How to Attach a Backsplash

Adding a backsplash is an easy way to update the look of your kitchen or bathroom. A backsplash protects the walls from water damage and splashes while also providing an opportunity to add visual interest. With some planning, the right materials, and basic DIY skills, you can install a beautiful, durable backsplash in your home. This comprehensive guide will walk you through everything you need to know about how to attach a backsplash.

Choose the Right Backsplash Material

When deciding on a backsplash, there are several material options to consider including:


Tile is one of the most popular choices for backsplashes. Ceramic, porcelain, or natural stone tiles come in a vast array of sizes, shapes, colors, and textures to suit any design aesthetic. Tiles are durable, easy to clean, and relatively simple to install. Subway tile, mosaics, large format tiles, and stone tiles are some of the most common options.


Glass tile and glass sheets offer a sleek, modern look. From translucent to opaque options, colored, patterned, and even recycled glass, there are many choices. Glass is impervious to water and resists mold and mildew. However, it can be more prone to cracking or chipping than ceramic or stone.


Metal backsplashes like stainless steel, copper, brass, or aluminum provide an industrial vibe. Metal is water-resistant and durable. But regular cleaning is needed to keep the surface looking clean and minimize smudges.


Natural stone like marble, travertine, granite, or slate can create a high-end, luxurious look. But stone is porous and will need to be sealed properly. It’s also on the heavier side for DIY installation.


Wood adds natural warmth and texture. Use a moisture-resistant product like teak or avoid raw wood that can warp. Unfinished wood may require sanding and re-staining periodically.


Laminate sheets mimic materials like stone, metal, or wood. Affordable and easy to install, laminates are manmade with a plastic-like resin finish making them waterproof and durable.

Consider the style you want and your budget when choosing backsplash materials. Make sure it is suitable for the location whether it’s the kitchen, bathroom or another wet area.

Calculate How Much Backsplash You Need

Once you’ve decided on the material, determine how much you need to purchase. Measure the length and height of the backsplash area in inches. Multiply the length x height to get the square footage. This is the minimum amount needed.

It’s smart to add an extra 10-15% to allow for cuts, patterns, and waste. For tile, measure the height and width of full tiles and calculate how many you need based on square footage. Check material sizes too since glass, metal, or stone sheets may come in set dimensions.

Make a list of all materials and tools needed before going to the store. Having extra tiles or sheets allows for greater pattern and design flexibility too.

Gather Essential Tools and Materials

Installing a backsplash is largely about proper preparation. Be sure you have all the right tools and supplies before starting. Essentials include:

  • Backsplash material – tiles, glass, metal, stone, etc.
  • Backerboard – cement, acrylic, or fiber cement
  • Thinset mortar
  • Grout
  • Caulk
  • Tile spacers
  • Tile cutter and/or wet saw
  • Trowel
  • Mixing bucket
  • Notched trowel
  • Grout float
  • Grout sealer
  • Utility knife
  • Hammer
  • Level
  • Tape measure
  • Pencil
  • Safety glasses and gloves
  • Drop cloths
  • Cleaning sponges and buckets

Avoid last minute supply runs by checking you have everything on the list before installation day. This includes sufficient quantities of materials like thinset and grout which are used throughout the process.

Prepare the Surface

Prepping the installation area is crucial for proper backsplash adhesion. Follow these key steps:

Clean Thoroughly

Use soap and water to thoroughly clean the entire backsplash area. Remove any existing backsplash if present. Eliminate all grease, grime, or soap residue from the walls. Rinse and let dry completely.

Evaluate and Repair Walls

Examine walls for any damage, cracks, uneven surfaces or protrusions. Repair and fill any holes or flawed areas so the surface is as smooth as possible.

Apply Backerboard

Backerboard provides an even, water-resistant surface for backsplash installation. Cut boards to fit the space. Secure with screws to studs every 8 inches. Seal seams with mesh tape and thinset.

Cement, acrylic, or fiber cement backerboards are ideal options. Allow thinset to fully cure before continuing.

Waterproof Around Sink and Faucets

Seal all edges near the sink and faucets with silicone caulk. This prevents water getting behind the backsplash.

Prime Backerboard

Priming the backerboard helps adhesion and prevents absorption of mortar moisture which could weaken the bond. Use an appropriate tile primer following label instructions.

Install the Backsplash

Once prepped, it’s time for the fun part – installing the backsplash! Follow best practices:

Dry Fit Pieces

Do a dry layout first. Place tiles across the backerboard without applying any mortar to test your pattern. Ensure edges align evenly and make any adjustments.

Mix Thinset Mortar

In a bucket, combine thinset powder with water per package directions. Use the right trowel notch size to achieve proper mortar thickness. Notch trowels come in different depths for various size tiles.

Apply Thinset and Set Tiles

Apply a workable amount of thinset to the backerboard using the notched trowel. Press tiles firmly into the mortar, using spacers for even alignment. Check lines stay straight and level. Allow thinset to cure fully before grouting.

Cut Tiles If Needed

Use a wet saw to cut any tiles to fit edges or around outlets and fixtures. Make precise cuts so tiles fit snugly without gaps.

