How to Install Porcelain Backsplash

Installing a porcelain backsplash can greatly enhance the look of your kitchen or bathroom. Porcelain tiles are an elegant and durable choice for backsplashes. With proper planning and preparation, installing a porcelain backsplash is a DIY project many homeowners can tackle. This guide will walk you through the entire process step-by-step.

Planning Your Porcelain Backsplash

Before starting installation, you’ll need to make some important planning decisions. Careful planning ensures your backsplash fits your space properly and achieves the look you desire.

Choose a Tile Style

Porcelain backsplash tiles come in a vast array of colors, sizes, shapes, and finishes. Consider the overall style you want for your backsplash and select tiles accordingly.

  • Colors – Choose a subtle neutral or make a bold statement with vivid colors. Matte, glossy, or metallic finishes are available.
  • Sizes – Small mosaic tiles create a busy pattern. Large tiles highlight fewer seams. Standard subway tiles are a popular middle ground.
  • Shapes – Options like hexagons, arabesques, and penny rounds provide visual interest. Stick to rectangles or squares for a simpler look.
  • Accent tiles – Accent tiles in a contrasting color or finish can add extra personality. Use sparingly to highlight specific areas.

Measure Your Space

Take careful measurements of the backsplash area including width, height, and total square footage. These measurements will tell you how many full tiles and cut pieces you need to cover the space. Allow for a small buffer of extra tiles.

Choose Your Layout

Decide on the tile layout pattern. The most common option is a basic brick pattern with tiles offset by half a tile length each row. Consider other layouts like herringbone or pinwheel patterns if desired. Sketch your planned layout to visualize spacing.

Gather Supplies

You will need tile, grout, adhesive, backer board, sealant, spacers, grout float, and other tools. Make a list of all necessary supplies before going to the store. Having everything on hand will make installation much smoother.

Preparing the Work Area

Proper preparation of the installation area ensures your backsplash goes on cleanly. Take time to protect surrounding surfaces and remove any old backsplash components.

Protect Surrounding Surfaces

Cover countertops, floors, and other areas with drop cloths to guard from splatters or spills during installation. Use painter’s tape around the edges of the backsplash area.

Remove Old Backsplash

If replacing an existing backsplash, you’ll need to carefully remove the old tile and adhesive. Use a putty knife to scrape off old tile adhesive. Be patient and work slowly to avoid damaging the wall.

Install Backer Board

Most porcelain tile cannot be applied directly to drywall. Cut cement board or another backer board to fit your backsplash area. Screw it into the wall studs for stability.

Plumb and Level

Use a spirit level to ensure your backer board is perfectly plumb and level. This prevents slanted tiles. Shim behind the backer board as needed to adjust alignment.

Apply Waterproof Membrane

Spread a waterproofing membrane over the backer board with a trowel or paint roller. RedGard and Laticrete Hydro Ban are two popular liquid membrane options. Allow membrane to fully cure before tiling.

Installing the Tile

Once prepped, you can begin the satisfying process of tiling. Work slowly, double check your layout, and use spacers for clean straight grout lines.

Dry Lay Tiles

Do a dry layout before applying any adhesive. Start from your planned focal point and work outward. Ensure colors and patterns align with your plan and the layout fits the space correctly. Adjust layout if needed before adhering.

Mix and Apply Thinset

In a bucket, mix a thinset mortar adhesive according to package directions. Use a notched trowel to spread a thin, even layer across the backer board where you will place the first tiles.

Set the Tiles

Following your layout, firmly press tiles into the adhesive. Push across the surface to ensure full contact with the thinset. Place plastic spacers between tiles to achieve uniform grout line spacing.

Check Level and Alignment

Use a level often as you tile to confirm the tiles remain perfectly plumb. Inspect from multiple angles to ensure straight grout lines. Adjust any crooked or misaligned tiles promptly.

Cut Tiles Where Needed

Around the edges and around outlets, you will need to cut tiles for a precise fit. Use a wet saw or a manual cutter for straight cuts. A tile nipper works well for small irregular edge pieces.

