How to Install Porcelain Tile Backsplash

Installing a porcelain tile backsplash can add beauty and functionality to your kitchen or bathroom. Porcelain tiles are an excellent choice for backsplashes because they are durable, easy to clean, and come in a wide variety of styles and colors. With some planning and the right tools, you can achieve a stunning backsplash that enhances your space. Here is a step-by-step guide on how to install porcelain tile backsplash.

Choose the Tile

The first step is to select the porcelain tile. Consider the overall aesthetic you want for the space. Porcelain tiles come in different sizes, shapes, colors, and designs. Some popular options include:

  • Subway tiles – classic rectangular tiles in white or colored glossy finish
  • Stone look tiles – mimic natural stone like marble, travertine
  • Patterned tiles – decorative styles like moroccan, arabesque, or geometric
  • Mosaic tiles – small tiles mounted in sheets to form patterns

Determine the area you need to cover and buy 10-20% extra to account for cuts, waste, and future repairs. Porcelain tiles should meet ANSI A137.1 standards. Also choosecoordinating grout color.

Prepare the Surface

Proper surface preparation is key for successful tile installation. The backsplash area should be:

  • Clean – Remove any existing backsplash and clean off dirt, grease, and debris.
  • Smooth – Level any uneven areas. Fill holes and grout lines with patching compound.
  • Structurally sound – Ensure the wall is in good condition to support tile weight.
  • Dry – No water damage or moisture on the wall.

Repair any issues before tiling. Prime painted surfaces for better adhesion.

Layout Your Tiles

Before installing, do a dry layout to map out the pattern and spacing. Measure the area and mark the center. For a classic look, start tiles in the center and work outwards. Adjust as needed to avoid narrow cut tiles on the edges. Mix tiles from several boxes to vary shading.

Allow a 1/8 inch gap between tiles and a 1⁄4 gap where the backsplash meets countertops or cabinets. These gaps will be filled with grout.

Use spacers between tiles to get straight even rows. Level horizontal lines for proper alignment.

Apply the Tile Adhesive

Use a notch trowel to spread a thin layer of tile adhesive on the installation surface. Apply only as much as can be tiled in 30 minutes before the adhesive skins over.

Use a recommended adhesive for porcelain tile and your specific wall type. Typical options include:

  • Thinset mortar – for concrete, plaster walls
  • Organic adhesive – for drywall, plywood, fiber cement board
  • Epoxy – for metal, glass, or existing tiles

Cover the entire area, smoothing with notch side to create ridges for tile contact.

Set and Grout the Tiles

Press tiles firmly into the adhesive one at a time. Use a rubber grout float to apply even pressure and flatten backside. Work in small sections.

Use spacers to maintain even grout lines. Clean away excess adhesive immediately to prevent haze. Allow tiles to set for 24 hours without disturbance.

Once set, mix grout and apply over the tiles using a rubber grout float or squeegee. Push into joints and gaps. Let it dry slightly and polish with a soft cloth for smooth finished grout lines.

Allow 72 hours for grout to fully cure before using the backsplash.

Seal and Finish

Sealing is recommended to protect the grout and make it easier to clean. Use a penetrating water-based sealer for natural look without gloss. Apply sealer with a paintbrush or sponge.

Caulk perimeter joints with a silicone sealant. Wipe away excess for a clean finish.

Finally, clean your new porcelain tile backsplash with a PH neutral cleaner.

With proper tools and techniques, you can achieve stunning, professional-looking results. The finished porcelain backsplash will be durable, easy to maintain, and enhance your kitchen or bathroom for years to come.

Frequently Asked Questions

What type of tile adhesive should I use?

Choose an adhesive suitable for porcelain tile and your wall type (drywall, concrete, etc). Modified thinset mortar is a common choice. Check manufacturer instructions.

How long does the tile adhesive need to dry before grouting?

Allow tiles to cure for at least 24 hours after setting before applying grout. This allows the adhesive to fully harden.

What color grout should I choose?

Select a grout close to your tile color for a seamless look. For light tiles, use white or off-white grout. For dark tiles, use dark gray or black. Contrasting grout can be an intentional design choice.

How soon can I use the backsplash after installation?

It’s best to wait at least 72 hours for the grout to fully cure before regular use and cleaning. This prevents damaging the grout joints.

What’s the best way to cut the tiles?

Use a wet saw with a porcelain blade for precise cuts without chipping the tile edges. A snap tile cutter is another option for straight cuts.

Should I seal the grout?

Sealing is highly recommended for all backsplashes. It protects porous grout from stains and makes it easier to clean. Use a water-based penetrating sealer.

How do I maintain my tile backsplash?

Use a PH-neutral daily cleaner. Re-apply grout sealer every 1-2 years. Do not use abrasive scouring pads or harsh chemicals which can damage the tile surface.


Installing porcelain tile backsplash can give your kitchen or bathroom a high-end finished look with proper planning and technique. Preparing the surface, using quality setting materials, allowing proper cure times, and sealing are keys to success. The end result is a backsplash that is beautiful, practical, and easy to keep looking new for years of enjoyment.