How to Install Kitchen Backsplash


Installing a kitchen backsplash is one of the most popular and rewarding DIY home improvement projects. Not only does a backsplash provide an extra layer of protection for your walls against water damage, grease splatter, and stains, it can also dramatically change the look and feel of your kitchen. With so many backsplash tile options to choose from like subway tile, glass tile, and natural stone, you’re sure to find a style that suits your taste and complements your existing kitchen decor.

While tiling a backsplash may seem daunting, it’s actually a very approachable project for DIYers of all skill levels. The key is taking the time to properly prepare your work surface, use the right tools and materials, and follow installation best practices. We’ll walk you through the entire process step-by-step, from tile selection and layout planning to applying grout and sealing. Let’s get started!

How to Choose Backsplash Tiles

The first step is choosing your backsplash tiles. There are countless sizes, shapes, textures, colors, and materials to consider when selecting backsplash tile. Here are some of the most popular options:

Ceramic Tile

A classic choice, ceramic tiles come in a huge variety of styles. They are typically very affordable, easy to clean, and hold up well over time. You can find ceramic tiles with smooth, glass-like finishes or textured surfaces. Subway tiles, penny tiles, and geometric patterns are common ceramic backsplash tile styles.

Porcelain Tile

Porcelain tiles have an extremely dense composition and low water absorption rate, making them very durable and stain resistant. Their polished look provides a contemporary vibe. While they can be more expensive than ceramic, porcelain tiles are a great choice for cooks who want a fuss-free backsplash that can withstand messy kitchen mishaps.

Glass Tile

Adding a touch of drama and elegance, glass backsplashes range from transparent to frosted to mosaic styles. The reflective surface makes the kitchen appear brighter and more open. Though beautiful, glass tiles do require careful cutting and more frequent sealing than other materials.

Natural Stone Tile

For Old World charm, natural stone tiles like marble, travertine, and granite make a lovely backsplash choice. Each stone tile has a unique veining and coloring. However, stone can be more vulnerable to etching and discoloration from acidic foods. Frequent resealing is a must for protection.

Metal Tile

Metallic backsplashes bring contemporary, modern flair with eye-catching shine. Stainless steel, copper, brass, and aluminum tiles are available in various finishes from solid metal sheets to mixed metal mosaics. Metal backsplashes pair beautifully with professional-grade appliances.

Once you settle on the material, it’s time to choose the specific size, shape, and style. Small mosaic tiles can create busy patterns whereas large tiles produce a more seamless look. If using more than one tile, make sure they complement each other. Also factor in ease of cleaning when picking tile size – grout lines on tiny tiles can trap dirt.

Be sure to purchase a few extra tiles to account for breakage and the potential need for future repairs. You’ll also need tile spacers which ensure even grout line spacing between tiles. With your tiles selected, you’re ready to start prepping for installation.

How to Prepare the Work Surface

Proper preparation of the installation area prevents problems down the road. Here are the key steps:

  • Inspect and Repair the Wall – Examine the wall for any holes, cracks, uneven surfaces or existing damage that need patching and smoothing before tiling.
  • Clean the Wall – Use a degreaser to thoroughly clean the entire backsplash area, removing any dirt, grime, grease or soap scum so tiles properly adhere. Rinse and let dry completely.
  • Remove Outlets – Take out any outlets or switch plates in the backsplash zone so they don’t interfere with your tile layout.
  • Apply Drywall Anchors – Most backsplashes need additional support behind the tile, typically with plastic drywall anchors. Mark locations to sink anchors into the wall every 8 to 16 inches across the entire backsplash surface.

With the prep work complete, you can start laying out your tiles.

How to Plan Your Tile Layout

Carefully plotting out your tile layout guarantees the installation goes smoothly and the finished project looks cohesive. Here’s how to map it out:

  • Mark the Backsplash Area – Outline the entire backsplash space with painters tape on the walls. This defines the borders for tiling.
  • Find the Focal Point – Determine the centermost point of the backsplash area to use as an alignment guide for your tile layout. Mark this spot.
  • Do a Dry Run – Lay out the tile across the backsplash area flat on the countertop (known as a dry run) to visualize placement and spacing. Use tile spacers to evenly gap tiles.
  • Adjust as Needed – For a seamless look, you may need to trim border and corner tiles with a wet saw. Make any necessary adjustments.
  • Take Measurements – Carefully measure and mark where cut tiles and partial tiles will go. Transfer all measurements to your outlined backsplash area on the wall.
  • Mix Up Adhesive – Combine equal parts of thin-set mortar powder with water in a bucket. Stir with a mixing paddle until smooth. Let rest 10 minutes before use per manufacturer instructions.

With your tile layout mapped and adhesive mixed, it’s go time for the real deal on the wall!

