How to Install Backsplash Tile in the Kitchen


Installing a backsplash is one of the best ways to add personality and visual interest to your kitchen. Not only does backsplash tile protect your walls from water damage and splatters, but it can also completely transform the look and feel of the space.

While tiling a backsplash may seem intimidating, it’s actually a very attainable DIY project for most homeowners. With proper planning, the right materials, and some tile setting techniques, you can achieve a high-quality backsplash installation that will last for years to come.

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll walk through the entire process of how to install backsplash tile in your kitchen step-by-step. Follow along to learn about recommended backsplash tile materials, tools and supplies you’ll need, steps for preparing your workspace, detailed instructions for laying the tiles, and finally, how to grout and seal the finished project. Let’s get started!

Benefits of Installing a Backsplash

Before we dive into the installation process, let’s look at why a backsplash is such an important element in your kitchen:

  • Protects walls from splatters and spills – The backsplash bears the brunt of food splatters and grease near your stove and countertops. Tile is much easier to clean and more resilient than drywall alone.
  • Adds personality – From bold patterns to colorful mosaics, backsplash tile provides an opportunity to express your personal style. It’s a simple weekend upgrade that makes a big visual impact.
  • Increases resale value – An attractive, updated backsplash can increase your home’s value for resale. It’s an affordable renovation that pays off when it’s time to sell.
  • Serves as a DIY focal point – Even a simple tile backsplash is an easy DIY focal point that doesn’t require special skills. The finished look provides a major sense of accomplishment!
  • Lasts for years – Quality tile properly installed should last for many years without needing replacement. It’s a long-lasting upgrade that’s worth the initial effort and expense.

Backsplash Tile Materials

You have several options when it comes to materials for your new backsplash tile. Consider the look you want, your budget, and how much maintenance you’re willing to take on. Some top choices include:

Ceramic Tile

A very common choice, ceramic tiles for backsplashes are available in a huge range of sizes, shapes, colors, textures and patterns. Durability and affordability are two major advantages. Available plain or with decorative finishes.

Pros: Inexpensive, easy to install, durable, stain resistant, easy to clean, lots of design options

Cons: Can chip or crack if hit hard

Porcelain Tile

Denser and less porous than ceramic tile, porcelain is very durable, scratch-resistant and water-resistant. Provides a high-end look. More expensive than ceramic.

Pros: Super durable, low maintenance, stain and water resistant, designer look

Cons: Heavy, harder to cut, more expensive

Glass Tile

Glass tiles can be opaque, transparent or somewhere in between. Provides wonderful reflective qualities. Can be prone to cracking and requires careful installation.

Pros: Variety of looks, light reflecting, cleans easily

Cons: Prone to cracking, uneven surfaces, challenging installation

Natural Stone Tile

Stones like marble, travertine, granite and slate provide natural beauty. Sealing required. Remember that quality can vary since stone is a product of nature.

Pros: Natural beauty, variety of high-end looks

Cons: Expensive, sealing required, quality varies widely, heavy, prone to staining

Metal & Mosaic Tile

Intricate mosaic tiles and metal tiles like tin, stainless steel, aluminum and copper make a very dramatic impact. Better for accent areas rather than full backsplashes.

Pros: Dramatic look, variety

Cons: Challenging installation, prone to damage, better in small doses

Tools and Materials Checklist

Gather these supplies before starting your backsplash installation project:

Essential Tools:

  • Tape measure
  • Level
  • Trowel with notched edge
  • Tile cutter
  • Tile nippers
  • Grout float
  • Mixing bucket
  • Sponges
  • Caulk gun


  • Backsplash tile
  • Tile adhesive (thinset mortar)
  • Grout
  • Caulk
  • Sealer (if using porous tile like natural stone)

Additional Helpful Tools/Items:

  • Tile spacers
  • Putty knife
  • Dust mask
  • Work gloves
  • Safety glasses
  • Drop cloths or plastic sheeting
  • Rags
  • Rubbing alcohol
  • Paper towels or cheesecloth
  • Carpenter’s square
  • Utility knife

Preparing Your Workspace

Carefully preparing your kitchen is crucial for achieving the best backsplash installation. Follow these steps:

1. Clear Counters and Remove Items

Clear everything off your countertops and remove anything on the walls within your backsplash area. This includes appliances, utensils, decor items, lights, soap dispensers, etc.

2. Clean Thoroughly

Use a degreaser to thoroughly clean your backsplash area. Remove any grease, dirt or grime on the walls and allow to fully dry.

