How to Install Rock Backsplash


Installing a rock backsplash can be a great way to add visual interest and texture to your kitchen or bathroom. Rock backsplashes come in a wide variety of natural stones like granite, marble, travertine, and slate, so you can find an option that fits your design aesthetic. With proper planning and preparation, installing a rock backsplash is a DIY-friendly project that can transform the look of your space. This guide will walk you through everything you need to know to successfully install a rock backsplash in your home.

Choose Your Rock Material

The first step is to select the type of rock you want to use. Consider the color and pattern as well as the texture. Here are some popular options:

  • Granite – Granite has a sparkly, speckled appearance and comes in many colors including gray, white, pink, black, and brown. It has a high durability rating but can be on the expensive side.
  • Marble – Marble is elegant with veining patterns in shades like white, gray, cream, and green. It scratches more easily than other stones.
  • Travertine – Travertine has earthy tones like brown, rust, tan, and cream. It has a pitted surface texture.
  • Slate – Slate has a matte finish and comes in dark gray, black, purple, and green shades. It’s on the affordable side and naturally waterproof.
  • Quartzite – For a look similar to marble but with more durability, quartzite is a good choice.

Select a rock material that will stand up well to moisture, stains, and daily wear and tear. Also consider the maintenance requirements.

Calculate How Much Rock You Need

Measure the total square footage of the area you’ll be tiling. Don’t forget to account for uneven surfaces and niches. For a standard backsplash, multiply the length times the height. Allow for about 10% extra for waste and cuts. Most rock backsplash tile sizes range from 12 inch squares to smaller mosaics.

Determine the thickness you want based on your design—1/4, 1/2, or 3/4 inches are common. Purchase 10-15% extra tiles in case any break or need replacement down the road.

Gather Supplies

For installation, you’ll need:

  • Rock tiles
  • Mortar or mastic adhesive
  • Grout
  • Spacers
  • Tile saw with diamond blade
  • Trowel
  • Grout float
  • Mixing bucket
  • Safety goggles and gloves

Other supplies:

  • Drop cloth
  • Painter’s tape
  • Level
  • Pencil
  • Tile nippers
  • Rag
  • Sponge
  • Sealer

Purchase high quality thinset mortar that is suitable for natural stone. Make sure any sealer you get is designed for your specific material.

Prepare the Surface

The surface that you’ll apply the rock tiles to needs to be clean and smooth. Remove any wallpaper or existing backsplash. Fill any holes or uneven spots with spackle.

Clean the installation area with soap and water to remove grease, dirt or residues. Rinse and let dry completely. Apply painter’s tape where the backsplash meets countertops, sides, cabinets, etc. for clean edges.

Plan Your Layout

Map out the tile layout ahead of time on paper to ensure you won’t end up with slivers of tile at the edges. Measure to find the center point and work outward from there. Mix up tiles so any variations in color or pattern are distributed.

Use spacers between tiles to get straight grout lines. Cut any perimeter tiles to fit with a wet saw fitted with a diamond blade. Use tile nippers to notch small pieces if needed.

Apply Mortar and Set Tiles

Follow instructions on mortar packaging for mixing. Apply to the wall area using a notched trowel, holding at a 45 degree angle. Apply only as much mortar as you can tile over in about 15 minutes.

Firmly press tiles into the mortar, using spacers to maintain even gaps. Check periodically with a level that courses are straight. Allow the mortar to cure fully before proceeding.

Grout and Seal the Tiles

Allow mortar to cure for at least 24 hours before grouting. Apply grout along the grout line with a rubber grout float. Wipe away excess grout with a damp sponge. Rinse sponge frequently.

Once grout has dried, apply a penetrating sealer formulated for your stone following label directions. This prevents staining from moisture and daily use. Allow sealer to fully cure before using the backsplash.

And that’s it! Proper prep and care when installing will lead to a stunning stone backsplash you’ll enjoy for years to come. Always use caution and wear safety gear when cutting. Take your time and don’t be afraid to make adjustments as you go until the finished look is just how you envisioned.

Frequently Asked Questions

How do I cut the rock backsplash tiles?

Use a wet saw with a diamond blade specifically for stone. For intricate cuts, you can score the tile and snap it with tile nippers. Always wear safety goggles.

What kind of mortar should I use?

Choose a high quality thinset mortar designed for natural stone. Make sure it offers strong adhesion and some flexibility.

Can I install a rock backsplash directly over existing tile?

It’s not recommended. Remove any existing backsplash completely before installing new tile. The surface needs to be smooth and clean.

How long does the mortar need to cure before grouting?

Allow mortar to fully cure for at least 24 hours before applying grout. This prevents excess moisture from affecting the grout.

What color grout should I choose?

Select a grout that matches or complements your rock tiles. Contrasting shades can emphasize the tile pattern. Lighter grouts show less dirt over time.

How often should I seal my stone backsplash?

Sealing frequency depends on the type of stone, but sealing every 1-2 years is a good rule of thumb for high use kitchen backsplashes. Marble and travertine need more frequent sealing than granite.


Installing a rock backsplash brings natural beauty to your home and can even increase value. With smart planning and preparation, it’s a DIY project any homeowner can feel proud of taking on. Choose your materials wisely and don’t skip key steps like proper mortar curing time. The end result will be an eye-catching, durable backsplash you’ll enjoy for many years to come.