How to Figure Backsplash Tile

Installing a beautiful backsplash is an easy way to update the look of your kitchen or bathroom. When figuring out how much tile you need for a backsplash, it’s important to carefully measure and calculate the square footage of the wall area to be tiled. With some simple math, you can determine the right amount of tile and avoid either purchasing too much or having to make extra trips to the store.

Measure the Backsplash Area

The first step in figuring out backsplash tile is to precisely measure the area that will be tiled. Here is a step-by-step guide:

Prepare the Space

Clear the countertops and remove anything on the walls in the backsplash area. This will allow you to measure just the surface that will be covered in tile.

Measure Width

Use a tape measure to measure the width of the backsplash area in inches. Measure across the bottom, middle, and top of the area and use the smallest measurement. This will account for any tapering or unevenness in the wall.

Measure Height

Measure the height of the backsplash area from the countertop to the bottom of any upper cabinets. For full wall backsplashes, measure from the countertop to the ceiling.

Calculate Square Footage

Multiply the width by the height to get the square footage of the backsplash area. For example, if the width is 36 inches and the height is 42 inches, the square footage would be 36 x 42 = 1,512 square inches. To convert to square feet, divide by 144. So 1,512 square inches equals 10.5 square feet.

Determine Tile Needs

Once you know the square footage of the backsplash, you can easily calculate the amount of tile needed.

Tile Size

Consider the size of tile you plan to use. Common backsplash tile sizes are 4×4, 3×6, 4×12, and subway tiles which are 3×6. Measure a few tiles to confirm the dimensions if needed.

Tile Square Footage

Read the packaging or check with a sales associate to find out how many square feet each tile covers. For example, a 4×4 tile covers 0.44 square feet per tile.

Calculate Tiles Needed

Divide the total backsplash square footage by the coverage per tile to get the estimated number of tiles needed. For a 10.5 square foot backsplash using 4×4 tiles, you would need around 24 tiles (10.5 divided by 0.44).

Add Extra Tiles

It’s smart to add an extra 10-15% of tiles to allow for broken pieces and cutting. For our 10.5 square foot project with 4×4 tiles, buying 27-28 tiles would give enough extras.

Plan the Layout

Before purchasing and installing the tile, take time to map out the backsplash and determine the tile layout.

Make a Grid

Sketch out a grid of the backsplash area showing the dimensions. Indicate any outlets, windows or gaps that require cutting tiles.

Dry Layout

Do a dry layout with a few tiles on the countertop. See how they fit together and how cuts and edges may look.

Decide Pattern

Choose a pattern for the tiles. Basic options are brick lay, staggered horizontal, diagonal, or stacked vertical. Mixing patterns can add interest.

Choose Starting Point

Pick a focal point like the stove or sink and start tiling outwards from there. Work in whole tiles as much as possible.

Purchase Materials

With the measurements calculated and layout planned, now you can confidently purchase the materials needed.

  • Tile: Buy 10-15% extra as calculated
  • Mortar and grout
  • Trowel and mixing bucket
  • Tile cutter and spacers
  • Sealer
  • Safety gear like gloves and eye protection

Tiling Tips

Follow these tips for properly installing the backsplash tile:

  • Prepare the surface so it’s clean and smooth
  • Apply mortar evenly using a notched trowel
  • Lay the tiles in the planned pattern, using spacers between
  • Cut border and specialty tiles using a wet saw or tile cutter
  • Let mortar cure according to directions before grouting
  • Grout lines evenly and wipe away excess
  • Seal grout and tiles with penetrating or surface sealers
  • Caulk perimeter edges and gaps with silicone caulk

With the right calculations and preparations, tiling your backsplash will be easy. The key is accurately measuring and purchasing enough tile. Carefully laying out the pattern will also help minimize cuts and waste. Follow the tiling best practices and soon you’ll have a stunning new backsplash to enjoy.

Frequently Asked Questions

What tools do I need to install backsplash tile?

The basic tools needed are a tape measure, tile cutter, trowel, spacers, buckets, grout float, sponges, and safety gear like gloves and goggles. A wet saw is also useful for making tricky tile cuts.

How do I cut tiles around outlets and openings?

Use a rotary tool or wet saw to cut notches and holes in tiles to fit around outlets, faucets, etc. The remaining edges can then be finished off with a manual tile cutter.

What type of tile is best for kitchen backsplashes?

Ceramic, porcelain, or glass tile are most common since they are durable, water-resistant, and easy to clean. Natural stone can stain and requires sealing but provides a classic, elegant look.

Should I use larger or smaller tiles in a small space?

In a small, narrow area like a backsplash, smaller tiles around 4 inches or smaller work best. The smaller scale makes the space appear larger. Larger tiles may look awkward or overwhelm the area.

How do I get a clean, straight grout line?

Use plastic tile spacers between tiles while setting them to get even grout lines. Tool the grout carefully and wipe excess off the tile surface with a damp sponge before it dries.

Can I install a backsplash over existing tile?

Yes, in most cases you can. Use a bonding agent to adhere the new tile. The existing wall surface under the old tile must be in good condition.


Figuring out backsplash tile involves carefully measuring the wall space, calculating the total square footage, purchasing extra tiles, planning the layout, and following good installation techniques. With some simple math and tile knowledge, you can determine how much tile is needed. Taking the time to properly measure and prep will ensure you buy just the right amount. The end result will be a professional-looking, beautiful backsplash you’ll enjoy for years.