Installing a backsplash is a great way to add visual interest and protect your walls in a kitchen or bathroom. When planning a backsplash installation, it’s important to calculate the square footage to ensure you purchase enough tile. With some simple measurements, you can easily determine the backsplash area.
Measuring Your Backsplash Area
Measuring the space is the first step in determining how to calculate backsplash square feet. Here’s what you need to do:
Measure Wall Length
Use a tape measure to measure the linear length of each wall section getting a backsplash. Measure horizontally in inches along the bottom edge where the backsplash will sit. Record the length of each section.
For example, if you have a continuous backsplash along three walls, measure and record the length of each section – Wall 1: 120 inches, Wall 2: 60 inches, Wall 3: 84 inches.
Measure Wall Height
Next, measure the height of each wall section from the counter or vanity top up to the ceiling or bottom of wall cabinets where you want the backsplash to end. Record these measurements in inches for each section.
For example: Wall 1 height: 18 inches, Wall 2 height: 18 inches, Wall 3 height: 18 inches
Calculate Total Square Inches
With the width/length and height of each section, you can now calculate the area for each wall portion getting backsplash in square inches using this formula:
Wall Length x Wall Height = Section Area (square inches)
So for our example:
Wall 1: 120 inches x 18 inches = 2,160 square inches
Wall 2: 60 inches x 18 inches = 1,080 square inches
Wall 3: 84 inches x 18 inches = 1,512 square inches
Total = 4,752 square inches
To find the total backsplash area, add up the square inch measurements for each section.
4,752 total square inches in our example.
Convert to Square Feet
To determine the quantity of backsplash tile needed, you’ll need to convert the total square inches into square feet.
There are 144 square inches in 1 square foot. To convert:
Total Square Inches / 144 = Total Square Feet
So for our example:
4,752 square inches / 144 = 33 square feet
The total backsplash area is 33 square feet.
This is the number you’ll need to calculate how many tile pieces to purchase.
Tips for Accurate Measurements
- Use a steel tape measure for best accuracy. Make sure measurements are in straight lines, not angled.
- For inside corners where two walls meet, measure along the front edge of the countertop – don’t wrap the tape around into the corner.
- Check walls for level and plumb. Adjust measurements if walls are not perfectly vertical.
- Measure from the top of the countertop or vanity to bottom of wall cabinets. For open areas without cabinets, measure to the ceiling.
- Use a yardstick or laser level to mark wall height increments for accuracy.
- Round up calculated area and convert into full square feet to allow for cutting waste and an extra tile or two.
Factors That Impact Backsplash Area
The overall size and layout of your kitchen or bath will determine the backsplash area and how many tiles are needed. Here are some things to consider:
Standard backsplash height is 4-6 inches from the counter. Full height backsplashes extend from counter to ceiling. Larger expanses of wall increase square footage.
Perimeter Spaces vs Islands
Continuous backsplashes covering all wall sections will be more area than just around a stove or sink. Island spaces usually don’t get backsplash.
Inside vs Outside Corners
Inside corners where walls meet add additional space versus flat expanses of wall. Triangular filler tiles are often needed in corners.
Outlets & Switches
Outlets, switches, and fixtures that protrude impact the amount of splash area and require tile cutting.
Niches & Shelves
Niches and floating shelves where backsplash ends reduce the overall area. Protrusions where tile ends often need trim.
Repeating patterns, mosaics, and special designs may require more tile pieces per square foot for optimal layout.
Contrasting materials in bands, trims or borders add detailing but also increase the install area/tiles needed.
How to Calculate Backsplash Tiles Needed
Once you’ve calculated your total backsplash area in square feet, determining how many tiles you need to purchase is easy:
1. Tile Size
First, check the dimensions of your selected backsplash tile. Common sizes include:
- 4.25″ x 4.25″ square tiles
- 3″ x 6″ subway tiles
- Mosaic sheets (12″ x 12″)
- Large format tiles (12″ x 24″)
Tile size is often noted in inches or centimeters width x height.
2. Tiles per Square Foot
Next, determine how many full tiles fit in 1 square foot.
To find out:
- Divide 144 square inches by the tile size square inches
For example, with 4.25″ x 4.25″ (18.06 square inch) tiles:
144 sq in / 18.06 = 8 tiles per sq ft
A 12″ x 24″ tile (288 sq in) = 0.5 tiles per sq ft
3. Multiply Tiles Needed by Area
With the tiles per sq ft for your tile size and total backsplash area, calculate total tiles:
Tiles Per Sq Ft x Total Square Feet Area = Total Tiles
For our 33 sq ft backsplash example with 4.25″ tiles:
8 tiles per sq ft x 33 sq ft = 264 tiles
Adding a Design Factor
When ordering tile, it’s smart to add a design factor percentage to account for pattern layouts and cutting waste. Common factors:
- 10-15% for simple layouts
- 15-20% for diagonal patterns
- 25%+ for mosaics and intricate designs
To add a design factor:
- Multiply base tiles needed by the factor decimal
For example, 264 tiles x 1.15 (15% factor) = 304 tiles
- Round up to full boxes based on tiles per box
If 20 tiles per box, 304 tiles would be 16 boxes
The design factor gives you extra tiles for cutting pieces to fit edges and the best pattern alignment. It’s better to have leftover tiles than to run short!
