How to Measure Tile for Backsplash

Installing a tile backsplash can transform the look of your kitchen or bathroom. However, properly measuring and cutting the tile is crucial for getting a professional result. Here is a step-by-step guide to measuring tile for your backsplash installation.

Determine the Area to be Tiled

The first step is to measure the area that will be covered with tile. This includes the wall area between the countertops and cabinets in the kitchen or bathroom.

  • Measure the length and height of the space. Be sure to deduct any areas that won’t get tiled, like the area behind the stove or areas blocked by cabinets.
  • For the height, measure from the countertop to the bottom of the upper cabinets.
  • Take measurements in multiple spots and use the smallest measurement. This will ensure you buy enough tile.

Decide on Tile Layout

Once you know the size of the area, you can decide on the tile layout. Some common options include:

Brick Pattern

Tiles are offset by half their length each row, creating a staggered brick-like pattern.

Grid Pattern

Tiles are aligned in straight rows and columns.

Diagonal Pattern

Tiles are set on the diagonal.

  • Mock up the patterns with tile spacers on the floor to get an idea of how they will look.
  • Consider factors like tile shape, kitchen or bathroom layout, and personal preference.

Determine Tile Spacing

The spacing between tiles, called the grout joint, will affect how much tile is needed.

  • Smaller grout joints (1/16”) require more tiles per square foot than wider joints (3/16”).
    *Building codes often require a minimum of 1/8” grout joints.
    *For a backsplash, 1/8″ to 3/16” joints are common.

Use Room Measurements to Calculate Tile

Use the measurements and tile spacing to determine how much tile you need:

  • For a simple grid layout, divide the area by the dimensions of one tile (length x width in inches) to estimate total number of tiles.
  • Add 10% extra for complex layouts and tile cuts.
  • Don’t forget the bottom row and side borders which take whole tiles.

For example, for a backsplash that is 108 inches wide x 36 inches high with 3/16″ grout joints:

  • One 4 x 4 inch tile has a coverage area of 16 square inches (4 x 4).
  • The backsplash area is 108 x 36 = 3,888 square inches.
  • At 16 square inches per tile with 3/16” spacing, about 265 tiles are needed (3,888/16). Add 10% for a total of 290 tiles.

Purchase Extra Tiles

Order 10-15% more tiles than the measurements calculate. This provides extras in case some tiles get damaged during installation or need to be replaced later. Keep any leftover tiles stored safely for repairs.

Use a Tile Measuring Tool

When it comes time to cut the tiles, a tile measuring and marking tool makes accurate measurements simple.

  • These tools have dual scales marked in inches or centimeters.
  • Place the tool along the tile edge and slide the two scales to measure and mark the tile.
  • A notch at the end helps score the cutting line.
  • The tool ensures professional results compared to free-hand tile cutting.

Tips for Measuring Success

Follow these tips for successfully measuring and calculating tile requirements:

  • Take detailed measurements and allow for extra tiles.
  • Use tile spacers when mocking up layouts.
  • Follow building codes for minimum grout joint size.
  • Use a tile measuring tool for scoring cutting lines.
  • Carefully measure and plan prior to purchasing tiles.

With some careful calculations and measurements beforehand, you can feel confident your tile project will have a professional finished look. Let the correct tile quantities and meticulous layout be the first steps to backsplash success.

Frequently Asked Questions about Measuring Tile for Backsplash

How do I calculate how many tiles I need for a backsplash?

Measure the length, height, and total area to be tiled. Divide the area by the dimensions of one tile to get the estimated number of tiles needed. Add 10% extra for complex layouts. Remember to account for full tiles on borders and bottom row.

What size tile is best for a backsplash?

4×4, 3×6, 4×12, and 6×6 inch tiles are common sizes. Larger tiles like 8×8 can also work. Choose smaller tiles for more intricate patterns. Standard subway tiles are 3×6 inches.

How much tile do I need to purchase?

Purchase 10-15% more tile than what your measurements calculate to have extras on hand. Keep any leftover tiles to use later for repairs.

What tools do I need to measure and cut tile?

A tape measure, tile spacers, pencil, and tile marking tool are essential. You’ll also need a wet saw or tile cutter to accurately cut the tile once measured.

Should I leave room between tiles for spacing?

Yes, you will need to account for the grout joint size when calculating how much tile is needed. Building codes often require at least 1/8” spacing between tiles.

What mistakes should I avoid when measuring tile?

Avoid only doing one small test measurement instead of measuring the whole space. Don’t forget to account for borders and bottom row in your tile estimate. Make sure tile spacers used for layout mimic actual grout joint size.


Accurately measuring for tile ensures you purchase the right quantities while allowing for attractive layout options. Consider the total area, layout preferences, grout spacing, and number of borders. Use tile measuring tools for precision cutting once tiles are purchased. With some planning and simple math, you can calculate how much tile is needed for a polished backsplash project.