How to Install Backsplash Tiles for Kitchen

Installing a tile backsplash in your kitchen can completely transform the look and feel of the space. Not only does it add an eye-catching focal point, but tile backsplashes are easy to clean, durable, and provide protection for the walls behind your countertops. With some planning and the right materials, you can achieve a professional-looking tiled backsplash installation. Here is a step-by-step guide on how to install backsplash tiles for your kitchen.

Choose Your Tile

The first step is selecting the type of tile you want to use. Some popular options include:

  • Ceramic or porcelain tile – glazed tiles available in endless colors, patterns, and finishes. Budget-friendly and easy to clean.
  • Glass tile – adds a contemporary, sleek look with lots of shine. Translucent for an illuminated effect.
  • Natural stone tile – marble, travertine, slate etc. Provide a classic, high-end look. Need sealing.
  • Metal tile – stainless steel, copper, and aluminum tiles lend an industrial modern vibe. Good heat resistance.

Consider the overall decor of your kitchen, as well as factors like ease of maintenance and durability for high traffic areas. Make sure to purchase a bit more tile than you think you need to account for broken pieces and pattern matching.

Prepare Your Workspace

Before beginning installation, properly prepare your backsplash area:

  • Remove any old backsplash and thoroughly clean the walls and countertops.
  • Fill any holes or imperfections with spackle and sand smooth.
  • Tape off the countertops and edges with painters tape to protect surfaces.
  • Have all your tiling tools, materials, and grout ready to go.

Be sure the wall surfaces are smooth, dry, and free of grease or debris.

Plan Your Tile Layout

Map out the tile layout ahead of time to determine the optimal placement for a professional look:

  • Measure the space and sketch a diagram of the pattern.
  • Account for uneven walls and corners.
  • Decide if you will need to cut any border or filler tiles to fit.
  • Try a dry run by laying out a few rows of loose tiles.

Planning the layout helps avoid mistakes and difficult cuts once installation is underway.

Install the Tile Backer Board

While some tiles like glass can be applied directly to drywall, it’s best to install a tile backer board first for most tile types. This provides an even, water-resistant surface designed for the weight and moisture demands of tile.

  1. Cut cement backer board panels to fit your space.
  2. Screw boards to studs, keeping seams staggered.
  3. Fill gaps between boards with thinset mortar.
  4. Seal seams with mesh tape and skim with more thinset.

Let the backer board cure completely before tiling.

Spread the Thinset Mortar

Mix up a batch of thinset adhesive mortar, following package directions. Use a notched trowel to spread it evenly across the backer board:

  • Apply only as much as can be tiled in 30 minutes.
  • Use the trowel notches to create ridges for the tile to adhere to.
  • Spread in 3-4 foot sections at a time to control drying.

Check that the mortar coverage and depth match the specifications for your tile.

Set the Tiles

Once mortar is prepped, it’s time to set your tiles:

  • Place border tiles first. Use spacers for consistent grout lines.
  • Press tiles firmly into position in the mortar, spacing as you go.
  • Twist tiles back and forth slightly to ensure good adhesion.
  • Check for straightness and even spacing as you go with a level.

Take care to not distort position of tiles once placed. Allow the thinset mortar to cure according to manufacturer instructions before grouting.

Apply the Grout

Grout fills the joints between tiles, completing your installation:

  • Mix grout according to package directions for consistency.
  • Apply grout over the surface, forcing it into tile joints with a rubber grout float.
  • Clean excess from tile faces with a damp sponge.
  • Once dry, polish and seal grout lines with a soft cloth.

Match grout color to your tile. Contrasting grout can emphasize the pattern.

Finish and Seal the Tiles

After allowing grout to fully cure, finish up your backsplash:

  • Remove painter’s tape from edges and countertops.
  • Caulk perimeter joints if needed, like where countertop meets tile.
  • Clean and polish tiles with a damp microfiber cloth.
  • Apply a quality tile sealer to protect from stains and moisture.

Your gorgeous new backsplash is ready to enjoy and maintain for years to come!

FAQs About Installing a Tile Backsplash

What tools do I need to install a tile backsplash?

You’ll need basic tiling tools like a notched trowel, grout float, spacers, cutters, mixers, and a level. Specialty tools like a wet saw make cutting easier. Have safety gear on hand too.

How do I cut tiles for outlets and fittings?

Use a carbide scribe and sharp nippers to notch small pieces to fit around outlets and plumbing. A rotary cutter works for curved cuts.

What’s the best way to get clean grout lines?

Wipe excess grout off tile with a damp sponge before it dries. After curing, buff grout haze away with a soft cloth and mild cleaner.

How long does tile backsplash installation take?

The timeline can vary, but budget 2-3 days – one day to install backer board, one day for tiling, and another for grouting once cured.

Should I seal my tile backsplash after installation?

Yes, apply a penetrating stone/tile sealer to guard against stains and moisture. Re-apply yearly. Avoid steam cleaners.


Installing tile backsplash in your kitchen is a satisfying DIY project that can be accomplished with proper planning, tools, and attention to detail. The end result is a stylish, mess-resistant accent wall that upgrades your space with color, texture, and charm. With some patience and these step-by-step instructions, you can achieve a backsplash like a pro. Just take things slowly and double check your work – your new backsplash will provide beauty and function for years of cooking and entertaining.