How to Edge Tile Backsplash

Installing a beautiful backsplash can transform the look and feel of any kitchen. Backsplashes not only protect the walls from moisture and stains, but they also provide a striking visual focal point. One of the most popular backsplash designs is a tile backsplash with finished edges. This gives the backsplash a polished, upscale appearance. Follow these steps to learn how to edge tile your backsplash like a pro.

Choosing the Right Tile

The tile itself will set the tone for your entire backsplash. Consider the size, texture, color, and finish. Smaller tiles like mosaics can create busy patterns, while larger tiles promote a more seamless look. Glossy, polished tiles have a classy, upscale aesthetic. Textured or matte tiles have an earthier, more rustic feel. Select a tile that aligns with your overall kitchen decor and style.

Some of the most common backsplash tile materials include:

  • Ceramic or porcelain – durable, versatile, easy to clean
  • Glass or stone mosaic – shimmering look, intricate patterns
  • Marble or granite – natural stone elegance
  • Metal or stainless steel – modern, industrial vibe

Preparing the Surface

Before installing the tile, make sure the surface is properly prepared. Thoroughly clean the wall area to remove any dirt, grease or soap scum. Fill any holes or imperfections with spackle and let dry completely.

Apply painter’s tape around the outer edges of the backsplash area to define the work space. This helps keep the lines straight and the edges clean. Be sure the tape adheres firmly to prevent leaks under the edges.

If tiling over drywall, prime and paint the surface with an adhesive bonding primer. This helps the thinset mortar adhere to the wall. For other surfaces like plaster or cement board, check the manufacturer’s recommendations.

Applying Thinset Mortar

Mix the thinset mortar according to package directions. Use a notched trowel to spread it evenly across the backsplash area, holding at a 45 degree angle. Apply only as much mortar as you can tile over in about 10-15 minutes before it starts to dry.

Use the trowel notches to create ridges in the mortar. This provides the right amount of mortar for the tile to adhere properly. Don’t spread it too thin.

Installing the Tile Backsplash

Starting at the bottom, press tiles gently but firmly into the mortar. Use temporary spacers between tiles to maintain even grout lines. Work in sections, completing one area before moving to the next.

Make sure tiles are aligned and evenly spaced as you work your way up. Use a level often to ensure straight, uniform rows. Don’t be afraid to remove and reapply tiles that are out of alignment.

Let the mortar dry completely before moving to the next step of applying grout. This usually takes about 24 hours. Remove the painter’s tape carefully once the mortar has cured.

Grouting Between Tiles

Grout fills the spaces between tiles, creating a continuous surface. It comes as a dry powder that you mix with water to a thick, creamy consistency. Apply grout using a rubber grout float, pressing it firmly into joints.

Hold the float at a 45 degree angle and use a sweeping motion to force grout into gaps. Remove excess grout from the tile surface with the edge of the float. Don’t allow grout to dry on the tiles.

After 10-15 minutes, use a damp sponge to wipe any remaining grout haze off tile faces. Change the rinse water frequently to prevent smearing. Allow the grout to cure fully before continuing with final edge finishing.

Edging Options for a Polished Look

Finishing the edges around your new backsplash takes it from DIY to designer-quality. Here are some edging techniques to consider:

Bullnose Tile Edging

Bullnose tiles have one rounded finished edge. Use them to create a smooth transition between the backsplash and adjacent walls or countertops. The curve also minimizes sharp corners that can chip over time.

Decorative Border Tiles

Frame your backsplash with an accent row of decorative tiles, mosaics, or listellos. Contrasting colors or textures amplify the edge. Combine with bullnose tiles for extra dimension.

Metal Trim

Brushed aluminum, stainless steel, or other metal trims offer a sleek, contemporary finish. Anchor them at top and bottom edges for a straight, minimalist look. Use silicone adhesive to prevent corrosion or rust.

Mosaic Sheet Edging

Edge mosaic sheets have tiny uniform tiles that create a clean dotted line. The modular sheets are mounted as one unit with thinset mortar. Consider a mosaic liner if your main tiles are larger.

Caulking Between Tiles and Wall

Once grouting is complete, fill any remaining gaps between tiles and the wall with a flexible silicone caulk that matches your grout color. This waterproofs the edges to prevent moisture damage.

Run a smooth, consistent bead of caulk along the perimeter with a caulk gun. Use a plastic putty knife to smooth it evenly. Wipe away any excess with a damp cloth.

Let the caulk cure fully before using the backsplash. Avoid submerging it in water for 24-48 hours. Proper sealing is key to ensuring your backsplash edges hold up beautifully over time.

Maintaining a Tile Backsplash

Daily cleaning is simple. Use a soft sponge or cloth with mild soap and warm water to wipe dirt and stains. Don’t use abrasive cleaners or scouring pads, which can scratch the tile surface.

Re-apply grout or caulk if cracks appear. This prevents moisture from seeping underneath and causing damage. Address any issues right away to protect your edges.

With the right prep and edging technique, your tile backsplash can be a focal point that you’ll enjoy for years to come. The finished edges give it a polished, professional look worthy of a magazine feature.

FAQs About Edging Tile Backsplashes

Should I use bullnose or regular tiles on the edges?

Bullnose tiles are recommended because they create a smooth rounded edge that protects against chipping. Regular tiles leave a sharp 90-degree edge that is prone to cracks. The curved bullnose shape gives edges a refined built-in finish.

How are border tiles different from bullnose tiles?

Border tiles are full-size decorative tiles installed vertically along the edges for ornamentation. Bullnose tiles are a fraction of the size of field tiles specifically used to finish raw tile edges horizontally. Border tiles enhance aesthetics, while bullnose tiles enhance durability.

What’s the best way to get clean straight edges on a tile backsplash?

Using painter’s tape to define the area before tiling results in the cleanest edges. Tile up to the tape, then carefully remove it once mortar has dried. For extra precision on open edges, mount a trim piece like metal edging strip or tile border.

Should I caulk where the backsplash meets the countertop?

Yes, any gap between the backsplash tiles and the countertop should be caulked to seal it from moisture. Use a flexible silicone caulk that matches your grout color. Avoid caulks labeled “mildew resistant”, as these contain solvents that can stain stone.

How soon can I use the backsplash after installing tiles?

Allow 24-48 hours for thinset mortar to cure before grouting. After grouting, wait another 24-48 hours before exposing tiles to water or heavy use. This allows adequate drying time so tiles adhere properly. Respect drying times to prevent damage.


Installing a tile backsplash with clean finished edges elevates it from basic DIY to high-end designer detail. With the right combination of edging techniques and quality installation, you can achieve a magazine-worthy backsplash look. Tile trim, caulk, and specialized edges like bullnose tiles complete the polished aesthetic. Follow proper thinset mortar and grout application steps for long-lasting durability and beauty. Show off your stunning new backsplash edges with great lighting and decorative accents.