How to Install Sheets of Tile Backsplash

Installing a tile backsplash in your kitchen or bathroom can add style, enhance hygiene, and increase the value of your home. With careful planning and the right materials, installing tile backsplash is a manageable weekend project for a DIYer. This comprehensive guide will walk you through the entire process of how to install sheets of tile backsplash.

Choosing Your Tile Backsplash

The first step is selecting the right tile for your backsplash. There are endless options when it comes to tile materials, sizes, colors and designs. Consider the following when making your backsplash tile selection:

Tile Material

  • Ceramic: A classic option, ceramic tile is affordable, easy to clean, and available in a huge range of styles. Use glazed ceramic for kitchens and bathrooms.
  • Porcelain: More durable and stain-resistant than ceramic, good for heavy use areas. The dense material resists moisture.
  • Glass: Adds a contemporary, sleek style. Glass tile can be opaque, transparent, or translucent. Best for low-traffic areas.
  • Natural Stone: Marble, travertine, granite and slate provide natural beauty. Check soft stones like marble for sealing needs.
  • Metal: Great contemporary option. Choose brushed metals like stainless steel or copper for warmth. Easy to clean.

Tile Size

Common tile sizes include:

  • Mosaic: 1 inch square or smaller
  • Metro: 1-by-2 inches to 6-by-6 inches
  • Subway: 3-by-6 inches
  • Hexagon and penny rounds: 2 to 4 inches diameter

Large tiles can make small spaces appear bigger. Small tiles have more grout lines but provide more design options.

Tile Design

Consider complementary designs like:

  • Subway tile patterns
  • Mosaics
  • Mixing tile sizes
  • Contrasting grout colors
  • Decorative tiles for an accent

Tile Color

Choose a color that complements your cabinets, countertops, paint colors and overall decor. Neutral colors provide versatility. Bold colors make a statement. Consider how the tiles will look with the grout color.

How Much Tile Do You Need?

Once you’ve selected your backsplash tile, calculate how much you need to purchase. Measure the area to be tiled, calculating square footage based on tile size. This prevents ordering too little or too much.

For mosaics in a mesh sheet, simply calculate the overall square footage. For individual tiles, here’s how to estimate tile needs:

  • Measure the length and height of the backsplash area.
  • Multiply length times height to get the total square footage.
  • Add 10% more for mistakes and tile cuts.
  • Divide total square footage by the square inches or feet in one tile.
  • Round up to the next full box of tiles.

Don’t forget tile edging and trim pieces like bullnose tiles. Purchase coordinating grout.

Gather Your Tile Backsplash Supplies

Installing a tile backsplash requires having the right tools and materials on hand. Be prepared with these tile backsplash supplies:

Essential Tools

  • Tape measure
  • Level
  • Carpenter’s square
  • Pencil
  • Tile cutter
  • Nippers
  • Grout float
  • Mixing bucket
  • Sponge
  • Utility knife


  • Backerboard
  • Thinset mortar
  • Mesh tape
  • Screws
  • Tile spacers
  • Grout
  • Grout sealer

Safety Gear

  • Safety glasses
  • Dust mask
  • Knee pads

Prepare the Backsplash Area

With your tile and supplies gathered, you can move on to prepping the backsplash installation area. Proper preparation ensures your tile backsplash looks great and lasts.

Step 1: Remove Obstacles

Clear the backsplash area of any appliances, hardware or accessories like range hoods, light fixtures, cooking tools and cabinet decor. Have electrical outlets turned off and removed by a professional if needed.

Step 2: Clean the Surface

Thoroughly clean the entire backsplash area with soap and water first. Remove any oil or grime. Allow it to fully dry.

Step 3: Repair and Patch Damaged Areas

Check the backsplash area for any holes, damaged drywall or problem spots. Repair and patch as needed so the surface is in good condition for tiling.

Step 4: Install Backerboard

Backerboard provides a waterproof, stable surface for tile installation. Measure and cut cement board or fiber-cement backerboard panels to size.

  • For walls, install vertically with seams staggered.
  • For counters, install horizontally.
  • Space panels 1/8-inch apart.
  • Attach with appropriate screws, spaced 8 inches apart across the panels.

Step 5: Tape and Mud Seams

  • Apply mesh tape over all seams between backerboard panels.
  • Apply thinset mortar with a trowel to embed the tape.
  • Feather out the mortar 2 to 3 inches beyond seams.

Allow the thinset to fully cure overnight before proceeding.

Step 6: Mark Your Layout

Map out the tile layout using a level and pencil to mark guidelines on the backerboard. Mark center points, horizontal and vertical guidelines.

How to Install the Tile Backsplash

With the prep work complete, it’s time for the fun part – installing the tile! Follow these steps for proper tile backsplash installation:

Step 1: Mix Thinset Mortar

Mix thinset mortar according to package directions in a bucket. Use a grout float or trowel to spread a layer of thinset mortar on the backsplash area, just enough to cover a section.

