How to Install Interlocking Backsplash Tile

Installing an interlocking backsplash tile in your kitchen can completely transform the look and feel of the space. With the right tools and preparation, it’s a straightforward weekend project for most DIYers. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll walk through the entire process of installing interlocking backsplash tile step-by-step.

What is Interlocking Backsplash Tile?

Interlocking backsplash tile features grooves cut into the sides that allow the tiles to clip together snugly without any gaps. This creates a seamless look and makes installation much easier compared to traditional backsplash tiles.

Interlocking tiles come in a variety of materials including porcelain, ceramic, glass, and natural stone. The unique interlocking system gives you the appearance of intricate designs without the difficult installation. They are available in different shapes, sizes, colors, and finishes to complement any décor style.

Benefits of Using Interlocking Backsplash Tiles

There are several benefits that make interlocking backsplash tile a popular choice for kitchen backsplashes:

  • Easier Installation: The interlocking system allows the tiles to seamlessly clip together. This eliminates the need for meticulous tile-setting and grout lines. Even beginners can achieve professional-looking results.
  • Versatile Design: Choose from endless combinations of colors, patterns, shapes, and textures to create a customized backsplash. Mix and match designs for a unique look.
  • Water-Resistant: Porcelain and ceramic tiles are naturally water-resistant and easy to clean. This makes them perfect for high-moisture areas above sinks and stoves.
  • Durable: Interlocking tiles are very durable and able to withstand heavy use in busy kitchen spaces. They won’t crack or fall off like traditional tiles.
  • Affordable: Interlocking tiles provide the look of expensive hand-laid tile for only a fraction of the cost. The easy installation also saves on labor.

Tools and Materials Needed

Installing interlocking tile backsplash is a beginner-friendly project. Here are the basic tools and materials you’ll need:


  • Tape measure
  • Level
  • Pencil
  • Utility knife
  • Tile cutter (manual or electric wet saw)
  • Grout float
  • Grout sealer
  • Sponge
  • Buckets
  • Safety glasses and gloves


  • Interlocking backsplash tiles
  • Thinset mortar adhesive
  • Grout
  • Tile spacers (optional)
  • Painter’s tape

How to Prepare the Workspace

Proper planning and preparation are key steps for a successful tile installation project:

  • Clear the area – Remove everything from the walls and countertops. Appliances may need to be pulled out. This gives you ample working room.
  • Clean thoroughly – Use soap and water to clean the entire backsplash area. Remove any existing old caulk or debris. The tiles will adhere better to a clean surface.
  • Repair any damage – Inspect the backsplash carefully and repair holes, cracks, loose paint, or other imperfections. Use spackle for small holes.
  • Protect surfaces – Cover countertops, floors, and appliances with drop cloths. Use painter’s tape at the edges. This prevents splattering from thinset and grout.

Allow 24 hours for all repaired or painted areas to fully cure before installing the backsplash tiles.

How to Layout the Tile Pattern

One of the fun parts of an interlocking tile backsplash is planning the tile layout. Here are some tips:

  • Draw the backsplash area to scale on graph paper, indicating all openings, corners, and boundaries.
  • Sketch out different tile patterns utilizing different sizes, shapes, and colors.
  • Start with the center focal point, like over the stove. Radiate the pattern outwards.
  • Align the grout lines in a straight uniform grid. Offset seams between tiles for stability.
  • Plan tile cuts needed around outlets, windows, and other openings.
  • Choose a pattern that avoids very narrow tile cuts. Standard tiles are 3-6 inches wide.
  • Leave a 1/8 inch gap between the tiles and counter/cabinets for expansion.
  • Snap a chalk line as a guide to start the first row level.

Experimenting with patterns on paper first prevents costly layout mistakes. Aligning the grout lines creates a clean uniform look.

How to Cut Interlocking Backsplash Tiles

Cutting interlocking tiles to size is required around the perimeter and openings. Follow these steps for precision cuts:

  • Mark cuts – Hold the tile against the wall and use a pencil to mark the cutting line. Remember to allow a small 1/8″ gap.
  • Score the line – Score along the cut line with the utility knife. Use a straightedge as a guide. Score 2-3 passes applying firm pressure.
  • Snap on the score – Position the tile on a table with the score line just at the edge. Firmly press down to snap the tile cleanly along the score.
  • Smooth the edges – Use a sharpening stone to smooth any rough edges on the cut. Chipped edges can prevent a tight fit.
  • Cut holes – For outlets or fixtures, lay the tile over the box and trace the shape. Carefully drill pilot holes and use the utility knife to cut out the hole.

Always wear safety goggles when cutting tiles. For curved cuts, use a rod saw or electric wet saw. Save all tile cutoffs as they may be usable.

How to Install the Interlocking Backsplash Tiles

Once you have all the prep work completed, installation of the interlocking tiles is fast and easy. Follow these key steps:

Step 1: Apply Thinset Mortar Adhesive

Thinset provides the strong adhesive bond between the tiles and wall surface.

  • Use a notched trowel to spread a thin layer of thinset mortar evenly over the backsplash area.
  • Apply only 1-2 square feet at a time to prevent drying out.
  • Pushing the trowel at a 45 degree angle creates the right notch pattern.
  • Thinset thickness should match tile depth for full contact and support.

