How to Put a Backsplash in Your Bathroom

Adding a backsplash to your bathroom can instantly upgrade the look and feel of the space. Not only does a backsplash provide an attractive focal point, it also protects your walls from moisture damage. Installing a backsplash is a relatively easy DIY project that can be completed in a weekend. Here is a step-by-step guide on how to put a backsplash in your bathroom.

Selecting a Backsplash Material

The first step is choosing a material for your backsplash. Some popular options include:


Tile allows for lots of design flexibility and comes in a wide variety of styles, colors, shapes, and textures. Ceramic and porcelain tile are durable, water-resistant, and easy to clean. Natural stone tile like marble, travertine, or slate can provide an elegant, high-end look.

Glass tile is another option that can add a modern, sleek style. Make sure to use tiles rated for wet areas. The size of the tile will also impact the overall look – small mosaics can create a busy pattern while large tiles result in a more seamless appearance.


Metal backsplashes like stainless steel, copper, or tin can give a kitchen-like look. Stainless steel provides a modern, industrial vibe and is easy to wipe clean. Copper offers a warm, rustic appearance that will patina over time.


Glass tile or sheets of backpainted glass can create a shiny, sleek look. Glass is impervious to water and super easy to keep clean. Frosted or textured glass provides grip and masks water spots. Consider glass in bold colors or metallics for serious style.


Natural stone like marble, travertine, or slate can be installed in sheets or large format tiles. Stone offers natural beauty, luxury, and timeless appeal. Make sure to seal the stone to prevent staining and discoloration from water. This option is on the higher end of the budget spectrum.


Wood adds natural warmth and texture. Use a water-resistant wood like teak or use a marine varnish to seal the wood. Wood backsplashes should be limited to areas away from direct water exposure.

Preparing the Surface

Once you’ve selected your backsplash material, proper preparation of the surface is crucial for a successful installation.

  • Remove the existing wallpaper, paint, or backsplash completely. Scrape and sand the walls down to the bare surface.
  • The surface must be smooth and clean without bumps, holes, grease, or soap scum. Fill any holes or imperfections with spackle and sand smooth.
  • Wipe the walls with denatured alcohol to remove residue. Rinse and let dry completely.
  • If tiling, apply a coat of drywall primer followed by a tile bonding primer to aid adhesion.
  • For other materials like glass or metal, apply the appropriate primer recommended by the manufacturer.

Allow the primer to dry completely before installing the backsplash. Taking the time to properly prep the surface will ensure maximum backsplash longevity.

Gather Supplies

Gather all the necessary supplies before starting the installation:

  • Backsplash material – tiles, metal sheets, glass, etc. Make sure you have 10-15% extra to account for cuts, errors, and waste.
  • Mortar or adhesive to adhere the backsplash material to the wall. Choose one formulated for wet area application.
  • Grout to fill in seams for tile or glass tile backsplashes. Use an epoxy grout for the water resistance.
  • Spacers for a tile backsplash to maintain even grout line width.
  • Tile cutting tools – nippers, cutters, wet saw if doing intricate tile cutting.
  • Trowels, floats, sponges, buckets for mixing and applying mortar.
  • Caulk in a color matching the grout to seal around edges and corners.
  • Grout sealer to protect finished grout lines.

Having all materials ready beforehand means you can install the backsplash efficiently from start to finish.

Install the Backsplash

Once prepped and supplied, it’s time for the fun part – installing the backsplash! Follow these steps:

Step 1: Plan the Layout

  • Measure the area to be tiled. Mark the center point and draw vertical and horizontal lines as guides.
  • Dry lay tiles on the floor to map out the pattern and arrangement you want.
  • Figure out any cut tiles – avoiding small slivers at edges and corners. Adjust pattern if needed.

Step 2: Mix Mortar and Apply

  • Mix the mortar or adhesive according to package directions. Let it slake for 10 minutes.
  • Apply to the wall using a notched trowel in thin, even layers. Apply only as much as can be tiled in 30 minutes.
  • Back-butter each tile by applying a coat of adhesive to the backs for maximum adhesion.

Step 3: Install Tiles

  • Working row by row, press tiles firmly into place using a slight twisting motion. Use spacers for consistent grout line width.
  • Check tiles are level and aligned as you go. Make adjustments quickly before adhesive dries.
  • Cut tiles as needed using tile nippers or a wet saw. Use caution when handling cut tile edges.
  • Let adhesive cure fully before grouting – usually 24 hours.

Step 4: Grout and Seal

  • Mix grout according to package instructions and apply using a rubber grout float. Push into joints firmly.
  • Wipe off excess grout with a damp sponge. Rinse sponge and wipe again until joints are smooth.
  • Once grout has cured, apply grout sealer following label directions to protect from moisture.
  • Use caulk in corners, along edges, and between tile and fixtures for waterproofing.

With careful prep work and attention to detail during installation, you can achieve a stunning, professional-looking backsplash!

Backsplash Maintenance Tips

Once your new backsplash is successfully installed, maintaining it properly will keep it looking like new:

  • Use a gentle cleaner designed for your specific backsplash material. Avoid harsh, abrasive cleaners.
  • For grout, regularly apply grout sealer every 1-2 years to avoid stains and damage from moisture.
  • Immediately wipe up any liquids or spills to prevent staining of grout or natural stone materials.
  • Re-caulk corners and edges when wear and cracks appear to prevent moisture seeping behind the backsplash.
  • Limit direct water exposure as much as possible by using a shower curtain.
  • Check for any cracks or loose tiles indicating problems with the subsurface. Repair and re-grout as needed.

Following a good maintenance routine will help you avoid costly repairs down the road.

FAQs About Installing a Backsplash

What’s the best way to cut glass tile?

Use a wet saw with a diamond blade designed for glass. For intricate cuts, a glass cutter tool can be used with care. Always wear safety goggles when cutting tile.

How long does mortar take to cure before grouting?

Mortar adhesive usually takes 24 hours to fully cure and be ready for grouting. Check the product instructions as times can vary.

Should my backsplash go all the way to the ceiling?

It depends on personal preference, but usually backsplashes are installed to about 4-6 inches above the faucet height. Going to the ceiling can make a small space feel closed in.

Can I install a backsplash over existing tile?

It’s not recommended. Existing tile should be removed completely down the the wall surface for proper installation of the new backsplash.

What’s the standard height for a backsplash?

The most common backsplash height is 4 inches above the countertop. But anywhere from 4 to 6 inches is generally considered standard.


Installing a backsplash is one of the easiest ways to update and personalize your bathroom. With the right tools and materials, and a good amount of patience and care, you can tackle this project as a DIY weekend upgrade. The end result will provide a major style payoff along with protecting your bathroom walls. Just be sure to properly prepare the surface, gather quality materials suited for wet areas, and carefully follow installation techniques for a professional-looking finished product. Maintain your new backsplash properly and it will provide many years of stylish, water-resistant service.