How Long to Leave Tile Spacers in Backsplash

Installing a tile backsplash can transform the look of a kitchen or bathroom. Properly spacing the tiles is key to getting a professional result. Tile spacers create a uniform grout line between each tile. But knowing when to remove tile spacers is important to prevent issues like tile movement or cracked grout. Here is a guide on how long to leave tile spacers in during backsplash installation.


Tile spacers are small plastic crosses or wedges placed between tiles during setting. They create a consistent space between each tile for the grout. Spacers allow you to get straight, even grout lines for a flawless look.

Leaving spacers in place serves several purposes during backsplash tiling:

  • Keeps tiles evenly spaced while the mortar cures
  • Allows adjustments if tiles start to shift
  • Provides support to tiles to prevent cracking or movement
  • Creates a channel for grout to fill evenly between tiles

But spacers should not be left in indefinitely. Knowing when to remove them is key to preventing problems down the line.

How Long to Leave Spacers in a New Backsplash

In general, tile spacers should be left in for 24 to 48 hours after setting the tiles in a backsplash. This allows the mortar adhesive to fully cure and gain strength.

It is best to wait the full 48 hours if possible. Tile mortar reaches its maximum strength in 48 hours. Leaving spacers in during this time provides the most support.

It also allows the mortar to fully harden before grouting. If spacers are removed too soon, tiles can shift out of alignment when applying grout.

Tip: Periodically check spacers at the 24 hour mark. Gently try moving a tile. If it resists movement, spacers can be removed and grouting can proceed.

Exceptions for Leaving Spacers Longer

In some cases, it is best to leave spacers in for longer than 48 hours:

  • Large format tiles: Larger tiles require more curing time. Leave spacers in for 72 hours or more.
  • Stone tiles: Natural stone tiles take longer to cure than ceramic. Give a stone tile backsplash 3-5 days before removing spacers.
  • Cold temperatures: Tile mortar cures slower in colder conditions. During winter, let the mortar cure 1-2 extra days before removing spacers.
  • High humidity: Very humid environments also slow mortar curing. Leave spacers in a few extra days if tiling in humid weather.
  • Lightly tiled walls: Backsplashes with large open areas without tiles need extended time for the mortar to gain strength. Leave spacers in a few extra days.

Use your best judgment based on the tile type, weather, and coverage area. The longer you allow the mortar to cure before removing spacers, the better.

Step-by-Step Guide for Removing Spacers

Once the mortar has cured adequately, follow these steps for removing tile spacers:

  1. Wait the recommended time based on tile type before starting. Give mortar the time needed to reach maximum strength.
  2. Inspect all tile joints and make sure tiles are firmly in place. Look for any shifting. Adjust or re-adhere tiles if necessary.
  3. Start removing spacers by gently twisting and pulling them out. Work carefully to avoid pulling tiles out of alignment.
  4. Inspect the results and realign any tiles that moved. Let mortar cure longer if tiles are still shifting easily.
  5. Use a damp sponge to wipe away any mortar or debris left from the spacers. Clean tile faces and joints thoroughly.
  6. Let tiles dry fully before applying grout. Any moisture left behind can cause discoloration or weaken grout.

Always remove spacers carefully and methodically. Rushing can disrupt tiles before the mortar fully cures.

Problems from Removing Spacers Too Soon

Taking out spacers prematurely can cause the following problems:

  • Tiles shifting position when grouting begins
  • Uneven grout lines from tile movement
  • Cracking grout as it dries
  • Spacer holes or dimples showing in hardened grout
  • Hollow spots under tiles that pop out later

Grout appearing uneven, cracking, or showing indents from spacers are clear signs they were taken out too early. The mortar underneath had not hardened enough to hold tiles firmly in place.

Benefits of Removing Spacers Correctly

Waiting the proper time before removing spacers provides:

  • Maximum mortar strength and stability for tiles
  • Straight, consistent grout lines between all tiles
  • Smooth, cohesive grout without weak spots or cracking
  • No spacer holes or dimples in finished grout
  • Long-lasting backsplash without loose or popping tiles

Proper spacer removal is a small step that makes a big difference in backsplash durability and appearance. Planning this key timing in the tiling process helps ensure your backsplash stays beautiful for years to come.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I remove tile spacers after 24 hours?

It’s best to wait 48 hours if possible to let mortar fully cure. But tile spacers can be removed carefully after 24 hours if the tiles feel firmly set and resist movement.

What happens if I leave tile spacers in too long?

Leaving spacers in for several extra days won’t harm a backsplash. The main risk is spacers getting stuck as mortar hardens completely around them. Avoid leaving them in for more than 5-7 days.

Should tile spacers be removed before or after grouting?

Always remove spacers before grouting. Leaving them in creates holes and dimples in the grout lines. Removing them after grouting can pull out fresh grout.

Can tile shift when grouting after removing spacers?

Tiles can still move slightly when grouting if mortar did not fully cure before removing spacers. Check for alignment after grouting and re-align tiles if needed.

How soon can I grout after taking out spacers?

Tiles should dry overnight after removing spacers and cleaning with a damp sponge. Once dry, the backsplash is ready for grouting the next day.


Tile spacers play a vital role in creating professional looking backsplash installations. Allowing the proper time for tile mortar to cure before removing them prevents issues like shifting tiles, uneven grout lines, and cracking. While 24 hours may be adequate for some small backsplashes, most benefit from 48-72 hours with spacers in place. Paying close attention to this timing detail results in a durable, flawless backsplash that will last for many years of everyday use.