special cuts
  • Anything requiring demolition of wall layers or plumbing work

Rather than ending up in over your head, be realistic about when to call a professional tiling company for assistance. Some projects are better left to the experts.

Hiring a Professional Installer

For backsplash projects beyond your skill level, take steps to hire the right pro:

  • Review online portfolios to verify experience with your chosen materials.
  • Ask about their process from templating to tile setting.
  • Request an itemized estimate for transparency.
  • Confirm they will obtain permits if required.
  • Ask for references from past clients.
  • Verify they are properly licensed and insured.
  • Schedule a clear timeline and determine if they provide their own materials.

Taking time to vet tilers will give you confidence in the professionals handling this critical kitchen upgrade.

Factoring in Total Time Requirements

While the installation itself may take 1-3 days, it’s important to factor in all the additional steps when determining the total time investment for your backsplash replacement project:

  • Demolition and wall prep: 1-2 days
  • Shopping for new materials: Multiple trips over 1-2 weeks
  • Dry layout for testing: 1 day
  • Installation: 1-3 days depending on complexity
  • Grouting and sealing: 1-2 days
  • Cure time and drying between steps: Up to 72 hours
  • Cleanup of tools and space: 1-2 days
  • Potential unexpected delays, additional shopping trips, or repairs

For most standard DIY backsplash replacements, budget 2-4 weeks from start to finish. Complex projects with long lead times on specialty materials may take 4-6 weeks. Knowing the time investment involved will help keep your project on schedule.

Maintaining Your New Backsplash

Your work isn’t done once the new backsplash installation is complete. You’ll need to care for it properly over time. Follow these backsplash maintenance tips:

  • Use mild cleaners like dish soap and water. Avoid harsh chemicals and abrasives.
  • Immediately wipe up oils and food splatters to prevent staining.
  • Re-apply sealants annually to protect from moisture damage.
  • Repair any cracks in caulk or grout as soon as they appear.
  • Handle heavy pots and pans near glass tile carefully to prevent cracking.
  • Check for loose tiles or damage around brackets annually. Re-adhere tiles as needed.

With proper care and maintenance, your new backsplash can stay beautifully protected for years before needing another replacement.

Signs It’s Time for a Backsplash Replacement

Don’t wait until your backsplash is completely falling apart. If you notice any of the following issues, it’s a sign a backsplash replacement should be on your to-do list:

  • Missing, cracked, or broken tiles
  • Stained or yellowed grout lines
  • Darkened caulk or gaps between the backsplash and countertops
  • Peeling laminate or grout hazing on the surface
  • Warping, curling tiles indicating moisture issues
  • Outdated colors or styles that clash with modern updates

Addressing these common problems early on will allow you to get ahead of permanent damage. Tackle necessary backsplash replacements before problems worsen.

Backsplash Replacement FAQs

Still have some questions about taking on a backsplash replacement project? Here are answers to some frequently asked questions:

Does the Backsplash Have to Match the Countertops?

It’s not required, but well-coordinated backsplashes and countertops can create a streamlined look. Contrasting tones also work with the right design style.

Should I Hire a Contractor or DIY?

Weigh your skill level honestly. While tiles like subway ceramic are very DIY-friendly, large-format natural stone requires expert installation.

How Long Does a Backsplash Replacement Take?

From start to finish, expect the total process to take 2-4 weeks for standard DIY projects. Glass, metal, or stone backsplashes installed by pros may take 4-6 weeks.

Should I Replace the Backsplash Before or After New Countertops?

It’s best to install new countertops first, then have the backsplash go directly up to the countertop height rather than leaving a gap.

Can I Put New Tile Over the Old Backsplash?

No, existing backsplash materials need to be removed before new tile is installed to ensure proper adhesion.

Is It Cheaper to Replace Just a Section Rather Than the Whole Backsplash?

Partial replacements are typically only cheaper if you have leftover materials from the original project. Labor costs for projects of any size will be similar.


Replacing your backsplash is a significant kitchen upgrade that can fully transform the space. While the project involves careful planning and hard work, the dramatic results are well worth it. Following the steps outlined above will help you complete a successful backsplash replacement you can enjoy for years to come.

The key is setting realistic expectations upfront based on your goals, skill level, and budget. Carefully evaluate your needs so all decisions support your desired function and aesthetic. Patience is also important, as rushing through demolition, installation, or setting times can jeopardize the end results.

While challenging at times, a new backsplash ultimately protects your walls and adds a fresh focal point to your kitchen. By breaking the project down into smaller steps, you can methodically work through all aspects of replacement from selecting materials to maintaining your finished upgrade.

With the right insights and preparation, you may discover that a backsplash replacement is very manageable, even for beginners. Don’t be intimidated to take this on as a DIY project. Follow our tips and enjoy the satisfaction of completing a gorgeous, durable new backsplash yourself.