How to Put Backsplash on a Wall

Adding a backsplash to your kitchen or bathroom can instantly upgrade the look of the space. Not only does a backsplash provide an easy way to add color, texture, and personality, it also protects your walls from water damage and stains. Putting up a tile, metal, glass, or stone backsplash may seem daunting, but it can actually be a pretty straightforward DIY project. Here is a comprehensive guide on how to put backsplash on a wall in your home.

Getting Started with Backsplash Installation

Before you start slapping tiles on the wall, there are a few key steps to take to ensure your backsplash installation goes smoothly.

Selecting Your Backsplash Materials

There are many options when it comes to backsplash tiles. Ceramic, porcelain, glass, metal, and stone tiles are all popular choices. Consider the look you are going for and your budget when selecting backsplash tile.

Some types of backsplash tiles include:

  • Ceramic: Budget-friendly option available in a wide variety of colors, sizes, and finishes. Durable and water-resistant.
  • Porcelain: More durable and stain-resistant than ceramic. Offered in matte and glossy finishes.
  • Glass: Provides a shiny, sleek look. Smooth surface is easy to clean. Comes in different textures and finishes.
  • Metal: Good choice for contemporary or industrial style kitchens. Aluminum and stainless steel are common.
  • Stone: Elegant natural option like marble, travertine, or granite. More expensive but provides high-end look.

Make sure to purchase extra tiles to account for damaged or improperly cut tiles. For most projects, adding 10% more tiles to your total square footage is sufficient.

Prepping Your Backsplash Area

Take time to properly prep the backsplash installation area for an end result that will last.

  • Remove existing backsplash if there is one. Scrape off any remaining debris or adhesive.
  • Thoroughly clean the wall surface. Grease, grime, or soap scum will prevent proper adhesion.
  • Fill any holes or imperfections in the wall with spackle and let dry completely. Sand smooth.
  • Paint the wall if needed with primer and latex paint. Allow paint to dry fully.
  • Measure the backsplash area and mark the midpoint. This will help align tiles.

Proper prep leads to a long-lasting backsplash that will stand up to moisture and daily wear and tear.

Gathering Your Backsplash Supplies

Installing a backsplash requires a few specialty tools and materials along with the backsplash tiles. Be sure to have the following supplies on hand:

  • Backsplash tiles
  • Tile adhesive mortar
  • Grout
  • Grout sealer
  • Trowels for applying mortar
  • Tile spacers
  • Tile cutter and snips
  • Wet saw for precise tile cuts
  • Grout float
  • Mixing buckets
  • Tile sealant
  • Caulk and silicone
  • Rag
    -Utility knife
  • Carpenter’s level or laser level
  • Pencil
  • Tape measure
  • Safety glasses and gloves

Double check that you have all the required backsplash installation supplies before starting. This will prevent delays or having to stop midway through the project.

Installing the Backsplash Tile

Once you have gathered the necessary supplies and prepped the area, it’s time to start installing the backsplash tile. Follow these steps for proper tile placement:

Step 1: Apply Mortar

Start by mixing thinset mortar adhesive according to package directions. Apply a layer of mortar to the wall area where tiles will be placed using a notched trowel.

  • Spread mortar evenly over the wall, using angled strokes to create ridges.
  • Only cover a small section at one time so mortar does not dry out before tiles are applied.
  • Depth of mortar ridges should match tile thickness.

Mortar adhesive should fully coat the wall and provide proper grip for the backsplash tiles.

Step 2: Set the First Row

For the first row of tiles, it is crucial to set it perfectly level. This establishes the alignment for the remaining rows.

  • Start in the center of the wall with the midpoint marked. Set the first tile against the mark.
  • Use a level to ensure the tile is perfectly horizontal and press it into the mortar.
  • Place the next tile against the first and use spacers to maintain a consistent grout line.
  • Check level often and adjust tiles. Remove and reapply mortar if needed.

Take your time with the first row to prevent crooked or uneven tile rows.

Step 3: Set Remaining Rows

Now fill in tile working row by row from the center outward. Continue checking level and using spacers.

  • Cut tiles as needed to fit edges and openings. Use a wet saw for precise cuts.
  • To mark cuts, place tile over the area and position as needed. Mark cutting line with pencil.
  • After cutting tile, wipe away dust and reinsert tile piece.
  • As you set tiles, apply pressure and use a rubber grout float to create a flush fit with no raised edges.

Do not spread more mortar than can be tiled over in 10-15 minutes. Mortar will dry quickly.

Step 4: Apply Grout and Sealant

Once all backsplash tiles are set, it’s time to finish them off. Allow tiles to set 24 hours before grouting.

  • Mix grout according to package and apply over all tile joints using a rubber grout float. Spread it diagonally across tiles to fill joints.
  • Let grout sit for 5-10 minutes until hazy. Use a damp sponge to wipe grout off tile surfaces. Rinse sponge frequently.
  • Allow grout to fully cure 24-48 hours. Then apply grout sealer following product directions.
  • Caulk between backsplash and countertops/walls with silicone caulk.

