How Much Is Labor to Install Backsplash?

Installing a backsplash in your kitchen or bathroom can really transform the look and feel of the space. However, installation does require some work, skill, and the right tools. When budgeting for a new backsplash, it’s important to understand how much labor will likely cost. Here’s an overview of what factors impact backsplash installation labor costs and what you can expect to pay.

What Impacts the Labor Cost to Install a Backsplash?

Several key factors will determine how much you’ll pay for backsplash installation labor:

Size of the Backsplash Area

The total square footage you need tiled will have a major impact on overall cost. A small backsplash running 4-5 feet behind a stove may only be 10-15 square feet. But a full wall backsplash can be 100 square feet or more. The more area needed to be tiled, the more time and effort the job will take.

Type of Tile or Materials

Some backsplash tiles and materials are easier and quicker to install than others. For example, subway tiles typically go up faster than intricate mosaics or natural stone. The complexity of the tile pattern and type can influence the installation time and skill needed.

Layout and Design

Simple layouts with tiles running in straight lines are easier to install than a complex herringbone or geometric pattern. Curved shapes or bullnose edges also add tricky cuts and detail work. The more difficult the layout, the more labor will be involved.

Location and Accessibility

Backsplashes running behind appliances or in narrow spaces can be trickier to tile vs open wall areas. Difficult to reach areas usually take more time and care to install properly.

Experience and Skill Level of the Tile Setter

An experienced tile setter with years in the trade will often work more efficiently than someone less skilled. Their expertise commands higher rates, but can also save money by working faster.

Local Labor Rates

Like any service industry, local rates for tile installation vary across different geographic regions. Labor will cost more in high-cost urban areas vs less expensive rural areas.

Typical Price Ranges for Backsplash Installation

Given the factors above, you can expect to pay in these typical ranges:

  • Low end: $3-$7 per square foot for simple tile installation.
  • Average cost: $7-$15 per square foot is common for most tile setters and jobs.
  • High end: $15-$25 for complex tile work or premium installers.

To determine the estimated total, multiply your backsplash square footage by the labor rate. This will give you an approximate range for your project.

For example: a 60 sq ft subway tile backsplash at $10 per sq ft would be about $600 for installation labor.

Hiring a Tile Installation Contractor

Rather than hiring a tile setter yourself, many homeowners use a general contractor or remodeling company. In this case, the tile installation labor rates are often wrapped into an all-inclusive project estimate.

The benefit of using a larger company is that they handle all aspects of the project, including hiring and managing the subcontractors. However, the total price may be higher than just hiring a tile pro directly.

Be sure to get 3-4 written estimates before hiring any contractor or tile setter. Verify they have valid licenses, insurance, and good references or reviews.

Factors That Increase the Labor Cost

While the square footage is the primary driver of cost, a few other things can increase labor rates and overall price:

  • Weekend or evening work – Tile setters may charge 1.5x or 2x for off-hour installs.
  • Rush jobs – Expect a premium rate for any expedited service with tight deadlines.
  • Tile cuts and special orders– Intricate patterns or custom shapes that require special tile cuts or ordering increase labor time.
  • Additional decorative touches – Accent tiles, mosaics, borders, or trim tiles add cost for materials and labor time.
  • Change orders or alterations – Modifications after approval or issues that require redoing work already completed.

Saving on Labor for DIY Installation

For the most budget-friendly option, some homeowners opt to install their own backsplash. With proper planning, patience, and care, self-installing tile can cut the cost down significantly. Be sure to factor in expenses to rent any necessary tools.

The key is taking it slow and being meticulous through each step – allowing plenty of time for the project. Attempting to rush through a DIY tile job often leads to frustrating mistakes.

Always thoroughly research installation methods and safety procedures prior to a DIY tile project. Backsplashes require working with electricity, plumbing, and sharp tools on ladders – caution is a must.

Is the Cost of Backsplash Labor Worth it?

Installing tile on a wall may sound simple in theory, but the labor and experience of a pro tile setter is invaluable for getting professional results. Their skills allow completing the job efficiently, properly, and with long-lasting quality.

When weighing the cost of a contractor versus DIY, be sure to consider:

  • Your skill level and tile knowledge
  • The complexity of the design
  • Tools/equipment needed
  • Your available time

Hiring a qualified pro is highly recommended for most homeowners. Though pricy, the cost of high-quality labor is worth it for a backsplash you can enjoy for years to come. Be sure to get quotes from multiple installers to find the best rate.

Frequently Asked Questions

How do tile installers charge for a backsplash?

Most charge by the square foot based on the size of the area. Simple layouts usually range $5-15 per sq ft. Complex patterns or stone tiles may be $15-30+ per sq ft. Always get a written estimate.

Should I hire a general contractor for my backsplash?

General contractors can manage the entire project, including hiring and overseeing tile subcontractors. However, contractors charge more since they coordinate everything and take on liability.

What tools do I need to install a backsplash myself?

At minimum you’ll need a tile cutter, spacers, grout float, trowel, mixing bucket, tape, level, and safety gear. Often a wet saw, special blades, and drill attachments are also required.

Should I remove my old backsplash before installing a new one?

Yes, existing backsplashes need to be fully removed and the wall prepped before tiling a new one. This demo work can add to the total installation cost.

Can I install backsplash tile over existing drywall or plaster?

Directly tiling over drywall can lead to adhesion issues down the road. It’s best to remove drywall, install cement board, and use mortar for a durable tile substrate.


Installing a new backsplash is a worthy investment that can completely transform the look of your kitchen or bath. While tiling labor does add cost, keep in mind you’ll enjoy a beautifully finished space for years to come. For most homeowners, hiring a qualified pro tile setter is highly recommended for proper installation and avoiding headaches. Be sure to get multiple quotes and review examples of previous backsplash projects when choosing your contractor. With some smart planning and budgeting, you can gain a stunning backsplash that elevates your home.