How to Add a Backsplash Kitchen

Adding a backsplash is one of the best ways to update the look of your kitchen. A new backsplash can completely transform the style and feel of the space. Installing a backsplash is also a relatively easy and affordable renovation project that you may be able to tackle yourself. This guide will walk you through everything you need to know about how to add a backsplash kitchen.

Choose the Right Backsplash Material

The first step is selecting the right material for your backsplash. There are lots of options when it comes to backsplash tiles and panels. Consider the following:

Ceramic Tile

Ceramic tile is one of the most popular choices for kitchen backsplashes. It comes in a huge range of styles, colors, shapes, and sizes. Ceramic tiles are durable, easy to clean, and relatively affordable. Subway tile is a classic rectangular ceramic tile that works in both modern and traditional kitchens.

Glass Tile

Glass tile can add a contemporary, sleek look to a backsplash. It comes in tons of colors like blue, green, and red. It’s very shiny and reflective. Glass tile is pricier than ceramic and can be a little trickier to cut and install.

Metal Tile

Metal backsplash tiles like tin, copper, or stainless steel can give a kitchen a modern, industrial vibe. They are very durable and easy to clean. Metal tile is on the more expensive side.

Stone Tile

Stone like marble, travertine, or granite make for a high-end, luxurious backsplash. Stone has beautiful natural patterning. It’s also on the heavier side so make sure your wall can support the weight. Porous stones will need to be sealed regularly.

Engineered Quartz

Engineered quartz is quickly gaining popularity for backsplashes. Quartz is non-porous so it won’t need to be sealed. It’s durable, low-maintenance, and comes in lots of different patterns and colors. Brands like Caesarstone and Silestone make engineered quartz backsplashes.

Laminate Panels

Laminate panels simulating materials like ceramic, metal, or granite are an affordable and easy backsplash option. Panels are available at home improvement stores and quick to install with adhesive. Laminate doesn’t have the same durability as real tile or stone but can mimic the look.

Consider your kitchen’s existing style, cabinetry, countertops, and decor when selecting a backsplash material. Think about your lifestyle and how easy the material will be to maintain as well. Get tile samples to view colors and patterns in your kitchen lighting before making a final decision.

Plan the Backsplash Layout

Once you’ve settled on a backsplash material it’s time to map out the layout. Decide how you want the pattern and design to look. Sketch ideas or lay tile samples directly on the wall to visualize placement.

Keep the following backsplash layout tips in mind:

  • Extend the backsplash up to the bottom of the upper cabinets. Standard backsplash height is 4 to 6 inches above any countertops.
  • Only do a small strip of backsplash tile behind a stove or sink. Don’t tile fully behind appliances.
  • Backsplashes don’t necessarily need to be installed on every wall. Focus on high use areas like behind the sink and stove.
  • Make sure to purchase 10 to 15% extra tile to allow for cuts, waste, and future repairs.
  • Mix different sized tiles, materials, or designs to create patterns. Use trim pieces like bullnose or pencil liners to transition between areas.
  • Pay attention to grout line thickness and color. Both factors impact the overall look.

Create a sketch of your planned backsplash layout and bring it to the store when purchasing tile. Keep the drawing on hand during installation to follow.

Gather Your Materials

Once you’ve settled on the backsplash design, compile all the necessary installation supplies. Make sure to get the following:

Tile and Trim

Purchase your selected backsplash tile, bullnose or edge trim pieces, and anything needed for decorative accents. Have extra tile on hand for repairs or replacements down the road.

Thinset Mortar

Thinset mortar is the adhesive used to apply tile to the wall. Get premixed thinset for small projects or powder thinset you mix with water for large backsplashes. Make sure it’s compatible with the tile material.


Grout fills in the seams between tiles. It comes in different colors so you can complement or contrast your tile. Get grout caulk for corners and edges.


Backerboard like cementboard or tileboard provides a water-resistant surface for tiling over drywall or other materials.


