How to Install Backsplash with Adhesive

Backsplashes are an integral part of any kitchen design. Not only do they protect your walls from water damage and stains, they can also add visual interest and tie your whole kitchen together. Installing a backsplash may seem daunting, but with the right materials and some simple techniques, you can achieve a professional look in your own home. This comprehensive guide will walk you through everything you need to know about how to install backsplash with adhesive.

Choose the Right Backsplash Materials

The first step is selecting your backsplash materials. There are endless options to match your style and budget.


Tile is a classic and versatile choice. Ceramic, porcelain, or natural stone tiles come in a huge range of sizes, colors, textures, and patterns. Tiles allow you to create stunning designs like subway tile, herringbone, hexagon, and more. Opt for grout colors that complement or contrast with your tiles.

Some popular tile options include:

  • Ceramic – Affordable, available in gloss or matte finishes.
  • Porcelain – More durable and water-resistant.
  • Marble or granite – Elegant natural stone.
  • Glass tile – Adds a modern, sleek look.

Make sure to use tiles rated for walls/backsplashes and check if they require sealing. Purchase extra tiles to account for breakage and cuts.

Stone Slab

For a seamless, upscale look, you can install a stone slab backsplash. Granite, marble, and quartz slabs come in polished or honed finishes. Slabs create a sophisticated, uninterrupted surface. Cut-to-fit edges can give a custom appearance.


Metallic backsplashes like stainless steel, copper, brass, or nickel provide brilliant glamour. You can install metal backsplash tile or solid sheets, like flash-mounted stainless steel. Consider mirror or chrome finishes too.


Glass tile or panels make a glossy, ultramodern statement. Feel free to mix different glass shapes and colors. Use iridescent glass for mesmerizing effects. Frosted, etched, and clear options are available.


The natural beauty of wood grain backsplashes adds warmth. Use water-resistant engineered wood planks, shiplap, textured plywood, or bamboo. Consider open shelving with a wood backsplash.


Affordable and practical, laminate backsplashes resemble luxurious materials like quartz, marble, and granite. Enjoy seamless appearance and easy maintenance.

Mosaic Tile

Tiny mosaic tiles let you develop sophisticated patterns and shapes. Use mosaic sheets or mix loose tiles. Combine colors and textures like glass and stone. Create artistic focal points.

Gather Supplies

Once you’ve chosen your backsplash materials, gather the rest of the supplies you’ll need for installation:

  • Adhesive – Select adhesive compatible with backsplash material and wall type. Mastic, thinset mortar, or construction adhesive. Many quality adhesives include proprietary polymers, flex agents, and antimicrobial formulas.
  • Grout – Matches color of tiles. Unsanded grout for narrow joint tiles, sanded grout for wider joints. A grout sealer is recommended.
  • Trowel – Toothed trowel for spreading adhesive. Pick size and depth based on tile.
  • Tile spacers – Plastic crosses maintain even grout joint width.
  • Grout float – For grouting between tiles. Soft rubber avoids scratching.
  • Grout sealer – Protects grout from stains.
  • Mixing bucket – For adhesive and grout.
  • Notched trowel – To spread adhesive evenly.
  • Wet saw – For precisely cutting tiles.
  • Sponge – For wiping away excess grout.
  • Grout cleaning brush – Removes leftover film.
  • Caulk – Seals gaps at edges and fixtures. Clear or colored.
  • Rag – For wiping up messes and spills.
  • Safety gear – Gloves, goggles, mask if cutting tile.
  • Level – Ensure straight, even installation.

Gather all equipment and tiles beforehand so everything is ready to go for installation day.

Prep the Surface

Preparing your backsplash area is crucial for proper adhesion and preventing damage. Follow these steps:

Clean Thoroughly

Eliminate any grime, grease, soap scum, or flaking paint from your backsplash area. Remove switch plate covers. Deep clean with TSP substitute cleaner, then rinse thoroughly. Allow surface to fully dry before installing.

Remove Obstructions

Take down any old backsplash carefully using a putty knife. Also remove any brackets, shelves, or light fixtures on the backsplash area.

