How to Install Subway Tile Backsplash Corners

Installing subway tile for a backsplash can add a touch of timeless, classic elegance to any kitchen. However, properly installing the subway tile backsplash corners can be one of the trickiest parts of the project. With some careful planning and the right techniques, you can achieve perfectly aligned subway tile corners that look professionally installed.


A subway tile backsplash can be an easy and affordable way to update the look of any kitchen. The rectangular tiles have a timeless, vintage feel that works well in both traditional and modern kitchens. While the field tiles are relatively straightforward to install, extra care and precision are required when installing the corner tiles for a seamless finish.

Properly installing subway tile backsplash corners may seem daunting to a DIYer. However, with the right tools, materials, and techniques, even a beginner can achieve stunning results. Careful planning and prep work are key – you want to have all your tile cuts determined and materials ready before starting. Patience and attention to detail are also important, as precise alignment is necessary for picture-perfect corners.

This guide will walk through the key steps for installing subway tile backsplash corners. We will cover how to plan the tile layout, use spacer strips, cut corner tiles, apply adhesive, grout properly, and finish with trim pieces for a polished look. With some basic skills and the right techniques, you can gain the confidence to tile right up to an inside or outside corner and get those tricky angles just right. Let’s get started!

Overview of Steps for Installing Subway Tile Backsplash Corners

Installing subway tile backsplash corners successfully requires careful planning and execution. Here is a brief overview of the key steps:

  • Measure the backsplash area and determine tile layout
  • Install spacer strips near corners
  • Measure and cut L-shaped corner tiles
  • Apply thinset mortar adhesive
  • Place and align corner tiles precisely
  • Allow tiles to set, then grout
  • Apply trim molding pieces and caulk edges
  • Clean tiles and grout thoroughly

Proper prep work, using spacer strips as guides, double-checking measurements, and taking your time are essential for getting flawless results. Keep reading for more details on each step of the process.

Step 1: Measure and Determine Tile Layout

The first step when tiling a backsplash is planning your layout – this is especially important around corners. Follow these tips for measuring and mapping out your backsplash tile design:

Measure the Backsplash Area

  • Use a tape measure to measure the height and length of the backsplash area.
  • For inside corners where countertops meet, measure both sections of the backsplash.
  • Consider any outlets, switches, or obstructions and map them out.

Determine Tile Layout

  • Generally, tiles should be aligned so the grout lines meet in the corner. This gives the most seamless look.
  • Draw a diagram of the backsplash including measurements and corners. Map out tile placement.
  • Plan the tile layout so tiles meet at the corner evenly without thin slivers. Cutting L-shaped corner tiles is ideal.
  • Leave room for spacer strips which will be placed 1/8-inch from corners.
  • Dry lay tiles on the countertop first to visualize placement and alignment.

Careful planning and measuring ensures your tile layout is even and corner tiles are cut to the right size. Always double-check measurements before cutting tiles.

Step 2: Install Spacer Strips

Spacer strips, also called tile edge strips, are thin strips of plastic or metal that help guide the installation of tiles around corners. Using them ensures evenly spaced tiles. Follow these tips when installing spacer strips:

Materials Needed

  • Tile spacer strips (available at hardware stores)
  • Tile adhesive
  • Caulk gun

Placement Tips

  • Apply a thin bead of tile adhesive along the wall just over 1/8-inch from the corner.
  • Press the spacer strips into the adhesive and align them vertically, keeping the 1/8-inch space.
  • Use full length strips for best results. Cut strips with tin snips to fit around outlets.
  • Run strips the full height of the backsplash above and below the corner.
  • Let adhesive fully cure for at least 24 hours before applying tiles.

Properly positioned spacer strips will act as guides for installing the corner tiles evenly. Don’t skip this important step!

Step 3: Measure and Cut Corner Tiles

Cutting L-shaped corner tiles is crucial for achieving a flawless finish. Follow these tips to measure, mark, and cut the tiles:

Materials Needed

  • Subway tiles for corners
  • Tape measure
  • Tile nippers
  • Carbide tile cutter or wet saw

Measuring and Marking

  • Measure from the corner to the first grout line on the tiles above and below the corner. Mark these points on a tile.
  • Draw a line connecting the two marks. This will be your cut line.
  • To cut an L-shape, repeat on the adjacent edge starting from the corner.

Cutting Tiles

  • For straight cuts, use a carbide cutter. Score the tile and snap it on the line.
  • Use tile nippers to nip away small sections up to the line.
  • For intricate L-shape cuts, use a wet saw fitted with a diamond tile blade. Cut along marked lines.
  • Test fit the cut tile and nip/sand any uneven edges.

Measure twice and cut carefully for perfectly fitting corner tiles. Account for the 1/8-inch spacer gap when measuring.

Step 4: Apply Thinset and Set Corner Tiles

With your corner tiles cut, it’s time to adhere them. Follow best practices for applying thinset and setting the tiles:

Materials Needed

  • Notched trowel
  • Thinset mortar adhesive
  • Tiles, corner pieces, and spacers
  • Rubber grout float

Apply Thinset

  • Use a notched trowel held at a 45-degree angle to spread a thin layer of thinset adhesive on the wall.
  • Apply thinset where corner tiles will go first. Leave space for the 1/8-inch spacer strip.
  • Next apply thinset for the field tiles, using the spacer strips as guides.

