How to Finish Tile Edges on Backsplash

Adding a tile backsplash to your kitchen or bathroom can instantly upgrade the look and feel of the space. However, finishing the edges of the backsplash professionally is crucial for a high-quality result. Improperly finished edges can detract from the beauty of the backsplash tile and make the installation look sloppy. With some planning and the right techniques, you can achieve clean, finished edges for a polished look.

Selecting Tile Edge Treatments

There are several different options for finishing the edges of a tile backsplash:

Bullnose Tiles

Bullnose tiles have a rounded finished edge and are designed specifically for finishing the edges of a backsplash installation. They come in many styles and materials to match or coordinate with your backsplash tile. Bullnose tiles are installed alongside the field tiles and create a smooth, seamless transition along the edges.

Tile Edge Trim

Tile edging trim pieces come in metal, typically brass or chrome, as well as vinyl and other materials. The trim installs over the edge of the tile and acts as a border or frame. This can create a more defined edge versus bullnose tiles. Tile edge trim is available in different widths, finishes, and designs.

End Caps

End caps are small trim pieces designed to finish the exposed edges of a run of tile. Often used with subway tile, end caps put a professional finish on the last tile in the row. End caps come in materials matching the trim.

Schluter Strips

Schluter and other brands make metal edging strips designed specifically for tile. They have a lip that fits over the tile edge and protect and finish the edges of the backsplash. Great for finishing cut or irregular edges.

Preparing the Edges Before Installation

Proper preparation of the edges and wall area before installing the tile backsplash is an important first step to get clean finished edges:

  • Remove any old backsplash and get the wall surface ready for new tile. Scrape off adhesives, spackle, seal, and smooth the area. Ensure the drywall or surface is even.
  • Apply painter’s tape along the edges that will meet the countertop, cabinets, and any adjacent surfaces. This protects the surfaces from thinset and allows for a cleaner finish.
  • Mark the outlet locations carefully on the wall so tile cuts can be made to accommodate them.
  • Plan bullnose or trim locations and mark where they will be installed. Measure carefully.
  • Dry fit tiles along edges and around outlets before applying thinset to ensure proper fit. Make adjustments prior to adhering tiles to the wall.

Cutting Bullnose and Edge Tiles

Bullnose and other edge tiles often need to be cut to size to fit perfectly along the installation edges. Follow these steps for accurate cutting:

  • Mark where the tile needs to be cut using a pencil or tile marker.
  • Use a straight edge to ensure your cut line is straight.
  • Use a wet saw fitted with a diamond tile blade to make accurate cuts.
  • Cut slowly and smoothly for clean edge cuts.
  • Dry fit the cut tiles and make any minor adjustments prior to installing with thinset.
  • Save tile cutting scraps, as they can be useful for small filler pieces.

Installing Bullnose Tiles on Edges

After preparing the backsplash area and cutting any specialty pieces, you’re ready to install the bullnose tiles following best practices:

  • Apply thinset mortar evenly across the area, using a notched trowel to create ridges for tile adhesion.
  • Push the bullnose tiles into the thinset firmly, aligning them evenly along the edge. Use spacers for consistent grout lines.
  • Cut bullnose tiles as needed to fit around outlets, corners, and any obstructions.
  • Allow thinset to fully cure per manufacturer directions before continuing.
  • Once bullnose tiles are installed, install the field tiles for the main backsplash area up to the bullnose edges.

Applying Edge Trim and Finishing Pieces

For metal, vinyl, or other tile edge treatments, adhere the pieces properly using these tips:

  • Cut edge trim and end caps to the lengths needed for each edge using tin snips, a hacksaw or other tools.
  • Thoroughly clean the edges of installed tiles where trim will be applied with denatured alcohol.
  • Apply a bead of construction adhesive or silicone adhesive to the back lip of the trim piece.
  • Press the trim firmly onto the edge of the tile and ensure the front edge aligns evenly.
  • Use painter’s tape to hold trim tightly to edge for at least 24 hours while adhesive dries.
  • Caulk any visible gaps between trim and tile with clear silicone caulk for clean finish.

