How to Add a Backsplash

Adding a backsplash is an easy and affordable way to update the look of your kitchen or bathroom. A backsplash protects the walls behind sinks, stoves, and countertops from water damage while also providing an opportunity to add visual interest. With some planning, the right materials, and basic DIY skills, you can install an eye-catching backsplash in your home.

Choosing a Backsplash Material

When selecting a material for your backsplash, consider aspects like budget, ease of installation, maintenance, and aesthetics. Some top options include:


Tile allows for endless design possibilities. Ceramic, porcelain, glass, and stone tile are durable, easy to clean, and available in a huge range of colors, textures, shapes, and styles. Drawbacks include potential grout staining and the need to seal natural stone.


Metal backsplashes like stainless steel, copper, or tin add modern style. Metal is water-resistant, durable, and easy to clean. Look for pre-cut metal sheets or metal tiles. Metal can show scratches over time.


Glass tile provides brilliant color effects. The glossy surface is impervious to water and simple to clean. Glass tile is more delicate than ceramic or stone. Opt for smaller mosaic sheets rather than large glass tiles.


Natural stone like marble, slate, or travertine brings elegance. Stone offers natural beauty but requires more maintenance. Sealing is essential to prevent staining and etching. Limit stone to low-traffic zones.


Wood infuses warmth and texture. Moisture-resistant boards like teak or bamboo work best. Expect some swelling and shrinking. Touch up with waterproof sealers. Keep wood away from direct water contact.


Vinyl tiles offer an inexpensive, waterproof option. Peel-and-stick vinyl tiles allow fast application. Drawbacks include less durability and a lower-end look. Use extra adhesive and limit vinyl to dry areas only.

How to Choose a Backsplash Layout

Once you select the primary backsplash material, consider the layout. Opt for full coverage across the entire back wall or use geometric shapes, staggering rows, or mosaic sheets to create visual interest. Here are some backsplash design ideas:

  • Full wall coverage: Covering the entire back wall creates a bold, seamless look. This works well with natural stone or ceramic tile.
  • Geometric patterns: Use geometric shapes like circles, hexagons, or subway tiles to add modern style. Mix and match sizes and colors.
  • Staggered bricks: Staggering the rows of rectangular ceramic or glass tiles creates dimension. Vary grout colors for added contrast.
  • Mosaic sheets: Mosaic tiles give the look of handmade crafts. Combine small mosaic sheets with larger field tiles.
  • Accent strips: Use glass, metal, or stone inserts to border countertops or frame the range. This highlights zones without heavy investment.
  • Eclectic mix: Combine materials like combining stone, metal, and glass tile for an eclectic look. Plan colors and textures carefully.

How to Select a Backsplash Height

Most backsplashes extend 4 to 6 inches above the countertop surface. Building codes specify electrical outlets be placed 18 to 24 inches above the counter. Make sure your backsplash height allows for electrical outlets.

For a full impact, consider extending the backsplash to the underside of wall cabinets. This gives a built-in look. For taller expanses like behind ranges, a full wall-height backsplash prevents spills and stains.

Measure the height of countertops, outlets, and cabinets. Calculate the desired backsplash height based on those dimensions and aesthetics.

How to Prepare for Installation

Proper planning prevents problems down the road. Follow these steps to prep for backsplash installation:

Clean Surfaces

Thoroughly clean the installation area. Remove existing backsplashes or wall materials. Eliminate grease, soap residue, and dust so the backsplash adheres properly.

Gather Supplies

Assemble all required materials before starting. This includes backsplash tile, mortar and grout, trowels, spacers, grout sealer, tile cutter, etc. Verify quantities against measurements.

Establish Layout

Dry lay the pattern on a flat surface as a test run. Measure and mark the installation location. For mosaic sheets, map out spacing. Adjust design as needed.

Protect Surfaces

Mask off countertops, cabinets, and floors with painter’s tape and drop cloths. Prevent contact with water, adhesive, grout, and sealers. Trim excess tape after completing the job.

Turn Off Electricity

Shut off power to outlets in the backsplash area. Take extra precaution when working around kitchen or bathroom electrical. Never work on “hot” outlets.

How to Install a Tile Backsplash

Assuming suitable prep work, follow these steps for proper tile backsplash installation:

Step 1: Apply Mortar

Use a notched trowel to spread thinset mortar evenly across the surface. Apply only 1-2 square feet at a time to prevent premature drying. Press firmly to adhere mortar.

Step 2: Mount Backsplash Tiles

Arrange tiles on the prepared surface according to your pre-planned design. Use plastic spacers between tiles for consistent grout lines. Gently press and wiggle each tile to affix it.

Step 3: Check Alignment

Periodically step back during installation to verify consistent spacing and proper alignment. Make adjustments quickly before mortar dries. Honor planned grout line widths.

Step 4: Cut to Fit

Measure and mark tiles that require trimming or cutting around outlets, corners, etc. Carefully score and snap tiles or use a wet saw for clean cuts. Grind cut edges smooth.

Step 5: Let Mortar Dry

Allow the mortar to fully cure behind the tiles according to manufacturer directions, usually 24-48 hours. Tiles must be immobile before applying grout.

Step 6: Mix and Apply Grout

Prepare grout per package instructions. Apply grout diagonally across tiles to fill joints. Use a rubber grout float or squeegee to spread smoothly and pack tightly.

Step 7: Wipe Away Excess Grout

Allow grout to partially dry for 5-10 minutes. Use a damp sponge to gently wipe diagonally across tiles to remove excess grout from tile surfaces. Rinse sponge frequently.

Step 8: Seal Grout

Once grout has dried 24 hours, apply grout sealant. This prevents staining and discoloration. Sealants come in spray-on and brush-on formulas. Allow sealant to dry completely.