Set Corner Tiles

  • Set the pre-cut L-shaped corner tiles first, butting up to the spacers.
  • Push the tiles firmly into the thinset and use light twisting motions to adhere them.
  • Make sure corners align perfectly using a level. Adjust as needed before thinset cures.
  • Install the surrounding field tiles next using spacers for even 1/8-inch gaps.

Take care when setting corner tiles and allow to fully cure per thinset directions before grouting.

Step 5: Grout Corner Tiles

Once the thinset has fully cured, it’s time to grout the tile joints. Follow these tips for grouting the corner tiles smoothly:

Materials Needed

  • Grout float
  • Grout sealer
  • Grout spacers
  • Grout coloring pigment (optional)

Mix and Apply Grout

  • Mix a batch of grout per package directions. Let sit 5-10 minutes, then remix before using.
  • Apply grout by holding the float at a 45° angle and packing joints firmly.
  • Ensure grout fills the corner seam completely. Hold float at different angles.
  • Use a sawing motion across tiles to remove excess grout and smooth the joints.
  • After grouting, clean tile surface with a damp sponge in circular motions.
  • Once grout has cured, apply grout sealer for protection and color uniformity.

Take your time grouting the corner joints and work the grout fully into inside and outside corners.

Step 6: Add Finishing Trim Pieces

For a clean, finished look, install trim pieces along the perimeter edges once grouting is complete:

Materials Needed:

  • Tile edging trim pieces
  • Carbide saw with diamond blade
  • Adhesive and caulk

Cut and Install Trim

  • Measure and cut metal or plastic trim pieces to fit flush along the tile edges.
  • For inside corners, cut adjoining pieces at a 45° angle for a tight fit.
  • Apply small beads of construction adhesive along the trim piece edges.
  • Set trim snugly against tile edges. Temporarily secure with painter’s tape until adhesive cures.
  • Caulk along seams with a silicone caulk that matches the grout color. Tool smoothly.

Trim molding gives a polished, professional look to the subway tile backsplash installation.

Step 7: Final Cleaning and Sealing

As a final step, thoroughly clean and seal the grout and tiles:


  • Once grout has fully cured, use a grout haze remover or mix vinegar and water to clean residual haze or film.
  • Scrub entire tiled area with cleansing solution using a soft brush or sponge.
  • Rinse several times with clean water and dry with a cloth.


  • After tiles are clean and dry, apply a penetrating sealant using a foam paintbrush.
  • Work sealant fully into the grout lines for maximum protection.
  • Wipe off any excess sealant after 5-10 minutes with a clean cloth.

Allow sealant to cure fully before using the backsplash. Enjoy your stunning, professionally finished subway tile backsplash!

Frequently Asked Questions About Installing Subway Tile Backsplash Corners

What are the best tips for cutting subway tiles for inside corners?

  • Measure carefully from the corner to the first grout line on tiles above and below. Mark tile and connect marks.
  • Clamp tile firmly and score line with carbide cutter. Snap downward to break cleanly.
  • Use tile nippers to shape corner notch. File away rough edges. Test fit.

Should I use actual L-shaped corner tiles or cut my own?

Pre-fabricated L-shaped corner tiles make installation easier and ensure a perfect fit. However, cutting your own tiles allows full customization and a seamless color match.

How large should the spacer gap be between tiles and corners?

An 1/8-inch spacer allows room for thinset and grout while minimizing gaps. Use plastic 1/8-inch spacers during installation.

What’s the best way to grout inside and outside corner joints?

Hold the grout float at alternating angles to fully pack the corner joint. Grout the surrounding field tiles first, then focus on smoothing the corner.

How can I finish subway tile corners without bullnose trim?

If not using trim, caulk the perimeter gaps and corners with a silicone or polyurethane caulk to match the grout. Tool to smooth and clean excess.

Final Thoughts

Installing subway tile for a kitchen backsplash can provide a weekend DIYer with a satisfying upgrade to the space. While the field tiles are fairly straightforward, extra precision is required when installing the backsplash corners. With careful prep work, proper materials and tools, and attention to detail, you can achieve flawlessly aligned subway tile corners that look professionally installed. The finished product will provide a seamless, elegant focal point in your kitchen.

How to Cut Subway Tile Around Outlets for Backsplash

When installing a subway tile backsplash, dealing with wall outlets and switches requires careful tile cutting to end up with a professional look. Cutting tile openings around outlets maintains alignment while allowing sockets to remain fully functional.

With the right planning and technique, cutting outlet openings in subway tile backsplash is easy. Here are step-by-step instructions for this essential part of the installation process.

Planning Tile Layout Around Outlets

Careful planning of your tile layout is necessary prior to cutting any tile.

  • Mark the outlet locations on your tile layout plan. Consider alignment of grout lines.
  • Cut an outlet opening in spare tile first as a test. Adjust layout if needed.
  • Leave a 1/16-inch gap around outlets to allow room for grout and movement.
  • Cut tiles with outlet in the middle of the tile rather than at edges when possible.
  • Be sure the space allows for outlet covers to be removed after tiling.

