How to Figure Square Feet for Backsplash

Installing a backsplash in your kitchen can really transform the look and make it feel fresh and updated. An important part of planning for a new backsplash is calculating the square footage to determine how much material you will need to purchase. Figuring out square feet for a backsplash is easy once you know the measurements of your space. Here is a comprehensive guide on how to calculate square feet for your kitchen backsplash project.

Measuring Your Kitchen

The first step is to measure the areas in your kitchen where you plan on installing backsplash. For most kitchens, this will be the wall space between the countertops and cabinets. Here are some tips for getting accurate measurements:

  • Use a steel measuring tape for precision – do not estimate or pace off distances.
  • Measure to the nearest 1/8th of an inch.
  • Measure the length and height of each wall section that will have backsplash.
  • For inside corners where two walls meet, measure each wall separately.
  • Note any areas like windows or appliances that will not be covered with backsplash.
  • Draw out a rough sketch of your kitchen layout and record the measurements for each section.

Having detailed measurements for each backsplash area will allow you to calculate the square footage precisely.

Calculating Square Footage

Once you have all the measurements, you can calculate the square footage of each backsplash section using this simple formula:

Square feet = Length (in inches) x Height (in inches) / 144

Let’s look at a sample calculation for a backsplash section:

Length: 48 inches
Height: 36 inches

Square footage: 48 x 36 / 144 = 12 square feet

Be sure to calculate each section individually, then add them all up to get the total square footage. For inside corners, measure and calculate each wall separately.

To make it easier, create a table like the one below to record your measurements and square footage for each section:

|Wall Section|Length (in)|Height (in)|Square Feet|
|Behind stove | 25 | 36 | 6 ft2|
|Left of stove| 48 | 36 | 12 ft2|
|Behind sink| 60 | 36 | 15 ft2|
|Right of sink| 48 | 36 | 12 ft2|
|Total| – | – | 45 ft2|

Having all the measurements organized in a table allows you to simply add up the individual square footages to determine the total backsplash area.

Tips for Accurate Measurements

Here are some key tips to ensure you get highly accurate measurements for calculating backsplash square footage:

  • Use a laser measuring tool – for long distances or hard to reach areas, a laser tool can give very precise measurements.
  • Account for soffits or bump-outs – if the wall has any soffits that stick out, take separate measurements for the main wall and the soffit sections.
  • Note any obstructed areas – if there are cabinets, electrical boxes, plumbing, etc on the wall, make note of these measurements separately so you can subtract them from the total area.
  • Measure in multiple spots – walls are not always perfectly straight, so measure the length at the top, middle, and bottom and use the longest length.
  • Photograph each section – take photos of each measured section and mark the measurements right on the photos for reference.
  • Double check totals – recalculate the totals and cross check all your measurements to verify accuracy before purchasing materials.

Taking careful measurements and using a table to record and calculate the square footage for each backsplash section will give you the precise total area needed.

Ordering Backsplash Materials

Once you know the total square footage required, you can determine how much backsplash material to purchase. Most backsplash tiles or panels are sold in square feet. Here are some tips for ordering:

  • Add up the total square feet needed for all backsplash sections.
  • Round up to the nearest whole square foot – it’s better to have extra than not enough.
  • Add an extra 10% to allow for cuts, wasted pieces, and mistakes.
  • Double check the square feet per sheet/box for your specific backsplash material.
  • Divide your total square feet by the square feet per box to determine how many boxes to purchase.

As an example, if your total backsplash area is 45 square feet, round up to 50 square feet. Add 10% which is 5 square feet, so your total is 55 square feet. If the backsplash tiles come in 10 square foot sheets, you would need to purchase 6 sheets (55 sq ft divided by 10 sq ft per sheet = 5.5, rounded up is 6 sheets).

Purchasing 10% extra is recommended to account for any errors and have extras in case you need to replace damaged tiles later on.

Planning the Layout

Once you know precisely how much backsplash material is needed, the next step is to plan the layout. Here are some tips:

  • Make another sketch showing the pattern layout.
  • Stagger the tiles so the grout lines are not all aligned.
  • Determine the best starting point and end point.
  • Try to minimize small cut pieces on the edges and corners.
  • Use whole tiles around inside and outside corners if possible.
  • Have extra tiles to allow for mistakes and breaks.

Take time to map out the backsplash installation and how the tiles or panels will be placed on each wall section. Having a well-thought-out plan will make installing the backsplash go smoother.

