How to Install Mosaic Herringbone Backsplash

Installing a mosaic herringbone backsplash can transform the look and feel of your kitchen or bathroom. The intricate, geometric pattern adds visual interest and gives your space a modern, stylish update. While intricate, installing a mosaic herringbone backsplash is an achievable DIY project if you have some tiling experience. With proper planning, materials, and tools, you can create a stunning mosaic herringbone design on your backsplash.

Overview of Installing a Mosaic Herringbone Backsplash

Installing a mosaic backsplash tile in a herringbone pattern involves careful planning and precision. Since the mosaic tiles are small and set in a precise arrangement, extra care must be taken to ensure proper alignment, a consistent grout line, and a cohesive overall design.

The key steps for installing a mosaic herringbone backsplash are:

  • Prepare the surface – Clean and roughen the surface for better adhesion.
  • Plan the layout – Map out the tile placement for the desired pattern.
  • Cut mosaic tiles – Carefully cut tiles to fit edges and corners.
  • Apply thinset mortar – Spread thinset evenly where tiles will be placed.
  • Set the tiles – Precisely set tiles in the herringbone pattern.
  • Grout the tiles – Let mortar cure before applying grout between the tiles.
  • Seal and finish – Apply sealant and caulk backsplash edges.

Proper prep work, using the right tools, and taking your time are key to getting professional looking results. Planning the layout, making precise cuts, maintaining even grout lines, and attention to detail throughout the installation will lead to a stunning herringbone mosaic backsplash.

What You Need for Installing Mosaic Herringbone Backsplash

Installing a mosaic backsplash is a bigger project than installing regular ceramic tiles. The right materials and tools will make the installation process go smoothly.


  • Mosaic tiles – Small mosaic tiles in shapes like hexagons or squares. Mixes of stone, glass, and ceramic are common.
  • Thinset mortar – Pre-mixed thinset adhesive for applying mosaic sheets to the wall. White is ideal for glass.
  • Notched trowel – For evenly applying thinset before setting tiles. Choose a notch size suitable for mosaics.
  • Grout – Sanded grout is best for tile joints wider than 1/8 inch. Match grout color to your tile.
  • Caulk – Color-matched silicone caulk seals the edges between the backsplash and countertops/walls.
  • Tile spacers – Small crosses ensure even spacing between tiles for consistent grout lines.


  • Tape measure – Essential for mapping out your layout.
  • Level – Needed to ensure your backsplash is installed flat and even.
  • Tile cutter – Specialty cutter for accurate straight cuts and corners.
  • Nippers – Tile nippers trim protruding edges and corners.
  • Grout float – For smoothing and cleaning excess grout off the tiles.
  • Sponges – For wiping away grout residue and cleaning tiles after grouting.
  • Bucket – For mixing grout and cleaning sponges.
  • Trowel – Spreads thinset smoothly and evenly on the wall.
  • Tile spacers – Used between tiles to create uniform grout line spacing.

Having the right tools like tile cutters and nippers will achieve the clean edges and fitted corners needed in a herringbone pattern.

Step 1: Prepare and Plan the Backsplash Surface

Preparing the surface is an important first step for a successful installation. The backsplash area must be clean, dry, and ready for thinset and tiles. Planning a layout before tiling ensures your herringbone pattern is aligned and evenly spaced.

Clean and Prep the Surface

Start by fully cleaning the installation surface. Remove any old backsplash, sink fixtures, or countertops that interfere with tiling the entire area.

  • Clean off any dirt, grease, soap scum, or debris. Degrease the area if needed.
  • Evaluate the surface flatness. Any bumps or uneven areas should be sanded down.
  • Painted surfaces should be lightly sanded to roughen and improve thinset adhesion.
  • Unpainted drywall or plaster should be sealed with a drywall sealer before tiling.

Once cleaned, the surface should be dry and ready for thinset application.

Plan the Layout

Carefully mapping out the pattern beforehand ensures your herringbone design is aligned and spaced properly.

  • First determine the size of your backsplash area to fully cover. Measure the overall height and length.
  • Draw the shape of the space on paper to map the pattern. Mark any outlets, windows, or borders.
  • Dry lay tiles on the floor first to see how they fit together in the herringbone design.
  • Adjust the layout to utilize cut pieces along the edges. Plan full tiles for the central area.
  • Use a level to mark tile starting lines on the backsplash area. These guide the first row placement.

Take time in the planning process to identify any tile cuts needed around corners or outlets. This will lead to a cohesive tile design once installed.

Step 2: Cutting Mosaic Tiles

Mosaic tiles involve more shaping and cutting than regular tiles. To achieve the mosaic herringbone pattern, properly shaping and cutting the mosaic sheets is essential.

