How Much to Tile a Kitchen Backsplash

Tile is a classic material choice for kitchen backsplashes. Not only is it durable and easy to clean, it allows you to add personality with fun colors, patterns, and textures. However, tiling a backsplash is no small project. Done right, it can transform the look and feel of your entire kitchen. But as a significant undertaking, it’s important to understand what goes into it and how much it will cost before diving in. This guide will walk you through everything you need to budget and plan for tiling your own kitchen backsplash.

Selecting Your Tile

The tile itself will likely be one of the biggest expenses for your project. There are endless options when it comes to backsplash tile these days, ranging dramatically in price. Here are some of the factors that will determine the cost of your tile selection:

Type of Tile

The type of tile you select will have a significant impact on price. Some of the most common options include:

  • Ceramic: A classic choice, ceramic tile tends to be one of the most budget-friendly options. Prices typically range from $2-$10 per square foot.
  • Porcelain: More durable than ceramic, porcelain tile is marginally more expensive, with prices ranging from $4-$20 per square foot on average.
  • Glass: Adding a sleek, modern look, glass tile can run anywhere from $10-$30 per square foot.
  • Metal: For an industrial vibe, metal tiles like tin, stainless steel or copper carry a premium price of $10-$50 per square foot.
  • Mosaic: Comprised of tiny tiles mounted to sheets, mosaic tile provides a unique look for $10-$30 per square foot.
  • Stone: Options like marble, granite, slate and travertine have a luxurious appeal, but the natural material comes at a cost of $15-$75 per square foot.

Tile Size

In general, larger tile sizes are more expensive than smaller mosaic-style tiles. Larger tiles require more precise manufacturing.

  • Mosaics in 1-inch squares or smaller may run $5-$10 per square foot.
  • Standard tiles in the range of 4-inches to 8-inches might cost $10-$20 per square foot.
  • Extra large format tiles of 12-inches or larger can be $25-$50 per square foot.

Tile Grade

Tile is assigned a grade from 1-3 that indicates the quality of manufacturing and durability. Grade 1 is suitable for residential use, while Grades 2 and 3 can handle commercial applications. Higher grades have a smoother, more consistent finish but come at a higher price point.

Tile Finish

Glazed, polished, satin, textured and other finishes add variety and appeal. Tile with unique finishes typically costs more than basic matte tile. Intricate patterns and designs increase the price as well.

Tile Color

Simple white or neutral colored tile provides an easy backdrop in most kitchens. Bold, vibrant tile in reds, greens and blues makes more of a statement and normally has a higher price tag.

Delivery Fees

Don’t forget to account for potential shipping or delivery fees for your tile purchase, especially for higher quantities or specialty items.

Backsplash Installation Cost

While tile prices are significant, installation and labor account for a major portion of the total backsplash cost. Hiring a professional tile installer is recommended, as backsplashes require careful tile cutting around outlets and faucets. Here are factors that influence installation costs:

Contractor Rates

Tile installation rates vary greatly by region, as well as the individual contractor. Expect to pay at least $50 per hour, if not significantly more, for a qualified professional tile setter.

Backsplash Size

The total size of the area being tiled impacts overall labor time and materials needed. Standard backsplash dimensions of 4 feet by 8 feet could start around $800-$1000 for installation. Larger backsplashes with more detail or challenging layouts could be $2000 or more.

Layout Complexity

Simple grid layouts are the most straightforward and affordable option. Diagonal patterns, intricate designs, niche boxes and uneven or rounded edges will drive up installation costs.

Tile Material

Labor rates are generally higher for specialty tiles like natural stone, glass or mosaic sheets which require extra care and precision to install properly.

Grout vs. Groutless

Groutless tiles have built-in spacing, which speeds up installation time. Grouted tile is more meticulous, needing additional time for spreading and cleaning grout.

Preparation Work

If drywall or existing tile needs repaired, removed or prepared, add those preparation costs into the total.

Additional Backsplash Materials

Beyond tile and installation, there are other essential materials needed to complete your backsplash project:


Cement backerboard provides a flat, stable surface for tile adhesion. At around $10 per sheet, budget $50-100 for materials. Waterproofing it adds about $40.


