How to Install Tin Backsplash Tiles

Installing a tin backsplash can add a unique, vintage look to your kitchen. Tin backsplashes reflect light beautifully and have an Old World charm. With the right preparation and materials, installing tin backsplash tiles is a DIY-friendly project. Follow this guide to learn how to install tin backsplash tiles properly.

Choose the Right Tin Tiles

Tin tiles for backsplashes come in different shapes and sizes. Consider the look you want before deciding on tiles.

  • Square tiles in sizes like 4×4 inches or 6×6 inches have a classic, timeless look. They lay out in a grid pattern for a clean, sharp design.
  • Long rectangular subway tiles are a popular choice. Their elongated shape draws the eyes up and highlights the height of walls. Subway tiles come in sizes like 3×6 inches or 4×12 inches.
  • Smaller mosaic tiles 1/2 inch to 1 inch square create a busy, eclectic look. Tiled in interesting patterns, they make a real statement.
  • Larger tiles like 8×8 inches have a more contemporary, bold style. Fewer grout lines create a more seamless expanse of metal.

Tin tiles have visible seams between each tile. If you don’t want seams, use large format tin sheets instead. Make sure to get real tin tiles, not imitation metal. Real tin has a bright, authentic luster.

Prepare the Wall Surface

Tin tiles require a perfectly smooth, flat surface for best results. Any irregularities will show. Follow these steps to prep walls:

  • Clean the wall thoroughly and repair any holes or flaws in the drywall. Use caulk to fill small cracks.
  • Paint the walls with primer to create a uniform surface. This helps hide any remaining imperfections.
  • Apply thinset mortar to the wall area using a notched trowel. This creates a strong base for the tin tiles to adhere to.
  • Let the thinset dry completely according to manufacturer directions before installing tiles. The thinset needs to be hard, not tacky.

Proper prep prevents tiles from popping off later. Take your time with each step for best results.

Lay Out the Tiles

Laying out the tiles first helps visualize the final pattern. Follow these tips:

  • Mark a center line on the wall and use a level to ensure it’s straight. Working out from the center line helps keep tiles even.
  • Dry lay tiles on the countertop to play with layout options. Avoid narrow pieces at edges for a cleaner look.
  • Mix tiles from several boxes together. This prevents color differences from standing out.
  • For subway tile layouts, use spacers to get grout line width consistent and straight.
  • Step back periodically to check lines stay straight and the pattern looks balanced. Adjust as needed.

Taking time with the layout prevents getting to the end and realizing something is off balance or uneven.

Install the Tin Tiles

Once layout is finalized, begin attaching tiles:

  • Apply a layer of thinset mortar to the back of each tile using the notched edge of the trowel. Spread evenly for full coverage.
  • Press tiles firmly into the thinset on the wall. Use spacers for consistent spacing between tiles.
  • After installing several tiles, use a level lined up across them to check for evenness. Adjust any tiles that are tilting or uneven.
  • Use a rubber grout float to gently beat tiles into the thinset if needed to flatten completely against the wall.
  • Allow thinset to dry completely, 24-48 hours, before applying grout or using installed tiles. Tiles need to be fully set and stable.

Take care when installing tiles to keep everything aligned and prevent slipping. Wipe away excess thinset before it dries.

Apply Grout Between Tiles

Once tiles are firmly attached, grout is applied between them:

  • Choose an unsanded epoxy grout for metal tiles. It withstands temperature changes and holds up well.
  • Apply grout by holding the grout float at a 45° angle and forcing into the seams. Holding at an angle prevents dragging.
  • Let grout sit for 10-15 minutes until it loses its glossy look. Then use a damp sponge to clean excess from the tile surface.
  • Buff tiles with a soft cloth once the grout has dried for several hours. This removes any remaining haze and brings back tile shine.
  • Avoid Getting grout on the surface of the tiles as much as possible. It’s hard to remove fully once dried.

Grout fills the seams and finishes off the backsplash nicely. Match grout color to the tiles or go with a contrasting shade.

Seal and Protect the Tin Tiles

Sealing tin tiles helps them hold up better over time:

  • Clean tiles with a pH neutral cleaner to remove residue and prep for sealant. Rinse and let dry fully.
  • Apply a grout sealer to the grout lines using a small applicator brush. This prevents staining and helps grout hold up.
  • Use a sealant formulated for metal on the tiles themselves. Apply a thin, even coat with a lint-free cloth.
  • Buff off any excess sealant after 10-15 minutes with a clean, soft cloth. Too much sealant residue can create a hazy look.

Reapply sealant to both grout and tiles annually or biannually to maintain protection and enhance durability.

Tin Backsplash Tile Maintenance

Caring properly for your tin backsplash helps it maintain its good looks:

  • Use gentle cleaners and wipe gently to avoid scratching the tiles. Don’t use abrasive sponges.
  • Rinse tiles well after cleaning. Soap and chemical residue degrades metal over time.
  • Reseal tiles as needed to renew protective barriers against moisture and grime buildup.
  • Avoid spraying cleaners and liquids directly on tiles. Let spray fall on a cloth first before wiping tiles.
  • Hand wash tiles rather than using harsh cleaners. Soap and water is effective for daily upkeep.

Take good care of your tin backsplash, and it will maintain its vintage appeal while improving with age.

Common Questions about Installing Tin Backsplashes

How do you cut tin backsplash tiles?

Use aviation snips designed for cutting thin metal. Mark the cut line with a straightedge, align the snips on the line, and squeeze the handles slowly to make the cut. Wear gloves to avoid sharp edges.

Do tin tiles rust?

Rust shouldn’t be an issue indoors. The tiles develop an oxidation patina from humidity which adds character. Keeping them sealed prevents excessive oxidizing.

What adhesive is best for tin backsplash tiles?

Use a flexible thinset adhesive mortar designed for metal tiles. Latex or polymer modified thinset works well and flexes as needed.

Should tin tiles be laid out horizontally or vertically?

It’s an aesthetic choice. Vertically draws the eyes up which works well behind stoves. Horizontal helps widen a space visually. Mixing directions adds interest.

How do you attach tin tiles without nails?

Adhesive thinset mortar is the best method for attaching tin tiles without nails. Nails can cause rust spots if moisture gets behind them.


Installing a tin tile backsplash brings eye-catching appeal to your kitchen. With well-prepped walls, quality tin tiles, proper tools, and attention to detail, you can create a stunning vintage metal backsplash. Take care of it properly, and it will add timeless rustic style for many years. A tin backsplash with its reflective glow is sure to become your kitchen’s shining focal point.