How to Figure Tile for Backsplash

Backsplashes are a great way to add visual interest and protection behind sinks, stoves, and countertops. Choosing the right tile for your backsplash requires some planning and calculations to get the sizing, amount, and layout correct. With some simple math and planning, you can figure out exactly how much tile you need and how to lay it out for an eye-catching backsplash design.

Measure the Area to be Tiled

The first step in figuring out tile for a backsplash is to accurately measure the area you will be tiling. This will determine how much tile you need to purchase.

Follow these steps:

  • Clear the area behind the sink or stove of any items. This will allow you to measure just the backsplash area.
  • Measure the length and width of the backsplash area. For example, for a backsplash behind a stove, measure from the top of the counter to the bottom of the upper cabinets. For a sink backsplash, measure from counter to counter along the wall behind the sink.
  • For any uneven areas, take multiple measurements and average them.
  • Multiply the length times the width to calculate the square footage of the area. Round up to the nearest whole number.
  • Add up the square footage of all sections you plan to tile if doing multiple areas.

Having accurate area measurements is crucial for purchasing enough tile. So be sure to measure carefully in multiple spots and round up for a little extra.

Determine Tile Size

Once you know the total square footage to be tiled, you can determine the tile size to use. Common backsplash tile sizes are:

  • 1×1 inch mosaic tiles
  • 3×6 inch subway tiles
  • 4×4 inch tiles
  • 6×6 inch tiles

Consider the size and style you want when deciding. Smaller tile sizes like 1×1 mosaics will have more grout lines versus larger tiles that have fewer, more dramatic grout lines. The size can affect the overall visual look.

Measure sample tiles at the store with a tape measure to ensure the size advertised is accurate. Some tiles can have larger grout margins that reduce the actual tile size.

Opt for smaller tiles if tiling a space with lots of cuts around outlets and corners. Larger tiles will require more cuts for fitting.

Ultimately the tile size chosen comes down to personal preference and design style. Just be sure to calculate needed materials based on the actual size.

Determine Tile Amount

Once you know the total square footage to be tiled and the tile size, you can determine how many tiles are needed.

Use this simple equation:

Total Square Footage / Tile Size Squared = Number of Tiles

For example, for a backsplash that is 20 square feet and using 4×4 inch tiles:

20 sq ft / (4 x 4) = 20 / 16 = 125 tiles

Round your tile amount up to the nearest full box. It’s better to have a few extra tiles than to run short during installation. Consider purchasing 10-15% more than calculated.

If using decorative border or accent tiles, calculate this separately based on the linear footage to be accented.

Having the total number of tiles allows you to accurately calculate the amount to purchase for your project.

Calculate Tile Layout

With the right tile amount purchased, you can now plan the tile layout.

  • First, determine if you want an offset or straight layout pattern. Offset patterns stagger tiles so the grout lines don’t line up, creating more visual interest. Straight patterns have grout lines that match up for a grid look.
  • Use graph paper or tile planning software to experiment with different layouts. This allows you to visualize the pattern.
  • Mark the measurements of the area being tiled to scale on paper. Draw different tile arrangements within the space to find a appealing layout.
  • Ensure any border or decorative tiles are accounted for in the layout. Plan these details first.
  • Avoid having to make narrow cut tiles around the edges and at protrusions like outlets. Adjust the layout so tiles fit evenly.

Having a pre-planned tile layout will make for easier installation. Remember to also account for the grout spacing between tiles when calculating dimensions.

Purchase Additional Materials

Beyond the tile itself, be sure to purchase these additional supplies needed:

Tile Adhesive and Grout

  • Use an adhesive suitable for the tile type and application. Consult manufacturer guidelines.
  • Budget 1/4 inch gaps between tiles for grout width. Match grout color to the tile.
  • For a 20 sq ft backsplash, you’ll need 2-3 bags of adhesive and grout.


  • Cement backerboard provides a waterproof, secure surface for tiles. Measure and cut boards to size.
  • For a 20 sq ft application, you’ll need one 3×5 ft backerboard panel.

