How to Do Your Own Tile Backsplash

Installing a tile backsplash in your kitchen or bathroom can transform the look and feel of the space. With some planning, the right materials, and a bit of skill, you can install a beautiful backsplash tile yourself, saving both time and money. Here is a comprehensive guide on how to do your own tile backsplash.

Planning Your Tile Layout

The first step is to plan out your tile layout. This involves measuring the area to be tiled and mapping out the pattern you want to achieve.

  • Measure the height and width of the backsplash area and calculate the total square footage. Allow for extra tiles in case of breakage or cuts.
  • Decide on the tile layout pattern. Basic patterns include brick lay, herringbone, basketweave, and stacked. Get creative and combine patterns for visual interest.
  • Draw the layout to scale on graph paper, indicating tile placement and pattern. This will be your reference during installation.
  • Determine the focal point, such as behind the stove or sink. Use decorative tiles, trims or an accent pattern to highlight these areas.

Careful planning of the tile layout will ensure the installation goes smoothly and the finished look is cohesive. Don’t rush this step!

Gather Your Tile Backsplash Materials

Once you have the design plan, gather the necessary materials before starting the installation. You will need:

  • Tile: Ceramic, porcelain or natural stone. Purchase 10-15% extra.
  • Tile adhesive: Choose premixed mastic or powdered thinset based on tile type.
  • Grout: Matches the tile color. Sanded grout for joints 1/8″ or larger.
  • Tools: Trowel, tile cutter, spacers, grout float, sponge, buckets.
  • Other: Backer board, sealant, rags, drop cloth, safety gear.

Check that your tiles, adhesive and grout are compatible. Acclimate the tiles by leaving them in the installation area 2-3 days before starting. Ensure you have all necessary tools and accessories on hand.

Prep the Surface

Preparing the surface is crucial for a long-lasting installation.

  • Remove existing backsplash tile or covering if applicable. Clean the area thoroughly.
  • Evaluate walls for plumb and condition. Mark any areas needing patching.
  • Install cement backer board per manufacturer’s instructions. Use screws or glue to adhere.
  • Waterproof the backer board using RedGard or a similar membrane. Seal seams and joints.
  • Let RedGard cure fully for 24-48 hours before tiling. Sand any bumps smooth.

Proper prep prevents future issues like cracks, leaks and loose tiles. Don’t skip this step!

Laying the Tile

Now it’s time for the fun part – laying the tile! Follow these tips for success:

  • Mix thinset: Prepare the adhesive per instructions. Mix to a toothpaste-like consistency.
  • Apply thinset: Use the trowel’s notched edge to spread a skim coat on the backer board. Apply 1/4″ layer in 2′ x 2′ sections.
  • Back-butter tiles: Apply a thin layer of adhesive to tile backs to ensure 100% coverage.
  • Place tiles: Referring to the layout map, set tiles firmly in the adhesive. Use spacers between.
  • Check alignment: As you go, verify tiles are level and aligned. Adjust as needed before adhesive dries.
  • Cut tiles: Measure and mark tiles to fit around outlets, corners etc. Cut with tile cutter. Grind edges.
  • Let dry: Allow thinset to cure completely – 24 hours or per adhesive specs before grouting.

Follow the layout, work methodically, and inspect as you go for a flawless tile application.

Grouting Tile Joints

Grout fills the joints between tiles, finishing off your backsplash.

  • Mix grout: Prepare unsanded grout per package directions. Let stand 5-10 minutes before using.
  • Apply grout: Use the float to spread grout over the tile surface, pressing into joints.
  • Clean excess: Drag grout float diagonally across tiles to remove excess grout. Rinse float periodically.
  • Wipe tiles: Use a damp sponge in a circular motion to further smooth and clean grout. Rinse sponge frequently.
  • Shape joints: Use a grout shaping tool to contour joints for a defined appearance.
  • Seal tile: Apply grout sealer once dry for stain protection. Follow product application directions.

Let grout cure fully before using the backsplash. Grout maintenance will keep your joints looking great.

Helpful Tips and Tricks

Follow these additional pointers for foolproof results:

  • Use a level and spacers to maintain even tile spacing and straight grout lines.
  • Wipe away excess adhesive or grout from tile surfaces before drying using a damp sponge.
  • For cuts around outlets or plumbing, make a template from heavy paper to trace onto tiles.
  • Apply painter’s tape around walls edges to avoid adhesive and grout clinging to paint. Remove before dried.
  • Work in small sections that can be comfortably reached to control adhesive and grout application.
  • Imperfect cuts can go against walls or in corners. Use decorative trim to hide less than perfect edges.
  • Consider purchasing a tile cutting wet saw for complicated cuts or large tile sizes.


Here are answers to some frequently asked questions about installing a tile backsplash yourself:

What kind of tile is best for backsplash?

Ceramic and porcelain tiles are most commonly used. Choose glazed, matte or mosaic styles. Natural stone can also make a lovely backsplash.

How do I cut holes in tiles for outlets or fixtures?

Use a rotary tool, jigsaw or chisel to cut tile holes. Finish the edges with a file or stone. Cover exposed edges with escutcheons.

Should I seal my natural stone backsplash?

Yes, applying stone sealer protects porous natural stone from stains. Reapply yearly. Use a grout release prior to grouting.

Can I install a backsplash directly over drywall?

No, drywall alone can lead to cracking and moisture issues. Install cement backer board first for a sound tile base.

What clearance do I need behind the cooktop?

Check manufacturer guidelines, but generally 4-6 inches of non-combustible material should be left above cooktops.


Installing a tile backsplash boosts style and function in your kitchen or bath. With some careful planning and preparation, plus a good understanding of fundamental tiling techniques, you can achieve beautiful, professional-looking results doing it yourself. Gratifying hands-on work, cost savings, and plenty of design options make a DIY backsplash project worthwhile. Follow the step-by-step process outlined above and soon you’ll have a custom tiled focal point to enjoy for years to come!