How to Apply Backsplash Tile in Your Kitchen

Installing a backsplash in your kitchen can transform the look and feel of the space. Backsplashes not only provide an attractive, easy-to-clean surface behind appliances and countertops, but they can also add visual interest and personality to your kitchen’s design. With some planning, patience, and the right materials, you can create a stunning backsplash tile design for your kitchen.

Gather Your Materials

Before starting your project, you’ll need to purchase or gather all of the necessary materials. Here’s what you’ll need:

  • Tiles: Ceramic, porcelain, glass, and stone tile are popular options. Make sure to purchase enough to cover your backsplash area with a little extra to allow for cuts and errors.
  • Tile adhesive: Choose an adhesive suitable for your tile and wall material. Many standard adhesives work for a variety of surfaces.
  • Grout: Grout fills in the seams between tiles. Choose a grout color that complements your tile.
  • Trowel: Used to spread the tile adhesive evenly. Choose a notched trowel suitable for your tile size.
  • Spacers: Small plastic crosses keep tile spaced evenly.
  • Tile cutter: Cuts ceramic, porcelain or stone tiles to size.
  • Grout float: For smoothing and spreading grout between tiles.
  • Sponge: For wiping excess grout off the tiles.
  • Sealer: Protects grout from stains.
  • Safety gear: Gloves, eye protection, knee pads.

Before you start, make sure your wall surface is clean, dry, and free of old adhesive, grease or damage. Fill any holes or cracks with filler.

Plan Your Tile Layout

Take measurements of the backsplash area and sketch out a plan for the tile layout. This will help you determine how many full tiles you need and where cuts may be required.

  • Mark the lower and upper limits for the backsplash on the wall.
  • Measure the length and height of the backsplash area.
  • Draw a sketch of the wall layout showing tile placements.
  • Dry fit a few tiles and spacers on the countertop to visualize placement.

Consider the tile pattern and orientation that works best. A basic brick pattern with a centre focal point is a popular arrangement. Mixing tile sizes, textures and colors can add interest.

Prepare the Surface

Ensure the wall surface is ready for tiling by following these steps:

  • Thoroughly clean the wall area with a cleanser to remove dirt and oils. Rinse well and let dry.
  • Sand glossy paint and allow to dry. This allows the adhesive to bond properly.
  • Fill any cracks, holes or uneven areas using a patching compound. Allow to dry completely.
  • Mark reference lines on the wall using a level to guide the first row of tile.

Priming the surface helps the tile adhesive adhere and prevents absorption into porous surfaces like drywall. Use a primer formulated for tile.

Spread the Adhesive

Start by spreading a thin layer of tile adhesive on a small section of the wall using a notched trowel held at a 45-degree angle.

  • Spread only enough adhesive that tiles can be set before the adhesive skins over.
  • Use the trowel notches to create ridges of even depth and consistency.
  • If the adhesive skins over, scrape off and re-apply fresh adhesive.
  • Consult the adhesive directions as drying times vary by product.

Too little adhesive will weaken the bond and allow tiles to slip. Too much will squeeze out between tiles and be difficult to remove later.

Set the Tiles

Once the adhesive is ready, it’s time to set the tiles. Follow these tips for proper placement:

  • Set tiles in the pattern established during planning. Use spacers to maintain even grout lines.
  • Press tiles firmly into the adhesive with a slight twisting motion. Use a rubber mallet if needed.
  • Immediately remove any adhesive that squeezes up using a damp cloth.
  • Check tiles for level and alignment as you go using a spirit level or straight edge.
  • Cut border and filler tiles using a tile cutter for a precise fit. Use edge spacers to align.
  • Let tile adhesive cure for 24-48 hours before grouting unless directions state otherwise.

Take care setting your first row level and straight as this establishes the alignment for the other tiles. Work in sections to avoid adhesive drying before tiles are set.

Apply Grout Between Tiles

Once the tile adhesive has fully cured, it’s time to grout. Follow these steps:

  • Apply grout using a rubber grout float, forcing it deeply into joints. Hold the float at a 45° angle and scrape diagonally across tiles.
  • Let the grout sit for 5-10 minutes. Then scrub it again diagonally with the float to remove excess.
  • Use a damp grout sponge in a circular motion to smooth joints and shape grout evenly. Rinse the sponge frequently.
  • Allow grout to dry for an hour. Then polish the tiles with a clean, dry cloth.
  • Once dry, apply grout sealer following product directions to protect from stains.

Take care to fully grout joints without leaving gaps or low spots. Wipe tiles diagonally to prevent dragging grout out of joints.

Final Steps

Once your grout has cured, your new backsplash is ready for use! Here are some final recommendations:

  • Use caulk to fill any joints between the countertop and tiles, or tile and wall.
  • If replacing a cooktop or range hood, install the appliance slightly overlapping the backsplash.
  • Consider sealing natural stone or porous tiles for added protection and easier cleaning.
  • Love your new backsplash! Enjoy the stylish focal point it adds to your kitchen.

With proper planning and careful technique, you can install a tile backsplash that enhances your kitchen for years to come. Don’t be afraid to add your own creative touches like mosaics, borders or banding.

Frequently Asked Questions

How do I cut tiles for outlets or fittings?

Use a rotary tool with a ceramic blade to carefully cut custom notches or openings for outlets, faucets, etc. Turn off power while working around electrical.

What spacing should I leave between tiles?

Tile spacers are commonly 1/16″ to 1/8″ thickness for a uniform grout joint of that width. The joint size should match the tile edge.

Can I apply tile over existing backsplash?

Old ceramic tile and backerboard can be tiled over. Drywall should be primed first. Remove anything loose or damaged.

How long does tile adhesive take to cure?

Adhesive cure times vary widely by product and can range from 24-48 hours to up to 7 days or longer. Check manufacturer directions.

What’s the difference between sanded and unsanded grout?

Sanded grout has fine sand particles and is used for grout lines wider than 1/8”. Unsanded is finer and used for narrow grout lines.


Installing tile on your kitchen backsplash can give it a stylish, eye-catching focal point and sleek, easy-to-clean finish. With some careful prep work, the right tools, and these step-by-step instructions, you can achieve a stunning DIY backsplash project. Tiling does take time and precision, but the results are well worth the effort. Just take it slow, double-check your work, and don’t be afraid to get creative with patterns, textures and colors. Your new backsplash can be a lifelong kitchen highlight.