How Much Does a Subway Tile Backsplash Cost?

Installing a subway tile backsplash can greatly enhance the look of your kitchen or bathroom. With their classic and timeless aesthetic, subway tiles never seem to go out of style. If you’re considering adding a subway tile backsplash to your home, you’re probably wondering – how much does a subway tile backsplash cost? Here’s a detailed overview of the factors that influence the cost of a subway tile backsplash project.

What is a Subway Tile Backsplash?

A backsplash is a wall surface, usually in the kitchen or bathroom, that is prone to splashes or spills. Backsplashes are commonly made from tile and installed between countertops and wall cabinets to protect the walls from moisture damage.

Subway tiles got their name from their rectangular shape and standard size, reminiscent of tiles used in New York City subway stations. The most popular subway tiles are 3 x 6 inches, made from glazed ceramic or porcelain. Their narrow shape allows them to be easily installed in the standard backsplash area.

Subway tile backsplashes provide a clean, classic look, and the white color reflects light to brighten the space. While white subway tiles are the most popular, they also come in various colors and patterns.

Factors That Determine Subway Tile Backsplash Cost

Several key factors influence the total cost of a subway tile backsplash installation:

Tile Cost

The type of tile itself is a major cost factor. Prices can range significantly:

  • Ceramic tiles: $1 – $5 per sq. ft.
  • Porcelain tiles: $5 – $10 per sq. ft.
  • Glass, marble, or handmade tiles: $10+ per sq. ft.

Porcelain and ceramic are the most budget-friendly options. More premium glass, marble, or handmade tiles can increase the price but provide greater visual impact.

Tile Size

Smaller tiles mean more grout lines and increased installation time. The standard 3×6 inch size offers an optimal balance of aesthetics and affordability. Larger tiles are quicker to install but limit the classic subway tile look.

Labor Costs

Hiring a professional tiling contractor is recommended, which typically costs $40 – $80 per hour. More complex tile layouts or increased surface area will increase the project’s labor time and overall cost.

Additional Materials

Adhesives, grout, backerboard, and tile edging/trim pieces are also required, adding $5 – $10 per sq. ft. to the project cost.

Backsplash Size

The total size of the backsplash area greatly affects the price. A 6 sq. ft island backsplash will cost much less than tiling a whole kitchen wall at 50+ sq. ft. Measure your space carefully when budgeting.

Average Cost for a Subway Tile Backsplash Installation

Taking the above factors into account, a typical 3×6 white ceramic subway tile backsplash installed by a professional generally costs:

  • Small backsplash (6-10 sq. ft.): $250 – $500
  • Medium backsplash (10-25 sq. ft.): $500 – $1,200
  • Large backsplash (25-50 sq. ft.): $1,200 – $2,500

High-end or custom subway tile with more intricate designs, patterns, or premium materials can range from $2,500 up to $5,000 or more.

However, you can reduce costs significantly by:

  • Choosing lower-priced tile
  • Using a simpler layout that requires less cutting
  • Installing it yourself if you have tiling experience

DIY Installation Considerations

Installing a subway tile backsplash yourself can save on labor costs. With the right tools and preparation, an experienced DIYer can complete a basic backsplash in a weekend. Here are some tips:

  • Remove existing wall surface and prepare the area by cleaning and applying waterproof backerboard.
  • Plan your tile layout carefully. Draw reference lines and do dry runs first.
  • Use tile spacers for consistent grout lines and smooth finished appearance.
  • Mix thinset and apply it evenly across the installation area with a notched trowel.
  • Handle tiles gently and set them in place while checking alignments. Allow thinset to cure fully before grouting.
  • Apply grout with a rubber grout float, wiping excess away with a damp sponge. Allow grout to dry completely before sealing.
  • Use caulk between tile and countertops/fixtures for clean finish.

Consider starting in a small area first to get the hang of working with the thinset and grout. Safety gear like gloves and eye protection is also advised when tiling.

Enhancing Your Subway Tile Backsplash

There are several ways to customize your subway tile backsplash and take it to the next level:

  • Add accent tiles: Use patterned, colored, or mosaic tiles strategically for added flair.
  • Create a focal point: Arrange tiles in a herringbone pattern, frame the stove, or highlight the sink area.
  • Install a decorative border: Line the edges with trim pieces or vertically stack elongated subway tiles.
  • Play with shapes: Incorporate hexagons, circles, or elongated rectangles for visual interest.
  • Choose bold grout colors: Contrast white tiles with black, gray, or colored grout.
  • Include an accent wall: Use bolder colored tiles on a single wall or vertical section.
  • Add lighting: Install under-cabinet puck lights or a ceiling mounted track light.

FAQ About Subway Tile Backsplash Cost

How can I save money on my subway tile backsplash?

  • Opt for lower cost ceramic over porcelain tiles
  • Use a brick laid pattern instead of herringbone pattern
  • Install it yourself if you’re an experienced DIYer
  • Choose larger tiles which require less grout and labor time
  • Purchase tile and materials directly from a tile supplier

What factors increase the cost of a subway tile backsplash?

  • Smaller grout size, more intricate tile patterns, and mosaics will increase installation time and labor costs
  • Premium subway tiles made of marble, glass, or handmade materials
  • Professionally installing the backsplash instead of DIY
  • Increased surface area – tiling full walls vs just a small backsplash space

Should I hire a contractor or install it myself?

If you lack tiling experience, it’s best to hire a professional contractor to ensure it’s done properly. However, patient DIYers can install their own backsplash over a weekend if they: watch tutorial videos, practice on a small area first, have proper tools, and carefully plan the layout.

How long does a subway tile backsplash installation take?

An experienced tiling contractor can usually install a medium sized backsplash of 10-25 sq. ft. in one full work day of 8-10 hours. DIY installations may take 2-3 full weekends depending on experience level and backsplash size.

Can a backsplash increase my home value?

Yes, a professionally installed subway tile backsplash can increase a home’s resale value. The modern, clean look is attractive to buyers. The added wall protection also demonstrates your dedication to home maintenance.


The cost of a subway tile backsplash can vary greatly based on the tile type, labor costs, layout complexity, and overall size of the project. Typical professional installation costs range from $250 – $2,500+ depending on these factors. With some planning and DIY motivation, you can install an affordable and eye-catching subway tile backsplash in your kitchen or bathroom. Just be sure to carefully prepare the installation area and allow adequate time for thinset and grout to properly cure. With a classic subway tile backsplash, you can enjoy a smart upgrade that won’t break the bank.