You’ll need basic tiling tools – tile cutter, spacers, trowel, grout float, sponges, buckets, mixer, etc. Consider renting a wet saw for cutting tricky tile materials. Safety gear like gloves and eye protection are a must.

Allow your backsplash tile, mortar, and grout to acclimate in the room for at least 24 hours before installation. This prevents cracking or bonding issues.

Prepare the Installation Surface

Preparing the wall surface is one of the most important steps before tiling a backsplash. Take time to ensure the area is clean, stable, and ready for tile.

First, remove any existing backsplash material or wall covering. Scrub the walls to eliminate grease or buildup. Fill any holes or cracks with spackle then sand smooth.

Next, install backerboard secured with screws to studs. Use cementboard for ceramic tile and water-resistant tileboard for other materials. Apply a waterproofing membrane over cementboard.

Make sure the surface is completely smooth and flat. Any uneven areas under 1/8 inch can be corrected with thinset when tiling. For larger uneven spots, use joint compound or self-leveling underlayment to flatten the surface.

Finally, prime and paint the walls before tiling for an easier install. Avoid glossy paints which can cause adhesion issues. Allow paint to fully cure for 2-3 days before adding tile.

Lay Out Your Tile

With the surface prepped, it’s time to start laying tile for your backsplash. Follow these tips for a successful install:

  • Dry fit tiles first before applying any thinset. Start from the center and work outward.
  • Mix thinset mortar according to package directions. Only work in small sections applying thinset over areas where tile will immediately be placed.
  • Use a notched trowel to evenly spread thinset on the wall, holding at a 45 degree angle.
  • Place tiles in the thinset, using spacers in between. Push tiles firmly into the mortar for a good bond.
  • Make sure tile aligns with your layout lines. Use a level often to ensure tiles are straight.
  • Allow thinset to dry completely before grouting, usually 24-48 hours. Remove spacers once thinset has cured.
  • Carefully cut tiles around outlets, corners, or edges using a wet saw or tile cutter.
  • Finish edges with bullnose tiles or trim molding for a clean look.

Take your time laying tile to get clean straight lines. Wipe away any excess thinset immediately. Don’t rush the drying time before grouting or tiles may shift out of place.

Apply Grout for a Finished Look

Grout fills the joints between tiles with color and texture. Follow these tips for grouting success:

  • Allow thinset to fully cure before grouting, generally 1-2 days. Test a tile to ensure it’s secure.
  • Apply grout release or sealer to the tiles if needed to prevent staining.
  • Mix grout according to package directions and let slake for 5-10 minutes.
  • Use a rubber grout float or squeegee to spread grout over the surface, pressing into joints.
  • Hold the float at a 45 degree angle and work in small sections, scrubbing the grout fully into seams.
  • Let grout set for 10-15 minutes until hazy. Use a damp sponge to gently wipe grout off the tile surface.
  • Rinse sponge frequently and change grout water often for best results.
  • Allow grout joints to cure 24 hours before polishing with a soft cloth. Seal grout if needed.

Avoid leaving grout residue or film on the tiles. Take your time cleaning the surface for an flawless finished backsplash.

Maintain Your Backsplash

Once your new backsplash is fully installed, you’ll want to protect it and keep it looking like new. Here are some backsplash maintenance best practices:

  • Seal porous natural stone tiles annually to guard against stains and etching.
  • Immediately wipe up spills and splatters to prevent buildup of grime.
  • Clean backsplash gently with a mild soap, water, and soft sponge or cloth. Avoid abrasive cleaners.
  • Re-caulk perimeter joints every 1-2 years especially around the sink and stove.
  • Spot treat tougher built-up stains with baking soda, vinegar, or hydrogen peroxide mixes.
  • Re-seal grout every 3 years or as needed to keep joints looking fresh.

With proper care, your backsplash should maintain its beauty and function for years before considering a renovation. Avoid using the backsplash surface as a cutting board to prevent scratching, chipping, or dulling the finish.