Evaluate Surface Flatness

Use a level to check for any significant dips, bumps, or uneven spots on your walls.Any sections that aren’t smooth enough will need patching.

Patch and Repair

Fill any holes, cracks, or flawed areas using spackle or joint compound. Allow patching materials to dry completely and then sand smooth.

Prime Painted Surfaces

If your backsplash area was previously painted, apply a layer of primer to aid adhesion. Allow primer to dry fully before setting tile.

Proper prep prevents tiles from popping off later on. It also minimizes damage if the backsplash ever needs to be removed. Take your time with surface prep for best results.

Plan Your Layout

Carefully planning your design, tile cuts, and spacing ensures your installation goes smoothly. Follow these tips:

Map It Out

Dry lay your tile on the countertop or floor to envision placement. Experiment with patterns and color combinations. snap photos from all angles as a reference.

Measure Carefully

Take detailed measurements of your backsplash area including width, height, corners, windows, outlets, and fixtures. Calculate tile cuts needed.

Include An Accent Strips

Contrasting border or accent tiles enhance the design. Outline the perimeter or highlight niches, windows, appliances.

Choose The Grout Joint Size

Wider grout lines of 1/8” or 3/16” allow faster installation. Narrow 1/16” joints have a finer, mosaic look.

Draw A Guideline

Map out tile spacing and ensure your layout is even. Lightly draw lines in pencil on the wall to follow.

Cut tile Accordingly

Cut border and edge tiles to fit with a wet saw. Mixing tile cuts will give a pro finish.

Investing ample time in planning and setup will make installation go quicker with outstanding results.

Apply The Adhesive

With everything mapped out, it’s time to start applying the thinset mortar, mastic, or construction adhesive. Follow all package directions closely.

Choose The Right Adhesive

Select adhesive suitable for the tile material (ceramic, natural stone, glass, etc) as well as the wall surface (drywall, plaster, etc).

Prepare The Adhesive

Pour adhesive into a bucket. For thinset mortar, mix with water to a toothpaste-like consistency. Mix mastic with a drill to avoid lumps.

Spread Adhesive Properly

Apply a thin layer of adhesive using a notched trowel. Hold trowel at 45° angle pressing firmly.

Work in Sections

Spread adhesive only on small, manageable sections to avoid drying out. Work horizontally, not vertically.

Check Coverage

Adhesive should cover 80-90% of tile back for interior walls, 95% for exteriors. More for stone or large format tile.

Allow adhesives to slake or rest 5-10 minutes after spreading. Then you’re ready to set the tiles!

Set the Tile

The exciting part is finally installing the gorgeous tiles for your dream backsplash. Stay organized and follow best practices:

Work From Bottom Up

Start tiling at the lowest point. Set whole tiles first, then cut edges and borders.

Follow Your Layout

Refer to guide lines and spacer crosses to maintain proper spacing and alignment.

Press and Twist

Set tiles into adhesive and press firmly. Twist slightly to ensure maximum contact.

Check Level Frequently

Use tile leveling systems to keep rows straight. Stop to recheck if tiles start to drift.

Clean As You Go

Wipe away any adhesive that squeezes up between tiles immediately to avoid dried excess.

Leave No Gaps

Keep tiles snug together. Pay close attention to corners and edges. Avoid uneven spacing.

Take your time setting tiles and verifying alignment. Allow adhesive to dry 24-48 hours before grouting.

Apply Grout

Grout fills the spaces between tiles with color and definition. Follow these tips for flawless grout application:

Grout Small Areas

Work in 4-5 square foot sections. Grout as you go while adhesive is still fresh.

Apply With Float

Hold float at 45° angle, pressing grout firmly into joints. Glide diagonally across tiles.

Check Coverage

Keep grouting until joints are completely filled. Add more grout if needed.

Clean Excess Grout

Wipe away leftover grout on tile faces with damp sponge and minimal pressure.

Shape And Smooth

Shape grout with narrow tool once dry. Check for low spots to fill. Polish with soft cloth.

Seal Grout

After grout cures, apply grout sealer to protect from stains and moisture. Reapply yearly.

