How to Do a Tile Backsplash in the Kitchen

Installing a tile backsplash in your kitchen can add style, protect your walls, and make cleaning easier. With some planning and the right materials, it’s a DIY project many homeowners can tackle. Here is a step-by-step guide on how to do a tile backsplash in the kitchen.

Choose Your Tile

The first step is selecting the tile. There are countless options when it comes to backsplash tile. Consider the look you want and your budget. Some popular choices include:

Ceramic or Porcelain Tile

  • Available in a huge range of styles, colors, and patterns.
  • Budget-friendly option.
  • Easy to clean and durable.

Glass Tile

  • Adds a shiny, sleek look.
  • Translucent for an illuminated effect.
  • More expensive than ceramic or porcelain.

Natural Stone Tile

  • Elegant, high-end look.
  • Each piece unique.
  • On the pricier side. Needs resealing over time.
  • Mix and match textures and colors for a custom look.
  • Stick with a tile size between 1×1 inches to 4×4 inches.
  • Get extra tiles in case any break during installation.

Prepare the Space

Before installing tile, you need to prep the backsplash area:

Remove Existing Backsplash

If there is already a backsplash, take it down completely. Scrape off any leftover adhesive or debris.

Clean the Walls

Thoroughly clean the walls and let them dry. Remove any outlet covers or appliances that are in the way.

Mark Your Layout

Figure out the layout of your tile. Mark lines on the wall to guide placement. Consider where you want the focal point and borders.

Apply the Backer Board

Tile should be installed over a cement backer board rather than drywall. Here’s how to attach it:

  • Measure and cut cement board to fit your space.
  • Apply mortar adhesive to the back of the boards with a notched trowel.
  • Press cement board against the wall into the mortar.
  • Screw the boards into the studs every 8 inches across the surface.
  • Let the mortar fully cure for 24 hours before tiling.

Spread Thinset Mortar

Now the fun part – applying the thinset mortar “glue” and adding your tiles:

  • Use a notched trowel to spread a thin layer of thinset mortar onto the backer board. Apply just enough for a few tiles worth.
  • Press tiles into the mortar, using spacers for even gaps.
  • Work in small sections, wiping away excess mortar as you go.
  • Let the thinset mortar dry fully (24 hours) before grouting.

Apply the Grout

Grout fills the spaces between the tiles. Follow these steps for grouting:

  • Mix grout powder with water to a thick, creamy consistency.
  • Spread grout over the tile with a rubber grout float or squeegee.
  • Push it into gaps between tiles.
  • Wipe away excess grout with a damp sponge.
  • After it dries, buff surface haze away with a soft cloth.

Finish and Seal

The final steps complete your new backsplash:

  • Allow grout to fully cure for 72 hours.
  • Apply a penetrating sealer to protect porous tiles like natural stone.
  • Reinstall outlet covers, soap dispensers, etc.
  • Caulk along countertops or edges with a silicone caulk.

And enjoy your gorgeous, newly tiled backsplash! Proper prep and taking your time leads to beautiful results.

Frequently Asked Questions

What tools do I need for a backsplash installation?

You’ll need basic tools like a tape measure, level, utility knife, caulk gun, mixing bucket, notched trowel, grout float, sponges, and cloths. A circular saw and miter box help cut the backer board. Safety gear like gloves and eye protection are also recommended.

How long does it take to tile a backsplash?

For an experienced DIYer tiling a standard sized backsplash, it typically takes 2-3 days from start to finish. Planning and layout take a few hours. Installing the backer board and mortar takes 1 day. Applying tile and grout takes another day.

Should the backsplash go all the way to the ceiling?

It’s common to install a backsplash that goes all the way up to meet the bottom of the upper cabinets. But for a full accent wall look, you can tile from counter to ceiling. Another option is a short 4-6 inch backsplash along a higher wall section.

Can you put tile over existing backsplash?

It’s not recommended to tile over an existing backsplash. The layers of old and new mortar make tiles prone to cracking and popping off. It’s best to take the time to remove the old backsplash first and start with a clean surface.

How do I cut tiles for fitting?

You’ll need to cut tiles to fit for outer edges and around outlets. Use a wet saw for straight cuts and a tile nipper for irregular shapes and curves. Take your time and ensure cuts are straight. Smooth sharp edges with sandpaper.


Installing a tile backsplash can make a big impact in your kitchen’s style. With proper planning and preparation, it’s a DIY project many homeowners can take on. Focus on prepping your workspace, using quality materials, taking your time, and enlisting help as needed. The end result will be a stunning, durable backsplash you’ll enjoy for years.