Cut Tools Needed

Specialty tile cutters and nippers are designed for cutting small mosaic tiles:

  • Score and snap tile cutter – For straight cuts along mesh sheets.
  • Jigsaw with tile blade – Make curved or custom cuts.
  • Rod saw – A small saw for detailed cuts and shapes.
  • Nippers or tile snips – Trim protruding edges and corners.

Cutting Techniques

Use the following techniques when shaping and cutting mosaic tiles:

  • Carefully score and snap sheets using a tile cutter for straight cuts along edges.
  • For L-shaped cuts, score two connecting lines, and snap the corner piece off.
  • Use a jigsaw or rod saw to intricately shape cut-outs around outlets, pipes, or corners.
  • When needed, use nippers to trim tile corners that protrude from the sheet edge.
  • Smooth any rough edges with an abrasive stone for a clean edge.

Cut pieces should have a consistent width to maintain the pattern spacing. Precisely shaping and cutting the mosaic tiles leads to a clean, finished look.

Step 3: Apply Thinset Mortar to Surface

With the surface prepped and tiles cut, now apply a layer of thinset adhesive mortar for attaching the tiles.

Prepare Thinset Mortar

Follow the instructions on the thinset bag to mix it to the proper consistency.

  • Pour powdered thinset into a bucket and gradually mix in water using a drill mixer.
  • Thinset should have a toothpaste-like consistency – not too watery or thick and sticky.
  • Let the mixture slake or sit 5-10 minutes so ingredients interact. Re-mix before using.

White polymer modified thinset adheres well on surfaces like water-resistant drywall in moisture-prone kitchens and bathrooms.

Apply Thinset with Notched Trowel

Use a notched trowel to evenly spread a thin layer of adhesive on the installation area:

  • Apply a skim coat of thinset first to help it adhere to the wall surface.
  • Next, use a 1/4” x 3/8” V-notched trowel held at a 45° angle to create even rows of grooves.
  • Spread only a small section of thinset where tiles will be set soon before it dries.

The notched rows allow the thinset to spread evenly under tiles. This provides maximum adhesive contact and prevents tiles shifting.

Step 4: Set the Tiles in Herringbone Pattern

Now the exciting part – setting the mosaic tile sheets on the backsplash in the planned herringbone arrangement. Follow best practices for an aligned, consistent pattern.

Arrange Tiles Row By Row

Carefully setting the tiles in organized rows prevents alignment issues down the line:

  • Refer to guide lines drawn earlier to align the first row of tiles along the bottom. Place spacers around tiles.
  • Work in columns up the wall, setting subsequent rows using tile spacers to maintain even grout line spacing.
  • Ensure tiles are fully pressed into the thinset adhesive to prevent loosening later on.
  • Meticulously inspect from a distance that tiles are flat and evenly aligned as you go up.

Mind the Pattern Details

Consistently maintaining the details of the herringbone pattern makes the installation look crisp:

  • Ensure tiles are oriented in alternating directions row after row.
  • Confirm each tile is aligned with the tiles in the rows above and below it.
  • Cut tiles should blend into the pattern with tight grout line spacing maintained.
  • Look for lippage where tiles are uneven. Regrout any high tiles that stick up.

Carefully minding the pattern alignment creates a sharp symmetrical herringbone design.

Step 5: Let Mortar Cure before Grouting

Once the mosaic tile sheets are fully installed, take a break before grouting to allow the mortar to cure.

Give Mortar Time to Cure

It’s crucial to wait 24-48 hours for the thinset mortar to cure before applying grout between tiles.

  • Pushing grout into tiles before thinset has cured can cause them to shift position or loosen.
  • Mortar cure times can vary based on temperature and humidity. Verify thinset directions for recommended wait times.
  • The mortar should be dry to the touch with no residue transferring before grouting.

Letting thinset fully cure prevents issues like tiles popping out or cracking grout lines later on.

Clean Tiles and Prep for Grouting

Lightly clean and prep the tiles while waiting for thinset to cure:

  • Carefully scrape any dried thinset off the tile faces with a plastic putty knife or spatula.
  • Wipe down the tiles to remove dust, dirt and debris before applying grout.
  • Verify all tile spacers were removed between the tiles and around the edges.

With the tiles clean, dry, and thinset cured, the backsplash is ready for grouting.

Step 6: Mix and Apply Grout Between Tiles

Grouting seals the joints between the mosaic tiles. Using proper grouting techniques leads to even, finished grout lines.

Mix the Grout

Follow the package directions to mix the unsanded grout powder with water:

  • Start by only adding a small amount of water to avoid making the mix too thin.
  • Knead the grout with a grout float until it reaches a smooth, toothpaste-like consistency.
  • Let the mixed grout slake for 10 minutes before using.