Step 2: Set the First Row of Tiles

The first row sets the pattern and must be perfectly level.

  • Start at the center of the backsplash and place the first tile against the chalk line.
  • Use tile spacers at the edges and press the tile firmly into the thinset.
  • Check level often and adjust as needed to ensure the row stays straight.
  • Continue setting tiles for the entire first row. Trim perimeter tiles as needed for a snug fit.

Step 3: Install Remaining Tile Rows

  • Lock each subsequent row of tiles into the one below by lowering and pressing gently.
  • Stagger seams in each row. Check level lines often using tile edge as a guide.
  • Thinset squeeze-out indicates good contact between tile and wall. Remove any excess.
  • Cut and install trim tiles at edges and openings as you go. Check fit before adhering permanently.
  • Let thinset fully cure for 24-48 hours once all tiles are installed before grouting.

Take your time during installation to keep all lines level and tiles tightly interlocked for optimal end results.

How to Grout Interlocking Backsplash Tiles

Grout fills the fine seams between the installed tiles, adding a finished look. Follow these best practices:

  • Choose grout color – For wider grout lines, match the grout color to the tile. For thin grout lines, choose a slightly lighter or darker shade for contrast.
  • Prep the area – Remove any spacers or debris between tiles. Protect nearby surfaces with drop cloths.
  • Mix grout – Prepare grout per package directions. Let it sit 5-10 minutes then lightly remix to proper toothpaste-like consistency.
  • Apply grout – Holding the grout float at a 45° angle, spread grout forcefully over the tile. Fully pack joints between tiles.
  • Clean excess grout – Wait 10-15 minutes until grout gets firm. Use a damp sponge in a circular motion to gently clean off excess grout from the tile surface. Rinse sponge often.
  • Final wipe down – Use a soft cloth to wipe the tiles clean after they dry. Buff off any remaining haze for a polished finish.
  • Seal grout – Once grout has fully cured, apply grout sealer following package directions. This adds protection and waterproofing.

Take care to fully fill the grout joints. Wiping at an angle prevents pulling grout out of the joints. Grout haze can be difficult to remove once dried, so work in small sections.

Tips for Achieving a Flawless Finish

Follow these pro tips as you install interlocking backsplash tile:

  • Carefully inspect each tile before adhering. Use the smooth factory edges for outer corners.
  • Keep additional boxes of tile handy. Mix tile from several boxes to minimize shade variations.
  • Plan for 1/8 inch spacing at walls, countertops, cabinets for expansion and caulk joints.
  • Wipe away any excess thinset immediately to prevent difficult tile removal later.
  • Be patient – allow thinset and grout to fully cure before continuing to the next step.
  • Use a grout release agent to minimize staining of porous tile surfaces.
  • Seal tiles after installation to protect from moisture and make cleaning easier.
  • Buff any hazed tiles with a soft cloth once grout has cured for a polished look.
  • Caulk all seams between tile and counters/cabinets with a flexible silicone caulk.

Planning the layout, preparing the workspace, and taking your time with each step results in a stunning custom backsplash you’ll love.

Frequently Asked Questions

What’s the best way to cut holes in interlocking tiles for outlets?

Start by taping off the outlet box so no cut edges overlap it. Carefully trace the shape of the box on your tile. Drill a pilot hole to insert the blade of a utility knife. Gently score around the outline, working in short strokes. Repeat until the cutout can be removed cleanly. Use a file to smooth any rough edges.

How long should I wait before grouting interlocking tiles?

It’s crucial to allow the thinset adhesive to fully cure before grouting. Check the thinset packaging, but you typically need to wait 24-48 hours after setting the last tiles before grouting can begin. This prevents the tiles from shifting or lifting.

What kind of thinset mortar is best for interlocking backsplash tile?

Use a polymer-modified thinset specifically designed for porcelain, ceramic, or glass backsplash tiles. Avoid multipurpose thinsets. Look for terms like “non-sag” for walls or “fortified” for a stronger bond. Latex additive improves adhesion and flexibility.

My interlocking tiles have a glossy finish. Do I need to seal them?

Sealing is recommended for any porous, natural stone tiles. However tiles with a glazed porcelain or ceramic finish do not require sealing. Test a small inconspicuous area with a few drops of water. If it beads up and rolls off, no sealer is needed.

How do I cut interlocking tiles around electrical outlets?

Use a pencil to trace the exact outline of the outlet onto your tile. Drill a small hole inside the line. Insert a thin wire saw or utility knife into the hole to cut out the shape. File any rough edges smooth. Be sure to turn off power to the outlet before tracing or cutting.


Updating your kitchen backsplash with easy to install interlocking tile takes your space from dull to dazzling. With proper planning and preparation, you can achieve stunning results even as a DIY beginner. Grout clean-up is easier with interlocking tiles. Just enjoy your new custom backsplash for years to come.

From choosing the perfect pattern to expertly cutting and setting each tile in place, we’ve shared our best tips and tricks in this comprehensive guide. With a little patience, the right tools, and these step-by-step instructions, you can completely transform your kitchen. Let us know in the comments if you have any other questions as you start your interlocking backsplash tile project!