With grout and sealer applied, you can now enjoy your stunning new backsplash!

Backsplash Maintenance Tips

To keep your backsplash looking fresh, be sure to follow these maintenance tips:

  • Use a gentle cleaner designed for natural stone if you have a stone backsplash. Avoid abrasive cleaners.
  • For ceramic, porcelain, or glass, use a standard household cleaner. Always rinse thoroughly to avoid buildup.
  • Avoid excessive moisture and liquids spilling over. Promptly wipe up spills to prevent stains.
  • Reapply grout sealer once a year. Check for any cracked or missing grout and re-grout as needed.
  • Do not use harsh chemicals like bleach or ammonia which can degrade grout or etch surfaces over time.

Follow these basics to keep your backsplash sparkling and protect it from damage. With proper care, it can last for many years of beauty and performance.

FAQs About Installing Backsplash Tile

Still have questions on how to install a backsplash tile project? Here are answers to some frequently asked questions:

Should I hire a professional to install a backsplash?

For an experienced DIYer, installing a backsplash is totally doable as a home project. But for novice renovators or for challenging layouts, hiring a professional tile installer may be worth the cost.

What’s the best tile for kitchen backsplash?

Porcelain, ceramic, and glass mosaic tiles are popular choices. Choose tiles rated for walls and wet areas. Also consider durability, ease of cleaning, and style.

How do I cut tiles for an outlet?

Use a Dremel tool with a tile cutting wheel to score tile in an L shape. Place tile over outlet, score lines, then tap tile gently to break off small pieces until outlet box is fully exposed.

Should backsplash go all the way to the ceiling?

Usually backsplash tile is installed to 4-6 inches above the countertop. But extending to the ceiling can create a bold visual impact. Consider your design goals.

How do I create a marble look with cheaper tile?

Use marble mosaic sheets or marble porcelain tiles. Set tiles in a classic brick pattern. Add elegance with polished marble outlets/switch plate covers.

Can backsplash tile get wet?

Yes! Backsplash tile should get occasional water exposure. The tile itself is waterproof, but the grout and caulk seals must be maintained.

How do I remove existing backsplash tile?

Take care not to damage the drywall underneath. Use a putty knife to chisel between tile and drywall to break the tile adhesive bond. Slowly pry off tiles and scrape away remaining debris.

Avoiding Common Backsplash Mistakes

The backsplash is often a focal point of the kitchen or bath, so you want to get it right. Here are some common backsplash installation mistakes to avoid:

  • Not thoroughly cleaning the wall – Old soap scum, dust, or oil will prevent adhesion. Take time to properly clean surfaces.
  • Failing to let materials dry – Give adequate drying time for paint, mortar, grout, etc. Proper curing prevents problems later.
  • Poor planning for outlets – Avoid outlets ending up in weird spots. Measure carefully and center outlets/switches in tiles.
  • Applying tiles over existing tiles – Old tiles need full removal to achieve proper bond. Never install over existing tile.
  • Using the wrong grout or mortar – Make sure product is recommended for your particular tile material and application.
  • Incorrect tile spacing – Use plastic spacers consistently to achieve straight uniform grout lines. Inconsistent spacing looks sloppy.
  • Not sealing grout – Seal grout to protect from stains and moisture damage. Reseal yearly.

With careful prep and installation, you can avoid messy do-overs! Patience and precision lead to backsplash success.

Choosing the Perfect Backsplash Design

One of the great things about backsplashes is you can get creative with fun designs and patterns. Here are some backsplash layout ideas to inspire you:

Subway Tile

This classic rectangular style arranged in a brick or stacked pattern looks great with any decor. Use all white or experiment with contrasting grout colors.


Hexagon shaped tiles create visual interest and a honeycomb effect on the wall. Use tiles of the same color or mix it up with an eclectic pattern.


Stacking rectangular tile horizontally can give a room a modern, sleek look. Alternate glossy and matte tiles for contrast.

Penny Rounds

Actual penny rounds or copper dot tiles make a quirky retro statement. Use sparingly as an accent or go bold from countertop to ceiling.

Marble Tile

For natural elegance, marble tile brings a high-end feel. Use large-format tiles or classic small mosaics. Carrara is a favorite.


This zigzag pattern adds great visual dimension. Contrast darker grout with lighter tiles for striking results.

Geometric Shapes

Use shaped tiles like triangles, circles, diamonds, or trapezoids to create a contemporary mosaic look.


Make the backsplash a focal point with a tile mural depicting seascapes, flowers, or abstract shapes using mosaic sheets.

With so many options, you can find the perfect backsplash design that showcases your unique style!


Installing a tile backsplash boosts the style and functionality of your kitchen or bath. By using the techniques outlined here for proper planning, prep, installation, and care, you can achieve backsplash success. With the right materials, tools, safety precautions, and patience, you can do this project yourself and enjoy the satisfaction of a job well done. A backsplash not only protects your walls from splashes and stains, but serves as an artistic, decorative focal point in the room. So go ahead and give your space that upgraded look with the addition of a striking new backsplash!