How to Estimate Backsplash Tile

Installing a tile backsplash can add visual interest and protect walls from splashes and spills in the kitchen. Properly estimating materials for a tile backsplash project ensures you buy the right amount the first time. With some simple calculations, you’ll determine how many tile squares you need and avoid unnecessary trips back to the store. Follow this guide to learn the step-by-step process for how to accurately estimate backsplash tile.

Measure the Backsplash Area

The first step in estimating tile is to measure the area you plan to cover. Here’s how to calculate the size of your backsplash:

Determine the Height

Use a tape measure to find the height of the backsplash area from the countertop to the underside of the wall cabinets. Measure in several spots and use the shortest height. Record the backsplash height measurement in inches.

Measure the Width

Measure across the full width of the backsplash area in inches, excluding any areas that won’t get tile, like the range hood or a recessed niche. For L-shaped spaces, take measurements of each section.

Multiply to Get Square Inches

Multiply the backsplash height by the width to find the total coverage area in square inches. Calculate separate areas piecemeal for L-shaped spaces, niches, and other unique spaces, then add together.

Measuring precisely leads to the most accurate tile estimate and prevents ordering too little or too much.

Determine Tile Size

Next, you need to know the size of the tile you plan to install. Tile sizes are expressed in inches like 4 x 4 or 3 x 6.

Common backsplash tile sizes include:

  • 2 x 2
  • 3 x 6 subway tile
  • 4 x 4
  • 4 x 12 subway tile
  • 6 x 6

Check the packaging or specification sheet for your tile to find the size. Make sure to measure a few tiles yourself as a double check.

Matching your tile size to your coverage area will give you the basic data needed for your estimate.

Calculate the Number of Tiles

With the measurements complete, you can determine how many tiles you need:

Divide Area by Tile Size

Take the total backsplash area and divide it by the square inches of one tile.

For example, if your backsplash is 120 square inches and your tile is 4 x 4 (16 square inches), you would need 120/16 = 7.5 tiles.

Round Up

Always round up to the next full tile when estimating. Partial tiles can’t be used, so buying a few extras ensures you’ll have enough.

For the example above, round 7.5 tiles up to 8 full tiles.

If dealing with multiple backsplash sections, calculate each space separately.

Factor in Design Effects

The basic tile count estimate accounts for full coverage. Additional considerations like layout, grout lines, and decorative accents will increase material requirements.

Adjust for Layout

Staggering tiles diagonally or offsetting grids require cutting some tiles. This creates waste and the need for overage. Add at least 10% more tiles for diagonal patterns and 15% for brick layouts.

Account for Grout Lines

Grout lines absorb some area, meaning tiles must cover more surface than just the backsplash itself. Generally, add 2-5% more tiles to account for grout. Wider grout lines or specialty grout techniques require more.

Plan for Decorative Additions

Accent tiles, borders, mosaics, and other special details require extra materials. Calculate these areas and add tile amounts separately from the overall estimate.

Build these design factors into your estimate to ensure you buy enough tile the first time.

Measure Countertop Edges

If tiling the edges of countertops or islands, measure these perimeter lengths for edging tiles. Most edging tiles are sold individually by the linear foot or per piece based on size.

Use a flexible tape measure to accurately gauge contours and corners. Record the total countertop edge length.

Many tile packages estimate 5-10 linear feet coverage per square foot of tile. Check manufacturer specs for your tile’s coverage.

Factor edging tile into your total tile requirement to ensure you get enough for the edges too.

Estimate Adhesives, Grout, and Tools

In addition to the tile itself, planning a backsplash requires other supplies:

  • Adhesive – Tile mastic tubes estimate coverage in square feet. Multiply your area by 1.15 for a 15% waste factor.
  • Grout – Powdered grout coverage varies by manufacturer and joint width. Budget 1/3 to 1/2 more than the tile count.
  • Tools – Pick up any tools needed for cutting, spacing, and application based on your skill level.

Don’t wait until the end to estimate these other items. Add them to your tile order or purchase separately beforehand.

Order Samples and Overage

With all the calculations complete, determine the quantities to order:

  • Samples – Order 2-5 extra tiles beyond your estimate for pattern planning and destructive testing.
  • Overage – Purchase 10-15% more tile than calculated to account for cutting waste and defects.

Adjust your final order upward to get these extra tiles, then relax knowing you’ve estimated properly for your project.

How to Estimate Backsplash Tile

Follow this simple 7 step process when estimating tile for a backsplash:

  1. Measure the height and width of the backsplash area(s).
  2. Determine the size of the tile you’re installing.
  3. Multiply the area times the tile size to get the basic number of tiles needed.
  4. Add more tiles for design effects like patterns and grout.
  5. Measure countertop edges if also tiling these.
  6. Estimate additional materials like adhesive, grout, and tools.
  7. Order overage tiles and samples beyond your base estimate.

Planning upfront guarantees you have what you need to tile your backsplash successfully.

Backsplash Tile Estimating FAQs

Still have questions on estimating backsplash tile? Here are answers to some frequently asked questions:

How much overage should I get?

Order 10-15% more tiles than your base estimate to ensure you have extras to complete the job. This compensates for potential tile defects or cuts.

What measurements are most important?

Focus on getting accurate height, width, countertop edge, and niche measurements. Precise math here results in the best tile estimate.

How do I calculate specialty decorative tiles?

Measure these areas separately and base the tile amount on those dimensions rather than overall coverage.

What if I’m unsure about my measurements?

Round up tile quantities generously or overestimate square footage slightly if concerned measurements aren’t perfect. It’s better to have leftovers than to run short halfway through install.

Should I include an estimate for potential tile repairs?

Yes, it’s smart to keep 10-15% extra tile in case repairs are needed long-term due to damage or remodeling. Store these safely.

How do I determine thinset and grout amounts?

Adhesive coverage depends on substrate material. Grout varies by joint width. Follow package directions and calculate at least 30-50% extra to ensure sufficient product.

Getting a handle on these common questions results in a worry-free backsplash tile purchasing experience.

Key Takeaways on Estimating Backsplash Tile

Estimating tile needs carefully results in a successful project. Keep these tips in mind:

  • Measure backsplash height, width, and edges meticulously for an accurate tile count.
  • Have your exact tile size on hand to determine the number needed.
  • Account for design layouts, grout lines, and special details that increase tile requirements.
  • Order 10-15% extra for overage and defects that occur during installation.
  • Don’t forget essential tools, adhesive, and grout in your estimate.
  • Carefully calculating backsplash tile ensures you get the right quantities from the start.

With a precisely calculated tile estimate, you can purchase materials for your backsplash confidently knowing you won’t run short. Use these estimating steps to get the coverage you need with less hassle or extra trips to the store.


Estimating tile needs for a backsplash takes careful measurement, math, and planning. Determine the exact area size, tile dimensions, design factors, and overage margin. Measure meticulously, account for adhesive, grout, and specialty tiles, and order 10-15% extra when purchasing materials. Follow these guidelines to estimate backsplash tile like a pro so you buy the right quantities the first time. With a detailed tile plan, you can install your backsplash successfully from start to finish.