How Much to Install Subway Tile Backsplash

Installing a subway tile backsplash can transform the look and feel of your kitchen. Subway tiles are classic rectangular tiles that create a timeless patterned backdrop in kitchens. While subway tile is an affordable and easy DIY project, professional installation ensures your backsplash is perfectly leveled and finished. Here is what to expect when hiring a contractor to install your subway tile backsplash.

Cost to Install a Subway Tile Backsplash

The cost to install a subway tile backsplash ranges from $6 to $15 per square foot. This estimate includes labor and material costs for a simple white 3×6 subway tile installed in a basic staggered brick pattern. Factors that increase the project cost include:

  • Tile size – Larger tiles are more expensive
  • Tile material – Natural stone or glass tiles add cost
  • Tile shape – Non-rectangular tiles take more time and skill to install
  • Pattern complexity – Intricate or diagonal patterns take longer
  • Backsplash height – Full height backsplashes cost more than standard 4-6 inch height
  • Grout and accent tiles – Decorative grout and border/accent tiles add cost
  • Surface area – The total size of your backsplash impacts overall cost
  • Accessibility – Tight spaces or high areas require more effort to install

On average, expect to pay $8-$12 per square foot for standard subway tile installation. For a 10 sq ft backsplash, total costs typically range from $600-$800. High-end tile and intricate installation can cost $25 per sq ft or more.

Subway Tile Backsplash Installation Process

Installing a subway tile backsplash involves careful planning, precise tile-setting, and meticulous grouting. Here is an overview of the installation process:

Surface Prep

  • Clean and sand the wall surface
  • Apply thinset mortar to rough or uneven areas
  • Seal porous drywall or plaster with a membrane

Layout and Tile Setting

  • Determine the tile layout pattern
  • Mark the center point and start tiling in the center
  • Apply thinset mortar using a notched trowel
  • Cut border and accent tiles as needed
  • Set tiles one by one using tile spacers for consistent grout lines

Grouting and Finishing

  • Allow thinset to fully cure before grouting
  • Apply grout between the tiles, smoothing and cleaning excess
  • Allow grout to dry fully before sealing or applying caulk
  • Seal grout lines for water resistance and easier cleaning
  • Apply caulk between countertop and tiles
  • Clean tiles and tools thoroughly

The total time to install a subway tile backsplash is typically 2-3 days. Preparation and layout takes 1 day. Tiling usually takes 1 full day. Grout, sealing, and cleanup takes 4-6 hours once tiles are set.

DIY vs Hiring a Pro

Installing subway tile as a DIY project can save on labor costs, but takes time and tiling skill. Key considerations include:

DIY Pros

  • Less expensive than hiring a pro
  • Control over tile selection and layout
  • Opportunity to learn a new skill

DIY Cons

  • Inexperience can lead to uneven tiles or grout lines
  • Mistakes like broken tiles are costly
  • Tiling work is physically demanding
  • Renting tools and disposing debris is inconvenient

Hiring a Pro Pros

  • Perfectly leveled tiles and smooth grout lines
  • Expertise for advanced layouts and intricate cuts
  • Faster installation with less personal effort
  • Warranty or guarantee for workmanship defects

Hiring a Pro Cons

  • More expensive upfront cost
  • Coordination required for access to your home
  • Less input on tile selection and pattern

For DIYers willing to take the time to learn proper techniques, tiling a basic subway layout is doable. But for more complex designs or large surfaces, hiring a professional tiler is worth the investment.

Key Factors When Hiring a Subway Tile Installer

Here are the most important things to look for when hiring a contractor to install your subway tile backsplash:

Experience and Expertise

Choose an installer or tiling company with 3-5 years of experience minimum. Verify they have expertise specifically with subway tile installation. Review photos of past subway tile backsplash projects.

Licensing and Insurance

Select a licensed and insured contractor. Make sure they carry both general liability insurance and workers compensation insurance for employees. This protects you from liability for injuries or damages.

Project Portfolio

Ask to see a portfolio of previous backsplash installation work. Look for consistent grout lines, smooth finished edges, and well-executed accent details.

References and Reviews

Request 2-3 references from recent clients. Contact them to ask about their experience, quality of work, timeliness, and pricing. Check online reviews as well.

Warranty on Work

Choose a contractor who provides a 1-2 year warranty on their tile installation work. This guarantees they will fix any deficiencies in workmanship.

Detailed Written Proposal

Get a comprehensive written estimate outlining specific tile, materials, timeline, warranty, and exact pricing with no hidden fees.

Communication and Reliability

Ensure the tile installer communicates promptly and clearly. Confirm their schedule is reliable. Read the contract thoroughly.

By vetting contractors thoroughly and comparing detailed bids, you can hire the professional best qualified to deliver a flawless subway tile backsplash installation.

How Much Does it Cost to Install Subway Tile Backsplash per Square Foot?

The cost to install subway tile backsplash ranges from $6 to $15 per square foot on average. Simple white 3×6″ subway tiles with basic installation typically costs $8 to $12 per square foot. This breaks down to around $600 to $800 for a 10 sq ft backsplash.

Factors that increase the per square foot installation costs include:

  • Premium tile materials like handmade subway tiles ($12-$20 per sq ft)
  • Mosaic tiles or tiles larger than 4×8″ ($10-$15 per sq ft)
  • Intricate patterns like herringbone ($12-$18 per sq ft)
  • Installing border or accent tiles ($9-$15 per sq ft)
  • Extensive tile cutting for outlets or fittings ($10-$14 per sq ft)
  • Backsplash height over standard 4-6 inches ($12-$18 per sq ft)
  • Professional grout cleaning after installation ($8-$12 per sq ft)

Simple white ceramic subway tiles installed in a basic staggered brick pattern is the most affordable option at $6 to $9 per square foot. Carefully compare contractor bids and review what is included to understand how rates are impacted by tile choices and layout complexity.

