How to Install Tile as Backsplash in Kitchen

Installing tile as a backsplash in your kitchen can add a beautiful, easy-to-clean accent wall that protects your walls from splashes and stains. With some careful planning and the right materials, tiling your kitchen backsplash is a doable DIY project. Here is a comprehensive guide on how to install tile as backsplash in your kitchen.

Selecting the Tile

Choosing the right tile is the first step to creating your dream backsplash. Consider the following when picking tile:


Ceramic and porcelain tiles are most common, available in a huge range of styles, shapes, colors, and textures. Glass tiles add shiny modern flair. Mosaic tiles make a bold statement. Natural stone brings an elegant, organic look.


Smaller tiles like mosaics and 3×6 subway tile are classic backsplash choices. Larger tiles are faster to install. Mix sizes for visual interest.


Match the tile to your kitchen’s overall aesthetic. Subway tiles offer vintage appeal. Pennny rounds add eclectic charm. Choose bold colors or patterns for a striking focal point. Neutral tiles keep the look understated.

Gloss level

Matte and satin finishes hide imperfections well. Glossy tiles add depth but show grime. Combining gloss levels can look striking.


Ceramic and porcelain tile tend to be most budget-friendly. Natural stone and glass cost more. Allow about $10-20 per square foot for materials.

Take measurements

Measure the backsplash area thoroughly before purchasing tiles to buy the right amount. Leave a 10% overage for cuts and defects.

Gather Supplies

Ensure you have all the essential tools and materials on hand before starting the installation. You will need:

  • Tile and grout
  • Mortar or mastic adhesive
  • Notched trowel
  • Grout sealer
  • Mixing bucket
  • Rubber grout float
  • Grout sponge
  • Tile spacers
  • Tile cutter
  • Utility knife
  • Level
  • Tape measure
  • Pencil
  • Safety gear – gloves, goggles, mask

Prepare the Surface

Proper prep work ensures your tiles adhere well. Follow these steps:

  1. Clean the backsplash area thoroughly with soap and water to remove grease and grime. Rinse and let dry completely.
  2. Remove existing backsplash if there is one. Scrape off all old adhesive and grout residue.
  3. Fill any holes or uneven spots with spackle and let dry completely. Sand smooth.
  4. Prime the surface with a paint-grit primer using an angled brush and let dry. This helps the thinset adhere.
  5. Apply painter’s tape along the edges of the backsplash area to protect the surrounding surfaces.

Plan Your Tile Layout

A well-thought-out tile layout looks more professional and prevents potential mistakes. Consider the following:

  • Mark a center line to align tiles symmetrically.
  • Map out your layout with tiles spaced evenly. Use spacers for consistent grout lines.
  • Decide the pattern – staggered brick, stacked, or pinwheel. Mixing sizes and laying diagonally adds interest.
  • Determine if edge tiles need trimming for the right fit. Mark tiles needing cuts.
  • Dry lay a row to ensure your planned layout works before installing. Adjust as needed.

Spread Thinset Mortar

Thinset adhesive mortar adheres the backsplash tiles to the wall. Follow these tips:

  • Choose white thinset for light tiles and gray for dark tiles.
  • Apply a 1/4″ layer of thinset to the wall using a notched trowel in straight, even lines.
  • Spread only as much thinset as you can tile over in 30 minutes before it dries.
  • Use the flat side of the trowel to flatten raised ridges and achieve maximum contact.
  • Press tiles firmly into place in the fresh thinset mortar. Push out air pockets.
  • Use spacers between tiles for consistent grout line spacing.

Cut Tiles

Follow these steps for professional cut tile edges:

  • Measure and mark tiles to be cut with a pencil.
  • Score the tile where marked with the cutter tool.
  • Align the score mark flush to the edge of the cutter.
  • Hold the tile firmly in place and press the handle down in one motion to break cleanly.
  • Use a grinder to smooth sharp edges on porcelain or natural tiles.
  • Cut edge tiles can be hidden next to cabinets or under trim.

Apply Grout and Seal

Adding grout between the tiles finishes the installation:

  • Let thinset dry 24-48 hours before grouting. Check for secure adhesion.
  • Apply grout along the tile edges using a rubber grout float. Push into joints fully.
  • Wipe away excess grout at a 45° angle across tiles with a damp sponge. Rinse sponge frequently.
  • Clean grout residue completely once dry for a spotless finish.
  • Seal grout lines with a penetrating sealer to prevent staining and increase water resistance.
  • Avoid walking on tile and cleaning with harsh chemicals for 72 hours to allow proper curing.

With good planning, the right materials, and careful technique, installing a tile backsplash can take your kitchen’s style to the next level. Always refer to manufacturer’s instructions for specific products used. Take your time and enjoy the satisfying results of DIYing an eye-catching focal point.

Frequently Asked Questions about Installing Tile Backsplash

What kind of tile is best for kitchen backsplash?

Ceramic, porcelain, or natural stone tiles are most common. Glass mosaic provides a shiny modern look. Choose a tile material, size, and style to suit your kitchen’s aesthetic.

How difficult is it to install a tile backsplash?

Tiling a backsplash is considered an intermediate DIY project, doable for a handier homeowner with some tiling experience. Proper planning, patience, and care in following installation techniques are key.

What tools do I need to tile a kitchen backsplash?

Essential tiling tools include a notched trowel, tile cutter, spacers, mixing bucket, tile nippers, grout float, and grout sponge. Safety gear like gloves and eye protection are also recommended.

What is the best adhesive to use when tiling a backsplash?

For backsplash installations, thinset mortar is the adhesive of choice. Opt for white thinset for lighter tiles and gray for darker ones. Mastics are less reliable over time.

Should I seal my tile backsplash?

Yes, it is highly recommended to apply a penetrating sealant to grout lines and porous tile surfaces. This prevents staining, aids cleaning, and increases water resistance for kitchen backsplashes. Reapply yearly.

How long does a tiled backsplash take to install?

The installation time depends on the tile size and layout complexity, as well as your skill level. From preparing the surface to final grouting, expect the process to take 2-3 days working at a careful, methodical pace.

Can I install a backsplash directly over drywall or plaster?

Yes, in most cases you can install tile directly onto drywall or plaster with proper preparation. Be sure to prime and skim coat the surface first for proper adhesion.

What color grout should I use with my kitchen backsplash tile?

Choose grout that matches or contrasts nicely with your tile color. For light tiles, common choices are white, off-white, or light gray. Darker gray, tan, or brown grout suits darker tile hues.

How long should I wait to grout after installing backsplash tile?

It is best to wait 24-48 hours before applying grout to allow the thinset mortar to cure properly. Grouting too soon can cause issues like cracked or loose tiles down the line.


Installing a tile backsplash in your kitchen can take your design to the next level both functionally and aesthetically. With proper planning and prep work, the right tools, patience, and care, you can achieve professional-looking results and increase the value of your home. The effort pays off for years of enhanced style, easy cleaning, and splatter protection behind your stove.