Trowels, Spacers, Grout Float

  • A notched trowel is needed to spread adhesive. Get a size recommended for your tile.
  • Plastic spacers keep consistent grout line spacing between tiles.
  • A grout float helps smooth and shape even grout lines.


  • Protect grout lines and natural stone tiles with a sealer product.

Calculating all materials, tools, and accessories needed for the tiling job will prevent having to make extra trips to the store later.

Safety Equipment Needed

Specialized safety gear is required for certain parts of the installation process:

  • Eye protection – When cutting tiles and cleaning out grout lines, wear safety goggles for eye protection.
  • Dust mask – Use a N95 dust mask when cutting tiles to avoid breathing in silica dust particles.
  • Knee pads – Kneepads provide cushioning and comfort when installing floor and lower wall tiles.
  • Ear protection – Wear ear plugs or protective ear muffs when cutting tiles with a wet saw.
  • Gloves – Wear protective waterproof gloves when handling adhesives, grout and chemicals.

Having proper safety equipment will help reduce personal injuries when tiling. Be sure to use it.

Time Requirements

Tiling requires careful prep, precise installation, and time for materials to set and dry properly. Rushing the job can cause big problems down the line.

Here is a general timeline:

  • Prep work – 1-2 days (cleaning, removing old backsplash, preparing backerboard, layout planning)
  • Adhesive setting – 1-2 days (spreading adhesive and laying tiles)
  • Grout curing – 2-3 days (grouting tiles and allowing to cure before sealing)
  • Sealing – 1 day (applying protective sealer)

Factor in at least 5-7 full days for a complete professional tiling job. Having extra time in the schedule helps ensure you don’t feel rushed during key steps.

Proper planning and prep work is the key to creating a quality tile backsplash you will enjoy for years. With the right calculations of tile amounts, materials, safety gear, layout plans, and time, you can install an eye-catching backsplash in your kitchen or bath. Just take it one step at a time for tile success!

Frequently Asked Questions About Figuring Tile for Backsplash

Figuring out the right amount of tile and planning the layout for a backsplash installation can seem complicated. Here are answers to some frequently asked questions:

How much tile do I need for my backsplash?

Measure the total square footage of the area to be tiled. Divide by the size of your tile squared to get the approximant number of tiles needed. Add 10-15% extra for cuts and waste.

What size tile should I use?

Smaller 1×1 mosaics have more grout lines. Larger 6×6 tiles have fewer, more dramatic lines. Choose based on your design style and skill level working with different sizes.

How do I get a backsplash layout I like?

Sketch different layouts to scale on graph paper using measurements of your space. Plan accent and border tiles first. Avoid small sliver cut tiles on the edges.

What tools do I need for tiling?

At minimum you’ll need a notched trowel, tile cutter, spacers, and grout float. For cutting irregular shapes, a snap cutter or wet saw is recommended.

How long does a backsplash tile job take?

Expect the project to take 5-7 full days from start to finish. Allow adequate drying time for adhesive and grout between steps. Rushing can lead to problems.

What safety gear should I use?

Wear goggles, dust mask, gloves, knee pads and ear protection when cutting to avoid silica dust and noise hazards. Protect yourself.

How do I prep for tiling?

Clean the area thoroughly, remove any old backsplash, install cement backerboard if lacking, layout materials, and plan the tile arrangement. Proper planning prevents problems.

Should I do a straight or offset pattern?

Offset patterns have a more dynamic look but can be trickier to install. Straight grid patterns are simpler for DIY beginners. Choose what you like visually and matches your skill.

Figuring out the tile layout and installations steps takes some legwork upfront, but prevents frustrations down the road. With adequate planning and protection, you can have a beautiful backsplash you’ll love.


Installing a tile backsplash in your kitchen or bathroom can take your space from basic to beautiful. With the right calculations, planning, materials, tools and safety precautions, you can create a functional and eye-catching focal point. First determine the exact area size to be covered and tile size to use. Then calculate the quantities needed, experiment with layout patterns, and gather all additional accessories and tools. Safety comes first when cutting tile and handling adhesives. Allow adequate drying and curing time throughout the process. With patience and proper planning, you can achieve a backsplash installed with precision that you will enjoy for many years. Just take it step-by-step to have success tiling your backsplash area!