Backsplashes are an important design element in any kitchen. Not only do they protect the walls from splashes and stains, they can also add visual interest and tie the whole room together. When it comes time to tile your backsplash, one of the key questions is how much tile you need to purchase. Buying the right amount of tile ensures you don’t end up with too little or too much. This guide will walk you through how to calculate how much tile is needed for a backsplash installation.
Measure the Area to be Tiled
The first step is measuring the space where you plan to install the backsplash. This will tell you the total square footage you need to cover.
For a Full Wall Backsplash
If tiling from counter to ceiling, measure the length and height of each wall section. Multiply the length by the height to get the square footage of each wall section. Add together the square footage totals for all sections to get the total area to cover.
For example, if you have:
- Wall section A: 8 ft long x 4 ft high = 32 sq ft
- Wall section B: 10 ft long x 4 ft high = 40 sq ft
- Total area = 32 sq ft + 40 sq ft = 72 sq ft
Be sure to measure separately around windows, outlets, or other openings and subtract those areas from your total.
For a Partial Backsplash
If installing a backsplash that only goes partway up the wall, measure the length and only the height of the backsplash area. Multiply to get the square footage.
For example, for a backsplash that is:
- 8 ft long
- Backsplash height: 2 ft
- 8 ft x 2 ft = 16 sq ft
Again, pay attention to any openings to subtract.
Use an Online Calculator
There are many free online tile calculators that allow you to input the dimensions of each wall section and will do the math for you. This can be a quick and easy way to get the square footage amount.
Determine Tile Size
Next, you need to know the size of the tile you will be installing. Tile sizes are generally expressed in inches like 4×4, 3×6, 2×2 mosaics, etc. Standard sizes include:
- 3×6 subway tile
- 4×12 subway tile
To get the correct amount, you need to know the dimensions of the actual tile, not just the name. The coverage for a 4×4 tile is different than a 4×12 subway tile. Check the packaging or product information to get the exact sizing.
Calculate Number of Tiles
To determine how many tiles you need, divide the total square footage of the installation area by the square footage of each tile.
Total sq ft ÷ Tile sq ft = Number of Tiles
- Total area: 72 sq ft
- Tile size: 4×4 inches
- Each 4×4 tile covers 0.56 sq ft (4 x 4 divided by 144)
- 72 sq ft ÷ 0.56 sq ft = 128 tiles
Round up to the nearest full tile. Consider buying 5-10% extra to allow for cuts, waste and future repairs.
Estimate Amount of Thinset and Grout
In addition to the tile itself, you will need thinset mortar to adhere the tiles and grout to fill in the joints. Most thinset coverage is between 50-80 sq ft per 50 lb bag. Grout coverage is around 30-40 sq ft per lb. Use more product for uneven wall surfaces.
For the above 4×4 tile example:
- 72 sq ft installation area
- Thinset: 1-2 bags
- Grout: Around 3 lbs
Again, buy extra grout and thinset in case you need it. Leftover thinset has a long shelf life if properly sealed and stored.
Order Samples First
Before purchasing all of your tile, order some samples. This allows you to:
- Test if you like the actual look in your space
- See color/pattern variations between tiles
- Identify the right grout color
Trying out samples can help prevent making an expensive mistake on tile you don’t end up liking. Only order the full amount once you are sure of your choice.
Factor in Pattern and Design
If installing a patterned tile or mosaic sheets, this may influence how much you need. You may have to buy more tiles in order to complete the pattern or design. Natural stone often has a lot of variation between pieces. Keep this in mind if creating a specific look.
Have Plenty of Extras
It’s always smart to overestimate and buy at least 10% extra of everything—tile, thinset, grout. This provides insurance in case you break some tiles during installation or cutting. Having spare tiles allows you to easily make repairs down the road. Extras are especially important for handmade, custom, or natural tiles that may be difficult to recreate.
