How to Install Arabesque Tile Backsplash

Installing an arabesque tile backsplash can add a touch of elegance and visual interest to your kitchen or bathroom. With their intricate patterns and graceful curves, arabesque tiles create a focal point full of old-world charm. Installing them on your backsplash is a relatively easy DIY project that can completely transform the look of your space. Here’s a step-by-step guide to installing an arabesque tile backsplash in your home.

Getting Started with an Arabesque Tile Backsplash Project

Before you start installing your arabesque tile backsplash, there are a few important things to take care of first:

Pick the Perfect Arabesque Tile

Arabesque tiles come in a variety of sizes, colors, and patterns. The options can be overwhelming, so have an idea of the look you’re going for before you start shopping around.

  • Sizes: Arabesque tiles can be found in sizes ranging from smaller mosaics tiles to large 8×8” tiles and everything in between. Decide what tile size works best for your project. The smaller the tile, the busier the overall look will be.
  • Colors: Look for colors that complement your cabinetry, countertops, and other kitchen or bathroom decor. Neutral colors like white, beige and gray create a versatile backsplash that works with most color schemes, while bolder colors like blue or green make the backsplash the focal point.
  • Patterns: Arabesque tiles can have ornate, intricate patterns or a simpler, cleaner look. Choose a pattern that fits the vibe you want for the space. More complex patterns have a more formal, elegant style while simpler tile patterns give a more relaxed feel.

Calculate How Much Tile You Need

Once you’ve chosen the specific tile, it’s crucial that you buy enough. Measure the surface area of the backsplash and use a tile calculator to determine how many full tiles you’ll need. Don’t forget to account for accent tiles, border tiles, and extra tiles in case any break. It’s always better to have leftovers than realize mid-project you’re short on tile.

Gather Your Materials

Installing a tile backsplash requires some specific materials and tools:

  • Tile adhesive: Choose an adhesive suitable for your tile material and the wall surface. Many quality adhesives are fine for both ceramic and porcelain.
  • Grout: Make sure to get grout that complements your tile color. A sanded grout is easier to work with for a beginner installer.
  • Tile spacers: These small crosses ensure consistent spacing between tiles as you lay them. Even 1/16” tile spacers work for most standard ceramic or porcelain tile.
  • Trowel: Use a notched trowel specifically made for your size tile. This ensures proper adhesive thickness.
  • Wet saw: A wet saw fitted with a diamond tile blade makes precise tile cuts. Renting is an affordable option.
  • Other supplies: painter’s tape, grout float, grout sealer, sponges, buckets, towel, safety glasses, mixing paddle, etc.

How to Prepare the Surface for Installation

Preparing the backsplash surface is key to a successful arabesque tile installation.

Clean the Surface

The backsplash surface must be clear of any dust, dirt, oil, soap scum and other debris. Clean it thoroughly with an all-purpose cleaner and water, then let it dry completely.

Remove the Old Backsplash

If there’s an existing backsplash, you’ll likely need to remove it before installing the new tile. Carefully pry off any old tile or use a hammer and chisel to break it up, then scrape off all old adhesive.

Evaluate the Wall

Examine the wall itself to see if it needs any repairs or reinforcement. Any holes, cracks or imperfections should be patched up and leveled out with spackle or drywall compound so your tile base is smooth and secure.

Mark Your Tile Layout

Map out the tile layout by marking some guide lines on the wall spaced equal to your tile width. These help ensure your first row of tile is perfectly straight. Use a level to keep lines precise.

How to Install the Arabesque Tile Backsplash

Once you have prepped the surface, it’s time for the fun part – putting up the tile! Follow these tips for proper installation:

Apply the Adhesive

Using a notched trowel, spread a layer of tile adhesive evenly across the lower portion of the backsplash surface where you’ll start the first row of tile. Only cover enough area that you can tile in about 10-15 minutes before the adhesive dries.

Set the First Row

The most important part is establishing a straight, level baseline with the first row of tile. Place the first tile against your guide line and press firmly into the adhesive. Place spacers around the edges and lay adjacent tiles, checking alignment often.

