How to End Tile Backsplash


Installing a tile backsplash in your kitchen or bathroom can add style, protect your walls from water damage, and make cleanup easier. While tiling a backsplash is a straightforward DIY project, properly finishing the edges of the tile is key to achieving a polished, professional look. There are several techniques for ending a backsplash, depending on the location, tile type, and your design aesthetic. Careful planning and precise execution will result in a beautiful backsplash that lasts for years to come.

In this comprehensive guide, we will walk through the steps for ending a tile backsplash using various techniques. We will cover how to finish inside corners, outside corners, edges along countertops and cabinets, connections to other surfaces, and open edges. With the right materials and some basic tiling skills, you can complete your backsplash with clean, integrated endings. Read on to learn expert tips for a flawless finish.

Prep the Surface

Before installing any tile, proper preparation of the surface is essential. The backsplash area must be clean, dry, and free of any oil or soap residue. Remove any existing backsplash and sand or scrape the wall down to expose bare drywall or substrate.

Fill any holes or uneven spots with drywall joint compound and sand smooth. Prime painted walls for better adhesion. Apply painter’s tape along the edges of the backsplash area to protect adjacent surfaces.

Clean the substrate with denatured alcohol just prior to applying tile mortar. Careful prep work will provide the smooth, stable foundation needed for successful tile application.

Use Bullnose Tile to Finish Inside Corners

For an inside corner where two walls meet, specialized bullnose tiles that have rounded finished edges are ideal. Bullnose tiles create a neat, finished look and protect the vulnerable corner edges of standard tiles.

Step 1: Apply Mortar

Spread mortar evenly across the surface using a notched trowel held at a 45-degree angle. Apply only as much mortar as can be tiled over before it skins over.

Step 2: Set the First Bullnose

Press the rounded bullnose tile into the corner, aligned exactly where the vertical and horizontal tiles will meet. Push it firmly into the fresh mortar bed.

Step 3: Install Vertical Tiles

Work outward from the corner, setting the vertical tiles end-to-end. Use spacers to maintain even grout lines. Allow mortar to cure per manufacturer instructions.

Step 4: Install Horizontal Tiles

Finally, install the horizontal tiles along the top ledge, ending along the rounded edge of the bullnose. The finished inside corner will have a smooth, rounded profile.

Use an End Cap Tile for Outside Corners

On an outside corner where two walls meet at a 90-degree angle, use an L-shaped end cap tile. This provides a clean finish along the protruding edge.

Step 1: Apply Mortar

Spread mortar on the two adjoining walls using a notched trowel. Hold the trowel at a 45-degree angle for optimal adhesion.

Step 2: Set the Corner End Cap

Firmly press the end cap tile into place aligned with the corner. The legs of the L shape should lay flat against each wall.

Step 3: Install Vertical Tiles

Working outwards from the corner, install the vertical tiles, leaving a consistent spacer gap between them. Allow mortar to fully cure.

Step 4: Install Horizontal Tiles

Finally, install the horizontal tiles along the top ledge, flush against the leg of the L-shaped end cap. The finished corner will have a sharp 90-degree edge.

Finish Along a Countertop Edge

Finishing the edge of a tile backsplash along a countertop or cabinet requires careful planning and precise tile cuts. Use these steps for a seamless transition.

Step 1: Install Countertop

Install the countertop prior to tiling so you can mark and cut the backsplash tiles to fit around it. Position the countertop at its final height.

Step 2: Mark Tile Locations

Lay the tiles along the countertop edge without mortar to mark their position. Hold them 1/8″ above the countertop. Mark lines across tiles to be cut.

Step 3: Cut Tiles to Fit

Using a wet saw, cut the marked tiles to size. Test the cut tiles in position and recut as needed for a perfect fit.

Step 4: Apply Mortar and Set Tiles

Apply mortar to the wall and carefully set the full and cut edge tiles. Slide tiles under overhangs for full contact. Allow mortar to cure completely.

Step 5: Apply Countertop Caulk

Finish the countertop edge with a Smokey Quartz or Caulk. Smokey Quartz – Tile-Like Epoxy Grout is the perfect choice.

Transition to an Adjacent Surface

Creating a clean transition from the tile backsplash to an adjoining surface, like a window or door frame, takes precision. Follow these tips.