With a well-planned layout, you can cut tile openings accurately while keeping outlets accessible and operational.

How to Cut Tile Around Outlet Openings

Once you’ve determined tile placement, carefully measure and cut the outlet openings:

Materials Needed

  • Tape measure
  • Pencil
  • Ruler or square
  • Scored tile nippers
  • Carbide tile cutter
  • Wet tile saw (for intricate cuts)
  • Eye protection
  • Dust mask

Cutting Steps

  • Unscrew outlet cover plate before measuring opening size.
  • Measure opening width and height. Transfer measurements to tile.
  • Mark cut lines on tile with pencil and ruler. Score lines with carbide cutter.
  • Use tile nippers to chip away tile up to lines. Make straight or L-shaped cuts as needed.
  • For specialty cuts, use a wet saw fitted with diamond tile blade.
  • Test cut tile first before cutting tiles to be installed. Adjust size if needed.
  • Continue cutting all marked tiles, double checking measurements for accuracy.

With careful planning and precision cutting, you can set tiles with outlet openings that align perfectly.

Installing Cut Tile Around Outlets

Once tile openings are cut, installing them takes precision. Follow best practices:

  • Apply thinset mortar adhesive on the wall area where outlet tiles will be placed.
  • Insert plastic outlet spacers into the openings before setting tile.
  • Firmly press tiles into thinset and align with surrounding tiles. Confirm even grout lines.
  • Allow thinset to fully cure before grouting. Avoid getting grout over tile edges into outlet space.
  • Remove outlet covers and spacers after grouting. Reinstall outlet covers.
  • Caulk perimeter of outlet openings with silicone caulk in matching grout color.

With careful installation and grouting, your tile backsplash will have beautifully cut openings for flush outlets to shine.

tile around light switches

The process for cutting and installing tile around light switches is essentially the same as for outlets. Follow these tips:

  • Mark switch locations on the tile layout. Note alignment with grout lines.
  • Measure height and width of the switch plate. Transfer to tile to mark cutout.
  • Use scored nippers and wet saw to cut opening. Test on spare tile first.
  • Install cut tiles around boxes, insert spacers, then grout, clean up, and caulk edges.

Cutting clean openings in surrounding tile allows switches to function properly and look built-in.

Final Thoughts

Cutting subway tile around outlets and switches may seem tricky for a backsplash project. But with proper planning upfront and taking careful measurements, you can make the necessary cuts for a professional finish. Use hand or power tools to neatly score and snap tile. Spacers, precision alignment, and caulking complete the polished look. With some tile cutting skills and patience, you can install your subway tile backsplash around outlets beautifully.

How to Make a Subway Tile Backsplash

Subway tile backsplashes are a classic, timeless addition to any kitchen. The rectangular white tiles have a clean vintage look that works with any decor from traditional to modern. Installing a subway tile backsplash is also an achievable weekend DIY project. With the right materials, proper planning, and helpful techniques, you can create a stunning backsplash in your kitchen. We’ll walk through how to make a beautiful and functional subway tile backsplash for your space.

Step 1: Gather Materials and Tools

Installing a subway tile backsplash requires certain specialty materials and tools. Be sure to gather all necessary items before starting:

Tile and Supplies

  • Subway tiles (quantity depends on project size)
  • Thinset mortar and grout
  • Trowels, sponges, buckets
  • Tile edging trim and corner pieces


  • Tape measure
  • Pencil and carpenter’s square
  • Tile cutter or wet saw with diamond blade
  • Tile spacers
  • Rubber grout float
  • Grout sealer

Safety gear – gloves, goggles, knee pads, etc.

Having all required tile setting supplies and equipment ensures the install goes smoothly from start to finish.

Step 2: Plan the Tile Layout

Carefully planning your tile layout is crucial for an even, professional looking backsplash.

  • Measure the backsplash area including stove, countertops, outlets, etc.
  • Sketch a layout diagram showing tile placement including cut shapes as needed.
  • Plan grout line alignment in the design. Account for 1/8” spacer gaps.
  • Cut tiles as needed to fit. Use battens for quick layout marking.
  • Dry lay tiles on the countertop first to ensure fit before installing.

Advance planning prevents issues down the road and helps achieve a harmonious design.

Step 3: Prepare and Clean the Surface

Proper prep work ensures tiles adhere well and last over time:

  • Thoroughly clean and prepare the backsplash surface. Remove any old backsplash.
  • Fill any holes or uneven spots with patching compound. Let dry completely.
  • Use painter’s tape at the edges of the installation area.
  • Just before starting, wipe the surface with a damp sponge to remove dust.

Proper cleaning and prep ensures a smooth, even surface for the tile to stick to.

Step 4: Apply the Thinset Adhesive

Applying the thinset mortar evenly is key for proper tile adhesion:

  • Use a notched trowel at a 45° angle to spread thinset on the surface area. Apply 1/4″ thickness.
  • Only apply as much thinset as tiles can cover within 10-15 minutes before it skins over.
  • Use the not