How to Hang Backsplash

Installing a backsplash in your kitchen or bathroom can add visual interest and protect your walls from water damage and stains. While tiling a backsplash may seem daunting, it’s actually a relatively easy DIY project that most homeowners can tackle in a weekend. Here is a step-by-step guide on how to hang backsplash tile in your home.

Gather Your Materials

Before starting any tiling project, you’ll need to gather all the necessary materials and tools. For a basic backsplash install, you’ll need:

  • Backsplash tiles – Ceramic, porcelain, glass, and stone tile are popular options. Make sure you purchase enough to cover your planned backsplash area with a little extra to account for breakage and cuts.
  • Tile adhesive – Choose an adhesive appropriate for your tile and wall material. Many standard adhesives work for both ceramic and porcelain. Read product instructions.
  • Grout – Grout comes in different colors to match or accent your tiles. Make sure it is suitable for your tile material.
  • Trowel – Use a notched trowel to spread the adhesive on the wall. Choose a trowel size based on your tile.
  • Tile spacers – These small plastic crosses ensure consistent spacing between tiles.
  • Tile cutter – An inexpensive cutter with a carbide scoring wheel is sufficient for most jobs.
  • Grout float – This tool helps apply grout into tile joints. Use a rubber grout float to avoid scratching tiles.
  • Sponge – Use to wipe away excess grout.
  • Bucket or basin – For mixing adhesive, grout, and cleaning tools.
  • Tape measure – To calculate space and lay out tile placement.
  • Level – Ensures your tile rows are straight.
  • Pencil – To mark tile cuts and layout on the wall.
  • Safety gear – Glasses, gloves, knee pads, and a dust mask are recommended.
  • Sealer – Protective sealers are optional but can make grout cleanup easier.

Prepare Your Work Surface

Installing backsplash tile is easiest when you have a clean, flat surface to start with. Properly preparing your wall will help tiles adhere evenly.

  • Remove any old backsplash material or wall coverings down to the bare wall surface.
  • Use sandpaper or a sanding sponge to scuff glossy ceramic tile if tiling over an existing backsplash. This helps the new thinset adhere properly.
  • Clean the wall thoroughly with a degreasing cleaner so no dirt or oils impact adhesion. Let it dry completely.
  • Fill any holes or uneven spots with spackle and let dry completely. Sand smooth.
  • Paint on a tile bonding primer if suggested by your thinset manufacturer. Let it dry fully.

Your backsplash area should now be a clean, flat, prime surface ready for tiling!

Plan Your Layout

Now it’s time to map out your backsplash design. Planning the tile layout is crucial for creating a seamless professional look.

  • Measure the area to find the square footage you need to cover. Include the counter area under upper cabinets.
  • Draw a layout representing the tile placement, including cuts, spacers, and gaps.
  • Most pros recommend starting tiles in the center and working outward. Measure and mark a center line.
  • Dry lay a few tiles on the countertop to preview placement and look. Adjust layout as needed.
  • For a standard bricklike layout, plan for a 1/8″ gap between tiles and a 1/16″ gap along the counter, cabinets, and edges.

Careful planning creates a smooth installation process and an amazing finished backsplash!

Prepare the Tiles

Once you know the layout, take a few simple steps to prepare the tiles:

  • Arrange tiles from multiple boxes so color variations are evenly distributed.
  • Blend tile sheets by snapping apart and selecting different pieces if using sheet mosaic tiles.
  • Inspect all tiles for damage. Set aside cracked or chipped ones for cutting.
  • If needed, cut your first row of tiles to fit properly along the countertop. Use straight cuts where tiles meet cabinets or edges.
  • Pre-cut the final shape of any outlet coverings or fixtures in the backsplash area.

Take time before installation to handle any tile adjustments needed for a clean look.

Apply the Adhesive

With your tiles prepped and layout planned, it’s time to start the installation. Properly applying the thinset adhesive is one of the most important steps.

  • Choose a notched trowel size based on your tile dimensions. Bigger tiles require deeper notches to hold adhesive.
  • Hold the trowel at a 45° angle to the wall and spread a thin layer of adhesive on a small workable section, about 2-3 sq. ft.
  • Apply in straight rows, maintaining consistent depth and coverage.
  • Immediately comb additional adhesive over the initial layer using the trowel notches to achieve the right thickness.
  • Check adhesive coverage by lifting a tile and verifying full contact between tile and adhesive.
  • Only apply adhesive to areas you can tile within 15-30 minutes before it skins over. Time varies by product.

