How to Do a Herringbone Tile Backsplash

Installing a herringbone tile backsplash can add visual interest and dimension to your kitchen. With some planning and patience, you can achieve this look yourself. Here is a step-by-step guide on how to do a herringbone tile backsplash.


A herringbone pattern backsplash features rectangular tiles set in an alternating pattern that resembles the bones of a fish. The zigzag design draws the eye across the wall and makes the space appear larger. In addition to its aesthetic appeal, a herringbone tile backsplash is an opportunity to add color, texture, and personality to your kitchen.

Herringbone tiles come in a variety of materials like ceramic, porcelain, glass, and natural stone. They range in size from small mosaics to large-format rectangular tiles. Choosing the right tile and layout before you begin will help the installation go smoothly.

Before You Begin

Before starting a herringbone tile backsplash project, gather your supplies and make sure the wall surface is properly prepared. Having all the necessary materials and tools on hand will make the installation process safer and easier.

Supplies Needed

  • Tile (calculate the total number needed based on tile size and area to be covered)
  • Tile adhesive (thinset mortar)
  • Grout
  • Tile spacers
  • Grout float
  • Grout sealer
  • Trowel
  • Bucket for mixing adhesive
  • Sponge and rags
  • Tile cutter or wet saw
  • Safety glasses and gloves

Prepare the Surface

The wall must be clean, dry, and free of any oil or soap residue. Painted surfaces should be sanded to allow the adhesive to bond properly. Any wall outlets or switches in the backsplash area should be removed.

Once the wall is prepared, apply painter’s tape to the edges of the backsplash area to define the workspace. Use a level to mark straight horizontal and vertical lines on the wall to guide the first row of tiles.

How to Install the Tile

Follow these steps to achieve the herringbone pattern:

Step 1: Dry Lay the Tiles

Start by laying the tiles on the countertop in the herringbone pattern without any adhesive to test the layout. Cut any edge tiles needed to fit. Ensure the pattern aligns with the guides on the wall.

Step 2: Apply the Thinset Mortar

Use a notched trowel to spread a layer of thinset adhesive on the wall area where the first tiles will be set. Apply only as much as can be tiled in about 20 minutes.

Step 3: Set the First Row

Starting at the center horizontal line, set the first tile. Continue laying whole tiles moving outward in both directions. Place spacers between each tile.

Step 4: Complete the Next Rows

Begin the second row with a half tile to offset the pattern. Continue alternating full and half tiles, working your way up the wall. Apply more thinset as you go.

Step 5: Cut Edge Tiles

Measure and mark any partial tiles that need cutting to fit around edges or openings. Cut them to size with tile nippers or a wet saw.

Step 6: Let the Thinset Cure

Allow the thinset to cure for at least 24 hours before grouting. This allows it to fully dry and harden to grip the tiles firmly.

How to Grout the Tile

Once the thinset has cured properly, you can add grout to finish the installation:

Step 1: Apply Grout

Prepare grout by mixing it with water per package instructions. Holding the grout float at a 45° angle, work it into the joints between tiles.

Step 2: Wipe Away Excess Grout

Allow the grout to become firm, then use a damp sponge to wipe diagonally across the tiles. Rinse the sponge frequently.

Step 3: Seal the Grout (Optional)

Once the grout has dried completely, you can apply a grout sealer. This adds protection from moisture and stains.

Step 4: Caulk Edges

Use a flexible silicone caulk to fill any gaps along the edges between the tiles and wall or countertop.

Tips for Achieving a Flawless Finish

Follow these tips to get professional-looking results from your herringbone tile backsplash project:

  • Carefully level and space the first row – this sets the pattern for the rest.
  • Use tile spacers consistently for even grout lines.
  • Cut tiles slowly and carefully to get crisp edges.
  • Grout only small sections at a time and wipe before it dries.
  • Seal grout three days after installation for optimal performance.
  • Clean any haze with a damp microfiber cloth; avoid abrasive pads.

Frequently Asked Questions

What size tile works best?

The most common sizes used are 2×6, 3×6 or 4×12 inches. Longer, skinnier tiles make setting the pattern easier.

What thinset mortar should I use?

Use a polymer-modified thinset for porcelain, glass, or stone tiles. For ceramic tiles on walls, unmodified thinset works.

How wide should the grout lines be?

1/8 inch is ideal for most herringbone patterns. Use tile spacers when setting tiles to maintain even grout line width.

Can I install a herringbone pattern on the floor?

Yes, though floor installations are more challenging. Make sure the subfloor is level and use a high-quality mortar designed for floors.

Should I seal my tile backsplash?

Sealing natural stone or very porous tile provides added protection, though it’s not mandatory. Use a penetrating sealer made for the specific tile material.


With careful planning and patience, you can achieve an eye-catching herringbone tile pattern for your kitchen backsplash. Prepare the surface properly, use spacers consistently, and take care when cutting the tiles. Allow adequate drying time for thinset and grout. Follow the tips above to get professional-looking results and add striking style to your space.