The best grout color matches or contrasts nicely with your tile color.

Apply Grout with Float in Sections

Work in small sections across the backsplash to spread grout before it dries:

  • Holding the float at a 45° angle, firmly press thick grout into the joints, filling them completely.
  • Wipe diagonally across the tiles to remove excess grout from the tile surface.
  • After spreading each section, wait 10-15 minutes before wiping again.

Take care to fully pack joints so no gaps remain. Consistent wiping creates flush grout lines across the herringbone pattern.

Step 7: Seal and Finish the Backsplash Edges

Once grouting is complete, finish and protect the installed backsplash using silicone caulk and sealant.

Apply Clear Silicone Caulk

Caulking creates a waterproof seal between the countertop-backsplash and wall-backsplash boundaries:

  • Run a smooth, continuous bead of caulk along the bottom and side perimeters where the backsplash meets adjacent surfaces.
  • Use a wet fingertip to smooth and shape the caulk into the joint seam. Carefully wipe any excess.
  • Avoid smearing caulk onto the surrounding surfaces. Quickly remove any stray caulk.

The clear silicone caulk provides a clean finish along the edges.

Seal the Grout and Tiles

Sealing the grout and tiles protects the finish and prevents staining:

  • Let the grout cure fully for 24-72 hours before applying sealer. Check the grout package for recommended wait times.
  • Apply grout sealer to fully saturate and seal the grout lines according to product directions.
  • After another 72 hours, apply tile sealant to waterproof the surface and enhance protection.

Sealing the grout and tiles maintains the pristine look of your new herringbone backsplash.

Tips for Achieving a Flawless Herringbone Installation

Installing a mosaic herringbone backsplash involves precise work for an aligned design. Keep these tips in mind for a stunning finished product:

  • Carefully cut sheets on a level surface for clean edges and properly fitting pieces.
  • Constantly step back to check alignment and pattern consistency as you place tile sheets.
  • Use tile spacers diligently to maintain even grout line spacing and prevent tile drift.
  • Ensure thinset mortar fully cures before applying grout to prevent loosening.
  • When spreading grout, hold the float at a consistent 45° angle for flush grout lines.
  • Look for lippage where tiles unevenly stick up and regrout any high tiles.
  • Caulk neatly between the backsplash and surrounding surfaces for a polished look.
  • Always follow all manufacturer directions for preparing materials, curing times, and applications.

Frequently Asked Questions About Installing Herringbone Mosaic Backsplash

Many questions come up when taking on an intricate mosaic backsplash installation. Here are helpful answers to some common FAQs.

Does the surface need special preparation before installing a mosaic backsplash?

Yes, the surface where the backsplash will be installed requires special prep. The area must be clean, dry, smooth, and appropriately primed or sealed for the thinset mortar to properly adhere.

What tools are most essential for cutting mosaic tiles?

Quality tile nippers, a carbide scoring tool, a rod saw, and a tile cutter with a new tile blade are extremely useful for expertly shaping mosaic tiles. Wet tile saws are also an option for curved cuts.

Is any sealer or primer needed before applying thinset mortar?

On surfaces like bare drywall or plaster, a primer coat or drywall sealer helps the thinset better adhere and prevents absorption. Painted and water-resistant surfaces usually don’t need additional coating.

How soon can I apply grout after installing the tiles?

It’s crucial to wait at least 24 hours after setting tiles for the thinset mortar to fully cure. Grouting too soon can cause tiles to shift position or loosen over time.

How do I get a smooth, consistent finish when grouting?

Holding the grout float at a consistent 45° angle when spreading into joints ensures even flush lines. Wipe diagonally across tiles in the same direction to smooth the surface.

Why are some of my tiles popping up or cracked after grouting?

This most likely occurs when grout is applied before the thinset mortar has fully cured. Be sure to wait at least 24 hours so the thinset reaches full strength before grouting.

Is sealing the grout and tiles mandatory or just optional?

Sealing is highly recommended to protect the finish and prevent staining. Sealers enhance water resistance and durability. Use products specifically made for sealing grout and natural stone or ceramic tiles.


Installing a stunning mosaic herringbone backsplash brings visual pop to your kitchen or bathroom. With careful planning, precision cutting, proper materials, and attention to detail, you can achieve a professional-looking result. Prep the surface thoroughly, map out the pattern, and focus on consistent alignment. Let thinset mortar fully cure before grouting. Finishing with grout sealing and edge caulking completes the polished look. With some time and patience, a DIY mosaic herringbone backsplash can upgrade your space with beautiful style.