Measure Carefully, Order Accordingly
Determining and calculating backsplash square feet takes the guesswork out of how much tile to purchase. With accurate wall measurements and using the tiles per square foot formula for your specific tile size, you can find the precise area and order the right tile amount including a design factor. This helps avoid either tile shortages or over-ordering.
Be sure to calculate carefully and measure every backsplash section to achieve the gorgeous application you’re envisioning!
Planning Your Layout
Once you know the backsplash area and tiles required, think about the layout. Here are some tips for planning:
Make a Scale Drawing
Sketch your backsplash walls to scale on graph paper. Indicate all openings, protrusions and boundaries. Use tile pieces cut out to scale to try different patterns.
Design for Focal Points
Focus bold patterns or designs behind stoves, sinks or key areas. Use more simple layouts on surrounding walls.
Align with Features
Line up grout lines, patterns and designs with elements like windows, cabinets, outlets.
Balance the Room
In open concept kitchens, consider how patterns will look from living areas. Offset busy sections with calm zones.
Establish Level and Plumb Lines
Mark plumb lines on the walls to follow when installing tiles for straight, level rows. Use laser levels.
Avoid Narrow Strips
Minimum 1/3 tile width recommended. Adjust layouts to avoid super skinny cut tiles along walls.
Plan for Outlets & Switches
Decide whether to cut tiles around protruding fixtures or remove and place on tile.
Allow for Inside Corners
Offset tile layouts on adjoining walls so inside corner pieces align nicely.
Choose Grout Colors
Contrasting grout stands out. Matching grout minimizes the grid look. Consider maintenance with darker grouts.
Make cardboard templates for cutting perimeter tiles, niches and around pipes or protrusions.
Leave Expansion Joints
Leave 1/8-inch gaps between tile sections to allow for expansion and prevent cracking, peeling.
Thorough planning is key to executing a backsplash layout successfully. Take time to map it all out before tiling!
Tools and Materials Needed
Installing a kitchen or bathroom backsplash is totally doable as a DIY project. Here are the basic tools and materials you’ll need:
- Tape measure: For precise measurements
- Pencil: To mark cuts and layout on wall
- Level and straightedge: Ensure tile lines are plumb and level
- Tile cutter: Manual cutter for straight cuts
- Nippers: To nibble small pieces and curved cuts
- Wet saw: For angled, L-shaped, U-shaped cuts
- Trowel: Spread thinset adhesive evenly
- Grout float: Work grout into joints
- Sponge: Smooth and clean grout
- Bucket: Mix adhesive and grout
- Tile: Type, size, quantity calculated
- Thinset mortar: Recommended type for tile material
- Grout: Matches tile color; suitable for joints
- Backerboard: Cement, fiber cement boards
- Screws: Corrosion-resistant; backerboard screws
- Tape: Joint or fiber glass mesh tape
- Sealant: 100% silicone; matches grout
- Spacers: Ensures even grout line width
- Cleaner: Removes grout residue and haze
- Laser level
- Tile spacers
- Tile cutting jig
- Hole saw for outlets
- Edge trim pieces
- Rubber grout float
- Grout sealing product
Having the right tools and materials is key for achieving professional looking results and a long lasting installation. Invest in quality products and know how to use them correctly.
Preparing Walls and Surfaces
Proper preparation is crucial for a successful backsplash installation. Here are tips for getting wall surfaces ready for tile:
Remove all grease, soap residue, dust and grime. Degrease walls using TSP cleaner or other degreasing solutions.
Inspect and Repair
Look for any holes, cracks or flaws in the wall surface. Fill holes and smooth cracked plaster.
Eliminate any wallpaper, layers of paint or other finishes. Get down the bare substrate.
Cut cement, fiber cement or fiberglass backerboard to fit. Secure with backerboard screws to studs.
Create Plumb Lines
Use a level and laser level to mark perfectly vertical plumb lines for start points.
Apply Waterproof Sealant
Seal seams and corners in shower/tub areas with waterproof silicone.
Apply recommended primer if needed based on substrate and tile type.
Fill Any Unevenness
Level out dips, bumps or uneven areas using thinset orbackerd leveling compounds
Establish Reference Lines
Lightly snap horizontal and vertical layout lines in pencil.
Tile Over Tile
Scuff sand glossy tile before setting new tile. Use proper surface preparation.
Proper prep saves time and headaches later. Eliminate problem areas and create an optimal bonding surface for backsplash tiles.
How to Install a Tile Backsplash
Once you have all your materials and surfaces prepped, it’s time for the fun part – installing the tile! Follow these steps:
Step 1: Plan Your Layout
Dry lay tiles on the floor to visualize placement and see where cuts may need to be made.