Purchase All Materials at Once
Be sure to purchase all the tile, grout, thinset, backerboard, edging, and tools needed for the project at the same time. Confirm all tile and grout colors/lots match before leaving the store. You want to avoid finding out later that products have been discontinued or colors don’t match up perfectly.
Double Check Quantities
Measure the space and do the tile calculations carefully. Confirm your measurements and math, and recheck several times before purchasing materials. Pay attention to unit conversions to ensure your math makes sense. Being short on materials mid-project can lead to frustration.
Consider Hiring a Pro
If tiling a large area or doing an intricate design, consider hiring a professional tile installer. They have the expertise to perfectly calculate material needs and executing the installation. This option avoids rookie mistakes and wasted supplies.
Have a Game Plan for Leftovers
Even when carefully calculated, most tile projects will end up with some leftover materials. Have a plan in place to return unopened products or store partial boxes. Leftover whole tiles can be used for future repairs or other small projects. Partial sheets of mosaic tile may be usable too. Be creative with ways to use extras.
Save All Product Information
Keep the receipt, packaging, and product info for all tile, grout and thinset used. This allows you to easily purchase matching materials for repairs down the road. Photograph the installation just in case. You never know when you’ll need access to those product details.
Carefully measuring your backsplash area, understanding tile sizes, and doing the tile math are crucial steps to buying the right quantity of tile. Don’t shortchange yourself, but avoid wasting money on excess materials. With smart planning, you can purchase just what you need for a successful project.
Tile Buying FAQs
How do I calculate square feet for tile?
To calculate square feet:
- Measure the length and height of the total area to tile
- Multiply the length by the height to get total square feet
Be sure to subtract any areas that won’t get tiled like windows and outlets. Use an online tile calculator for help with the math.
How much tile do I need for backsplash?
To determine how much tile is needed:
- Calculate total square feet of backsplash area
- Divide square feet by the dimensions of your tile to get number of tiles
- Buy 10% extra for cuts and waste
Measure carefully and use an online tile calculator for help.
What size tile is best for backsplash?
Some popular backsplash tile sizes:
- Subway tile 3×6 or 4×12
- Mosaics 1×1 or 2×2
- Standard square 4×4
Long rectangular subway-style tiles and small mosaics are common choices. Larger tiles 12×12 or larger can also work well.
How do I calculate thinset and grout?
Standard thinset coverage is 50-80 sq ft per 50 lb bag. Grout coverage is around 30-40 sq ft per lb. Use more for uneven surfaces. For the example above with 72 sq ft to tile:
- Thinset: 1-2 bags
- Grout: Around 3 lbs
Purchase extra for waste and touch-ups.
Should I get tile samples?
Always order tile samples before purchasing. This allows you to:
- Test if you like the actual look
- See variations between tiles
- Confirm the grout color
Samples prevent expensive mistakes. Only buy the full amount once you are sure.
What if I’m short on tile at the end?
Having to purchase extra tiles mid-project can be frustrating. To avoid this:
- Measure carefully and double check math
- Buy at least 10% extra tiles
- Keep spare tiles for future repairs
If still short, check if more can be special ordered if it’s a current product.
- Carefully measure the total backsplash area and account for openings
- Confirm the exact dimensions of your tile including units
- Divide total area by tile size to get number needed
- Purchase at least 10% extra for waste and breaks
- Buy all materials together including grout and thinset
- Save product info for future repair matching
- Consider hiring a professional installer for big or intricate projects
Installing a tile backsplash involves careful planning and accurate measurements. Knowing exactly how much tile to purchase for your project helps ensure you don’t come up short or end up with extra unused materials. Follow these tips when calculating how much tile to buy:
- Measure methodically and confirm math
- Understand your exact tile size and dimensions
- Use a tile calculator for help with area and quantities
- Buy at least 10% extra tile, thinset, and grout
- Have a plan for using or returning any leftovers
With the right calculations and measurements, you can determine the perfect tile amount to create a stunning, high-quality backsplash installation.