Thinset mortar applied between tile and backerboard runs around $20 per 50-pound bag. Estimate 1 to 2 bags for an average backsplash.


Grout fills in joints between tiles. Allow about $20 for grout, plus $10-15 for grout sealer.

Trim Pieces

Transition strips, edge pieces, niche boxes and other accent trim can range from $1-$10 per linear foot.


Using a tile sealer is recommended for extra protection. Count on $20-40 for quality sealer.

With all materials purchased, you should expect to invest $500-2000+ for a complete do-it-yourself backsplash install. Hiring a pro? Tack on another $800-2000+ for labor, depending on backsplash size.

Factors That Increase Your Backsplash Cost

Several variables can quickly increase the scope of your project and overall investment:

  • Demolition of Old Backplashes: Removing existing tile or wall materials adds cost for time and disposal fees.
  • Complex Patterns: Intricate designs require more tile cuts and layout time.
  • Niche Boxes: Cutting into the wall to install a niche box adds carpentry work.
  • Uneven Surfaces: Repairing drywall or paneling can add $200-500+ in extra labor.
  • Accent Tiles or Borders: Adding a decorative tile border or accent wall means buying more tile.
  • Indirect Lighting: Wiring and installing lighting behind or underneath tile adds electrical work.
  • Specialty Tools: Unique tiles may require investment in special cutting tools.

Carefully evaluate what is entailed in your tile design before finalizing plans, in order to build an accurate budget.

Backsplash Cost Savings Tips

While tile backsplashes are an investment, there are ways to curb costs:

  • Use a tile contractor. Avoid big box stores and source directly from a tile distributor, where you can buy in bulk quantities at a discount.
  • Select smaller tiles. The more seams and grout lines, the more affordable mosaic sheets will be over large format tiles.
  • Install tile on drywall. Skipping backerboard saves time and money, if your wall is already in good shape.
  • Use stock patterns. Custom layouts have higher labor costs over a basic grid design.
  • DIY installation. With proper research, you can tackle thinset mortar and grouting to reduce labor fees.
  • Buy tile on sale. Check for seasonal sales, discontinued or overstock tile for the best deals.
  • Stick to a budget. Have a maximum dollar amount in mind and select tile and design features accordingly.

Backsplash Maintenance Costs

A tile backsplash adds long-term value and visual appeal to your kitchen. However, it also comes with some ongoing maintenance expenses:

  • Grout cleaning: Over time, grout will need scrubbing to remove stains and discoloration.
  • Grout repairs: Cracks or missing grout will need patched as necessary over the years.
  • Sealing: Expect to reseal grout every 1-2 years to prevent staining and damage.
  • Caulking: Check for gaps or shrinkage around edges and faucets yearly and reapply caulk as needed.
  • Tile repairs: Chips, cracks or broken tiles need replaced right away to prevent moisture issues.
  • Deep cleaning: Use specialty tile cleaners to periodically deep clean grease and grime buildup.

Factor in a $200-500 maintenance budget over the lifespan of your backsplash to keep it looking fresh and prevent repairs down the road.

Hiring a Pro vs. DIY Backsplash Install

Installing a tile backsplash is an advanced DIY project with room for error. Many homeowners opt to hire a professional tile installation company to ensure quality results.

Benefits of Hiring a Pro

  • Experienced with calculating tile layouts and making precise cuts
  • Access to professional-grade tile cutting and installation tools
  • Knowledge of how to properly prep surfaces and apply mortar
  • Ability to achieve perfectly even tile spacing and clean grout lines
  • Efficient at the installation process to save time
  • Provides warranty on work performed

Benefits of DIY Install

  • Ability to save on the high labor rates of a professional
  • Freedom to install at your own pace outside of contractor schedule
  • Satisfaction of learning a new skill and tiling your own kitchen
  • Tailor the project to your personal preferences and budget

Tile installation is equal parts art and science. Weigh your skill level and time commitment before deciding between hiring a pro vs. DIY backsplash installation.

Backsplash Tile Design Ideas

With so many colors, shapes, sizes and materials to work with, the backsplash design options are endless. Here are some top backsplash tile trends to spark inspiration:

Linear Subway Tile

A timeless classic, white 3×6 subway tile arranged inoffset rows creates clean lines and brightens the space. Add visual intrigue by alternating the direction of tiles or intermittent accent rows.