Applying adhesive properly leads to maximum adhesion and prevents tiles shifting or popping off later on.

Install the Tiles

Now for the fun part – setting the tiles into place on the prepared adhesive:

  • Working from your layout, firmly press tiles into the adhesive one at a time using a slight twisting motion.
  • Use plastic spacers between tiles to maintain even grout joint width based on your planned layout.
  • Ensure tiles are fully embedded by sliding them back and forth in the adhesive a bit.
  • Work in small sections, keeping adhesive wet and grout joints uniform.
  • Check level and straightness periodically and make any adjustments quickly before adhesive dries.
  • Cut the final edges of each row as you go using tile nippers or a wet saw for specialty cuts.
  • Clean away any adhesive on tile faces with a damp sponge before it dries.

Install all field tiles first, then finish with any accent tiles, mosaics, or borders.

Apply the Grout

Once your tile is fully set, it’s time to grout. Grout fills the joints between tiles with color and seals the installation.

  • Let adhesive cure fully for 24-48 hours before grouting according to thinset directions.
  • Apply grout sealer if desired to minimize staining and ease cleanup. Let it dry per product instructions.
  • Mix grout with water or latex additive to a thick peanut butter consistency. Let stand 5-10 minutes.
  • Holding a rubber grout float at a 45° angle, firmly force grout over the tiles to fill joints completely.
  • Clean excess grout off the tile surface with a damp sponge in a circular motion. Rinse sponge frequently.
  • After the grout dries, polish the tiles by rubbing them with a soft, dry cloth to remove any remaining haze.
  • Cure grout fully for 72 hours, spraying with water occasionally, before using the backsplash.

Grout completes your tile installation with clean finished joints throughout the design.

Finishing Touches

You did it – your stunning new backsplash is installed! Apply a few finishing touches:

  • If needed, use caulk along the countertop, edges, or case trim for clean finished edges. Wipe smooth.
  • Reinstall any fixtures, outlet covers, towel bars, etc. removed during installation.
  • Consider sealing grout and tiles with a penetrating sealer for added moisture protection and easier cleaning.
  • Keep the area dry and avoid heavy cleaning for at least a week to allow grout and adhesive to fully cure.

Stand back and admire your gorgeous, newly tiled backsplash! With proper materials and careful planning, you can install a backsplash that looks professionally done.

Frequently Asked Questions about Hanging Backsplash

Installing a backsplash tile project often brings up many questions for DIYers. Here are answers to some of the most common backsplash FAQs:

What’s the best tile for kitchen backsplash?

Ceramic, porcelain, or glass tile are most popular since they are water-resistant, easy to clean, and come in tons of styles. Mosaic sheets offer a simple option. Choose a tile suited to your budget and design.

How do I measure for backsplash tile?

Measure the total square footage from counter to cabinets to determine how much tile you need. Add 10% for cuts and waste. Make sure to include space under upper cabinets.

What tools do I need to install backsplash?

You’ll need basic tiling tools – notched trowel, tile cutter, sponges, buckets, gloves, and kneepads. Specialty tools like a wet saw help make curved or angled cuts.

What thinset mortar is best for backsplash?

Choose a polymer-modified thinset suitable for wall installation. It has higher adhesion strength and more flexibility than basic thinset.

How long does backsplash tile adhesive take to dry?

Adhesive drying time depends on the product used. Most standard thinsets set in 24-48 hours. Check manufacturer guidelines for cure times.

Can backsplash tile be installed over existing tile?

Yes, you can install a new backsplash over existing tile if the old tile is properly prepared. Scuff sand glossy surfaces and use a tile primer before applying new thinset.

Should backsplash go all the way to ceiling?

Not necessarily. Many backsplashes end a few inches above the countertop. Optimal height depends on your design, tile size, cabinet style, and preferences.


Adding a backsplash offers big benefits for your kitchen or bath at a relatively low cost. With proper planning, materials, and tools, you can achieve beautiful results and increase the value of your home. Installing backsplash tile takes careful surface preparation, adhesive application, precise tile setting, and grouting. Follow these backsplash hanging tips and enjoy your stunning new tiled space! With patience and care, you can hang a backsplash like a pro.