How to Do Backsplash in a Kitchen

Adding a backsplash is one of the best ways to update the look of your kitchen. Not only does a backsplash provide an eye-catching focal point, it also protects your walls from water damage and splatters. Installing a kitchen backsplash is a relatively easy DIY project that can make a big impact. Here is a step-by-step guide on how to do backsplash in a kitchen.

Planning Your Kitchen Backsplash

The first step is deciding on the material, color, and pattern for your backsplash. Some popular options include:

  • Tile – ceramic, porcelain, glass, and natural stone tile all make great backsplash materials. Tiles allow you to create fun patterns and designs.
  • Metal – copper, stainless steel, and tin backsplashes infuse your kitchen with an industrial vibe.
  • Glass – shiny and elegant, glass tile or a sheet of backpainted glass light up a kitchen.
  • Stone – marble, granite, and stacked stone slabs exude natural beauty.
  • Masonry – brick, travertine, and onyx backsplashes have an earthy, rustic charm.

Consider the existing style of your kitchen and what will coordinate well for a cohesive look. Solid colors or simple subway tile patterns are versatile and timeless. You’ll also need to decide on the size, texture, finish, and grout color. Bring home samples to see how they look in your space.

Measure the area you’ll be tiling. Having accurate measurements is crucial for purchasing the right amount of tile and supplies. Mark down the height and length, accounting for any outlets, windows, or uneven surfaces.

Preparing the Surface

Before applying any tile, the surface must be clean and smooth. Start by removing any old backsplash material.
Use a putty knife to scrape off wallpaper, adhesive, or paint.

For drywall, sand down any bumps in the surface. Wipe away dust with a damp cloth. Fill any holes or cracks with spackle and let dry completely.

If existing tile will be covered, roughen the surface with sandpaper so the new tile will adhere properly. Clean thoroughly.

Many tiles require cement backerboard to be installed over drywall first. Cut boards to size and secure with screws to studs. Seal seams with mesh tape and thinset.

Using painter’s tape, define the area to be tiled. Masking off a border helps keep everything neat. Apply primer if needed.

Installing the Backsplash Tile

With the surface prepped, it’s time to start tiling! Have all your supplies and tools handy:

  • Tile
  • Tile adhesive (thinset mortar)
  • Notched trowel
  • Grout
  • Grout sealer
  • Tile spacers
  • Tile cutter
  • Mixing bucket
  • Rubber grout float
  • Sponges

Mix the thinset mortar, following package directions. Apply it to a small section of the wall, using a notched trowel to comb it into even rows.

Press the first tile into the mortar, twisting it slightly. Use spacers between tiles for even grout lines. Work row by row.

For intricate patterns, plan tiles in advance on the floor to visualize placement. Cut tiles as needed with a tile cutter.

Let the thinset cure for 24 hours before grouting. Mix grout and apply over the tiles, using a rubber grout float. Clean excess grout with a damp sponge.

Once dry, seal the grout by applying a thin coating of grout sealer. Buff off excess.

Finally, caulk the perimeter of the backsplash with waterproof silicone caulk. Wipe away excess. Enjoy your stunning new backsplash makeover!

Backsplash Installation Tips

Follow these helpful tips for a successful installation:

  • Plan out your tile layout ahead of time so you don’t end up with slivers of cut tile around the edges.
  • Don’t spread more thinset than can be tiled over within 20 minutes. It will dry too much.
  • Push tiles firmly into the mortar for optimal adhesion. Use spacers!
  • Clean excess grout immediately; it’s easier than scrubbing later.
  • Apply grout sealer to prevent staining and make grout cleanup easier.
  • Always seal natural stone tiles; they are porous and can stain easily.
  • If removing old backsplash, inspect the wall behind for any needed repairs.
  • For heavy tile or stone, ensure underlying surface can support the weight.
  • Work slowly and carefully. Mistakes are much harder to undo once tiles are set.

Tips for Selecting a Kitchen Backsplash

Choosing a backsplash is fun but there’s a few tips to keep in mind:

  • Consider the style of your kitchen cabinets and counters. The backsplash should complement them.
  • Lighter colored backsplashes help make small kitchens feel more open, while darker hues are dramatic.
  • Mirrored or reflective backsplashes add depth and light.
  • Natural stone varies in veining and tone so view samples first.
  • Larger tiles make a small kitchen appear bigger. Small mosaic tiles create visual interest.
  • Matte or honed finishes hide imperfections better than glossy tiles.
  • White and off-white backsplashes are versatile and timeless.
  • Creative patterns like chevron, herringbone or subway tile make the backsplash pop.
  • Contrast grout color to make tile patterns stand out more.

Maintaining and Cleaning Your Backsplash

Once your new backsplash is installed, proper care will keep it looking fresh. Here are some backsplash cleaning tips:

  • For everyday cleaning, use a mild soap and water. Avoid abrasive cleaners.
  • Grout can be cleaned with a soft bristled brush and baking soda/water paste.
  • Disinfect backsplashes occasionally with a bleach and water solution.
  • Reapply grout sealer yearly to protect from stains and mildew.
  • Clean spills right away so they don’t have time to soak in.
  • Use a specialty tile and stone cleaner for tough stains. Test first!
  • Don’t use vinegar, ammonia or citrus cleaners on natural stone. It can damage sealants.
  • A gentle scrub with a magic eraser can remove soap scum.
  • Replace caulk if it becomes grimy. Keep it mildew-free.
  • For heavy grease buildup, use a degreasing dish soap and very hot water.

Regular upkeep makes your kitchen backsplash last for many years. With the right care, it will stay looking like new!

FAQs about Kitchen Backsplashes

What is the most popular backsplash tile size?

The most popular backsplash tile sizes are 4×4 inches, 3×6 inches, and 4×12 inches subway tiles. Standard sizes allow for simpler installation and less tile cutting.

How much does a kitchen backsplash cost?

The average cost for a backsplash tile installation is $40-$75 per square foot. This includes tile, mortar, grout, and labor. More expensive tile, intricate designs, and special cutting or fitting will increase the total cost.

Should my backsplash match my countertops?

It’s not mandatory but matching your backsplash with your countertops creates a seamless look. Contrasting can also be eye-catching if it complements your cabinetry. The choice comes down to personal preference.

How do I cut tile around outlets and switches?

Use a rotary cutter to notch tile around outlets or switches so they can fit snugly around. Turn off power when working around electrical. Remove cover plates first.

Can I install a backsplash over existing tile?

Yes, you can install a backsplash over existing backsplash or wall tile. The old tile just needs to be scuffed up so the new tile can adhere properly with thinset mortar.

What’s the best grout color?

For most tile, white or off-white matches well. Choose a darker grout color for white subway tiles to make them pop. Contrasting grout shows the tile pattern but requires meticulous cleaning.

How do I remove old backsplash tile?

To remove old backsplash, first scrape off excess grout. Apply heat with a hair dryer or heat gun to soften the adhesive before prying tiles off gently with a putty knife.

Can backsplash tile get wet?

Yes! Backsplashes are designed for kitchens and get splashed regularly. Use waterproof grout and caulk for installations near sinks. Porous natural stone may need sealing.


Installing a beautiful, functional backsplash transforms any kitchen from drab to fabulous. With some planning and effort, you can tackle this project yourself and save on the installation costs. Spend time choosing the perfect tile for your style and space. Prepare the wall surface properly so your tile adheres for the long term. Work slowly and carefully as you lay the tile, letting it dry fully before grouting. Apply grout sealer once finished for added protection. Follow these steps and tips and your stunning new backsplash is sure to delight for years to come.