How to Install Tile Backsplash Kitchen

Installing a tile backsplash in your kitchen can completely transform the look and feel of the space. A backsplash serves both form and function – protecting the walls from splashes and spills while also acting as a stylish focal point. With the right materials and some DIY know-how, you can install a tile backsplash that suits your taste, skill level and budget.

Benefits of Adding a Tile Backsplash

There are many great reasons to add a backsplash to your kitchen:

  • Protects walls: A backsplash safeguards walls from water damage, stains and splatters from food prep and cleaning. Tiles are water-resistant.
  • Easy to clean: Tiles are much easier to clean than drywall. Their smooth surface simply needs a wipe down.
  • Adds style: A backsplash provides an opportunity to add color, texture and patterns to your decor. You can match or complement your countertops.
  • Increases home value: Upgrading to a tile backsplash is a renovation that can pay off when selling your home. It’s an attractive feature for home buyers.
  • Affordable upgrade: Backsplash tile is relatively inexpensive compared to a full kitchen remodel. It offers a lot of bang for your buck.
  • DIY friendly project: Installing a tile backsplash is a very doable DIY project, even for those with little tiling experience.

If your kitchen backsplash is looking tired or non-existent, consider bringing this highly functional and stylish focal point into your cooking space.

How to Install Tile Backsplash Kitchen

Installing a kitchen backsplash tile may seem daunting, but when broken down into individual steps, it’s an approachable DIY project. Here are the key steps:

Step 1: Gather Materials and Tools

Installing a backsplash requires careful prep work and the right materials. Be sure to have the following on hand:

  • Tile (quantity depends on space)
  • Tile adhesive mortar
  • Grout
  • Grout sealer
  • Trowel for spreading adhesive
  • Grout float for applying grout
  • Sponges
  • Tile spacers
  • Tile nippers
  • Tile cutter
  • Utility knife
  • Carpenter’s square
  • Caulk/silicone
  • Dust masks
  • Work gloves
  • Protective eyewear
  • Painter’s tape

Choose high quality tile that will be durable and water-resistant in a kitchen environment. Purchase a little extra in case some tiles get broken.

The tile color and design is up to you! Options include:

  • Ceramic or porcelain
  • Glass, stone or marble
  • Subway tiles, mosaics, or patterns
  • Matching or contrasting grout color

Step 2: Prepare the Surface

Proper prep work is crucial for a long-lasting backsplash installation.

First, remove any existing backsplash. Use a hammer and utility knife to gently pry off ceramic tiles. For attached drywall, score the seams with a knife then break up with a hammer. Smooth any uneven spots on the wall after removing old backsplash.

Next, clean the surface thoroughly to eliminate grime, grease and soap scum. Apply a degreasing cleaner and scrub with a brush and rinse.

Check for any damage to the drywall such as holes, cracks or water damage. Repair issues with drywall joint compound and let dry completely.

Once the surface is prepped, prime the bare drywall with a water-based primer. This helps prevent stains from bleeding through the grout. Apply primer evenly across the wall and let fully dry.

Finally, measure and mark your central focal point. This is usually at the stove or sink. Use a level to draw vertical and horizontal lines that will serve as your starting point and guide as you tile.

Step 3: Cut the Tiles

It’s unlikely your backsplash area will accommodate full tiles. Measure and mark tiles to be cut to fit around outlets, corners, the counter, ceiling and any other edges.

Use a wet tile saw for straight cuts and a tile nipper for notches around pipes or fixtures. Follow all safety precautions when operating a tile saw.

Pro tip: Number each cut tile and its corresponding space on the wall for easy installation.

Step 4: Apply the Tile Adhesive Mortar

With the surface prepped and tiles cut, it’s finally time for installation. Mix the adhesive mortar according to package directions. Use a notched trowel to spread it evenly across the backsplash area, holding the trowel at a 45 degree angle as you go.

Spread only as much adhesive as you can tile in about 15 minutes. Stick firmly to this open time for the adhesive.

Step 5: Set and Space the Tiles

Once your adhesive is spread, carefully set the tiles against the wall. Using tile spacers, maintain even grout lines between them. Start at your focal point and work outward in sections.

Press the tiles firmly into the adhesive, using a slight back and forth motion, to set them properly.

Periodically stop to check your work is level and plumb. Make any needed adjustments immediately before the adhesive dries.

Allow the adhesive to fully cure per manufacturer directions, usually about 24 hours. Keep foot traffic away. Do not grout or walk on tiles before they are set.

Step 6: Apply and Seal Grout

Once tiles are firmly set, it’s time to apply grout between them. Follow mixing directions for the grout. Apply grout by holding the grout float at a 45 degree angle, pressing into joints.

Let the grout set slightly, then scrub off residue with a damp sponge. Work in sections, rinsing the sponge between each one to remove haze.

Follow up with a soft, dry cloth to polish off a filmy residue. Once completely dry, seal the grout according to product directions to help protect it.