Step 2: Mix Thinset
Prepare thinset mortar adhesive according to package directions. Let sit 5-10 minutes then remix.
Step 3: Apply Thinset
Spread thinset using trowel held at 45° angle to create ridges. Apply 1/4″ layer evenly throughout layout area.
Step 4: Place Tiles
Beginning near center, press tiles firmly into thinset starting at bottom. Use spacers between tiles.
Step 5: Check Alignment
Use straightedge along grout lines to ensure tiles are level and aligned. Adjust as needed.
Step 6: Cut Edge Tiles
Measure and cut tiles for edges and around openings using tile cutter, nippers and/or wet saw.
Step 7: Clean Excess Thinset
Remove any excess thinset along grout lines or tile edges before it dries using damp sponge.
Step 8: Allow Thinset to Cure
Let thinset cure completely – 24-48 hours. Don’t grout or expose to water before fully cured.
Step 9: Mix Grout
Prepare grout mix according to package directions. Let sit 10 minutes then remix before grouting.
Step 10: Apply Grout
Spread grout diagonally over tiles using grout float. Push into joints until completely filled.
Step 11: Clean Excess Grout
Wipe grout off tile faces using minimal water and a soft sponge in circles. Rinse sponge frequently.
Step 12: Seal Grout
Once grout has cured, apply grout sealer according to manufacturer’s directions.
Step 13: Seal Tile Surface
Apply tile sealant for added protection if recommended based on tile material.
With the right materials and careful technique, you can achieve amazing DIY backsplash results!
Tips for Grouting Backsplash Tiles
Grouting completes the backsplash installation and influences both appearance and performance. Follow these tips for optimal grouting:
Wait for Thinset to Cure
Grout only when thinset behind tiles has cured fully – 24-48 hours. Grout shrinking can cause cracks.
Use Proper Grout Type
Choose sanded or non-sanded grout based on joints size. Sanded for wider grout lines.
Follow Mixing Directions
Avoidshortcuts. Mix grout per packaging instructions. Improper mixing can weaken grout.
Apply With Grout Float
Hold float at 45° angle, squeezing grout into joints. Don’t just smear it on the tile faces.
Work in Small Sections
Grout 3-4 sq ft areas. Grout stays workable only 15-20 minutes before drying.
Pack Joints Tightly
Make sure grout fills joints fully without voids or low spots. Pack tightly.
Limit Grout Haze
Minimize water used to clean grout. Use rinse bucket and change water frequently.
Clean Grout Residue
Use soft sponge in circular motions within 20 minutes of grouting before residue dries.
Give Grout Time to Cure
Don’t expose to water for 72 hours after grouting. Curing takes time.
Apply Grout Sealer
Sealing grout helps prevent staining and makes cleaning easier long-term.
With focus and care taken during each step, grouting will complete the backsplash beautifully.
Common Backsplash Problems and Solutions
Even professional tilers run into an occasional problem. Here are some common backsplash issues and how to remedy them:
Problem: Tiles fall off wall or loosen
Solution: Insufficient thinset underneath tiles. Remove loose tiles, add more thinset, re-adhere tiles.
Problem: Tiles crack
Solution: Tile got knocked into or stressed during install. Carefully chisel out and replace cracked tile.
Problem: Grout cracking
Solution: Grout not allowed to cure before exposure to water. Re-grout affected joints after proper cure time.
Problem: Grout haze on tiles
Solution: Rest grout residue with phosphoric acid solution. Use warning and rinse thoroughly.
Problem: Efflorescence on grout
Solution: Whitish, powdery deposit from moisture in grout. Use efflorescence remover and re-seal grout.
Problem: Grout staining
Solution: Apply intensive grout stain remover. Re-seal once clean and dry.
Problem: Uneven grout lines
Solution: Carefully remove grout and re-grout joints for uniform appearance. Use spacers.
Problem: Lips at tile edges
Solution: File or grind protruding edges. Use bullnose edge tiles to avoid lips.
Paying attention during install helps avoid problems, but issues do occasionally arise. With patience and the right remedies, backsplash imperfections can usually be corrected.
Backsplash Maintenance and Care
A properly installed and sealed backsplash should provide years of beauty with minimal required maintenance. Here are some tips:
- Use warm water and mild soap for regular backsplash cleaning. Avoid harsh chemicals.
- Agitate with soft sponge or microfiber cloth. Rinse thoroughly.
- Use gentle circular scrubbing to remove dried messes.
- For stuck on food or grime, spray with household cleaner and let sit before scrubbing.
- Try baking soda paste for tough grease stains. Mix with water until paste forms.
- Use diluted bleach solution of 1/3 cup bleach per gallon of water. Rinse thoroughly.
- Many tiles can be cleaned with hydrogen peroxide or tea tree oil solution.
Avoid Harsh Chemicals
- Steer clear