Step 2: Apply Tiles

Following your layout lines, firmly press tiles into the mortar. Push out air pockets by applying pressure. Ensure proper contact between mortar and tile.

Step 3: Check Alignment

Use spacers between tiles for consistent grout line spacing. As you go, use levels and measuring tape to verify tiles are aligned and level. Adjust as needed.

Step 4: Cut Tiles as Needed

Measure and mark tiles to fit edges and around outlets. Score and snap with tile nippers or use a wet saw for specialty cuts. Grind the edges smooth.

Step 5: Let Tiles Set

Allow thinset mortar to cure 24 hours before grouting. Verify all tiles are firmly attached and evenly aligned.

Grouting Your New Tile Backsplash

Grout fills the spaces between tiles, finishing your installation and sealing it from moisture. Ensure your tile backsplash looks fantastic by grouting properly.

Step 1: Mix the Grout

Prepare grout mix according to package instructions, to a thick but workable consistency. Let it slake for 10 minutes before applying.

Step 2: Spread Grout Across Tiles

Use a grout float or rubber grout float to spread grout diagonally across the tile. Push it firmly into joints, filling gaps completely.

Step 3: Clean Excess Grout

Holding the float at a 90° angle, scrape excess grout off the tiles. It’s easier to remove before drying. Use a damp sponge in a circular motion to finish cleaning.

Step 4: Polish the Surface

Once grout has dried to a haze, buff tiles with a clean dry cloth to polish and brighten the surface. Ensure grout lines are smooth and uniform.

Step 5: Seal Grout

Apply grout sealant to protect from moisture and staining. Allow to fully cure per product directions. Avoid wet cleaning for 72 hours.

Caring for Your Tile Backsplash

Follow these tips to keep your new tile backsplash looking like new for years:

  • Use a gentle cleanser and soft sponge for regular cleaning. Avoid abrasive products.
  • Re-seal grout annually to protect from moisture and stains.
  • Immediately clean up spills and splatters to prevent staining.
  • Do not use harsh chemicals like bleach or alkaline cleaners on tile.
  • Consider applying a sealant to natural stone tiles for added protection.
  • Check for loose or cracked grout/caulk and re-apply as needed.

With proper installation and care, your tile backsplash can provide beauty and quality for decades. Enjoy the style and self-expression tile adds to your home decor.

Frequently Asked Questions About Installing Tile Backsplash

What tools do I need to install a tile backsplash?

Essential tile installation tools include a tape measure, level, tile cutter, mixing bucket, trowel, grout float, sponges, utility knife, pencil, and safety gear like glasses and gloves. Specialty tools like a wet saw may be needed for complicated tile cuts.

Do I need to seal my tile backsplash?

Sealing is not necessary for ceramic or porcelain tile, but helps protect natural stone from stains. It’s also important to seal grout after installation to prevent moisture absorption and staining.

How long does it take to install a tile backsplash?

The timeline can vary based on the backsplash size and tile complexity, but expect the DIY installation to take 2-3 days with proper planning. Day 1 for surface prep, Day 2 for tile setting, and Day 3 for grouting and sealing.

What’s the best tile for kitchen backsplash?

The best kitchen backsplash tile is one that fits your budget, design aesthetic, and functional needs. Ceramic, porcelain, or natural stone tiles in neutral hues provide versatile options. Glass, metal or mosaic add modern appeal.

How do you cut holes in tile backsplash for outlets?

Use a rotary tool or small wet saw to cut tile openings for outlets. Turn off electricity. Make cuts right up to the outlet edges. Finish cuts smoothly with a file. Remove outlet covers, cut tiles, then replace covers.

Can I install tile backsplash directly over drywall?

Tile should not be installed directly on drywall, which lacks the strength to support it. Waterproof cement board or fiber cement backerboard must be attached to studs behind drywall first to create a suitable tile substrate.

What thinset mortar is best for backsplash tile?

Choose a polymer-modified thinset mortar designed for wall applications. This type of thinset mortar provides a strong bond on surfaces like cement board and cures quickly for grouting in 24 hours.

How do I cut tile around electrical outlets?

Use a utility knife to cut the tile edge short of the outlet box. Then use a rotary tool with a tile blade to notch cutouts for the box sides. Make multiple passes in the cutout area for clean holes. Finish edges with a file.

Can I install new tile backsplash over existing tile?

It’s not recommended to tile over existing tiles. Removing the old tile is better to expose the substrate and ensure proper adhesion of new tile. Try to scrape off old thinset mortar before applying new.


Installing a tile backsplash offers big rewards in home style and quality for the investment of some sweat equity. With careful planning, patience, and the right techniques, you can achieve beautiful results and increase satisfaction with your kitchen or bath. This guide covers the tile selection factors, materials, tools, preparation work, installation steps, grouting, cuts, and care to help your project go smoothly from start to enviable finish.