Step 7: Finish Edges with Caulk

Once everything is dry, finish the edges with caulk or silicone sealant. Run a smooth, consistent bead along any seams between the backsplash and wall edges or the counter.

After completing your gorgeous new backsplash installation, avoid hanging items like utensils or towels from hooks on it to prevent damaging tiles. With proper care, your backsplash will shine for years!

Tips for a Successful Installation

Here are some top tips to help ensure your tile backsplash project goes smoothly from start to finish:

  • Carefully read through all instructions before starting.
  • Gather all materials, tools and tile before beginning.
  • Thoroughly clean and prepare the backsplash area.
  • Take time to properly measure and mark for a level installation.
  • Plan tile layout and cutting in advance. Number cut tiles.
  • Only spread enough adhesive mortar you can tile before it sets.
  • Use spacers for consistent grout line spacing.
  • Ensure tiles are firmly pressed into the adhesive.
  • Don’t walk on tiles before the adhesive fully cures.
  • Apply grout carefully with a float, not fingers.
  • Buff grout haze off with minimal pressure.
  • Use caulk for a waterproof seal along edges.
  • Avoid hanging anything from installed backsplash.

Common Questions

How much tile do I need?

Measure the total square footage of your backsplash area. Multiply by 1.15 to have extra tiles on hand. Buy a little extra of specialty patterned tiles.

What tools will I need?

At minimum, you’ll need a trowel, grout float, sponges, tile cutter, adhesive and grout. A wet saw is recommended for cuts. Have safety gear on hand too.

What type of tile should I choose?

Ceramic and porcelain are most common. Choose tiles rated for walls and high moisture. Mosaics, glass, marble or stone are also options.

How do I cut the tiles?

Use a wet saw for straight cuts and a tile nipper for small notches. Always wear protective goggles.

How long does the adhesive need to cure?

Adhesive cure times vary by product, but usually 24 hours. Don’t grout or walk on tiles during this time.

What color grout should I pick?

Choose a grout color that matches or complements your tiles. Contrasting grout highlights the tile pattern.

How soon can I use my kitchen after installation?

It’s best to avoid using the kitchen for 24 hours after grouting to allow materials to fully cure.

Common Mistakes to Avoid

It’s definitely possible for an amateur DIYer to install a backsplash if you educate yourself and work carefully. However, beginners do often make some common mistakes. Be aware of the following:

  • Not thoroughly preparing the surface – Don’t skip important steps like cleaning, priming and repairing drywall. This will lead to failure down the road.
  • Applying adhesive incorrectly – Be sure to use the proper trowel and technique to spread adhesive evenly.
  • Allowing adhesive to dry or skin over – This impacts bonding. Only spread adhesive over small sections before tiling.
  • Incorrect tile spacing – Use plastic spacers for consistent grout line widths. Grout lines should be about 1/8 inch.
  • Not allowing adhesive to fully cure – Don’t grout or walk on tiles prematurely. This can loosen tiles.
  • Applying grout sloppily – Carefully pack joints with a grout float. Don’t smear it all over the tile faces.
  • Not sealing grout – Sealant is crucial to prevent stains and moisture damage to grout lines.
  • Not caulking edges – Caulk creates a waterproof seal between the counter, walls and backsplash.

Following the proper installation techniques and avoiding these rookie mistakes will help ensure your finished backsplash looks amazing and lasts for many years of kitchen use.

Maintaining Your Tile Backsplash

A tile backsplash requires only simple, routine care to keep it looking fabulous. Here are some backsplash maintenance tips:

  • Use a gentle daily cleaner on tiles and grout. Avoid harsh, acidic cleaners.
  • Re-seal grout lines regularly with a penetrating sealer to protect from stains.
  • Check for cracks or damage around tiles. Repair immediately to prevent moisture issues.
  • Remove grease splatters right away to avoid stubborn stains, using a degreasing cleaner.
  • Use a soft cloth or sponge when cleaning. Avoid abrasive scrubbers.
  • Rinse thoroughly when using cleaner and wipe tiles dry.
  • Avoid hanging wet towels or objects with hooks on the backsplash.
  • Clean along the grout to prevent dirt from building up.

Take quick action on spills and stains to prevent them from setting. With regular upkeep, your backsplash will maintain its beauty.

Backsplash Ideas and Inspirations

The options are nearly endless when choosing kitchen backsplash tile. A backsplash sets the tone for your kitchen’s style – from sleek modern designs to colorful Old World inspired patterns.

