How to Edge a Tile Backsplash

Adding a tile backsplash is a great way to update the look of your kitchen. Not only does it provide protection for your walls from splashes and spills, it can also serve as a decorative focal point. However, one important finishing step for a tile backsplash is edging. Properly edging your tile will give your backsplash a clean, finished look. Here is a complete guide on how to edge a tile backsplash.

Choose the Right Edging Tiles

When edging a tile backsplash, you need to choose edging tiles that match or complement your field tile. Here are some edging tile options to consider:

  • Bullnose tiles – Bullnose tiles have a rounded finished edge. They neatly finish off the transition from the tile to the wall. Bullnose tiles come in many matching patterns and materials to coordinate with your backsplash tile.
  • Pencil tiles – Pencil tiles have a trimmed edge shape resembling a flat pencil edge. These also provide a straight, clean finish.
  • L-shaped tiles – L-shaped or L-cap tiles have a 90-degree shape to cover the sharp edge of the field tile. This also gives a polished finish.
  • U-shaped tiles – U-shaped or J-cap tiles wrap the edge with tile on two adjoining sides. This gives tile coverage on the edge and side for a seamless look.
  • Decorative tiles – Many manufacturers make decorative edging tiles like borders, mosaics, and dimensional tiles. These add extra design interest.

Make sure to get edging tiles that are the same thickness as your field tile to keep the lines straight and level. You may also want to utilize two complimentary edging tiles, using one at the countertop edge and a different style along the top edge and sides.

Prepare the Surface

Preparing the surface is key to getting clean, professional edging results:

  • Make sure underlying drywall or cement backer board is sanded smooth. This provides an even surface for applying edge tiles.
  • Use a quality uncoupling membrane, cement backer board, or waterproofing membrane behind the tile. This reinforces the surface to prevent cracking of grout lines and tiles.
  • Make sure field tiles are firmly attached. If any are loose, regrout and use adhesive to secure before edging.
  • Let grout cure fully – at least 72 hours. Do not start edging until grout lines are hard.
  • Use grout sealer on field tile grout lines. This prevents staining and helps differentiate grout from edging tiles.
  • Make sure outer edges and corners are straight and appropriately squared off for edging materials to wrap cleanly.

Taking time to properly prepare the tile surface will get the edging started off on the right foot for a flawless finish.

Cut Edging Tiles

Most edging tiles will need to be cut and customized to fit your backsplash design:

  • Carefully measure and mark tile edges where edging tiles will be installed. Account for grout line spacing in your measurements.
  • Use a straight edge and sharp utility knife to score and snap tiles to size and shape if possible.
  • For curved cuts or specialty shapes, use a wet saw with a tile cutting blade. Safely cut tiles one at a time.
  • Cut edging tiles slightly longer than measurements and use spacers to account for consistent grout line spacing.
  • Dry fit and test all cut edging tiles prior to actual installation. Adjust as needed for precise fit.
  • Smooth any rough tile edges with sandpaper or a whetstone. This prevents sharp edges or corners.

Take time to customize and dry fit edging prior to permanent installation. Carefully cut tiles will speed up the installation process.

Apply Adhesive and Install Edging

With properly cut tiles, installing edging tiles involves just a few steps:

  • Apply a thin layer of tile mastic adhesive using a notched trowel. Hold trowel at 45 degree angle for optimal coverage.
  • Use tile spacers along the edges to maintain even grout line spacing between edging and field tiles.
  • Press tiles gently but firmly into place, aligning edges with care. Use a rubber grout float to apply pressure and adhere edging tiles.
  • Alternately press along the length of an edging tile to avoid leaving an air gap.
  • For rounded bullnose edging, gently tap with a rubber mallet to affix tile while maintaining the curve.
  • Be sure adhesive is spread all the way to edges and corners to prevent lifting or detachment.
  • Allow adhesive to cure fully – at least 24 hours.

Proper adhesive coverage and gradual pressure will help edging tiles bond strongly while keeping edges aligned perfectly.