Purchasing Extra Material

Even with careful measurements and layout planning, it is always smart to purchase some extra backsplash material. Here are some recommendations:

  • Buy 10-15% more than your square footage calculations. This covers minor measurement errors, waste, or breakage.
  • Purchase a few extra tiles of each type/color/design used. These can be used for future repairs if needed.
  • Get extra grout. Colored grout can sometimes be hard to find, so buy more than you think you need.
  • Have a few extra backsplash sheets or mesh sheets. These help fill in tricky spots like overlapping seams or covering outlets.

The small additional cost of purchasing extra material can prevent headaches later if you run short during installation or need replacements down the road.

Tools Needed

Installing a kitchen backsplash is a fairly straightforward DIY project, but having the right tools makes the job much easier. Here is a checklist of tools you will need:

Basic Tools

  • Tape measure
  • Level
  • Sharpie
  • Painter’s tape
  • Yardstick or tile spacers
  • Utility knife
  • Carpenter’s square

Cutting Tools

  • Tile cutter
  • Tile nippers
  • Wet saw (for mosaics or stone tiles)

Safety Gear

  • Safety glasses
  • Dust mask
  • Knee pads

Installation Tools

  • Notched trowel
  • Mixing bucket
  • Grout float
  • Grout sponge
  • Caulking gun

Having all the tools and safety equipment ahead of time will make your backsplash installation project go faster and safer. Don’t forget to include the cost of purchasing or renting any additional tools in your backsplash budget.

Preparing the Surface

Proper surface preparation is key to achieving a long-lasting backsplash installation. Follow these steps to prep the area:

  • Remove existing backsplash if present using a putty knife and hammer.
  • Take down any wallpaper or other wall coverings.
  • Fill any holes or cracks with drywall compound and sand smooth.
  • Clean the walls thoroughly to remove grease, wax or soap film.
  • Use painter’s tape to mask off the edges and cover any nearby surfaces.
  • Apply primer/sealer if needed to improve adhesion.

Take time to address any flaws in the target wall and thoroughly clean it so the backsplash tiles or panels adhere properly. This prevents problems down the road with the backsplash becoming unstuck.

Planning the Installation Order

It is also important to strategically plan the order in which you will install the backsplash. Here are some tips:

  • Start at the bottom and work up to avoid stepping on installed tiles.
  • Begin with the most visible areas like behind the stove or sink.
  • Do the intricate tile cuts before installing the main field tiles.
  • Complete one wall fully before moving to additional walls.
  • Leave grouting as one of the last steps for easier clean up.

Having an installation plan will prevent you from accidentally covering areas that still need tiling. Working methodically from the bottom up and completing each section fully makes the project less overwhelming.

Step-by-Step Installation Guide

Now that you have all the prep work completed, here is a step-by-step guide for installing the backsplash tiles:

Step 1: Mark the Starting Point

  • Use a level to draw a plumb line at the lowest point where tiles will start.
  • This keeps the courses straight and level.

Step 2: Prepare and Apply the Adhesive

  • Mix the thinset mortar adhesive according to package directions.
  • Use a notched trowel to spread it on the wall, holding at a 45 degree angle.

Step 3: Set the Backsplash Tiles

  • Starting at the bottom on your plumb line, press tiles into the adhesive.
  • Use spacers between tiles for consistent grout line width.
  • Check level and vertical alignment periodically as you go up.

Step 4: Cut any Custom Pieces

  • Measure and cut any special pieces needed for edges or around openings.
  • Use a wet saw for detailed cuts. Use a tile cutter for straight cuts.

Step 5: Let Adhesive Cure

  • Allow thinset mortar to fully cure for 24-48 hours before grouting.
  • Remove any spacers and clean any adhesive squeeze-out.

Step 6: Grout the Tile Joints

  • Apply grout with a grout float, pressing into joints between tiles.
  • Wipe away excess grout with a damp sponge.
  • Apply caulk for any gaps at edges or corners if needed.

Step 7: Seal and Finish

  • Allow grout to fully cure for 72 hours.
  • Apply grout sealer to protect from moisture and staining.
  • Caulk the transition to countertops or walls if needed.

Following these backsplash installation steps carefully will result in a finished project you will love.

Tips for Getting it Right

Here are some additional tips to help your backsplash installation go smoothly:

  • Carefully follow the product manufacturer’s instructions.
  • Only use approved adhesives and grout for the specific backsplash material.
  • Work slowly and double check your work – don’t rush through it.
  • Clean up adhesive or grout residue immediately before it dries.
  • Use painter’s tape rather than sticky tapes that can damage tile surfaces.
  • Have a helper for mixing adhesives and lifting heavy sheets of tiles.
  • Allow recommended drying time for adhesive and grout to fully cure before moving on.