Here are some beautiful and inspiring backsplash ideas to stir your creativity:

Modern Style

  • Sleek subway or rectangular tiles in whites, grays or blacks
  • Eye-catching mosaics or stacked stone patterns
  • Minimalist marble or granite slab backsplash
  • Contrasting grout lines on glossy tiles

Rustic Farmhouse Style

-Natural stone or brick tiles

-Woven textures with visible grout lines

-Distressed tiles for an antique look

-Hexagon mosaics for eclectic charm

Cottage Kitchen Style

-Pastel glass tiles

-Vintage styled ceramic tile designs

-Playful geometric patterns and mosaics

-Soft florals or scalloped tiles

Traditional Style

-Subway tiles with matching grout

-Classic marble mosaic

-Elegant ceramic accents

-Ornate decorative inserts

The options are truly endless! Choose a look that complements your cabinetry, counters, flooring and decor style. Metallic, glass and porcelain tiles can create a high-end appearance. Mixing patterns, textures and colors also takes your backsplash to the next level.

Tile Backsplash Ideas for Dark Cabinets

Pairing a backsplash with dark wood or painted cabinets requires some special considerations. You want the backsplash to pop without clashing. Here are beautiful tile ideas for dark kitchen cabinets:

Crisp White

A glossy white subway or ceramic tile backsplash contrasts beautifully with dark cabinetry. It reflects light and keeps the space feeling open.

Natural Stone Mosaic

Organic natural stone mosaics in tan, gray, brown and beige hues pair nicely with dark cabinetry for a cozy effect.

Warm Metallics

From copper penny tiles to bronze mosaics, metallics with warm undertones complement the sophistication of dark cabinets.

Retro Blues

Vintage styled tiles in various shades of blue or turquoise make a fun pop of color against dark cabinets.

Moroccan Inspired

Multicolored glass mosaics or decorative tiles with Moroccan-inspired patterns create interest against dark cabinets.

White Marble Subway

For an elegant contrast, combine dark cabinets withwhite marble subway tiles and minimalist fixtures.

Wood Backsplash

Real or faux wood planks offer cohesion with dark wood cabinetry for a nature-inspired vibe.

Keep these pointers in mind as you search for the perfect tiles to complete your dream backsplash and kitchen!

Cost to Install a Tile Backsplash

What’s the typical cost for a DIY tile backsplash installation? The price can vary quite a bit based on the factors below:

  • Tile cost: Ceramic or porcelain tiles range $5-$50 per square foot. More expensive options include stone, marble or glass.
  • Area to cover: Measure square footage to multiply by material costs. Include extra for cutting waste.
  • Adhesives/grout: About $50 for both, depending on product quality and amount needed.
  • Tools: Basic tiling tools cost $50-$200. Renting a wet saw about $50/day.
  • Trim and supplies: About $20 for spacers, caulk and other incidentals.

A basic 3 x 8 foot subway tile backsplash could be installed for $250-$500, depending on tile costs and complexity. High-end materials or large areas could be $1000 or more. Compare to contractor quotes for your space.

Hiring a Pro vs. DIY Backsplash Install

Is it best to DIY your backsplash installation, or hire a professional tile setter? Consider the following:

Hiring a pro:

  • No learning curve – gets done fast and expertly
  • Less physical labor for you
  • Right tools and experience for a quality job
  • Warranty and liability coverage

DIY backsplash:

  • Cost savings on labor
  • Pick tiles and designs you love
  • Learn a new skill!
  • Flexibility in timeline/schedule
  • Sense of accomplishment

Many homeowners successfully take on backsplash projects with proper planning. Grab a friend to lend a hand! However, if tiling intimidates you, or your layout is complex, consider hiring a pro. They can provide valuable expertise on all aspects of the project.

Prep Checklist Before Starting a Backsplash Project

Use this checklist to ensure you have everything needed for a smooth backsplash installation:

Gather materials:

  • [ ] Tile
  • [ ] Adhesive and grout
  • [ ] Caulk/sealant
  • [ ] Spare tiles


  • [ ] Trowel
  • [ ] Tile cutter or wet saw
  • [ ] Grout float
  • [ ] Sponges
  • [ ] Tile spacers
  • [ ] Hammer/pry bar
  • [ ] Safety gear

Prep steps:

  • [ ] Remove old backsplash
  • [ ] Clean and repair wall surface
  • [ ] Fill any holes/cracks
  • [ ] Prime bare drywall
  • [ ] Plan layout, measure
  • [ ] Mark focal point and guidelines

Checklist complete! Now you’re ready to install your gorgeous new tile backsplash.


I hope this comprehensive guide gives you confidence to install a tile backsplash in your kitchen like a pro. The project may look complicated, but simply follows these key steps: proper planning and prep work, precise tile cutting, applying adhesive and tile setting, grouting/sealing, and finishing with caulk.

Focus on good techniques like using spacers for even tile spacing, cleaning adhesive residue promptly before drying, and not walking on tiles before the adhesive has cured. Allow adequate drying times for adhesive, grout and caulk.

Avoid common beginner mistakes like inadequate surface cleaning, sloppy adhesive or grout application, and not sealing the grout after installation.

With the right materials, tools, safety precautions, and your newly acquired DIY know-how, you can transform your kitchen with a beautiful, high-quality tile backsplash design. Get started today on planning this useful upgrade that also adds style, visual interest and personality to your cooking space.