Step 1: Measure Carefully

Measure from the adjoining surface to mark tiles to be cut to size. Account for the spacer gap.

Step 2: Cut Tiles to Fit

Using a wet saw, cut tiles to the measured size. Test fit and recut as needed for accurate dimensions.

Step 3: Apply Mortar and Tile

Apply mortar to the wall and set the final row of full and cut tiles, maintaining the spacer gap to the edge of the adjoining surface.

Step 4: Install Trim Molding

After the mortar cures, install coordinating trim molding using caulk or adhesive to bridge the gap between the tile and adjacent surface.

Finish an Open Edge

For backsplashes that end with an open edge, such as against a window, a clean finish is needed.

Step 1: Measure and Mark

Measure and mark the width of the last full tile. Mark the final cut tile where it should be trimmed to fit.

Step 2: Cut Final Edge Tile

Using a wet saw, cut the edge tile to the marked size. Test fit and adjust as needed.

Step 3: Apply Mortar and Set Tiles

Butter the open edge with mortar and set the final full and cut tiles, maintaining the spacer gap consistently.

Step 4: Apply Edge Trim

Once cured, affix coordinate L-shaped trim along the open tile edge using caulk or adhesive for a clean finish.

Grout and Seal the Tile

Once you have completed setting all the tiles and they have fully cured, finish up your backsplash with these final steps:

Step 1: Grout the Tile Joints

Mix grout per package directions and work it into the joints using a rubber grout float. Allow it to dry slightly and then buff away haze.

Step 2: Apply Grout Sealer

Seal the grout lines with a penetrating sealer to prevent stains and damage. Allow sealer to fully cure.

Step 3: Seal the Tile Surface

Apply a sealant to the entire tile surface to protect from moisture and staining. Allow sealer to fully cure.

With careful planning and execution, you can achieve perfectly integrated, polished endings on your tile backsplash. Follow the techniques described above to properly finish inside corners, outside corners, open edges, and transitions. Take the time to cut precise tile fits and utilize trim moldings for flawless results. With the right know-how, you can install an expert-quality backsplash in your kitchen or bath.

FAQs About Ending a Tile Backsplash

How do I finish tile against a window or door frame?

Carefully measure and cut the tiles to fit around the window or door frame, leaving an even 1/8″ gap. After installing the tiles, apply coordinating trim molding using silicone caulk to bridge the gap for a clean transition.

What is the best way to finish an outside corner?

Use a prefabricated L-shaped end cap tile. This will produce a sharp 90-degree finished edge on an exterior corner. Apply mortar and press the end cap firmly into the corner.

Should I end the backsplash tiles right against the wall?

It is best to leave a small 1/8 – 1/4″ gap between the end of the backsplash tiles and the wall. This allows room for expansion and prevents cracks due to house settling. The gap can be covered with trim molding.

How do I get a rounded edge on an inside corner?

Use bullnose tiles that have a finished rounded edge. Install a bullnose tile first in the inside corner, then fill in with standard tiles for an integrated rounded transition.

What’s the best way to finish the edge along a countertop?

Leave a slight 1/8″ gap between the tiles and the countertop overhang. After grouting, apply color-matched caulk to blend the countertop and tile edges seamlessly.

Can I end a tile backsplash with an exposed edge?

Yes, you can end with an exposed edge. Cut the final row of tiles to fit and apply a coordinating L-shaped trim tile along the edge using adhesive or caulk for a clean, finished look.

How do I measure and cut the tiles evenly on an uneven wall?

Use tile spacers to account for an uneven wall. Place spacers on the bottom row and measure from the top of the spacer to mark tiles. This ensures even gaps for grout lines.

Should I use marble or granite tiles when ending a backsplash?

Granite and marble have different finishing requirements. Marble tiles require more sealing. Granite is very durable but harder to cut precisely. Either material will work but follow manufacturer instructions carefully.


Ending a backsplash is just as important as all the tiling that came before it. With some planning and technique, you can execute the finish work needed for a polished look. Use bullnose and end cap tiles to create integrated inside and outside corners. Carefully cut and install tiles to transition cleanly along countertops, appliances, and adjacent surfaces. Take time to apply grout and sealers to protect your finished backsplash. Following the tips in this guide will lead to a backsplash ending that withstands the test of time with style.