How to Do a Backsplash Kitchen


A kitchen backsplash serves both form and function – it protects your walls from splashes and stains while providing an opportunity to add visual interest to your kitchen. Installing a backsplash may seem daunting, but with some planning and preparation, it can be an easy DIY project. This comprehensive guide will walk you through everything you need to know to successfully install a beautiful, functional kitchen backsplash.

Planning Your Backsplash

Before you start demolition, take the time to think through your backsplash design. With some forethought, you can create a look that perfectly suits your taste and kitchen style.

Choosing a Backsplash Material

You have lots of options when it comes to backsplash materials. Consider the pros and cons of each before deciding which is right for your kitchen:

  • Ceramic tile – Glazed ceramic and porcelain tiles are durable, easy to clean, and come in endless colors, sizes, shapes and textures. However, grout lines can get grimy.
  • Glass tile – Made from recycled glass, these tiles have a sleek, shiny appearance. The downside is they can be prone to cracking and may need special drill bits for cutting.
  • Metal tile – Typically made from stainless steel or tin, metal tiles are extremely durable and modern. But they can dent and the material is prone to fingerprints.
  • Stone tile – Natural stone like marble, travertine, and granite make a luxe statement. But the material is porous and requires more maintenance.
  • Mosaic tile – Tiny mosaic tiles pack visual punch. But grout lines may be hard to keep clean.
  • Subway tile – Classic rectangular ceramic tiles are affordable and easy to install. But the look can be a bit plain.
  • Peel-and-stick – Vinyl tiles with adhesive backing provide an affordable and approachable DIY option. But they are less durable long-term.

Consider your budget, kitchen style, ease of installation, and how much maintenance you’re willing to do when choosing a backsplash material.

Selecting the Area to Cover

Typically, backsplashes are installed on the wall between countertops and kitchen cabinets. But you can also do full wall-height backsplashes or backsplashes around sink windows. Decide how much wall space to cover with your backsplash.

For a standard backsplash, run tile from countertops to bottom of upper cabinets. Measure to find out the height and length needed.

Be sure to also check for outlets, windows, and cabinets that may impact your install. Pay attention to uneven walls and corners as well.

Choosing a Design

With your backsplash area squared away, it’s time to choose a design. Consider complementary colors, interesting shapes, and varying tile sizes to create visual intrigue. Here are some backsplash design tips:

  • Stick with a minimalist monochromatic palette or boldly experiment with colorful mosaics – either can work beautifully.
  • Use mosaic tiles or small tile sizes to make a narrow kitchen feel more expansive.
  • Large tiles like subway tile can give a more seamless look on a expansive backsplash.
  • Incorporate design accents like decorative tiles, medallions, or borders to add style.
  • Tile around windows in a coordinating design to create impact.

Sketch out design ideas before purchasing tile to confirm you have the right quantities. Don’t be afraid to get creative!

Preparing for Installation

Once you’ve settled on backsplash specifications, shift your focus to prep work. Proper preparation prevents problems down the road.

Gather Supplies

You’ll need the following supplies for installation:

  • Tile and any decorative tile accents
  • Mortar or mastic adhesive
  • Grout
  • Grout sealer
  • Tile spacers
  • Tile cutter and/or wet saw
  • Trowel
  • Mixing bucket
  • Tile nippers
  • Safety gear – gloves, goggles, knee pads
  • Cleaning sponges & buckets

Shop for specialtyity cutting or drilling tools if using glass or metal tile. Ensure you have adequate quantities of all materials before starting.

Protect Surrounding Surfaces

Use painter’s tape and rosin paper to mask off countertops, floors, and other surfaces surrounding the backsplash. This keeps them free of mortar and grout mess during the installation process.

Cover floors with drop cloths in case any debris falls outside the backsplash area. Remove cabinet doors and drawers if needed to fully access the backsplash space during install.

Prep and Clean Walls

Ensure underlying walls are structurally sound and free of moisture damage before tiling. Repair any problem areas.

Use sandpaper or a deglosser to scuff and dull glossy paint. This helps mortar and tiles adhere properly.

Thoroughly clean walls and remove any grime or existing wallpaper adhesive. Let walls dry completely so tiles adhere well.

Layout Your Tile

Do a dry layout before installation to ensure your planned design will work. Place tiles on the floor in their intended arrangement, adjusting spacing as needed.

Measure from the center to ensure your layout is balanced. Adjust pattern repeats and tile cuts if required. Use spacers to simulate grout lines when laying out tiles.

