How to Install Bathroom Backsplash Tile

Installing a backsplash in your bathroom can completely transform the look and feel of the space. With the right tiles and proper installation techniques, you can create a stylish, water-resistant backsplash that will stand up to moisture and everyday use. Here is a step-by-step guide to installing bathroom backsplash tile.

Planning Your Bathroom Backsplash

Before starting your project, take the time to plan things out thoroughly. This will help ensure the job goes smoothly and the end result is exactly what you envisioned. Consider the following:

Choose the Right Tile

  • Ceramic, porcelain, or natural stone tiles are good options for bathrooms as they are water-resistant and easy to clean.
  • Smaller tiles like mosaics create more grout lines, making them less ideal for wet areas. Larger tiles are better suited for bathroom backsplashes.
  • Check that tiles are rated for wall application and are not too porous or slippery.
  • Select a tile that fits within your budget and has a style you like.

Measure the Space

  • Carefully measure the areas you plan to tile like the wall behind the sink or around the tub/shower.
  • Sketch out the space and lay tiles to see how they fit before installing.
  • Account for any outlets, windows, or plumbing fixtures in the area.
  • Calculate the amount of tile and supplies needed based on measurements.

Gather Materials

  • Tiles, tile spacers, grout, thinset mortar, grout sealer.
  • backerboard if the walls are not suitable for tile installation.
  • Tools – tape measure, tile cutter, trowels, sponges, buckets.
  • Safety gear – gloves, goggles, knee pads.
  • Drop cloth to protect floors and surfaces during installation.

Prepping the Surface

Proper prep work ensures tiles adhere well and last. Here are the key steps:

Clean the Surface

  • Clean the installation area thoroughly, removing any dirt, grime, or soap buildup.
  • For existing drywall or moisture-prone areas, apply a waterproofing membrane.
  • Allow all cleaned surfaces to fully dry before continuing.

Install Backerboard

  • For surfaces that won’t hold tile well like drywall, install cement backerboard.
  • Cut boards to size to cover the installation area. Secure with screws into studs.
  • Leave a small gap between boards and seal seams with mesh tape and thinset.

Apply Thinset Mortar

  • Mix thinset mortar according to product directions. Apply evenly with a notched trowel.
  • Only cover sections that can be tiled before the thinset dries (usually 2-4 hours).
  • Use a white polymer fortified thinset for porcelain or glass tiles.

Laying the Tiles

Now it’s time for the fun part – installing the actual tiles! Follow these tips for hassle-free application:

Establish Your Starting Point

  • Determine the center of the wall and level from a base point to find your starting line.
  • Use tile spacers to leave even gaps between tiles for grout lines.
  • Work in sections, completing one area before moving to the adjacent section.

Cut Tiles (If Needed)

  • To fit around fixtures or edges, you may need to cut tiles using a wet saw or tile cutter.
  • Make precision 45-degree miter cuts for a professional finish at outside corners.
  • Use a tile nipper for quick small trims on one side of a tile.

Set Tiles into Thinset

  • Place tiles firmly into the thinset mortar. Use a rubber grout float to apply pressure and adhere the tiles.
  • Check tiles are level and aligned. Adjust as needed before the thinset dries.
  • Allow thinset to cure for 24-48 hours before grouting. Remove spacers when dry.

Grouting and Sealing the Tiles

Grout fills the spaces between tiles, but also needs sealing to protect from moisture.

Apply Grout and Sealant

  • Apply grout by working it into the tile gaps with a rubber grout float or sponge.
  • Wipe away excess grout with a damp sponge in diagonals to avoid smearing.
  • Once dry, seal grout with a waterproof grout sealer to prevent staining and damage.
  • Allow grout to cure fully for 72 hours before using shower or exposing to moisture.

Caulk Perimeters

  • Use a flexible, mold-resistant caulk or sealant around the edges near the tub, fixtures, or cabinetry.
  • Apply with a caulk gun and tool into any gaps or corners.
  • Let caulk dry fully before using the shower or exposing to water.

Maintaining Your Backsplash

With the proper care, your bathroom backsplash tile can stay looking beautiful for years to come.

  • Seal grout annually and re-apply caulk if needed to prevent moisture damage.
  • Use a gentle household cleaner for routine washing. Avoid abrasive cleaners.
  • For stubborn stains on grout lines, use a specialized tile and grout cleaner.
  • Re-apply grout sealer if grout becomes stained or discolored over time.

A stunning, water-resistant backsplash can completely makeover your bathroom. Follow these tile installation tips and enjoy the stylish finished project. With careful prep, proper materials, and good technique, you can achieve professional-looking results. Take time to properly maintain the backsplash, and it will last for many years of beauty and functionality.

Frequently Asked Questions About Installing Bathroom Backsplash Tile

What type of tile is best for a bathroom backsplash?

Ceramic, porcelain, or natural stone tiles are recommended for bathroom backsplashes as they resist moisture well. Mosaics can look beautiful but require more grout. Larger tiles 4 inches or greater are easiest to keep clean.

How do I cut tiles for an outlet or fixture?

Use a wet saw to precisely cut notches in tiles to fit around outlets, faucets, etc. Make multiple cuts if needed to nibble away small sections of tile. Use a tile nipper for quick small edge cuts.

Should I use backerboard or install directly on drywall?

For moisture control, cement backerboard is best directly behind a tub or shower. On other drywall surfaces, you can tile directly if the drywall is in good shape and primed well.

What type of thinset mortar should I use?

White polymer modified thinset mortar works best for porcelain, glass, and most tile types. Non-polymer is fine for ceramic. Get premixed thinset for small DIY jobs. Check thinset for use with your specific tile material.

How long does thinset and grout need to dry?

Allow thinset to dry 24-48 hours before grouting tiles. Let grout dry 72 hours before exposing to moisture. Time dry times may vary based on temperature and humidity. Check thinset/grout packaging for recommended cure times.

What is the best way to apply grout between tiles?

Use a hard rubber grout float or grout sponge, working it diagonally across tiles. Hold the float at a 90° angle to avoid pulling out grout. Wipe off excess grout with minimal water. Follow package directions for smoothing and drying grout.


Installing bathroom backsplash tile allows you to add visual interest and moisture protection behind sinks, tubs, and showers. With the right planning, materials, and tile techniques, you can achieve a stylish DIY backsplash project. Focus on proper surface prep, careful tile cutting, proper thinset and grout application. And don’t forget to seal the grout! Following the methods outlined here will help ensure your new backsplash stays beautiful and water-resistant for years of everyday use.