How Much Tile for Backsplash? A Detailed Guide

Deciding how much tile to buy for your backsplash can be tricky. The amount needed depends on the size of your space, the tile dimensions, and the pattern you want to create. With some careful planning and measurement, you can determine the right quantity to purchase. This detailed guide will walk you through the process step-by-step.

Measuring Your Backsplash Area

The first step is to accurately measure the area you will be tiling. Here are some tips for getting precise measurements:

  • Measure the width and height of the entire backsplash area. Include the space between both ends of your countertops and from the countertop to the underside of your wall cabinets.
  • For the height, measure from the countertop to the bottom of where you want the tile to end. Many people tile all the way to the underside of the upper cabinets.
  • Use a metal tape measure and record the measurements in inches. Round up to the nearest 1/8 inch.
  • Draw out a detailed diagram of the backsplash space with all measurements noted. This will make the math portion easier later on.
  • Measure any windows, outlets, or other openings in the backsplash and deduct them from the total square footage.
  • For corners or other uniquely shaped spaces, break the area down into smaller rectangles to get accurate dimensions.

Don’t forget to double check all measurements! Precise calculations are crucial for purchasing the correct tile amount.

Determining Your Tile Dimensions

Next, you need to know the size of the tile you’ll be installing. There are a few key tile dimensions to factor in:

Tile Length and Width

  • The most common backsplash tile sizes are:
    • 4 inch by 4 inch
    • 3 inch by 6 inch
    • Subway tile 3 inch by 12 inch
    • Mosaic tiles 1 inch by 1 inch
  • Check the specification sheet or packaging for the exact length and width of your tiles. These are used to calculate the number needed.
  • Write down the two dimensions in inches and use them in your measurements.

Tile Thickness

  • Standard tile thickness is 1/4 inch, but some tile can be thinner or thicker.
  • The thickness doesn’t normally factor into your calculations, but it’s good to know for planning your installation.
  • Make a note of the tile thickness and account for it when determining any additional tile setting materials needed.

Grout Joint Width

  • Grout joint width is the space between each tile. Standard is 1/8 inch, but can vary.
  • Wider grout lines of 1/4 inch are common with subway tiles or mosaics.
  • The joint width gets added to your tile dimensions when planning.
  • Determine the grout joint size you will use before finalizing your measurements.

Using Your Measurements to Calculate Tile

Now comes the math portion! With your detailed area measurements and tile dimensions noted, it’s time to calculate the quantity of tile needed:

For a Straightforward Installation

If tiling a simple backsplash with no border or accent tiles, the formula is:

  • Total square feet of backsplash area
  • Divided by (Tile width in inches + Grout joint width) x (Tile height in inches + Grout joint width)
  • = Number of tiles needed

Here is an example:

  • Total backsplash area = 8 sq ft
  • Tile size = 4 inch x 4 inch
  • Grout joint width = 1/8 inch
  • (4 + 1/8) x (4 + 1/8) = 16.25 square inches per tile
  • 8 sq ft = 1,152 sq inches
  • 1,152 / 16.25 = 71 tiles

So for this 8 sq ft backsplash, you would need 71 standard 4×4 inch tiles.

For Diagonal, Subway, or Brick Patterns

Some layout patterns require more tile since they are set on the diagonal or offset brick style.

  • Measure the backsplash as normal
  • Multiply the total square inches by 1.15 for diagonal layouts
  • Multiply by 1.05 for offset brick patterns

Here is the same 8 sq ft backsplash tiled in a diagonal pattern with 4×4 tiles and 1/8 inch grout:

  • 8 sq ft = 1,152 sq inches
  • 1,152 x 1.15 = 1,324.8 sq inches (adjusted total for diagonal)
  • 1,324.8 / 16.25 = 82 tiles

So you would need 82 tiles for this diagonal pattern, instead of 71 for a straight installation.

Allowing for Cuts and Waste

It’s smart to add extra tiles to account for cutting pieces to fit or breakage during installation. The industry standard is to calculate:

  • 10% extra for rectangular tiles
  • 15% extra for mosaics

On a 50 tile order, you would purchase:

  • 55 tiles for rectangular
  • 58 tiles for mosaics

Calculate your entire needed amount first, then add the applicable waste percentage. Having spare tiles is useful in case repairs are needed down the road.

Ordering Tiles and Thinsets

When purchasing your materials, use your final tile quantity calculations to know exactly how much to buy. A few final tips:

  • Order 5-10% more floor tile than needed to allow for waste.
  • Have extras of any decorative border or accent tiles – these can’t be cut down from standard tiles.
  • Calculate thinset mortar using the sq ft of your space, allowing for some extra.
  • Don’t wait to order! If using a custom tile, ensure it is produced in time for your project.

Ordering the correct amount means you can install your backsplash without running out or having too many leftovers. Now let the tiling begin!

Frequently Asked Questions on Calculating Backsplash Tile

Figuring out tile needs for your backsplash does require some work. Here are answers to some common questions on the process:

How much tile do I need for a standard backsplash?

For a basic 4 ft x 2 ft backsplash and standard 4×4 inch tile with 1/8 inch grout, you would need approximately:

  • Backsplash = 8 sq ft
  • Each tile = 16.25 sq inches
  • 8 sq ft = 1,152 sq inches
  • 1,152 / 16.25 = 71 tiles

Add 10% for waste so around 78 tiles total.

What size tile is best for backsplash?

The most popular backsplash tile sizes are:

  • Subway tile 3 x 6 inch or 3 x 12 inch
  • Metro tile 1 x 2 inch
  • Mosaic tile 1 x 1 inch
  • Standard square 4 x 4 inch

Larger tiles 6 x 6 inch or hexagon 8 x 10 inch can also make a statement.

How much tile do I need for 20 square feet?

For a 20 sq ft backsplash with 4 x 4 inch tile and 1/8 inch grout, the math would be:

  • 20 sq ft = 2880 sq inches
  • Each tile = 16.25 sq inches
  • 2880 / 16.25 = 177 tiles

Add 10% for waste so around 195 tiles total.

Should backsplash go all the way to ceiling?

It’s recommended to tile a backsplash all the way up to meet the underside of wall cabinets. This gives a clean finish. If there is space above cabinets to the ceiling, you can stop at the top of cabinets rather than tiling the entire wall.

What is the standard height for a backsplash?

The standard backsplash height is 4 inches above the countertop. This protects the wall from splashes when prepping food. Full height backsplashes that reach wall cabinets have become a popular decorative choice. The height can match whatever look you want to achieve.

How long does it take to install a backsplash?

For an experienced DIYer, allow 2-3 days from start to finish. Professional installation may take 1-2 days. The time depends on the tile size, overall area, and complexity of the design. Make sure to account for drying tile mortar and grout between steps.

In Closing

Doing the math on how much tile you need for a backsplash takes some effort, but it ensures you get the right quantities of materials for your project. Accurately measure the space, know your exact tile dimensions, calculate the amount with buffers for patterns and waste, and order 5-10% extra to be safe. With the right planning using measurements and tile math, you can create a stunning backsplash design with no problems.