How to Do a Backsplash in Your Kitchen

Adding a backsplash is an easy way to update the look of your kitchen. A backsplash protects the walls behind your countertops from water damage and stains. Tiling your backsplash can seem daunting, but with some planning and preparation, you can achieve a beautiful, professional-looking result.

Choose Your Backsplash Materials

The most common backsplash materials are:

  • Ceramic or porcelain tile – Classic, durable, and available in endless colors/patterns. Easy for DIY.
  • Glass tile – Elegant and modern. More difficult to install.
  • Natural stone – Marble, travertine, granite. High-end look but requires sealing. Heavy.
  • Metal – Stainless steel, tin, copper. Modern industrial vibe. Durable.
  • Mosaic – Small tiles create a mosaic pattern. Time consuming but artistic.

Consider the pros and cons of each type. Porcelain or ceramic tiles are probably the easiest for DIY installation. Go with a material that fits your design style.

Plan the Layout

  • Measure the area you want to cover. Account for outlets, windows, etc.
  • Draw a layout of the tile pattern. Mixing sizes and laying out a decorative pattern takes more time but looks great.
  • Buy 10-15% extra tile to account for cuts, errors, future repairs.
  • Rent a tile cutter for intricate cuts. Score and snap tiles for straight cuts.

Prepare the Surface

  • Remove existing backsplash if you have one. Scrape off old adhesive.
  • Thoroughly clean the wall area. Remove soap scum, grease, etc.
  • Fill any holes or imperfections with spackle; sand smooth.
  • Paint the wall with primer if needed to improve adhesion.

Install the Backsplash

  • Apply thinset mortar to the back of each tile with a notched trowel.
  • Press tiles into place, using spacers for consistent grout lines.
  • Work in small sections so thinset doesn’t dry before tiles are applied.
  • Cut tiles as needed with a tile cutter or wet saw. Use a grinder for detailed cuts.
  • Let mortar cure for 24 hours before grouting.

Apply the Grout

  • Mix grout according to package directions. Apply to the joints with a grout float.
  • Let it sit for 10-15 minutes; then scrub off excess grout with a damp sponge.
  • Wipe down tiles to smooth and clean grout lines. Allow to cure fully.
  • Use caulk between counter and backsplash for clean finish.

Seal and Finish

  • For natural stone, apply sealant to protect from stains.
  • If desired, apply decorative accents like tile trim or an accent strip.
  • Caulk around edges, fixtures, outlets with matching silicone caulk.
  • Clean your new backsplash; admire your handiwork!

With proper planning and care, you can install an eye-catching backsplash that will increase the beauty and function of your kitchen. The end result will be a stunning focal point you can enjoy for years to come.

Frequently Asked Questions About Backsplashes

What is the ideal height for a backsplash?

The standard backsplash height is 4 inches from the countertop, but you can customize it to your preference. Backsplashes range from 2-6 inches high usually.

How do I cut holes in tiles for outlets and switches?

Use a rotary tool or angle grinder with a diamond blade to cut accurate openings. Turn off power; remove cover plate; trace outline before cutting.

What maintenance is required for a backsplash?

Ceramic and porcelain tile require very little maintenance. Just use a gentle cleaner and re-seal grout periodically. Natural stone needs regular sealing to resist stains.

Should I hire a contractor or can I do it myself?

Installing a tile backsplash is definitely a DIY-friendly project! With proper planning and preparation, you can get professional looking results.

How do I remove an existing backsplash?

Use a putty knife or oscillating tool to scrape off old adhesive behind existing backsplash tiles. Heat with a hair dryer makes scraping easier.

What type of thinset mortar should I use?

Use white unmodified thinset for walls and areas with limited moisture. Use polymer modified thinset for floors and wet areas like behind sinks.

How long does a backsplash installation take?

Plan on 2-3 days – Day 1 for prep work, Day 2 for installation, Day 3 for grouting/finishing. Working time varies based on backsplash size.

What’s the most cost-effective backsplash option?

Ceramic or porcelain tile offers the best value. Inexpensive, durable, and easy to install. Stick to solid colors or simple patterns for quicker installation.


Installing a kitchen backsplash can take your room from boring to beautiful! With some planning and elbow grease, you can tackle this project yourself and save money in the process. Selecting the right materials and layout, proper surface preparation, careful tile installation, and finishing touches will result in a backsplash you’ll be proud to show off. Just take it slow and don’t be afraid to ask for help from experienced DIYers. Your new backsplash will bring you joy for years to come!