What is the Cheapest Backsplash to Install?

The cheapest backsplash tile to install is white 3×6” ceramic subway tile. The total installed cost starts around $5 per square foot. Other affordable backsplash tile options include:

  • Peel-and-stick backsplash tiles – Easy DIY installation, starts around $3 per sq ft
  • Decorative vinyl backsplash sheets – Installs in one piece, about $3 to $5 per sq ft
  • Mosaic sheets – Preassembled mosaics keep installation simple, about $5 per sq ft
  • Glass tile mesh sheets – Reduces cutting and setting individual tiles, around $8 per sq ft
  • Clear glass tile – Simple installer for a modern look, approximately $10 per sq ft

Any tile shape in a neutral color like white, gray, or black tends to be cheaper than specialty designer tiles. Natural stone, marble or travertine tile costs $15 per sq ft or more installed.

Typical Costs of Hiring Subway Tile Backsplash Installer

Here are typical costs of hiring a contractor to install a subway tile backsplash based on the surface area:

  • Small backsplash (5 sq ft)
    • About $400-$500 installed
    • Entry level backsplash behind a stove or small sink
    • Half day installation
  • Standard backsplash (10 sq ft)
    • Around $600-$800 installed
    • Full wall behind kitchen sink or stove
    • 1-2 days installation
  • Large backsplash (25 sq ft )
    • Approximately $1,500-$2,000 installed
    • Full wall behind counters or appliances
    • 2-3 days installation
  • Full height backsplash (50 sq ft)
    • Around $3,000-$4,000 installed
    • Floor to ceiling behind counters
    • 3-5 days installation

Costs increase for more complex layouts, premium tiles, or intricately tiled niches and borders. Expect higher rates in areas with a higher cost of living as well. Get detailed bids to compare rates fairly based on your project scope.

subway tile backsplash Installation Cost Per Hour

Professional tilers typically charge an hourly rate of $50 to $70 per hour. This covers their labor cost only. Material and preparation costs are additional.

You may be quoted an hourly rate for small or simple backsplash installation projects. Make sure the tile installer also gives you an estimate for total hours expected so you understand the full cost.

As a rough estimate, an experienced installer with proper tools can set approximately 15 to 25 sq ft of subway tile per hour. Add 2-3 hours for layout, surface preparation, grout and sealant finishing. Total installation for a 10 sq ft backsplash is approximately 8 to 10 hours.

Some tilers may also set a minimum service call fee from $100 to $175, especially for small jobs. Make sure to get a binding written quote for total project pricing, not just hourly labor.

How Much Does Home Depot Charge to Install Subway Tile Backsplash?

Home Depot offers professional installation for backsplash tile through independent contractors. Pricing varies based on your local store. As a guideline, Home Depot backsplash installation costs approximately:

  • Basic tiles in simple layout: $6-$9 per sq ft
  • Premium tiles in intricate patterns: $12-$18 per sq ft

This covers tile setting labor only. Tile and materials are additional. Home Depot provides a minimum 1-year warranty on installation work. Specify the backsplash size, tile, and layout when getting a firm quote from your local store. Installation often takes 2-3 weeks from quote approval.

As a comparison, other big box stores like Lowe’s and Menards also offer backsplash installation services at similar rates through local contractors. Always compare their detailed quotes against pricing from independent tilers as well.

FAQs About Installing Subway Tile Backsplash

How long does it take to install a subway tile backsplash?

Installing a 10 sq ft subway tile backsplash takes 2-3 days total. The tiling work itself can be completed in one full day by an experienced installer. Allow extra time for planning layout, setting up tools and materials, grouting/curing, and clean up.

What height should a subway tile backsplash be?

The standard height for a subway tile backsplash is 4 to 6 inches. Full height backsplashes extend from counter to ceiling for a bolder look. Limit the height to 1 inch below wall cabinets for easier cleaning access.

How much does it cost to install a marble subway tile backsplash?

Marble subway tile installation costs $18 to $35 per sq ft. The marble material itself starts around $15 per sq ft. Professional installation adds $10 to $20 per sq ft depending on layout complexity. Expect to pay around $1,000 to $1,500 for a 10 sq ft marble subway tile backsplash.

Should you seal subway tile backsplash?

Sealing subway tile backsplash grout lines with a penetrating sealer is highly recommended. This prevents moisture absorption and staining to keep grout looking clean. Use a surface sealer on tiles only if needed to repel oil or grease splashes.

How do you cut subway tiles?

Cutting subway tile requires a wet saw fitted with a diamond tile blade. Mark the cut line, then run the tile through the saw gently. Use an angle grinder to notch corners or curved cuts. Finish cuts smoothly with a tile file.

Hiring Professional Subway Tile Installer

Installing subway tile backsplash can be an approachable DIY project with proper planning and effort. Complex patterns or large installations are best left to tile professionals with experience delivering quality results. When hiring a contractor, take time to vet their expertise, compare detailed bids, and evaluate examples of finished work to ensure your backsplash turns out perfectly leveled, grouted, and polished. Investing in a professional installer is well worth the cost for a stunning, lasting subway tile backsplash installation.