How Much is Labor to Install Subway Tile Backsplash

Installing a subway tile backsplash can transform the look of your kitchen or bathroom. While subway tiles are relatively easy for a DIY homeowner to install, hiring a professional tiler is worth considering. The cost of labor will vary based on your location, the size of your space, and the complexity of the design. Here is an overview of how much you can expect to pay for installation of a subway tile backsplash.

Factors That Impact Labor Costs

Several key factors will influence the labor costs for installing subway tile:

Size of the Backsplash Area

The total square footage of the backsplash will have a direct impact on labor costs. A small focal point backsplash may only be 10-20 square feet. A full backsplash running 4 feet high and spanning multiple counters may be over 100 square feet. The larger the area tiled, the more time and effort it will take.

Layout Complexity

A basic grid pattern of tiles is the easiest to install. Diagonal designs, intricate patterns, border accents, and niche cutouts will all increase the installation time and difficulty. Complex layouts require more tile cutting and careful placement.

Grout Lines

Narrow grout lines of 1/8 inch take longer to grout than wider lines. The pro must work carefully to fully pack the joints without smearing the tiles. Wider grout lines are quicker for installation.

Tile Material

Natural stone or glass tile tend to be more difficult to cut and work with than uniform ceramic or porcelain. This can add extra time, care, and skill required for installation.

Accessibility of the Space

Cramped corners or high walls make tiling more challenging than open counter backsplashes. Working around plumbing fixtures or built-in appliances can also restrict access and maneuverability.

Cost Per Square Foot for Labor

The national average cost for labor to install a subway tile backsplash is $10-$25 per square foot. Simple designs with ceramic tile and wide grout lines on an easily accessed area will fall at the lower end. Large format natural stone tiles with intricate patterns in a tight space will range higher.

Regional labor rates cause costs to vary across the country. You can expect to pay more for installation in high cost of living areas like San Francisco or New York City compared to smaller towns.

Here are typical per square foot labor costs based on the complexity of the project:

  • Basic ceramic subway tile with grid pattern: $10-$15 per sq.ft.
  • Ceramic or porcelain with angled pattern and border: $15-$20 per sq.ft.
  • Natural stone or glass tiles with mosaic or medallion accents: $20-$25 per sq.ft.
  • Multicolored tile layout, niche cutouts, complicated design: $25+ per sq.ft.

Additional Cost Factors

Beyond the installation time, there are a few additional considerations that can impact the total labor costs:

  • Tile removal – If you are replacing an existing backsplash, labor will be needed to remove the old tile. This typically adds $2-$5 per sq.ft.
  • Sink or fixture removal – For tile installed behind a sink, faucet, or appliance, expect added labor time for removal and reinstallation.
  • Backing material – If drywall needs buildup for support, adding cement board or a subsurface will increase costs $2-$5 per sq.ft.
  • Trim and finishing – Bullnose edges, trim around windows/outlets, and sealing with caulk all add finishing time.
  • Minimum fees – Pros typically charge a minimum hourly or daily fee which provides limited small project savings.

Estimated Total Installation Costs

Based on typical per square foot labor rates and average project sizes, here are estimated price ranges for having subway tile backsplash installed professionally:

  • Small backsplash (10-25 sq ft) – Labor: $200-$500
  • Medium backsplash (25-50 sq ft) – Labor: $400-$800
  • Large backsplash (50-100 sq ft) – Labor: $750-$1500
  • Full backsplash (100+ sq ft) – Labor: $1200-$2500

Keep in mind costs for tiles, grout, sealing, and any preparation materials are in addition to labor expenses. Always get an itemized estimate from tilers before committing to a project.

Hiring a Pro Tiler

Installing subway tile does require some specialized tools and techniques best learned through training and experience. Well-executed tiling improves durability and appearance. Here are some tips for finding a qualified pro:

  • Review online profiles and request photos of past tile projects.
  • Ask about experience with your type of tile material. Natural stone often requires greater skill.
  • Inquire about insurance coverage and licensing required in your state.
  • Request an itemized bid based on square footage and type of materials.
  • Ask pros about their pricing for side work like removing old backsplash or fixtures.
  • Read online reviews from previous clients. Look for consistent quality work.
  • Compare rates from at least 3 tilers before choosing. Be wary of quotes well below market price.

Hiring a professional tiler to install your subway tile backsplash eliminates the hassle and uncertainty of a DIY project. Paying a fair rate for quality skilled work can give you peace of mind that your new backsplash will withstand decades of use. With some smart shopping, you can find an affordable tile installation pro to create the backsplash design you’ve been dreaming about.

Frequently Asked Questions About Labor Cost to Install Subway Tile Backsplash

How much does it cost per hour to have subway tile installed?

The typical hourly rate charged by tilers for subway tile installation is $50-$100 per hour. Complex projects or premium tile materials may be up to $150 per hour. Expect a minimum fee of 2-4 hours labor.

Should I tip my tile installation contractor?

Tipping is appreciated but not strictly required for installation contractors. 10-20% of the total labor cost is an appropriate tip to offer if you were highly satisfied with the tile work.

Is it cheaper to install tile backsplash myself or hire a pro?

In most cases hiring a pro tiler will provide savings versus doing it yourself as an amateur. The cost of tools, learning curve mistakes, and excessive time outweigh reasonable pro labor rates.

How can I save money on labor for my subway tile backsplash?

Choosing basic white 3×6 or 4×12 ceramic subway tiles, a grid layout, and wide grout lines can reduce the installation time and difficulty. Doing prep work like surface buildup or old tile removal yourself also saves on labor.

Should I get 3 quotes for installing my backsplash?

It is recommended to get at least 3 quotes before hiring any contractor. Comparing rates and reviews prevents overpaying. Be sure all bids are based on the same project scope for an apples-to-apples comparison.


Installing a subway tile backsplash requires some tiling expertise but brings a great return on investment in elevating the style of your kitchen or bath. Hiring a professional tiler typically costs $10-$25 per square foot depending on the size, tile type, layout complexity, and accessibility. With some smart planning and shopping around for rates, you can find an affordable contractor to make your backsplash design dreams a reality within your budget.