3. Protect Surrounding Areas

Cover nearby surfaces like countertops, floors and appliances with drop cloths or plastic sheeting. This protects from splatters and spills. Tape down the edges.

4. Prepare Electrical and Plumbing

Turn off power to any outlets in the backsplash area. Remove outlet covers carefully. Shut off water supply valves if needed.

5. Install Undercabinet Lighting (Optional)

If you plan to install undercabinet lighting, now is the ideal time. The wiring will be hidden by the new backsplash tile.

6. Remove Old Backsplash (If Applicable)

Carefully pry off any existing backsplash using a putty knife. Scrape away all old caulk and adhesives. Repair any wall damage.

Your workspace is now prepped and ready for backsplash installation!

How to Install Backsplash Tile

Follow these key steps to properly install your backsplash tile:

1. Plan Your Tile Layout

  • Measure the area and sketch out your tile layout. This will help you determine the exact quantity of tile needed.
  • Draw reference lines on the wall using a level and chalk line to keep tiles straight.

2. Cut the Tile (If Needed)

  • For uneven edges or around outlets, use a wet saw or tile cutter to cut tile to fit.
  • Use tile nippers to snip small angled pieces as needed.

3. Mix the Mortar

  • Prepare thinset mortar according to package directions in a bucket. Let sit 10 minutes then remix before using.

4. Apply Mortar and Set the Tiles

  • Use the notched edge of the trowel to spread a layer of mortar onto a small section of the wall.
  • Press tiles into place using a slight twisting motion. Use spacers between tiles.
  • Work in small sections and periodically check level. Remove any excess mortar.

5. Let Mortar Dry

  • Allow the thinset mortar to fully cure overnight before continuing to grout tiles. This ensures a proper bond.

6. Mix and Apply Grout

  • Prepare grout mix per package instructions. Use a grout float to spread it over the tiles.
  • Push into joints firmly and scrape off excess grout with a damp sponge.
  • Wipe diagonally across tiles to remove residue. Clean tiles thoroughly.

7. Seal and Finish

  • Apply grout sealant using a small foam brush if recommended for your grout type.
  • Caulk edges and wipe away excess with a damp sponge. Reinstall outlet covers.
  • Allow a full 72 hours for mortar and grout to fully cure before using kitchen.

Follow these essential installation steps, and you’ll have a stunning new backsplash you can enjoy for years to come! Be sure to work carefully and focus on straightness of application. Now let’s look at some frequently asked questions about backsplash installation.

FAQs About Installing a Backsplash

What’s the best way to cut backsplash tile?

For straight cuts, a manual tile cutter with a carbide scoring wheel is best. For curved, angled or outlet cutouts, use tile nippers followed by a file to smooth the edge. A wet saw with a diamond blade also works great for precise cuts.

How do I get a perfectly straight backsplash edge near countertops?

Measure and snap chalk lines on the wall as a straight reference point for your first row of tile. Use tile spacers for even grout lines. Place some mortar on the countertop edge as well for stability.

What thickness of tile works best?

8-10 mm is the recommended tile thickness for backsplashes. Thinner tiles can crack more easily. Mosaics are commonly mounted on 10-12 mm mesh sheets for easy installation.

Is white thinset or mastic better for backsplash tile?

White thinset mortar is preferred, as it provides a stronger bond on vertical surfaces. Mastic is OK for very small mosaic sheets on firm walls.

How long does backsplash tile mortar need to cure?

Allow mortar to fully cure for 24 hours minimum. 48-72 hours is ideal before applying grout or sealing. This prevents the grout from drying too quickly.

Should I use sanded or unsanded grout?

For joints 1/8 inch or smaller, use unsanded grout. Sanded grout with an aggregate is better for wider grout lines. Check manufacturer guidelines based on your tile type and spacing.

What’s the typical cost to install a backsplash?

The national average is $1,500-$2,500 for professional installation of a 20-40 sq ft backsplash area. DIY costs are under $500 for materials, or $5-10 per sq ft.


Adding a tile backsplash is one of the best ways to improve both the appearance and functionality of your kitchen. With some careful planning and preparation, homeowners can tackle a successful backsplash installation as a DIY project.

The keys are using high quality tile, taking accurate measurements, proper mortar application, maintaining straight lines, and applying grout and sealants correctly. Our step-by-step guide covers the entire process from selecting tile styles to wiping down the finished product.

We hope these tips give you the knowledge and confidence to install a backsplash that makes your kitchen shine. Just take it slowly and focus on quality workmanship. Before you know it, you’ll have a showstopping new focal point you can enjoy for decades to come!