How to Add Tile Backsplash

Adding a tile backsplash is a great way to update the look of your kitchen or bathroom. Tiling your backsplash can protect your walls from water damage, add visual interest, and give your space a high-end, finished look. With some planning and the right materials, installing a tile backsplash is a DIY project that most homeowners can tackle.

Choose Your Tile

There are endless options when it comes to selecting tile for your backsplash. Ceramic, porcelain, glass, and natural stone tiles all make great choices. Consider the overall look you want to achieve, your budget, and how much maintenance you are willing to put in when choosing tile. Mosaics made up of small tile pieces are a popular backsplash option that create a lot of visual impact. Larger format tiles like subway tile are classic and clean-lined. Make sure to choose a tile that has a water absorption rate of less than 3% so that it can withstand use in a wet area.

Porcelain or Ceramic Tile

These classic tiles work well for backsplashes. Choose glazed, semi-glazed, or unglazed finishes. Porcelain is more durable and water-resistant.

Glass Tile

Glass tile can be opaque, translucent, or transparent. It comes in an endless array of colors. Use iridescent glass tile to create a focal point.

Metal Tile

Metal backsplashes add contemporary style. Copper and stainless steel are popular choices. Make sure to get tile with a durable finish.

Natural Stone Tile

Marble, travertine, and granite backsplashes can be very elegant. Make sure to seal natural stone to prevent staining and discoloration.

Gather Your Materials

Once you have settled on the perfect tile for your backsplash, gather the rest of the supplies you will need:

  • Tile adhesive
  • Grout
  • Grout sealer
  • Tile spacers
  • Tile cutter
  • Mixing bucket
  • Tile trowel
  • Grout float
  • Sponge
  • Caulk
  • Tile nippers
  • Safety gear – gloves, goggles, mask

Make sure to get high-quality thinset mortar adhesive suited for wall installation. Get an additive to increase adhesion if installing heavy tile like natural stone. Get sanded grout for joints wider than 1/8 inch or unsanded grout for smaller tiles.

Prep the Area

Thoroughly cleaning and prepping the installation area is crucial for a successful long-lasting backsplash.

  • Remove any old backsplash and thoroughly clean the wall.
  • Fix any damage to the wall surface. Fill holes and smooth uneven areas.
  • Apply painter’s tape around the edges of the installation area.
  • Mark a level line on the wall 2-3 inches up from the countertop. This will serve as your starting point.
  • Apply thinset to the backsplash area using a notched trowel, evenly coating up to the level line.

Lay the Tile

Once your prep work is complete, you are ready to start setting the tile.

  • Begin in a corner at the base level line. Press tiles into the adhesive firmly.
  • Use spacers between tiles to get consistent grout lines.
  • Cut tiles as needed to fit edges and openings using a wet saw or tile cutter.
  • Let the thinset cure fully before moving on to grouting. This often takes 24 hours.

Apply the Grout

Grout fills the spaces between the tiles with a waterproof material to finish the installation.

  • Mix the grout according to package directions. Apply it over the surface, pushing it into grout lines.
  • Let it set slightly and then scrub excess grout off the surface.
  • Clean any remaining grout haze off with a damp sponge.
  • Allow the grout to fully cure per manufacturer instructions before sealing it.
  • Apply grout sealer to protect from moisture and staining.

Finish and Maintain Your Backsplash

Apply a bead of caulk between the countertop and backsplash. Clean your new backsplash well and seal it annually to protect it. Enjoy your updated space!

FAQs about Adding a Tile Backsplash

How difficult is it to install a tile backsplash?

Installing a tile backsplash is considered an intermediate DIY project. With some experience with tiling and proper preparation, most homeowners can install their own backsplash over a weekend.

What tools do I need to install a backsplash?

You will need basic tiling tools like a tile cutter, trowels, spacers, grout float, sponges, and buckets. Safety gear like gloves, goggles, and a mask are also recommended.

What surface should I install tile backsplash on?

Backsplashes should be installed on clean, dry wallboard or cement backerboard. Surfaces like plywood or plaster need special preparation. Never tile over existing ceramic tile.

How are tile backsplashes finished on the edges?

The edges of the backsplash should be caulked where they meet the countertop or cabinetry. Bullnose edge tiles or metal trim can provide a straight finished edge.

How much does a tile backsplash cost?

The cost of a tile backsplash varies widely based on material choice. Budget $3-5 per square foot for simple ceramic tile, or $15-30 per square foot for more luxurious materials like natural stone or glass.


Installing a tile backsplash can take your kitchen or bathroom from drab to dramatic. With some careful planning and prep work, this is a DIY project well within the means of many homeowners. Choosing your ideal tile style and colors can update the look of your space and provide a durable, easy-to-clean focal point. Follow best practices for surface preparation, tile setting, and grouting to ensure your new backsplash stands the test of time. With a weekend of work, you can transform your home with this simple upgrade.