How to Do a Herringbone Backsplash

Installing a herringbone backsplash can add visual interest and dimension to your kitchen or bathroom. With some planning and the right materials, you can create this unique geometric pattern on your own. Here is a step-by-step guide on how to do a herringbone backsplash.

What You Need

  • Tiles or planks for the herringbone pattern. Ceramic, porcelain, marble, glass, and stone all work well.
  • Tile adhesive
  • Grout
  • Grout sealer
  • Tile spacers
  • Tile cutting tool
  • Trowel
  • Grout float
  • Sponge
  • Bucket
  • Tile nippers
  • Safety gear – gloves, goggles, knee pads

Prepare the Surface

Before installing the tiles, make sure the surface is clean and ready.

  • Remove any old backsplash material completely.
  • Repair and fill any holes or imperfections in the wall surface.
  • Clean the wall thoroughly and let it dry completely.
  • Apply primer if painting the wall. Let it dry fully before tiling.

Plan the Layout

  • Measure the space and calculate how many full tiles will fit. Mark the center.
  • Dry lay the tiles on the countertop to test the pattern and spacing.
  • Adjust as needed to avoid narrow cut tiles on the edges.
  • Use tile spacers to leave consistent grout lines.

Cut the Tiles

  • Mark and cut L-shaped corner tiles to create the zigzag pattern.
  • Use a wet saw for most straight cuts and tile nippers for curved or notched cuts.
  • Have a few extra tiles for breaks and errors.

Apply the Tile Adhesive

  • Apply a layer of tile adhesive on the wall using a notched trowel.
  • Spread only as much as you can tile in about 10-15 minutes before the adhesive dries.

Set the Tiles

  • Place the corner L-shaped tiles first to establish the pattern.
  • Apply tiles from the bottom up and outward from the center.
  • Use spacers to leave even grout lines between tiles.
  • Press tiles firmly into the adhesive and check they are level.
  • Allow the tile adhesive to cure fully before grouting, usually 24 hours.

Grout the Tiles

  • Mix the grout with water to a thick peanut butter consistency.
  • Use a grout float or rubber grout float to spread it over the tiles, pressing into joints.
  • Let it sit for a few minutes before wiping off excess grout with a sponge.
  • Rinse sponge and wipe again until tiles are clean.
  • Allow the grout to cure fully, usually 72 hours.

Seal the Grout

  • After allowing the grout to cure, apply a penetrating grout sealer.
  • Use a sponge or paintbrush to apply it evenly over the grouted joints.
  • This will protect the grout from moisture and stains.

Tips for Installing a Herringbone Backsplash

  • Draw perpendicular layout lines on the wall as a guide.
  • Mix tiles from several boxes to vary color shades.
  • Use a leveler to check tiles are even and aligned.
  • Leave 1/8 inch grout lines for best visual effect.
  • Clean any haze immediately with a damp sponge.
  • Use caulk between tile and countertop or edges.

With some careful planning and patience, you can add beautiful dimension and style to your space with a herringbone patterned backsplash. The geometric design will make a striking focal point.

Frequently Asked Questions About Herringbone Backsplashes

What type of tiles work best for a herringbone pattern?

The most popular options are ceramic, porcelain, marble, glass, and stone tiles. The tiles should be uniform in size and thickness. Rectangular subway tiles are commonly used.

What size tiles should I use?

Smaller tiles like 2×4 inches or 3×6 inches make it easier to install the intricate herringbone pattern. Larger tiles can be used but require more cutting.

How are the tiles installed?

The tiles are set by gluing them to the wall surface using a thinset mortar adhesive. The adhesive is applied to the wall with a notched trowel, then tiles pressed into place.

Should I use tile spacers?

Yes, tile spacers are highly recommended to keep grout lines even and uniform. The small plastic crosses provide a consistent 1/8 inch spacing.

What color grout should I choose?

Grout comes in many colors, so choose a shade that complements your tile color. Contrasting grout can highlight the zigzag pattern. White and gray are common choices.

How long does it take to install a herringbone backsplash?

It typically takes 1-2 days for an experienced DIYer to install a herringbone backsplash – one day for gluing tiles and allowing drying time, another day for grouting.

What’s the best way to cut the tiles?

Use a wet saw for straight cuts and tile nippers for notched or curved cuts. Have the tile supplier do any intricate curved cuts.

Can I do a herringbone pattern with stone or marble?

Yes, natural stone like marble, travertine, or slate can work beautifully in a herringbone layout. Just be aware these require extra care in cutting and installation.


Installing a herringbone backsplash brings dimensional style and visual interest to your kitchen or bathroom. While it requires more planning and tile cutting than a regular grid layout, the intricate zigzag pattern makes a stunning design statement. With the right preparation, materials, tools, and techniques, you can achieve the professional herringbone look on your own as a DIY project. Just be sure to have patience and pay attention to detail, and your new backsplash will be an eye-catching focal point in your space for years to come.