Taking your time with grouting creates durable, uniform joints that allow your backsplash to shine.

Finish With Caulking

Once grouted, finish your backsplash with quality silicone caulk to seal edges and gaps.

Apply Steadily

Run caulk gun smoothly and evenly along sides and corners. Avoid stops and starts.

Tool the Bead

Shape the caulk into a smooth bead before drying using a rounded tool.

Wet Finger Smoothing

Dip finger in soapy water and gently smooth out any imperfections. Rinse often.

Remove Excess

Wipe away any excess caulk with a damp sponge or rag before it dries.

Allow Curing

Give caulk 24 hours to fully cure before getting backsplash wet.

Skillful caulking gives your backsplash a polished, complete appearance.

Caring For Your Backsplash

Keep your backsplash looking like new with proper care and maintenance:

  • Use a gentle cleaner and soft sponge for regular backsplash cleaning. Avoid harsh chemicals.
  • Re-seal grout lines yearly to prevent stains and damage.
  • Avoid putting weight or pressure on backsplash surfaces when cleaning or reaching overhead.
  • Immediately clean spills, splatters, or grease to avoid stubborn staining.
  • Consider applying a sealer/protector to natural stone or grout to resist staining and etching.
  • Check for missing or cracked caulk or grout. Re-apply as needed to avoid moisture issues.

Your stunning new backsplash brings function and style to your kitchen. Follow these expert tips for how to install backsplash with adhesive and you’ll achieve stunning results. Let your creativity shine through in your design, and don’t be afraid to mix colors, patterns, textures, and materials. With the right prep, high-quality materials, and careful technique, you can install an eye-catching, durable backsplash perfect for creating your dream kitchen.

Frequently Asked Questions About Installing Backsplash with Adhesive

What type of adhesive should I use for a kitchen backsplash?

For tile backsplash, use white polymeric fortified thinset mortar. For glass, marble, or metal, use premium mastic adhesive. Make sure adhesive is suitable for wall/backsplash installation.

What is the easiest backsplash to install?

Self-adhesive peel-and-stick backsplash tiles make for very easy DIY installation. Sheet metal, glass panels, and laminate boards are other simple options.

How do I get a smooth finish on my backsplash adhesive?

Use a notched trowel of proper size to evenly spread adhesive. After setting tiles, wipe away excess squeeze-out immediately before drying. Tool caulk smoothly and wet-finger blend.

Should backsplash go all the way to ceiling?

It’s recommended to install backsplash from countertop to at least 4 inches above the highest cabinet. Full ceiling height is popular for making a design statement.

How do I get my backsplash straight?

Start with a level wall surface. Use tile levelers during install. Check layout lines every few rows. Use edge leveling clip guides. Finish edges with trim or caulk gaps.

Can I install backsplash over existing tile?

Yes, as long as existing tile is well-adhered and properly prepped. Scuff sand glossy surfaces. Use a robust mortar suitable for tile-on-tile application.

How long does backsplash adhesive take to dry?

Adhesive drying time depends on type selected. Most require 24-48 hours drying before grouting. Impervious surfaces may require up to 72 hours minimum wait time.

How do I cut backsplash to fit around outlets?

Use a tile wet saw with diamond blade to carefully cut precise openings for outlets and switches before setting tiles. Turn off power to be safe.

Should I caulk where backsplash meets counter?

Definitely. Caulk where backsplash meets countertop and at all joints, corners, and changes in plane. Caulking provides water protection and flexibility.

Is it cheaper to install your own backsplash?

Yes, you can save significantly on labor costs by installing a DIY backsplash if you have the tiling expertise. Factor in cost of materials, rental tools, and your time.


Installing a backsplash is very rewarding, allowing you to express your personal style in one of the hardest working parts of the home. By following the techniques outlined here for how to install backsplash with adhesive, you can achieve professional-looking results even without previous tiling experience. The key steps include proper surface prep, using quality thinset mortars and grouts suited for the application, careful tile-setting, clean grouting, and finished edges with caulk. With the right combination of creativity and care, your new adhesive-installed backsplash will provide a beautiful focal point in the kitchen for years to come.