Grouting Tiled Backsplash Edges

Grouting finishes the backsplash and makes the tiles look seamless. Take care when grouting the outer edges:

  • Wait the manufacturer’s recommended time after installation to begin grouting tiles. Do not rush this step.
  • Apply grout along the edges carefully using a rubber grout float or squeegee, spreading it into joints. Remove excess grout.
  • Clean any grout smears or residue from bullnose tile outer edges for clean lines.
  • Once grouted, wipe the edges down with a soft damp sponge in a circular motion. Clean as much excess grout as possible.
  • Polish and buff surface with a soft, dry cloth once grout has dried on tiles and edges.

Caulking Perimeter Edges

The final step is sealing the edges between the backsplash and countertops, cabinets, or walls:

  • Let grout dry fully, generally 24 to 48 hours.
  • Tape off edges with painter’s tape or masking tape to keep caulk neat.
  • Apply a steady bead of 100% silicone caulk in the joint between the backsplash edge and the surrounding surfaces.
  • Using a dampened fingertip or caulk tool, smooth the caulk into the crevice and remove any excess.
  • Allow caulk to fully cure for 24 hours, then remove tape for a clean caulk line.

Achieving Professional Edge Finishes

Attention to detail on the backsplash edges gives a truly pro finished look:

  • Take time to plan the order of installation and measure twice for specialty pieces.
  • Equally space edge and end pieces and align them properly as you install.
  • Cut specialty tiles and trim with care for tight joints.
  • Clean as you go to prevent thinset, adhesive, or grout from drying on outer surfaces.
  • Polish and buff all finished edges so they gleam.
  • Seal edges fully with flexible silicone caulk for water protection.

With the right materials and some practice, you can master perfectly installing various backsplash edge treatments. Your finished kitchen or bath will have a high-end designer feel.

Common Problems and Solutions for Tile Edges

Even experienced DIYers can run into issues finishing tile backsplash edges. Here are some common problems and how to avoid or resolve them:

Uneven Tile Edges

Problem: Bullnose or edge tiles are uneven, creating a sloppy appearance.

Solution: Check wall surface is plumb and even before installing. Use tile spacers when setting tiles. Replace any pieces not lying flat.

Gaps Between Tiles

Problem: Small gaps are visible between edge tiles or at corners.

Solution: Be sure to use proper sized grout lines for tile type. Carefully apply grout and ensure joints are full. Caulk corners and joints if very small gaps remain.

Cracked Bullnose Tiles

Problem: Bullnose tiles get cracked during cutting or installation.

Solution: Mark and cut tiles carefully. Set tiles gently and evenly without twisting. Replace any cracked pieces.

Grout Smears on Edges

Problem: Grout overlays the polished bullnose or trim surface during installation.

Solution: Be very careful when applying grout near edges. Immediately clean any smears with damp sponge and buff surface.

Metal Trim Popping Off

Problem: Metal edge trim pulls away or pops off surface.

Solution: Ensure surface is smooth, clean, and dry before application. Use strong construction adhesive and hold tightly with tape for 24 hours.

Not Enough Contrast at Edges

Problem: The edge tiles or trim don’t stand out from the field tile.

Solution: Choose bullnose or trim that contrasts enough with the main tile in color, finish, or material. Replace if necessary.

FAQ About Finishing Tile Backsplash Edges

Many questions come up when installing a backsplash and finishing the outer edges. Here are some frequently asked questions and answers:

Should I use bullnose or tile edge trim?

This often comes down to personal preference for the look you want. Bullnose tiles provide a smooth, rounded transition, while trim adds a border and defined edge.

How are subway tiles finished?

Use end caps on the exposed edges of subway tiles. You can also install them in a staggered brick pattern to avoid exposed edges.

Should edge tiles be included in square footage?

Yes, you need to account for any bullnose tiles or specialty pieces in the total tile square footage.

How much overage should I get for edge tiles?

Plan for 10% extra tile to allow for cuts and having enough bullnose or edge tiles. For small backsplashes, get extra edge tiles only.

Should I use different grout on the edges?

No, use the same grout throughout for a consistent appearance. Sanded grout for joints wider than 1/8 inch and nonsanded for tight joints.

How do I cut trickier edge pieces?

Make several practice cuts first in scrap tile. For rounded edges, use a tile wet saw or tile nippers for small hand cuts.

Should I finish the bottom edge too?

The bottom edge can be finished with bullnose tile or trim if desired, but leaving it unfinished where it meets the countertop is also acceptable.

Finishing backsplash edges professionally takes precision but elevates the entire look. With some careful planning and skill, you can achieve beautiful finished edges that will wow.