Grout the Joints

Push grout into the joints using a float. Wipe away excess grout with a damp sponge. Wait for grout to cure slightly and buff again to smooth. Follow package directions for best results.

Seal Grout

Once grout has fully cured, apply grout sealer. This provides protection from moisture and stains.

Finish Edges

Apply trim pieces, caulk edges, or create finished ends for a polished look. Use silicone caulk in any gaps or corners.

Taking it step-by-step ensures proper installation and adhesion. Don’t rush through the process and allow all materials to fully dry as required.

Maintain and Care for the Backsplash

Putting in the work to properly install your backsplash also means taking steps to keep it looking like new:

  • Seal natural stone backsplashes annually to prevent staining and etching.
  • Clean backsplashes frequently with pH-neutral cleaners to prevent buildup. Avoid abrasive scouring pads.
  • Use squeegees, soft cloths or newspaper to wipe excess water from backsplash surface after cleaning.
  • Re-caulk corners or edges as needed to prevent moisture penetration over time.
  • Limit direct sunlight exposure which can cause fading, especially with natural materials like stone or wood.

With the right care, your backsplash will maintain its beauty and function for many years of daily use. Protect your efforts and investment.

Tips for Perfect Results

Follow these top tips for expert outcomes on your backsplash project:

  • Choose backsplash materials that work well in wet areas and complement your décor.
  • Prepare the wall surface meticulously so tiles adhere properly long-term.
  • Gather all tools and materials ahead of time to avoid installation delays.
  • Follow manufacturer’s instructions for mortars, grouts, and sealers.
  • Apply materials evenly and smoothly. Check level and plumb lines constantly.
  • Allow proper dry and cure times between steps for strongest bonds.
  • Cut tiles and natural materials carefully to avoid cracking or damage.
  • Work methodically and don’t rush the job. neatly installed with no corners cut.
  • Clean and seal the finished backsplash to maintain its beauty and function.

With attention to detail and patience, you can achieve stunning results installing a backsplash yourself. The extra effort is well worth it.

Common Backsplash Questions

Updating your kitchen or bath with a fresh backsplash? Here are answers to some frequently asked installation questions:

How long does it take to install a backsplash?

The time needed depends on the size of the area and your skill level. Allow 2-3 days for most DIYers for a full prep, install, and grout for an average kitchen backsplash. Larger or more intricate tile layouts can take longer.

Should backsplashes go all the way to the ceiling?

Not necessarily. Standard backsplash height is 4 inches above countertops or about 18-24 inches high. Higher backsplashes protect more of the wall but also limit light. Full height is recommended behind ranges or very wet areas.

How do I cut glass backsplash sheets?

Use a wet saw with a diamond blade designed for glass. Mark cuts precisely and go slowly to avoid cracking or chipping the glass. Use eye and ear protection.

Can backsplashes be installed over existing tile?

You can, but it’s better to remove old tile completely. Thinset adheres much better to bare backerboard rather than trying to bond layers of tile.

Should backsplashes match countertops?

Coordination looks best, but contrasts can be striking too. Samples help visualize relationships between countertop and backsplash patterns and colors.

What’s the most waterproof backsplash material?

Glass, metal, and well-sealed stone are water-impermeable. Water-resistant backerboard also helps prevent moisture penetration behind the backsplash.

How do I cut a hole in my backsplash for an outlet?

Mark the exact location. Use a rotary tool or very sharp utility knife to cut the hole. Take your time and be cautious not to crack tile. The outlet cover plate will hide imperfections.

Get Inspired Choosing a Backsplash Design

The options are nearly endless when picking a backsplash look for your kitchen or bath. Consider these backsplash design ideas to get inspired:

Play with Patterns

Subway, herringbone, hexagon, and chevron tile arrangements pack visual punch. Contrasting grout color adds even more interest. Patterns can be traditional or modern depending on tile style.

Explore Texture

3D tile, handmade tile, pebble mosaics, stone slabs, and clever mixes of materials like metal, wood, and glass all add depth. Layer textures for a dynamic look.

Go Neutral

Low-key neutral backsplashes ground busy countertops or cabinets. Stick with soft beiges, whites, gray shades, or natural stone for an understated style. Polished metal like stainless or chrome gives sheen without color.

Embrace Color

Bright or vibrant backsplash tile introduces bold color. Consider navy, emerald, ruby tones or playful pastels. Complementary or contrasting grout boosts the effect.

Focus on Shape

Non-square shapes like hexagons, fish scales, circles, diamonds, and chevrons create visual interest. Penny tiles, subway tiles, and mosaics also direct the eye. Use shape to enhance the backsplash design.

Install Artfully

Brick, stack bond, or ashlar layouts offer straight-edged options beyond basic grid patterns. Or get artsy designing a mosaic, mixing materials creatively, or purposefully varying grout color.

Mix Materials Why choose one backsplash material when you can use two or more? Pair metal and glass or natural stone with ceramic tile. Wood with stone or metal is also striking. The combinations are unlimited.

Feature an Accent

Make the backsplash the focal point by installing an attention-getting accent. Frame the range hood with exotic tile or display a colorful mosaic. Run metal, marble, or glass sheets up part of the wall only.