Grout Edging Tiles

Once adhesive has cured, it’s time to grout edging tiles:

  • Apply painter’s tape vertically along wall edges to protect painted surfaces from grout smears or stains.
  • Use an unsanded grout for edging tiles spaced 1/8 inch or less. For wider grout lines up to 5/8 inch, use a polymer-modified sanded grout.
  • Holding grout float at 45 degree angle, force grout firmly into edging grout lines, filling completely. Hold float edge flush to tile to prevent pulling out grout.
  • Go slowly and take care to fully pack joints along bullnose or other irregular edged tiles.
  • After 10-15 minutes, use a damp sponge in a circular motion to smooth and shape grout. Rinse sponge frequently.
  • Once grout haze forms on tiles, polish off with a soft cloth. Take care near freshly grouted edging lines.
  • Allow 24 hours for grout to fully cure before sealing or final polishing.

Careful grouting technique is important for filling gaps while keeping a consistent, clean grout line next to field tile.

Seal and Finish Edges

As a final step, seal and polish edging tiles once fully installed:

  • Use a pen-style tile grout sealer and apply carefully along edging grout lines. Avoid contact with field tile grout.
  • Wipe edges gently with a soft, dry cloth 30-60 minutes after sealing to remove any excess sealer.
  • Polish and shine bullnose or pencil edges with a dry microfiber cloth. Take care not to disturb freshly grouted edges.
  • For rough or natural stone edge tiles, use a stone polish product and buff gently to finish.
  • Step back and examine tile edging under lighting to ensure grout lines are smooth and edge tiles align evenly.

Sealing and polishing edging tiles completes your backsplash with a clean finish that really makes it stand out!

Troubleshooting Common Edging Tile Problems

Edge tiles are the finishing touch for a tile backsplash, but some common problems can occur:

Uneven grout lines – Make sure to use spacers when installing to keep lines uniform. Carefully apply grout to avoid pulling it out of lines.

Cracked tiles – Edges crack easily from force or impact. Take care when cutting, installing, and grouting. Replace any cracked tiles.

Chipped edges – Cutting notches or nail holes too close to the edge can cause chipping. Measure twice and cut carefully.

Grout staining edging – Seal edging tiles prior to grouting and polish gently with soft cloth to remove any haze or staining.

Gaps between tiles – Check for even surface and proper adhesive coverage. Use grout float edge to press tiles tightly together while installing.

FAQ About Edging Tile Backsplashes

Edging can be the trickiest part of your backsplash tile project. Here are answers to some frequently asked questions:

Should I use bullnose or pencil tile edging?

This often comes down to personal preference for the visual look. Bullnose has a softer, rounded profile, while pencil is more sleek and modern. Bullnose edging also stands up better to impacts from pots, pans, or bumps.

How do I know how many edge tiles to purchase?

Carefully measuring the linear footage of your edges before purchasing tiles allows you to buy the right quantity. Remember to account for inside and outside corners which require small customized pieces. Having 10-20% extra edge tiles on hand is also a good buffer.

Should edge tile thickness match field tile?

Matching the thickness of edge tiles and field tiles is strongly recommended. Even a slight variance in tile thickness will result in uneven grout line spacing that detracts from the overall look.

Can I use a specialty mosaic or decorative tile as an edge?

Absolutely! Many manufacturers make trim pieces like mosaics, borders, and listellos that can coordinate beautifully with your field tile, adding extra personality on the edges.

Is it okay to combine bullnose and pencil edging in one backsplash?

Yes, mixing two edge treatments can look very attractive. A common approach is using bullnose along the countertop edge where impacts are more likely, and pencil edging along the top and sides.

Edge tiles really take a backsplash from basic to beautiful. Following these edging techniques will help you achieve stunning results. With proper planning, careful tile cutting, precision installation, and finessed finishing, you can create a seamless border that makes your backsplash tile pop. Enjoy the process of edging your tiles – the difference it makes is amazing!


Edging tile on a backsplash requires careful planning, precision cutting, proper adhesive application, and finesse with grouting and finishing. With patience and the right techniques, beautiful finished edges can be achieved that take a plain backsplash to a whole new level of design. Matching your edging tiles, preparing the surface, custom cutting each piece, and neatly grouting and sealing will result in clean, professional edges. Address any trouble spots like cracks or uneven alignments promptly. Take time to thoroughly polish and finish edges for best visual impact. With the tips provided, you can edge your backsplash tile like an expert. Your kitchen will be graced with a stunning, quality backsplash that you installed yourself when you edge those finishing tiles with care.