Taking it slow, using proper products, and having assistance can help avoid costly backsplash mistakes.

Common Problems and Solutions

Despite your best preparation, some issues can still pop up. Here are some common backsplash problems and how to fix them:

Problem: Tiles are stuck in the wrong positions.

Solution: Carefully pry up tiles right after setting while adhesive is still wet. Reapply fresh adhesive and reset properly.

Problem: Grout lines are uneven.

Solution: Use tile spacers when setting tiles. Carefully scrape out wide grout lines and regrout.

Problem: Cracked or broken tiles.

Solution: Mark cracked tiles and replace once adhesive has cured. Chip out old grout and regrout replacement tiles.

Problem: Backsplash detaching or peeling off.

Solution: Ensure surfaces were cleaned and primed before installation. Reattach tiles with new adhesive.

Knowing ways to remedy any issues will give you confidence to handle problems during your backsplash installation.

Maintaining the Finished Backsplash

Once your new backsplash is fully installed, you will want to properly care for it to keep it looking like new. Here are some backsplash maintenance tips:

  • Seal grout periodically to protect from moisture and staining.
  • Use gentle cleaners designed for the specific backsplash material. Avoid abrasive scouring pads.
  • Rinse backsplash fully after cleaning to remove any cleaner residue.
  • Re-apply caulk if gaps appear between backsplash and countertops or walls.
  • Immediately clean any grease splatters or food spills to avoid staining grout.
  • Handle heavy pans or appliances carefully to avoid scratching tiles.

With the right care, your new kitchen backsplash can stay vibrant and damage-free for many years, even with heavy use.

Key Takeaways

Calculating square footage is an essential first step for any kitchen backsplash installation. Following this comprehensive guide will set you up for backsplash success:

  • Carefully measure each individual backsplash section and record measurements.
  • Use the formula Length x Height divided by 144 to calculate square feet of each area.
  • Add 10-15% extra when purchasing backsplash material to allow for waste and mistakes.
  • Have all necessary tools and take time to prep the installation surface.
  • Work methodically from the bottom up and finish each section fully.
  • Follow all manufacturer’s instructions for adhesive, grout, and cure times.
  • Seal and routinely maintain the finished backsplash.

Knowing exactly how much material is needed and properly preparing for the installation will help you achieve a long-lasting and beautiful backsplash design on your first try.

Frequently Asked Questions about Figuring Square Feet for Backsplash

Figuring out the square footage for a new backsplash is very important for purchasing materials and planning the installation. Here are answers to some frequently asked questions:

How do I accurately measure for backsplash square feet?

Use a steel measuring tape and record the length and height of each individual backsplash section. For inside corners, measure each adjoining wall separately. Note windows, outlets, cabinets and other obstructions.

What’s the formula for calculating backsplash square footage?

Length (in inches) x Height (in inches) divided by 144 equals square feet of a backsplash section. Calculate each section individually then add all sections for the total.

Should I measure and install backsplash before or after countertops?

It’s best to install countertops first, then measure and install the backsplash. This allows you to get a precise fit between the two surfaces.

How much extra backsplash should I order?

Order an extra 10-15% more material over your measured square footage to account for mistakes, cuts, waste, and breakages during installation.

What tools do I need for installing a kitchen backsplash?

Basic tools include a tape measure, level, utility knife, caulk gun, and grout float. You’ll also need cutting tools like a tile cutter or wet saw, and safety gear like gloves and eye protection.

What’s the typical height to install a backsplash?

The most common height is 4 inches from the countertop to the bottom of the backsplash. But this can vary from as little as 4 inches to as high as you want it.

How long does backsplash tile adhesive take to dry?

Adhesive drying times can range from 24-48 hours depending on the specific type used. Always check manufacturer instructions. Letting the thinset mortar fully cure prevents tiles from shifting.

Should I grout or caulk where backsplash meets the countertop?

Caulk is better than grout for filling the gap between the backsplash and countertop. Grout can crack over time. Match caulk color to the grout.

Figuring out the backsplash square footage accurately, purchasing extra material, and installing with care will ensure you end up with a beautiful, long-lasting backsplash.


Installing a backsplash is a great DIY project that can make a big impact on your kitchen’s appearance. Paying attention to all the details like accurate square footage calculations, proper tools and materials, effective planning, and methodical installation will help ensure you achieve backsplash success. Taking a little extra time up front to measure meticulously and work out the details results in a finished backsplash you will love showing off. With this comprehensive guide, you can feel confident tackling a kitchen backsplash that not only looks beautiful but also holds up well for many years.