How to Cut Backsplash Tile Around Outlets

Installing a beautiful backsplash in your kitchen can really enhance the look and feel of the space. However, when it comes time to cut the tiles around electrical outlets, the job can suddenly seem a lot more daunting. With some careful planning and the right tools, cutting backsplash tile around outlets doesn’t have to be difficult. Here is a step-by-step guide to help you get professional-looking results.

Prepare the Outlet for Tiling

Before starting to cut and place tiles, you need to make sure the outlet is ready. Here are the key steps:

Turn Off Power and Remove Cover Plate

  • Switch off power to the outlet at the breaker box. Verify power is off by plugging in a tester or lamp.
  • Use a screwdriver to remove the cover plate screws and set aside.

Check for Any Loose Wires

  • Inspect inside the outlet box for any loose wires and re-secure if needed.

Install an Outlet Extender

  • Outlet extenders allow the outlet box to sit flush with the tile. Screw the extender into place on top of the existing outlet.

Insert Spacers

  • Spacers lift up the outlet surface to the same level as the tile. Place spacers on top of the extender.

Apply Waterproofing Membrane

  • To prevent moisture damage, waterproof the area with a membrane before tiling. Cut membrane to fit around box.

The outlet is now ready for the backsplash tiles. Next, mark and cut the tiles.

Measure and Cut the Tiles

Careful measurement and cutting are the keys to get a perfect fit:

  • Hold the tile against the wall aligned with the outlet to mark the area to cut. Use a pencil to trace the outline of the box.
  • Clamp a straightedge as a guide to cut along on the pencil line with a wet saw. Go slowly and steadily for clean cuts.
  • Test fit the cut tile around the outlet and trim as needed to get a snug fit. The tile should sit flush with the spacers.
  • Cut tiles for the top and sides in the same way using the outlet box as a guide.

Cutting the tiles patiently with precision ensures the backsplash looks seamless when installed. Avoid forcing badly cut tiles into place.

Apply Adhesive and Set the Tiles

With the tiles cut, it’s time to permanently adhere them:

  • Spread the appropriate tile adhesive evenly over the area with a notched trowel.
  • Carefully place the cut tiles around the outlet box, pressing firmly into the adhesive.
  • Place the uncut tiles above, below, and surrounding the outlet as desired.
  • Use tile spacers between tiles to get consistent grout lines.
  • Allow the adhesive to fully cure per manufacturer instructions before grouting.

Take care when pressing the cut tiles into place to avoid leaving gaps between the tiles and outlet.

Fill Grouting Lines and Finish

The final step is neatly grouting and finishing the tiles:

  • Mix the grout according to package directions. Apply evenly between tiles with a grout float or rubber grout squeegee.
  • Clean excess grout with a damp sponge in diagonal motions. Polish and haze removal may be needed as grout dries.
  • Once grout has fully cured, replace outlet cover plate and restore power.
  • If desired, apply a bead of clear silicone caulk between tile edge and outlet for extra moisture protection.

When done properly, the grout lines should form unbroken lines across the outlet, making the tile cuts practically unnoticeable.

Installing backsplash tile around a kitchen outlet takes careful prep and precision cutting, but the results are worth the effort for a flawless look. With the right tools and patience, you can achieve a professional-looking, watertight finish.

FAQ About Cutting Backsplash Tile Around Outlets

How can I get perfectly straight cuts when cutting tiles around an outlet?

Using a straightedge as a guide along with a wet saw is the best method for straight cuts. Take the time to clamp the straightedge properly and cut slowly for clean results. A tile scorer can also help score straight lines before snapping tiles.

What kind of saw should be used to cut backsplash tiles?

A wet saw with a diamond tile blade is highly recommended for most tile materials. The water prevents overheating and cools the blade while cutting. A snap tile cutter or angle grinder with a diamond blade can also work for straight cuts.

What should I put between the outlet and tile?

Outlet extenders and spacers lift the outlet box flush to the tile surface. If further moisture protection is desired, apply a thin bead of silicone caulk around the edges of the outlet where it meets the tile.

How do I prevent cracking when cutting outlet openings in tile?

Go slowly and score the tile multiple times rather than trying to cut through in one pass. For ceramic tile, cut a small 45 degree notch first at the corner to prevent cracking. Consider using a tile wet saw for cleaner cuts.

Can I tile up to a regular outlet or does it need to be a GFCI outlet?

Regular outlets can be used for backsplash installations. However, a GFCI outlet provides greater protection from shock in areas near water and is required by building codes for kitchen counters and backsplashes.


Installing a kitchen backsplash tile wall accentuates your design aesthetic. By taking precautions with the outlet and carefully measuring and cutting the tile, you can achieve striking results. The key is having patience and using the right tools for a close fit and smooth finish. With some planning and attention to detail, the average DIYer can master cutting and fitting backsplash tile around kitchen outlets. The finished look provides a major payoff, with seamless lines and a cohesive custom tile design.