Backsplashes are the perfect place to exhibit personal style. Browse images online or in design magazines to discover ideas that reflect your taste. Then make it uniquely yours.

Backsplash Installation: Step-by-Step

If you’re a DIYer tackling a backsplash installation for the first time, having a step-by-step guide can help ensure success. Follow these key steps:

1. Select Backsplash Material

Choose your backsplash tile, sheet material, or a combination of products that suit your design vision and budget. Order extra to allow for cuts and waste.

2. Gather Supplies

Obtain all tools, backerboard, thinset, grout, trim pieces and sealants needed for the project. Don’t forget safety gear like gloves and eye protection.

3. Prep the Walls

Clean thoroughly, fill any holes, remove protrusions, repair flaws, and install backerboard cut to size. Seal sink and fixture edges.

4. Apply Thinset

Follow package directions to mix thinset mortar with water to a workable consistency. Spread evenly using a notched trowel.

5. Set the Tiles

Carefully place your tiles into the prepared thinset starting at the bottom. Use spacers to align. Press firmly so tiles adhere properly.

6. Grout the Joints

Let thinset cure fully according to the timeframe on the package before grouting. Pack grout thoroughly into joints.

7. Clean Up

Wipe away excess grout gently with a damp sponge. Rinse sponges frequently to avoid pulling grout out of joints. Allow to cure before buffing again.

8. Seal & Finish

Apply grout sealer once cured to protect from moisture and stains. Install trim pieces, caulk edges and enjoy your backsplash!

Following the sequence step-by-step helps novice DIYers complete a successful, long-lasting backsplash installation. Take your time and don’t skip any phases.

Avoiding Pitfalls Installing Backsplashes

While backsplashes can give kitchens or bathrooms a whole new look, first-timers may encounter some common challenges. Be prepared to avoid these potential pitfalls:

Lack of Planning

Insufficient planning and not having all materials purchased ahead of time can delay your backsplash installation. Make detailed plans and supply lists.

No Backerboard

Installing tile without proper backerboard often leads to failure, cracks or loose tiles over time. Never apply tile directly to drywall.

Sloppy Prep Work

Rushing prep steps like not fully cleaning walls, sealing poorly, or omitting primer can affect adhesion. Proper prep is vital.

Incorrect Materials

Using the wrong mortar, grout, or non-waterproof backerboard can result in damage or mold growth. Double check that all materials meet project needs.

Uneven Tiles

Carefully monitoring alignment and using spacers creates straight joints. Check often for level as you place tile. Remove and adjust out-of-line pieces promptly.

Disregarding Cure Times

Allowing thinset mortar and grout to fully cure before moving between steps creates the strongest bonds and driest joints. Don’t rush.

Gaps in Coverage

Make sure tiles fit snug with no gaps and fully cover the entire backsplash area, even around outlets, corners or edges. Precision cutting prevents gaps.

Sloppy Grout Application

Grout creates polished finished joints, but incorrect technique like applying too much or not fully packing it into spaces leads to cracks or holes. Grout neatly.

With thorough planning and patience, even first-timers can master challenges and have their backsplash turn out picture perfect.

Achieving a Flawless Backsplash Look

Beyond the basic installation steps, employing these pro tips will take your backsplash from ordinary to extraordinary:

Mix Tile Sizes

Varying the sizes and shapes of tiles adds interest. Combine mosaics, 4×4 tiles, longer subway tile, and different proportions.

Optimally Use Natural Materials

Carefully inspect stone or wood pieces and strategically place any with imperfections in less visible spots. Highlight the best ones.

Choose Premium Materials

Higher quality tiles and materials hold up better long term and allow for tighter joints. They also tend to have more uniform sizing and color consistency.

Account for Outlets

Precisely measure outlet locations on the wall. Cut tiles to fit neatly around them or incorporate outlets into the design.

Include Decorative Accents

Frame the range hood with an ornamental border or turn your focal point niche or shelves into a mosaic work of art. Patterns add polish.

Contrast Grout Colors

Matching grout to tile minimizes the grid look. Contrasting grout makes it pop. Consider darker grout with lighter tile or vice-versa.

Illuminate Properly

Ensure adequate lighting so backsplash details stand out. Spotlights, under-cabinet lighting or pendant lights enhance the workmanship.

With thoughtful design choices and quality materials, you can install a head-turning, magazine-worthy backsplash in your home. Make it a showstopper.

Backsplash Maintenance Tips

Once your backsplash is installed, proper care is essential. Follow these maintenance tips:

  • Seal grout and natural stone annually. Re-seal if water beads up instead of absorbing.
  • Use mild, pH-neutral cleaners. Avoid bleach, vinegar, ammonia or abrasive products.
  • Rinse backsplash thoroughly after cleaning. Wipe away standing water to prevent streaks.
  • If grout gets stained, apply a grout pen or whitener to refresh the color.
  • Recaulk corners, edges near the sink or fixtures if gaps appear. Match original caulk color.
  • Limit exposure to grease splatters which can stain grout. Use splash guards when cooking. Clean up spills quickly.