Continue Laying Rows

Apply more adhesive and continue installing tile row by row from the bottom up, using spacers to keep tile evenly spaced. Cut border and accent tiles to fit around outlets, corners, or edges as needed with the wet saw.

Let Tile Set

Once all full tiles are placed, rap them with a rubber mallet or grout float to ensure solid contact with the adhesive. Allow 12-24 hours for tile to fully set before continuing. Keep foot traffic away.

Apply Grout

Grout fills the joints between tiles, adding finished polish to the surface. Apply an even layer of grout across the tile with a grout float. Let it set slightly and then wipe away excess grout with a damp sponge.

Seal and Finish

Once grout has dried completely, apply a grout sealant to protect it from moisture and discoloration. Caulk any gaps along the edges with a flexible sealant. Finally, buff out any remaining grout haze with a soft cloth.

Tips for Achieving an Eye-Catching Arabesque Backsplash

Here are some additional tips to take your arabesque tile backsplash from basic to beautiful:

Combine sizes or shapes: Blending different sized tiles or combining square and arabesque tiles adds depth and interest. Just be sure to maintain even spacing between varied sizes.

Use borders and accents: Frame the entire backsplash or tile sections with borders in a contrasting color. Dot metal, glass or stone tiles throughout for accents.

Play with patterns and layout: Stack tiles in a brick layout, do a herringbone design, or get creative mixing up the tile patterns. Lay out a design ahead of time.

Add decorative touches: Details like chair rail trim, listello inserts, or mosaic accent strips paired with the tile pattern packs a visual punch.

Create focal points: A statement-making medallion or pop of color draws the eye. Use an intricate tile design or artful shape to create a focal point.

Carry color themes: Choose grout and caulk colors that coordinate or contrast with the tile colors and your kitchen or bathroom color scheme.

Factor in function: For kitchen backsplashes, consider functionality needs like avoiding upper cabinets, allowing for ventilation, and making room for appliances.

Frequently Asked Questions About Arabesque Tile Backsplashes

Many homeowners have additional questions when considering an arabesque tile backsplash project. Here are answers to some of the most common questions:

Are arabesque tile backsplashes hard to install?

The intricate patterns of arabesque tiles may seem daunting for DIY beginners, but with proper planning, patience and using the right techniques, even novice installers can achieve professional-looking results. The small tile size and consistent shape of arabesque tiles makes the installation process very manageable.

How do I cut arabesque tiles?

The easiest way to make precise cuts in arabesque tiles is using a wet saw fitted with a diamond tile blade. This tool minimizes cracking and chipping. For small notches or shaping edges, a handheld tile nipper can also be used, followed by smoothing with a rubbing stone. Apply painter’s tape to the glazed tile surface before cutting to prevent scratches.

Can I install arabesque tile over existing backsplash?

In most cases, it’s best to remove the old backsplash completely before installing a new tile backsplash over it. However, if the existing backsplash is in good condition and securely attached to the wall, you may be able to install the new tile directly over it, provided the old tile surface is properly prepared.

How do I clean and care for an arabesque backsplash?

Use pH neutral cleaners and warm water to regularly clean arabesque tile. Stay away from harsh chemicals or abrasive scrubs. Re-sealing the grout every 1-2 years will keep the backsplash looking like new. Avoid excessive moisture build-up around the tiles and quickly wipe up spills to prevent stains.

Should I hire a pro to install my arabesque backsplash?

An experienced tile installer can ensure a flawless finished look, but installing arabesque backsplash tile is a DIY-friendly project. Outsourcing cuts to a tile shop simplifies the process. Following proper techniques and safety precautions, homeowners comfortable with minor demolition, measuring, and working carefully should be able to handle this backsplash job. Patience is key!


Adding an elegant arabesque tile backsplash is one of the trendiest ways to upgrade a kitchen or bathroom’s style with a touch of timeless, ornamental appeal. With careful planning, patience, and the right tools and materials, do-it-yourselfers can execute this project to create an impressive focal point full of artistic charm and visual texture. Just take it step-by-step, focus on prep and precision, and don’t be afraid to get creative with dazzling design details. In time, you’ll have a stunning new backsplash bringing that artisanal magic home.