How to Install the Tile

Here comes the fun part – actually tiling your kitchen backsplash! Follow these tips for success:

  • Apply the Adhesive – Use a notched trowel to spread a thin layer of tile mastic onto the backsplash area. Apply only 1-2 square feet at a time to prevent drying.
  • Press on Tiles – Place your tiles firmly into the adhesive one by one using a slight twisting motion. Use spacers between each tile to maintain even grout line spacing.
  • Check Alignment – As you go, continually verify alignment with your reference lines to keep tiles straight and level. Adjust as needed.
  • Cut Border Tiles – Carefully cut any edge and corner tiles to fit with a wet saw. Grind the cut edges smooth with a stone. Insert border tiles last.
  • Let Adhesive Cure – Allow thinset adhesive to fully cure overnight before grouting (usually about 24 hours). Keep the room temperature constant.
  • Remove Spacers – Take out tile spacers once the mortar has hardened. Avoid direct contact with the tiles themselves which can loosen their bond.

Nice work! Your tiles are securely up on the wall. Make sure to let the adhesive fully cure before moving onto grouting for durability.

How to Grout Backsplash Tiles

Grout fills the spaces between tiles with a waterproof material to finish off your backsplash installation. Here’s how to grout like a pro:

  • Mix the Grout – In a bucket, combine grout powder with water per manufacturer instructions until you achieve a smooth, toothpaste-like consistency.
  • Apply Grout – Using a grout float or rubber grout float, spread grout liberally over the tile surface, pressing into joints between tiles.
  • Wipe Away Excess – Let grout sit briefly then hold the float at a 90° angle and scrape diagonally across tiles to remove excess grout.
  • Clean Grout Lines – Use a damp sponge to wipe away remaining grout haze. Rinse the sponge and wipe again until tiles are completely clean.
  • Let Cure – Allow grout to dry and cure fully for 72 hours without getting wet according to manufacturer guidelines.
  • Seal Grout – Once cured, apply a penetrating grout sealer with a small foam brush. This protects grout from stains and moisture damage.

That completes the grouting process! Your newly tiled backsplash is ready to function as an easy-to-clean prep surface.

Backsplash Tile Maintenance Tips

With your backsplash installation complete, just a few maintenance steps will keep it looking fabulous:

  • Re-seal grout yearly with a penetrating sealer to prevent staining and damage from moisture.
  • For polished stone tiles, apply stone soap periodically to restore shine and luster.
  • Clean backsplash daily using warm water, mild dish soap, soft cloth to remove grease and grime before it builds up.
  • Don’t use harsh cleaners or abrasive pads/brushers which can scratch or erode tile surfaces and grout.
  • Immediately wipe up food, grease or liquid spills to prevent stains on porous grout lines.
  • Inspect for cracked, damaged, or loose tiles over time. Regrout or replace individual tiles as needed.

With proper care, your lovely new backsplash will withstand everyday use with ease!

Frequently Asked Questions

Still have some questions about installing a kitchen backsplash? Here are answers to some common FAQs:

What’s the best backsplash tile for a rental kitchen?

Stick with affordable, easy-to-clean ceramic or porcelain tiles. Save natural stone for a home you own, since it requires more maintenance.

Should I match existing countertops exactly?

Coordination is good, exact matching can be overkill. Pick a tile color in the same tone or use a mosaic pattern that incorporates your countertop hue.

What about the area around my range hood?

Use fireproof tile rated for high temperatures around stoves/ovens. Or install metal range hood liner behind regular tiles for protection.

How do I cut outlet and switch holes in tiles?

Mark openings on tiles, drill a hole in the center, then use a tile nipper tool to break out small fragments until the hole is sized correctly.

Should I remove existing backsplash before installing new tile?

Yes, take off old backsplash completely so you have an even surface to tile onto. Use a putty knife, heat gun or oscillating tool.

Can I install backsplash tile directly over drywall?

Tile needs a very secure surface to adhere to, so drywall alone won’t cut it. Make sure to attach cement board before tiling.

What color grout should I use?

For subtle contrast, use a gray or white grout color that matches or blends with your tiles. For dramatic effect, choose a dark contrasting grout.

How do I cut border and corner tiles?

Use a wet saw fitted with a diamond blade to carefully score and snap tiles to size. Use a tile file to smooth cut edges.


With the right prep, patience, tools and techniques, you can install a stunning, durable backsplash yourself and save on labor costs. While the process may seem complex, just remember to break it down into smaller, manageable steps. Taking it slow and steady is the key to backsplash success!

The end result is a high-impact kitchen focal point with custom style that protects your walls and adds value to your home. Plus you’ll gain the satisfaction of enhancing your space with your own handiwork. We hope these tips give you the knowledge and confidence to tackle your dream backsplash. Get ready to bask in the compliments from family and friends!