Let Thinset Cure

Allow thinset adhesive to fully cure according to manufacturer directions before grouting. This often takes 24 hours. Do not grout or disturb tiles as they set. Remove spacers when cured.

Grouting Porcelain Tiles

Grouting fills the seams between tiles with color and seals the installation. Take care in mixing and applying grout to avoid uneven coloring or cracking as it dries.

Mix and Apply Grout

Prepare grout mix according to package instructions, using a latex additive for extra flexibility. Holding a rubber grout float at a 45° angle, firmly pack grout into tile seams, scraping across diagonally.

Clean Excess Grout

Let grout sit 5-10 minutes until firm. Use a damp sponge to gently wipe diagonally across tiles removing excess grout. Rinse sponge often to prevent spreading haze. Buff dried grout haze with a soft cloth.

Seal Grout

Once grout has fully cured, apply a penetrating sealer. This prevents stains from setting into the porous grout over time. Follow product directions to apply the recommended number of coats.

Finishing Touches

The final details complete your new backsplash installation. Add caulk where needed, hang any final decor pieces, and enjoy your stunning new focal point.

Apply Silicone Caulk

Use a silicone caulk to fill any gaps along countertops, edges, or around fixtures. Smooth with a damp fingertip before caulk dries. Caulk seals gaps and allows for slight expansion.

Affix Decor Pieces

Consider adding decorative tile trim or accent tiles for extra personality. Use adhesive dots to securely adhere any decorative tiles, liners, or trim molding.

Clean Your New Backsplash

Use a soft, damp microfiber cloth to wipe away any lingering dust or residue from installation. Enjoy your skillfully installed, eye-catching porcelain backsplash for years to come.

Frequently Asked Questions About Installing Porcelain Backsplash

Many homeowners have additional questions when taking on a porcelain backsplash installation project. Here are answers to some of the most common inquiries.

Does Porcelain Tile Work for Kitchen Backsplashes?

Yes, porcelain is an excellent material choice. Porcelain tiles are very durable, stain resistant, and waterproof once properly sealed. These qualities make them ideal for moisture-prone kitchen backsplashes. The extensive style and design options allow you to achieve virtually any desired look.

Can I Install a Porcelain Backsplash Directly Over Drywall?

No, tiles should not be applied directly to drywall alone. Cement board, fibercement, or another rigid backer board must be installed first to provide a sturdy base. Backer board prevents sagging or moisture damage to drywall over time.

What Tools Do I Need for a Porcelain Backsplash Install?

You will need basic tiling tools – notched trowel, grout float, spacers, mixing bucket, tile cutter, grout sealer, caulk gun, and sponges. Safety gear like gloves and eye protection are also a smart idea. Consider renting a wet saw for precise tile cutting.

How Do I Cut Porcelain Tiles?

The best tool for cutting porcelain is a wet saw, which cools tile edges during cutting to prevent chipping. A manual tile cutter works for straight cuts. Use a specialty porcelain tile nipper for small freehand cuts around outlets, etc. Avoid using a dry power saw which can shatter the brittle tiles.

Should I Hire a Professional or DIY Porcelain Backsplash?

An experienced tile setter can install a backsplash flawlessly, but it is a DIY-friendly project if you are comfortable tiling. If tackling it yourself, be sure to research proper techniques and allow plenty of time. Professionals can remedy any tricky layouts or complex cuts.

How Much Does a Professional Porcelain Backsplash Installation Cost?

Professional pricing varies based on your location and the complexity of the job. Typical range is $10-$25 per square foot including labor and materials. Simpler designs with standard subway tiles on a smooth wall will fall on the lower end. High-end tile choices, intricate patterns, or difficult layouts raise the price.


Installing a porcelain backsplash requires planning, precision, and patience but creates a gorgeous focal point in your kitchen or bath. Thanks to the durability and water resistance of porcelain, your new backsplash will maintain its eye-catching beauty for many years. With the proper preparations and by following this guide, you can achieve stunning, professional-looking results installing porcelain tile backsplash on your own. The finished project will provide daily enjoyment and add value to your home.