How to Measure for Backsplash Tile in Kitchen

Installing a backsplash is one of the most popular ways to update the look of your kitchen. Not only does a backsplash provide an eye-catching focal point, but it also protects your walls from splashes and stains. When it comes to installing backsplash tile, measuring correctly is crucial for achieving the perfect fit. Follow this comprehensive guide to learn everything you need to know about how to accurately measure for backsplash tile.

Getting Started with the Backsplash Project

Before starting to measure, you’ll need to make some initial backsplash planning decisions:

Determine the Backsplash Height

The standard backsplash height is 4 inches. However, you can customize it to extend to the bottom of wall cabinets or all the way to the ceiling for a full backsplash. Decide how high you want your backsplashes to run.

Choose the Tile Layout Pattern

Common options include subway tile in a brick pattern, large tiles in a stacked or offset layout, mosaic tiles, and combinations. The tile pattern can help inform measurement methods.

Pick the Tile Type and Size

Porcelain, ceramic, glass, stone, and metal tiles are popular options in shapes like squares, hexagons, and subway rectangles. Standard sizes are 4 inch squares or 3 x 6 inch rectangles, but many unique sizes and shapes exist.

Decide on Grouting Width

You’ll need to account for the spacing between tiles when calculating measurements. Typical grout line widths are 1/16 inch to 1/8 inch.

Purchase Extra Tiles

It’s always smart to buy 5-10% more tiles than your measurements determine. This allows for tile cuts, potential breakage, or future repairs.

Measuring Tools Needed

Having the right tools on hand will make measuring for backsplash tile installation much easier:

  • Tape measure: The basic measuring tool for any home project. Get one at least 25 feet long.
  • Tiling spacers: These plastic crosses let you account for grout lines in measurements.
  • Pencil and paper: For marking down all your measurements.
  • Carpenter’s square: Helps mark perpendicular lines during layout.
  • Chalk line: Lets you create straight guideline marks on surfaces.
  • Level: Necessary for ensuring your lines are perfectly horizontal and plumb.

Measuring Techniques for Backsplash Tiles

Now that preparations are complete, it’s time to start measuring. Use these techniques to calculate how much tile you’ll need:

Measure the Total Length

  • Start by measuring the total horizontal length of the backsplash area.
  • Use a tape measure placed along the bottom edge, the countertop, cabinets, or any horizontal stopping points. Record the total length.
  • For example, if your backsplash extends under 3 wall cabinets with 30 inches between each one, your total length is 90 inches.

Measure the Total Height

  • Measure from the top point you want the backsplash to stop down to the bottom edge.
  • For 4 inch standard height, measure from the countertop up 4 inches. For a full backsplash, measure from the ceiling to countertops.
  • Record the total height measurement.

Multiply Length Times Height

  • Take your length and height measurements.
  • Multiply them together to get the total square footage area of the backsplash.
  • This gives you the minimum number of tiles needed for the job.
  • For a 30 inch high by 90 inch long backsplash, 30 x 90 = 2,700 square inches.

Adjust for Tile Size

  • Take the total square inch measurement and divide it by the size of your tile.
  • This tells you how many whole tiles are needed to cover the area.
  • For 2,700 square inches and 4 inch square tiles, 2,700 ÷ 16 = 168 tiles.
  • Round up for partial tiles and account for pattern layouts.

Account for Grouting Gaps

  • Take the number of tiles needed and add extra to allow for grout line spaces.
  • Multiply the number of tiles by 105-110% for 1/8 inch grout or 100-105% for 1/16 grout.
  • For 168 tiles with 1/8 inch grout, 168 x 1.10 = 184 tiles.
  • Always round up to full tiles.

Consider Extras and Errors

  • Order 5-10% more tiles than even your adjusted measurements.
  • This provides a cushion for cutting mistakes, broken tiles, or leftovers kept for future repairs.
  • For the example backsplash, 184 tiles plus 10% extra would be 202 tiles to purchase.

Tips for Accurate Backsplash Measuring

Follow these tips to get precise measurements for a flawless backsplash tile installation:

Verify Level and Plumb

Ensure all surfaces and starting lines for measurements are perfectly level and plumb. Out of square walls can throw off numbers.

Mark Your Milesstones

Make pencil marks along cabinets, countertops, outlets, or other endpoints to get clear stopping points for measurements.

Measure Multiple Points

Take measurements across different spots on each wall to account for any inconsistencies on uneven surfaces.

Photograph Layouts

Take photos after creating vertical and horizontal guideline layouts on the wall. This gives you a helpful reference.

Leave the Spacers In

When multiplying length and height, leave the 1/16 inch or 1/8 inch spacer in between tiles to account for grout lines.

Cut a Tile

Before doing final calculations, cut a tile and joint compound to the actual size with spacers so you know the exact joint width.

Measuring for Tricky Backsplash Layouts

Certain backsplash layouts call for more careful planning and calculation:

Mosaic Sheets

  • Measure area then divide by the mosaic sheet size instead of individual tile size.
  • Most mosaics are mounted on 11.8” x 11.8” or 11.8” x 17.5” sheets.
  • Remember mosaics have built-in spacing so don’t add extra for grout lines.

Subway Patterns

  • Double check length and layout patterns to minimize cuts on rectangular subway tiles.
  • Adjust to account for offset or brick layouts.

Mixed Patterns

  • Measure total area first, then measure size of each tile layout section individually.
  • Calculate tiles needed for each section, adding extras for each.

Shaped and Irregular Areas

  • For unusually shaped areas, make cardstock templates first for accurate sizing.
  • Measure by tracing templates and mapping onto graph paper to get square footage.

Measuring Mistakes to Avoid

While measuring for backsplash tile, beware of these common measuring mistakes:

  • Measuring from the center of the last tile instead of from the wall.
  • Forgetting to account for the spacer gap when multiplying L x W.
  • Not buying enough extra tiles to allow for cuts, waste and future repairs.
  • Making assumptions instead of taking detailed measurements at multiple points.
  • Not using a level to ensure your lines are perfectly horizontal and plumb.
  • Ordering tiles based on nominal size instead of verifying the actual dimensions.
  • Neglecting to account for grout line width when calculating.

Frequently Asked Questions

How do I measure for uneven backsplashes?

For uneven areas, take measurements at multiple points across each section and base calculations on the longest dimensions. This ensures you order enough tile to cover the entire space.

Should I measure in inches or centimeters?

Inches are the standard measurement for tiles in the US. However, be sure to verify the exact dimensions of your tile, as sizing is not always perfect. Some tiles may be slightly smaller than the nominal size.

What if I make a measuring mistake and don’t have enough tile?

Having a tile shortage can cause problems with continuity of the pattern and grout line alignment. Ordering 5-10% extra tiles helps avoid this issue. Also be prepared to pick up additional tiles if needed.

Can I just measure the countertop length for backsplash tile?

Measuring only the countertop won’t work if your backsplash extends above or below that point. Always measure from the top endpoint down to the lowest point of the backsplash area.

How do I account for outlets or other obstructions?

Make note of all outlets, switches, appliances and other obstructions on the backsplash walls. Measure the tile cuts needed around these and add extras to allow for them.


Measuring for backsplash tile involves carefully calculating the total area and factoring in tile size, layout, and grout lines. Pay close attention to the details with all measurements and do the math correctly. Add wiggle room with extra tiles to allow for imperfections. Follow this comprehensive guide and use the right tools to get measurements right the first time. With accurate planning and calculations, you’ll end up with a stunning backsplash design.