Tips for Achieving Perfectly Finished Tile Edges

Getting pro-level finished edges on your backsplash tile installation requires great care, precision, and the right techniques. Follow these expert tips for flawless results:

  • Always draw detailed plans for edges and corners prior to installing. Measure twice, cut once. Account for uneven walls and surfaces in your plans.
  • Use level lines and create even surfaces. Tiles installed on uneven areas will not align correctly and finishing the edges will be very difficult.
  • Cut edge and bullnose tiles very slowly and steadily with a wet saw. Rushing leads to cracks, unevenness, or dull edges.
  • Test fit all specialty pieces prior to installing with thinset. Ensure proper fit so you don’t have to force pieces into place.
  • When applying thinset near edges, be sure not to spread it too far onto visible surfaces. Wipe any excess immediately with a damp sponge.
  • Make small final adjustments to edge or bullnose tiles while the thinset mortar is still pliable and before it dries.
  • Leave 1/8 inch grout lines between bullnose and field tiles for best results and easier grouting. Push tiles firmly together.
  • Grout edges very slowly and carefully to avoid smearing grout onto the visible bullnose or trim surfaces. Keep a bucket of water and sponge handy.
  • Use caulk, not grout, in corner joints for a tighter seal. Grout cracks easily at angles. Apply caulk after grout has cured.
  • Always buff and polish tiles and edges thoroughly with a soft cloth immediately after grouting and sealing the edges.

Finishing tile backsplash edges impeccably takes patience and precision. With close attention to planning, installation, and finishing, your edges can look professionally done.

Enlisting Professional Help for Backsplashes

Installing a tile backsplash has many complex steps involved, especially getting clean finished edges that meet your standards. Don’t be afraid to call in the experts if needed. Reasons you may want to hire a professional tiler for your backsplash project include:

  • Precision cutting. Professionals have specialized wet saws to cut bullnose and edge pieces very precisely. This results in tight seams along edges.
  • Proper thinset application. Experts are adept at spreading thinset smoothly and evenly, especially along backsplash edges. No globs of mortar drying on visible surfaces.
  • Correct grouting methods. Seasoned tilers are careful to apply grout properly near outer edges for a clean finish free of cracks or smears.
  • Attention to detail. A pro will be precise about evenly aligning edge tiles and trim pieces for a symmetrical finish free of lips or unevenness.
  • Specialized tools. Pros have grout float tools and other devices to allow them to grout near sensitive surfaces cleanly without ruining edges.
  • Level surfaces. A tiling professional can ensure the wall or surface is perfectly level and plumb before installing tiles. This prevents slipping, uneven edges, and lippage issues.
  • Code knowledge. An experienced tiler understands all the building codes and standards for proper moisture prevention, tile cuts, trim usage, and more.

Don’t get discouraged if your DIY backsplash edges aren’t coming out quite right. Calling in a tile installation pro to handle the specialty edges can give you the expert result you want.

Design Ideas and Creative Touches for Backsplash Edges

Beyond basic finished edges, you can get creative with backsplash edges to make them stand out as beautiful design features. Some unique edge treatment ideas include:

  • Choose a contrasting colored bullnose tile or trim to create an eye-catching border effect.
  • Opt for polished metal or chrome trim for a modern pop of shine along edges.
  • Install mosaic sheets along the outer edges as a pretty frame for classic subway tiles.
  • Arrange the outer tiles in a unique herringbone, basketweave, or diagonal pattern for interest.
  • Pair ornate decorative tiles only on the outer edges with a simpler field tile on the body.
  • Use recycled glass bullnose tiles or marbled porcelain trim for organic texture along edges.
  • Frame the backsplash edges with small decorative listello tiles vertically or horizontally.
  • Accent the top backsplash edge with patterned tiles, shells, marbles, corals, beads, or pebbles glued to the surface.

Don’t be afraid to get creative with different colors, textures, materials, and patterns on your backsplash edges. Consult a tile design pro if you need help planning the details.


Installing a tile backsplash can take your kitchen or bath design to the next level. Paying special attention to professionally finishing the outer edges truly makes the project look polished and pro-done. With the right planning, materials, precision cutting, and installation method, you can achieve flawlessly beautiful backsplash edges that complement your tile design. Use bullnose tiles, trim pieces, and creative touches to make those edges shine. With some care and creativity, your finished backsplash will turn out picture-perfect.