How to Add a Backsplash to a Kitchen

Adding a backsplash to your kitchen can completely transform the look and feel of the space. A stylish backsplash serves both form and function – protecting your walls from splashes and spills while also providing visual interest. Installing a backsplash is a relatively easy DIY project that can make a big impact. Here is a step-by-step guide on how to add a backsplash to your kitchen.

Selecting a Backsplash Material

The first step is choosing a material for your backsplash. Some popular options include:


Tile allows you to create a custom look and is available in a wide variety of styles, colors, shapes, and textures. Ceramic, porcelain, and natural stone tiles are durable, easy to clean, and withstand heat and moisture.


Glass tile is an elegant choice that can add a touch of glamour. It comes in a rainbow of colors and varies from transparent to opaque. Glass tile holds up well but requires extra care during installation.


Metal backsplashes like copper, stainless steel, and tin can give a kitchen an industrial vibe. Metals are low maintenance, simple to wipe clean, and heat resistant.


Natural stone like marble, travertine, and granite make a sophisticated statement. Stone is hardwearing but porous and requires resealing. Going with stone slabs can be pricey.


Wood brings natural beauty and warmth. Use moisture-resistant boards finished with a protective coat. Real wood needs occasional resealing. Engineered wood is a budget-friendly alternative.

Consider the style of your kitchen, needs for durability, and budget when selecting a backsplash material. Make sure to choose a material that is water-resistant and cleans up easily.

Preparing the Work Area

Once you have the backsplash materials, prep the work area:

  • Clear countertops and remove anything on walls where the backsplash will be installed.
  • Protect remaining surfaces – cover countertops, range, and floor with drop cloths.
  • Have all materials and tools on hand – tiles, grout, trowel, spacers, grout sealer, tape measure, level, tile cutter, etc.
  • Ensure the wall surface is clean, dry, and in good repair. Fill any holes or cracks with spackle and sand smooth.

Preparing the space properly makes installation much easier.

Measuring and Planning the Layout

Take precise measurements of the backsplash area to determine the tile layout:

  • Measure the height and length of the backsplash area. Include the range hood area if tiling above the stove.
  • For a custom look, measure each section – behind stove, around windows, etc.
  • Determine the tile size and design. Include tile trim and accents like a decorative border.
  • Map the layout on paper, keeping the tile dimensions in scale.
  • Plan the tile layout so tiles fit evenly and extra cuts are minimized. Draw reference lines to follow.

Having an accurate tile plan ensures a professional looking finished backsplash.

Installing the Backsplash Tile

With your prep work complete, it’s time to install the backsplash tile:

Step 1 – Apply the Thinset Mortar

Mix and apply thinset mortar adhesive using a notched trowel. Cover only a small area at one time so the mortar doesn’t dry out.

Step 2 – Set the Backsplash Tiles

Working in small sections, press tiles firmly into place along your guideline. Use plastic spacers between tiles for even grout lines.

Step 3 – Check Alignment

Verify tiles are level and aligned as you go using a carpenter’s level and tape measure. Adjust as needed.

Step 4 – Finish and Grout

Let the thinset mortar cure fully – usually 24 hours. Mix grout and apply evenly over the tile, then clean off residue. Allow grout to dry before sealing.

Take care to lay out the tile properly and keep lines straight for the most polished look.

Tips for Cutting and Installing Backsplash Tile

Finishing touches like trimmed tiles take a backsplash to the next level:

  • Use a wet saw or tile cutter for straight cuts and a tile nipper for creating notches. Take measurements and cut carefully.
  • Cut border and accent tiles to fit around receptacles, corners, and the edges of your backsplash area.
  • When applying cut tiles, use a tile spacer to maintain even grout lines.
  • For a clean look, miter border tiles at corners rather than butting them.

Trim and accent tiles give a seamless custom finish. Consider hiring a tile professional if you are uncomfortable making detailed tile cuts.

Sealing and Caring for the Finished Backsplash

Once installation is complete, proper care keeps your backsplash looking like new:

  • Seal natural stone backsplashes with a penetrating sealer to prevent stains and etching.
  • Re-seal grout every 1-2 years. Use a sealant formulated for grout.
  • Clean tiles regularly using warm water and a pH-neutral cleaner. Avoid harsh cleansers.
  • Repair chips or cracked tiles right away with bonding adhesive to prevent damage.
  • Re-caulk where the backsplash meets the countertop as needed to prevent moisture issues.

With the right sealing and regular maintenance, your fresh new backsplash will continue brightening up your kitchen for years to come!

Frequently Asked Questions

What tools do I need to install a backsplash?

Basic tools include a tape measure, pencil, level, tile cutter, grout float, sponge, buckets, tile spacers, notched trowel, mixing paddle, grout sealer, and drop cloths. Use a wet saw for intricate tile cutting.

How is a backsplash installed on drywall?

On drywall, apply a cement backerboard first to create a water-resistant surface, fastening it securely. Thinset mortar adheres tiles to the backerboard.

Should backsplash go all the way to ceiling?

It depends on personal preference, but backsplashes typically extend 4-6 inches above countertops or to bottom of wall cabinets. Full height looks bold but requires cutting tiles around receptacles.

What color grout should I use with white subway tile?

White or very light grey grout keeps the look clean and brightens small spaces. Darker grout adds contrast around each tile for a more defined look.

How do I cut holes in tile for outlets?

Trace the outlet shape on the tile then use a rotary tool or chisel to notch out small sections until you can knock out the center hole cleanly. Finish edges with a file.


Adding a backsplash provides both style and substance to any kitchen remodel. With thoughtful planning, careful preparation, and attention to detail during installation, you can achieve beautiful results and improve kitchen function. A quality backsplash ties the whole room together. Just take it step-by-step and don’t be afraid to ask for help when needed. Before you know it, you’ll have the backsplash of your dreams!