Backsplash Installation Costs

If tackling a backsplash install seems too daunting, consider hiring a professional tiler. Here are average costs for installed backsplash tile:

  • Ceramic tile installation: $7 – $15 per sq. ft.
  • Glass tile installation: $15 – $25 per sq. ft.
  • Natural stone tile installation: $40 – $50 per sq. ft.
  • Engineered quartz backsplash install: $50 – $100 per sq. ft.

Many factors impact overall installation pricing like layout, tile material, size of the project, and contractor rates in your location. Get 2-3 detailed quotes before hiring a pro.

Backsplash Ideas and Inspiration

Need a little design inspiration before deciding on the perfect backsplash tile for your kitchen? Here are some gorgeous yet functional backsplash ideas to fuel your creativity:

Farmhouse Style

Classic white subway tiles arranged in a bricklaid pattern is the quintessential farmhouse backsplash look. Pair with open shelves and antique accents for homey cottage vibes.

White subway tile backsplash

Modern Monochromatic

Large format tiles in soft neutral tones create a stunning, seamless modern backsplash. Grout lines disappear for a sleek contemporary feel. Add pops of color with accessories.

Grey marble backsplash

Moroccan Inspired

Intricate square and octagonal geometric tiles in vivid hues for a dose of lively Moroccan flair. Works beautifully against neutral cabinetry in a boho kitchen.

Geometric tile backsplash

Rustic Farmhouse Brick

Rustic brick-style porcelain tiles in whites, reds, and naturals paired with exposed beams and shelves for homey farmhouse charm in a modern kitchen.

Brick backsplash

Minimalist Metal and Marble

For an upscale yet minimal modern kitchen, combine large marble tiles with thin metal strips. Crisp white cabinets keep the look light and bright.

Marble and metal backsplash

Textural Coastal

Richly veined marble, artful ceramic fish tiles, pretty sand dollar accents, and pops of ocean blue make for a uniquely textural coastal kitchen backsplash idea.

Coastal tile backsplash

Frequently Asked Questions About Adding a Backsplash Kitchen

Looking to better understand the ins and outs of installing a kitchen backsplash? Here are answers to some of the most frequently asked questions:

How difficult is it to install a backsplash yourself?

Adding a backsplash is one of the easier DIY renovations. With proper planning and attention to detail, an experienced DIYer can tackle thinset mortar and grouting application. Accurate tile cutting does take some skill. Hire a pro if you’re unsure.

What tools do I need to install a backsplash?

Basic tiling tools include a tile cutter, trowels, buckets, sponges, gloves, kneepads, and safety glasses. You may also want a tile saw for precise curved cuts. Mixing tools and extra tile are essential too.

How do I cut the tiles for outlets and switches?

Carefully measure and mark tiles to fit around switches, receptacles, or fixtures. Use a rotary tool, nippers, or oscillating cutter to notch corners and edges. Take your time to get a precise cut.

How long does a backsplash tile installation take?

The timeline can range from 1-3 days depending on the scope of work. Allow full days for surface prep, tile layout, thinset application and drying, grouting, and clean up. Don’t rush through the steps.

Should backsplash tile match the countertop?

The backsplash doesn’t have to match the countertop exactly. Blend the two surfaces with complementary colors and textures. Accent the backsplash with a small tile pattern for contrast.

What about the area between the cabinets and backsplash?

You can leave a gap above the countertops and caulk or cover it with trim pieces like quarter round. For a built-in look, install a matching filler strip or additional short rows of backsplash tile.

Enhance Your Kitchen With a Stylish Backsplash

Installing a backsplash is one of the best ways to makeover your kitchen’s style without a full renovation. With some thoughtful planning and preparation, even DIYers can add tile trim to enhance their cooking space. Take it from the pros and don’t shortcut the prep work involved. Soon you’ll have a stunning, functional backsplash you can’t wait to show off. Let the above guide lead you to backsplash success! Which material and style will you choose for your kitchen transformation?