Step 9: Seal Natural Stone (If Using)

For natural stone tiles, apply penetrating stone sealer according to manufacturer directions. Reapply sealer at regular intervals for ongoing protection.

With proper materials and careful technique, it’s possible for a motivated DIYer to achieve professional-looking results! Always enlist help for structural changes, complex designs, or unfamiliar work.

How to Install a Metal Backsplash

Metal backsplashes require slightly different installation techniques:

Step 1: Mark and Cut Metal

Measure surface area and mark metal sheet cuts with painter’s tape. Use tin snips for straight cuts and a rotary tool for curves. File any rough edges.

Step 2: Clean and Apply Adhesive

Thoroughly clean back wall and metal backsplash. Apply construction adhesive to back wall using a notched trowel. Follow directions for open times.

Step 3: Mount and Press Metal Sheet

Align metal sheet to marks and carefully press onto adhesive. Use a J-roller to firmly adhere entire sheet. Don’t allow adhesive to dry or skin over.

Step 4: Secure With Screws

Drill pilot holes every 4-6 inches. Secure metal with corrosion-resistant screws, against studs when possible. Wipe away any excess adhesive.

Step 5: Seal Metal (Optional)

For added protection on copper, stainless steel, or aluminum, apply a thin metal sealant. This prevents oxidation and enhances water resistance.

Metal backsplashes make a contemporary design statement. With careful prep and installation, they provide a durable accent for years.

How to Install a Laminate Backsplash

Laminate sheets offer an affordable and user-friendly backsplash option. Here are the install steps:

Step 1: Dry Fit Laminate

Measure space and dry fit laminate pieces to ensure proper fit. Mark and trim as needed with a utility knife and straightedge.

Step 2: Clean Surfaces

Clean laminate and back wall thoroughly to promote adhesion. Remove any existing backsplash. Fill any uneven spots on the wall.

Step 3: Apply Adhesive

Spread 100% silicone adhesive on the back of the laminate using a putty knife. Follow open time directions. Apply contact cement to wall.

Step 4: Mount Backsplash

Carefully align laminate sheet on installation area. Press and hold securely for 60 seconds. Use J-roller to adhere fully.

Step 5: Seal Edges

Apply thin bead of silicone caulk along all seams and edges. Smooth with fingertip for finished look. Allow caulk to fully cure before use.

Laminate backsplashes provide a maintenance-free, custom look. Combine multiple laminate sheets to complete the project.

Backsplash Installation Tips

  • Carefully review manufacturer instructions for all materials and tools for proper use.
  • Acclimate tiles before installing by placing in installation area 1-2 days prior.
  • Work in small sections for easier handling, especially for first-timers.
  • Wear eye and ear protection when cutting tile or using power tools.
  • Let adhesives and grout fully cure before use per directions. Do not wet prematurely.
  • Always mix grout and mortar to exact package specifications for best results.
  • Expect some tile cuts and waste. Order 10% extra tile to allow for breakage and custom cuts.
  • Keep spare tiles and grout for future repairs. Record batch numbers to match grout color.

Backsplash Maintenance Tips

  • Seal grout and natural stone annually to lock out stains. Reapply as directed.
  • Clean backsplash with mild soap and water. Avoid harsh chemical cleaners.
  • Ensure backsplash area dries completely after cleaning to prevent mildew growth.
  • Prevent scratches and damage by avoiding abrasive scrub pads. Use soft cloth instead.
  • Re-caulk seams or grout lines as needed to prevent moisture penetration.
  • Address cracks, gaps, loose tiles, or grout right away to avoid bigger problems.

Frequently Asked Questions About Adding a Backsplash

What tools do I need to install a backsplash?

Common tools include a tape measure, level, tile cutter, mixing buckets, notched trowel, grout float, spacers, caulk gun, sponges, utility knife, markering pen, and silicone sealant. Always wear safety glasses and gloves.

Should I remove existing backsplash first?

It is generally best to remove the old backsplash completely to provide a smooth, clean surface for the new installation. Use a putty knife or oscillating tool to safely remove the old backsplash.

How do I cut holes in tile for outlets?

Use a rotary tool or ceramic wet saw to cut accurate holes that align with the outlet. Make multiple passes to cut the outlet hole instead of one pass to avoid cracking tile. Finish raw tile edges with silicone sealant.

Should I seal natural stone backsplash?

Yes, sealing is highly recommended for any natural stone like marble, travertine, or slate. The sealant penetrates pores to prevent staining and etching. Reapply sealer every 1-2 years.

How do I remove tough stains from grout lines?

Use an oxygen bleach cleaner formulated for grout. Apply with a soft bristle grout brush and allow to dwell for 5 minutes. Rinse thoroughly. Avoid harsh chemicals like chlorine bleach.

Can I install a backsplash around electrical outlets?

Yes, with care. Always turn off electrical to the outlets before work begins. Use an oscillating tool to cut outlet holes in tile. Consult an electrician if unsure about electrical work.

How long does it take to install a backsplash?

The timeline varies significantly based on the scope of work. Simple peel-and-stick application may only take a few hours. Tiling a full wall with multiple materials could take 2-3 days for a DIYer.

Should I use a contractor to install backsplash?

For straightforward laminate or beginner tile projects, DIY is often achievable. Contractors are recommended for complex designs, novice installers, or structural changes to ensure proper installation.


Installing a backsplash transforms the look and function of a kitchen or bath. With smart planning, careful prep, and proper technique, DIYers can execute beautiful, on-trend backsplashes that protect walls from daily wear and tear. Always use quality materials and safety precautions. Enlist help from a tile pro for tricky layouts or electrical work. With some patience and dedication, you can gain the satisfaction and cost savings of a custom backsplash you installed yourself.