How to Install Herringbone Backsplash

Installing a herringbone backsplash can add visual interest and dimension to your kitchen. With some planning and the right materials, you can achieve this stylish look on your own. Here is a step-by-step guide on how to install a herringbone backsplash.

Choose Your Materials

When selecting materials for your herringbone backsplash, you’ll want to consider:


The most common choice is rectangular ceramic or porcelain tile. Opt for a small size, like 2×4 inches or 3×6 inches, to make the herringbone pattern manageable. Make sure tiles have square edges for a clean layout.


Use unsanded grout for narrow grout lines 1/8 inch or smaller. Sanded grout is best for wider grout lines. Choose a grout color that complements or contrasts with your tile.


Select an adhesive suitable for your tile type. Consult manufacturer instructions. Many polymers modified thinset mortars are ideal for porcelain, ceramic, and natural stone tiles.


Cement backerboard provides a stable, water-resistant surface for tile installation. Use 1/2-inch backerboard for walls and countertops.

Plan Your Layout

Map out your pattern before installing. Measure the space and sketch your design. Account for partial edge tiles and divider rows. Cut border tiles ahead of time for easier installation.

Determine the best focal point – often the stove or sink area. You may want to highlight the center with a decorative insert or border.

Allow the grout lines to enhance the geometry. Herringbone patterns look best with narrow grout lines between 1/16-1/8 inches.

Prepare the Surface

Ensure the surface is clean, dry and free of debris. Remove any old backsplash material or wall coverings.

Install the cement backerboard according to manufacturer’s instructions. Cut it to fit your space, leaving a 1/8-inch gap along the edges.

Apply adhesive mortar to the backerboard with a notched trowel. Use a 3/16-inch V-notch for mosaic sheets or a 1/4-inch square-notch for individual tiles.

Let it sit for 5-10 minutes until tacky before adding tile. This helps adhere the tiles properly.

Lay the Tile

Start in the center where the tile edges meet to build outwards from. This ensures straight grout lines and complete tile coverage.

Apply tile adhesive to the back of each piece with the flat side of the trowel. Firmly press in place, using spacers for consistent grout lines.

Work in sections, completing one at a time. Level and align as you go for an even appearance. Allow the adhesive to cure fully before moving on.

Cut border and edge tiles individually using a wet saw or tile cutter. Use caution and proper eye protection.

Let the tile installation sit for 24 hours before grouting to allow adhesive to cure completely.

Apply Grout and Finish

Grout application takes some finesse. Follow all label instructions carefully.

Apply grout by working it into the grout lines in sections using a grout float or squeegee. Hold at a 45° angle and wipe diagonally across tiles.

Let it set for a bit, then use a damp sponge to wipe off excess grout gently. Rinse the sponge frequently.

Once dry, buff the tiles with a soft cloth to polish. Use a grout sealer to protect from moisture and stains.

Finally, caulk between the counter and backsplash using a flexible silicone caulk. Wipe away any excess for a clean finish.

Maintaining Your Herringbone Backsplash

Caring for your backsplash properly will keep it looking like new:

  • Use a gentle ceramic tile cleaner for routine cleaning. Avoid harsh chemicals.
  • Re-seal grout every 1-2 years with a penetrating silicone sealant.
  • Inspect for cracks or damage over time. Repair any problem areas promptly.
  • Consider re-grouting if old grout becomes excessively dirty or worn.

With the right maintenance your herringbone backsplash can stay beautiful for years to come. The geometric pattern will provide personality and visual interest in your kitchen.

Frequently Asked Questions about Installing a Herringbone Backsplash

What tools do I need to install a herringbone backsplash?

You’ll need basic tiling tools – a notched trowel, spacers, grout float, sponges, buckets, tile cutter, etc. A wet saw is also useful for precise cuts. Have safety gear like gloves and eye protection.

What’s the best tile size for a herringbone pattern?

Smaller tiles like 2×4 inches or 3×6 inches are ideal. Large tiles don’t flex well for the alternating pattern. Mosaic sheets also work well in herringbone designs.

How do I cut the border tiles?

Measure and cut border tiles individually using a manual tile cutter or wet saw. Make bottom edges slightly uneven for a handmade look.

Can I use natural stone or marble tile for herringbone?

Yes, though natural stone is more prone to variations in thickness. Use high quality stone and take extra care aligning edges during installation.

Should I use sanded or unsanded grout?

For narrow joints under 1/8 inch, use unsanded grout. Wider grout lines will require sanded grout for durability and cracking prevention.

What color grout should I choose?

Grout color impacts the look. Contrasting grout makes the pattern stand out. Matching grout softens the geometric lines. Gray is a versatile neutral option.


Installing a herringbone backsplash brings visual vitality and a sense of craftsmanship to your kitchen. With thoughtful planning, high-quality materials, and proper technique, you can achieve stunning results. Focus on prep work like layout planning and surface preparation for success. The laborious attention to detail will pay off in the elegance of the finished pattern. Take satisfaction in enhancing your home’s style with this striking and timeless zigzag tile motif.