Geometric Patterns

From zigzags to diamonds to herringbone, bold geometric shapes lend eye-catching style. Use mosaic sheets to create intricate designs. Mix and match complementary colors.

Moroccan Fish Scale Tile

The faceted tile shape resembling fish scales offers artistic appeal. The tile comes glazed in pretty blues and sea greens that bring a taste of Morocco.

Hexagon Tile

Hexagon tile provides a retro honeycomb look. Mix varying sizes for contrast. Use white grout to define the shape outlines.

Handmade Encaustic Cement Tile

With its imperfect artisanal charm, encaustic cement tile creates a chic focal point. Use creatively to make a big statement.


Reflective glass, marble, stone and metal tile adds a glam touch. Pair silver, gold, copper and brass finishes for harmony.

Patterned & Printed

Florals, scrolls, geometrics and more printed designs offer whimsical impact. Use sparingly against a neutral background.

Textured & 3D Tile

Skip the flat and predictable by bringing in tile with glossy crackle glazes, ridges, bubbles and depth. Add intrigue through texture.

Marble & Natural Stone

Elegant marble, travertine and slate bring organic beauty with natural veining and swirls. Mix variegated pieces for interest.

The Bottom Line

The cost to tile a backsplash in your kitchen can range widely depending on the factors outlined above. With tile, installation and materials, expect to invest $1000-4000+ for an average sized backsplash. Maximizing design impact while minimizing unnecessary costs involves careful planning and budgeting. But the end result will bring you joy and beauty every time you cook in your fresh, new space!

FAQs About Tiling a Kitchen Backsplash

Tiling your own kitchen backsplash can be daunting. Get answers to common questions homeowners have before starting their project.

How difficult is it to tile a backsplash?

With proper planning and prep, tiling a backsplash is an achievable DIY project for a homeowner with beginner to intermediate skill level. Cutting the tile neatly around outlets and faucet fixtures can be tricky. Following directions precisely and having patience is key.

What tools do I need to tile a kitchen backsplash?

Standard tiling tools like a tile cutter, carbide scoring tool, thinset trowel, grout float and sponge will get the job done. For intricate cuts, a wet saw is recommended. Have safety gear like gloves, goggles and a mask.

How do I cut tile around kitchen outlets?

Very carefully score and snap tile edges using a carbide pencil, then a tile nipper for small final cuts. Turn off power to outlets before removing cover plates to expose edges for fitting tile.

What substrates can tile stick to?

Cement backerboard and cement board, like Durock or Hardibacker, provide the best base. Drywall requires special waterproofing treatment first. Existing tile or water-resistant greenboard also works.

How do I prep for tiling my backsplash?

Fill any holes or imperfections with spackle. Clean thoroughly to remove grease and debris. Apply primer. Cut backerboard to size and fasten to wall studs with screws. Tape and mud seams.

What thinset mortar is best for backsplash tile?

A polymer modified thinset mortar works for most tile materials. Check manufacturer instructions. For natural stone, epoxy or latex modified mortar prevents staining.

Should my backsplash go all the way to the ceiling?

Not necessarily – standard height is to install tile from counter to just below upper cabinets, approx. 4-5 feet. Full height can suit some styles but requires extra tile and work.

How long does backsplash tile need to dry before grouting?

Refer to thinset mortar instructions, but generally 24-48 hours. Test a tile to be sure mortar has hardened completely before applying grout.

Can I use sanded grout for backsplash tile?

For joints 1/8-inch or smaller, like most backsplashes, unsanded grout is best. Sanded grout can scratch glossy tile and is hard to clean out of narrow spaces.

Should I caulk where my backsplash meets the countertop?

Yes, flexible caulk between backsplash and countertop prevents water intrusion and cracks from settling. Silicone or grout caulk are good choices.


A backsplash upgrade lets you put your personal design stamp on the heart of your home. Planning the project meticulously and understanding what factors influence cost allows you to create a kitchen focal point within your budget. With some tiles, tools, time, and effort, you can transform your cooking space and enjoy the results for years to come.