Mix Mortar and Gather Tools

Follow package directions to mix mortar adhesive. Allow it to slake for 10 minutes before applying. Arrange all tools so they’re easily accessible during install.

Installing the Backsplash Tile

Now comes the fun part – it’s finally time to start tiling! Follow these steps for proper installation:

Step 1: Apply Mortar to Wall

Use a notched trowel held at 45 degree angle to spread mortar evenly on the wall area to be tiled. Apply only as much as can be covered with tiles before mortar dries, about 1-2 square feet.

Step 2: Set Tiles into Mortar

Starting near the center and working outward, press tiles firmly into position on the mortar, using spacers to maintain even grout lines. Push out air pockets. Periodically remove a tile to check mortar transfer – there should be at least 80% contact.

Use tile nippers to trim and notch edges as needed to fit around corners and fixtures. Let trimmed edges face the corner or fixture.

Step 3: Check Tile for Level & Alignment

As you go, use a level and measuring tape to verify tiles are plumb and pattern lines are straight. Adjust any out of alignment tiles before the mortar sets. Clean excess mortar from tile faces with a damp sponge.

Step 4: Allow Mortar to Cure

Let mortar fully cure for 24-48 hours before continuing with grouting. Test by trying to twist a tile – if it moves at all, give the mortar more time to set. Don’t walk on tiles during curing period.

Grouting the Backsplash

Once mortar has cured, it’s time to grout. Joints filled with grout will minimize staining and moisture issues.

Step 1: Mix Grout

Prepare grout mix according to package directions. Let it slake 5-10 minutes before using. Avoid letting grout dry out by mixing small batches or covering containing.

Step 2: Spread Grout Across Tiles

Use a grout float or squeegee held at 45 degree angle to pack joints full with grout. Spread diagonally across tiles to prevent pulling out mortar. Fully seal gaps but don’t overfill.

Step 3: Clean Excess Grout

Wipe diagonally across tiles with a damp sponge to clean grout haze and smooth joints. Rinse sponge frequently to prevent spreading grout film. Let tiles dry completely, then buff with a soft cloth.

Step 4: Seal Grout

Once grout has cured 24-48 hours, apply grout sealer following package directions. This adds protection from moisture and stains.

Finishing Touches

You did it – stand back and admire your gorgeous new backsplash! Put the finishing touches on your project:

Caulk Perimeter with Silicone Sealant

Use silicone caulk to fill the gap between the backsplash tiles and countertops/walls. This prevents moisture from getting behind tiles.

Reinstall Fixtures

Put back any fixtures like soap dispensers, towel bars, and outlet covers previously removed. Also re-hang cabinet doors and drawers.

Clean Your New Backsplash

Use a specialized tile cleaner to remove any remaining grout haze or residue from tile surfaces. Take care of your backsplash and it will shine for years to come!


Still have some questions? Here are answers to common inquiries about installing a kitchen backsplash:

How long does it take to install a backsplash?

Allocate 2-3 days from start to finish. Exact timeframe depends on size of project, tile material, and your skill level.

What tools do I need to install backsplash tile?

You’ll need basic equipment like a measuring tape, tile cutter, trowel, and grout float. Use specialty cutters or drill bits for glass or metal tile.

How do I cut tiles for outlets and switches?

Use a rotary tool or oscillating tool to carefully cut tile holes for fixtures. Take your time to avoid cracks or chips.

How do I know how much tile to buy?

Measure your backsplash area and add 10% extra to account for tile cuts and pattern repeats. Round up to full boxes.

Can I do a backsplash over existing tile?

Yes, but ensure underlying surface is in good condition first. Use a bonding agent to help the mortar adhere.

How do I create a marble backsplash on a budget?

Use marble mosaic sheets or marble look porcelain tiles – you get the visual impact for less.

Should backsplash tile match countertops?

It doesn’t have to – contrasting or coordinating backsplash tile can work beautifully. Make sure it complements overall kitchen decor.

How do I finish a backsplash edge?

Along countertops, finish edges with small border tiles, tile trim strips, or caulked edges. At bottom, run final row horizontally.


With proper planning and care, installing a backsplash is an achievable DIY project. Follow the techniques outlined here to create a backsplash masterpiece. Feel free to apply your own creative stamp – the possibilities are endless! A handmade backsplash will not only protect your walls but provide personal style in your kitchen for years of cooking and entertaining to come.