How to Apply Backsplash in Your Kitchen

Installing a beautiful backsplash in your kitchen can completely transform the look and feel of the space. With the right materials and proper technique, applying a backsplash is a DIY project many homeowners can tackle. Here is a comprehensive guide on how to apply backsplash in your kitchen.

Selecting Backsplash Materials

The first step is choosing the right backsplash materials for your kitchen. Here are some of the most popular options:


Ceramic, porcelain, or natural stone tile are classic backsplash choices that are available in endless colors, sizes, textures, and patterns. Glass tile is another option that can add a beautiful, shiny accent. Tile backsplashes are durable, easy to clean, and enable lots of customization.


Metal backsplashes like stainless steel, copper, or tin can give a kitchen an edgy, industrial vibe. They are very sleek, modern options. Keep in mind metal can dent and needs to be cleaned gently.


Glass backsplashes come in different styles like subway tile or mosaic. They have a luxurious, shiny look and are smooth and easy to clean. However, glass is prone to chipping and cracks.


Natural stone like marble, granite, or slate make for dramatic, upscale backsplashes. Their rich colors and unique veining patterns add natural beauty. However, stone is quite expensive and can stain or etch.


For a warm, rustic aesthetic, wood plank backsplashes are a great choice. You can also opt for reclaimed wood for extra character. Keep in mind moisture can damage wood over time.

Once you select your material, purchase about 10-15% extra to account for broken or damaged tiles and mistakes.

Preparing the Wall Surface

After choosing your backsplash materials, proper wall prep is crucial for a successful installation. Follow these key steps:

  • Remove existing backsplash or wall covering completely. Scrape off any old tile adhesive or mortar.
  • Fill any holes or imperfections in the wall with spackle and let dry completely. Sand smooth.
  • Clean the wall thoroughly to remove grease, dirt, and soap residue.
  • If you are applying tile, hang cement backerboard per manufacturer instructions. This provides a water-resistant, stable surface.
  • Prime the surface with a tile primer or adhesive primer to improve adhesion.

Proper prep prevents backsplash tiles or materials from loosening over time.

Planning Your Layout

Now it’s time to map out your backsplash design. Here are some tips:

  • Measure the space and sketch your layout on graph paper first. Plan an even grid across the whole area.
  • Decide if you will do a full wall application or just a small focal area behind the stove.
  • Determine if you will do a pattern or decorative border. This is easier to execute if planned out.
  • Be sure to account for outlet locations, windows, cabinets and fixtures in your design.
  • For tile, plan for grout line widths in your layout spacing.

Taking time to plan the layout will make installing the backsplash materials much smoother.

Cutting and Preparing Materials

Once your backsplash design is sketched out, carefully cut and prepare your materials:

  • For tile, measure tiles and mark cuts with a tile cutter. You may need special tools for glass or stone. Use safety goggles.
  • Cut metal backsplash sheets to size with metal shears. File any sharp edges smooth.
  • Have glass tile professionally cut to size at a glass shop. Do not cut these yourself.
  • Cut wood planks to required lengths with a miter saw. Sand cut edges smooth.

Take your time with accurate cutting and prep work to prevent headaches later on. Consider having specialty materials like natural stone or glass tile professionally cut.

Applying the Adhesive

Now you’re ready to start installation. Follow these tips for applying adhesive:

  • For tile, apply a layer of thinset adhesive using a notched trowel. Comb it evenly at a 45 degree angle.
  • Only apply adhesive to areas you can cover with tile before the adhesive dries, usually just a few square feet at a time.
  • For metal or glass panels, apply silicone or construction adhesive to the back of the panels.
  • With wood planks, use construction adhesive applied in a zig-zag pattern.

Apply a uniform, even layer of adhesive over the wall surface to allow the backsplash materials to adhere properly. Don’t spread over a very large area since adhesives dry quickly.

Setting and Grouting the Tiles

If using tile, carefully set each piece into the adhesive and follow with grouting:

  • Set tiles one by one using tile spacers for even grout line widths. Gently press into the thinset.
  • Once set, wipe away any excess adhesive and allow the thinset to fully cure per manufacturer directions.
  • Mix grout with water per package directions. Apply over the tiles using a rubber grout float, pressing into joints.
  • Wipe away excess grout with a damp sponge. Let cure fully before polishing with a soft cloth.

With the tile fully set and grouted, your new backsplash is complete! Be sure to seal grout periodically.

Installing Other Materials

If using materials besides tile, follow these tips:

  • For metal, position carefully and press firmly onto the adhesive. Secure edges with silicone caulk.
  • With glass mosaic sheets, remove paper backing and press into adhesive. Caulk edges if needed.
  • For wood planks, attach to adhesive and secure edges with finishing nails. Fill nail holes with wood putty.

Always read manufacturer instructions closely for any special requirements when installing glass, metal, or other backsplash materials.

Finishing Touches

Once your main backsplash application is complete, finish with these final steps:

  • If needed, cut and apply trim pieces around edges and corners.
  • Seal natural stone with a stone sealer to prevent staining and etching.
  • Caulk all joints between the backsplash and countertops or cabinets with silicone caulk.
  • Consider applying a sealant over porous grout lines annually to protect from moisture and staining.
  • Celebrate your beautiful new backsplash installation! Enjoy the upgraded style.

With the right prep work, planning, and careful application, you can install a backsplash in your kitchen successfully. Follow these tips for optimal results. Transform your cooking space with your own gorgeous backsplash handiwork.

Frequently Asked Questions About Applying Backsplash

What tools do I need to install a backsplash?

Common tools needed are a tape measure, pencil, level, tile cutter, mixing buckets, notched trowel, grout float, sponges, tile spacers, caulking gun, and various saws or snips for cutting your particular material.

What are some beginner-friendly backsplash options?

Self-adhesive tile, faux metal or tin panels, and peel-and-stick mosaic sheets are very beginner-friendly. Always start with an easier option before tackling natural stone or glass tile.

How is a stone backsplash installed?

For a stone backsplash, use a high-quality stone adhesive suitable for the weight. Set stones carefully to avoid cracking. Travertine and limestone require extra sealing.

Can I just apply backsplash over drywall or do I need cement board?

Cement backerboard provides a more moisture-resistant base but for a small area above a stove, you may be able to apply directly to drywall. Check manufacturer guidelines.

How long does backsplash tile adhesive take to dry and cure?

Thinset dries in about 20-30 minutes but fully cures over 24-48 hours. Do not grout or expose to moisture until thinset has cured completely.


Installing a backsplash can take your kitchen design to the next level both aesthetically and functionally. With proper planning, material selection, prep work, precise cutting, and application of tiles or panels, you can achieve a successful do-it-yourself backsplash project. Follow the techniques outlined to see wonderful results that will improve your cooking space. Just take it step-by-step to install your backsplash correctly.