How to Put Backsplash on


Adding a backsplash to your kitchen can completely transform the look and feel of the space. Not only does a backsplash provide an eye-catching focal point, but it also protects your walls from splashes and stains while cooking. Installing a kitchen backsplash is a relatively easy DIY project that can make a big impact.

In this comprehensive guide, we will walk you through everything you need to know about how to put backsplash on in your kitchen or bathroom. We will cover how to choose the right backsplash materials like tile, metal, glass, and stone as well as how to prepare your surface, use spacers, cut tiles, grout, and maintain your new backsplash. With some planning and elbow grease, you can achieve a stylish, on-trend backsplash design.

How to Choose a Backsplash for Your Kitchen or Bathroom

When deciding how to put backsplash on, the first consideration is choosing your materials. The options for kitchen and bathroom backsplash tiles are endless, so focus on your design aesthetic, budget, and the look you want to achieve. Here are some of the most popular backsplash tile options:

Ceramic or Porcelain Tile

Ceramic and porcelain tiles are classic choices perfect for both traditional and contemporary spaces. Available in a huge range of colors, styles, shapes, and sizes, these tiles are durable, easy to clean, and affordably priced. Subway tiles, mosaics, arabesques, and geometric shapes are trending.

Natural Stone Tile

For a high-end, luxurious look, natural stone tiles like marble, travertine, slate, and granite make a stunning statement. Each piece has a unique pattern and texture for one-of-a-kind design. They can be pricey and require extra sealing.

Glass Tile

Glass backsplash tiles lend an eye-catching, radiant shimmer. Often used for mosaics, glass tile comes in every color from bold primaries to pastels to metallics. The glass is either clear, opaque, or naturally iridescent.

Metal Tile

From copper and brass to nickel and stainless steel, metal tiles bring industrial flair even in small spaces. Metal is very durable but expensive, so some choose metal sheets or use metallic finishes like bronze or pewter on ceramic tiles.

Peel and Stick Tile

Adhesive peel and stick backsplash tiles offer quick, easy installation without grout or glue. Great for renters or temporary upgrades, these replication tiles look like glass, marble, travertine and more. Limit moisture exposure.

Once you’ve decided on the right material, it’s time to map out your design. Measure your space and create a layout to determine how many tiles you need to purchase. Mix different colors, textures, and shapes for a custom look.

How to Prepare the Surface for Backsplash Installation

Proper preparation of your backsplash area is crucial for achieving a successful installation. Here are the key steps:

Clean the Surface Thoroughly

Remove any existing backsplash by scraping off old adhesive and grout. Clean the wall surface with soap and water to eliminate grime and oils. Rinse and let dry completely.

Inspect for Damage

Check the drywall or plaster for any needed repairs. Fill small holes with spackle and sand smooth when dried. Repair Significant cracks or water damage before tiling.

Apply Primer/Sizing

For best adhesion, apply a coat of primer or sizing to the surface per manufacturer instructions. Allow to dry fully before tiling.

Mark Your Layout

Map out the tile layout using a level and tape measure. Mark the center and establish level baseline rows. Mark vertical columns for easier alignment.

Install Backerboard

For ceramic or stone tile, install cement backerboard secured with screws to studs for a sturdy surface. Use fiberglass backerboard around shower or tub.

Now the wall is prepped and ready for your beautiful new backsplash tiles!

How to Use Tile Spacers for Even Grout Lines

To achieve straight, evenly spaced grout lines in your backsplash, using tile spacers is a must. Here are some tips on utilizing these handy devices:

  • Choose plastic spacers 1/16 or 1/8 inch wide to match your desired grout line thickness. Wider grout lines (1/8 inch) are easier for beginners.
  • When setting each tile, place a spacer on all four corners before pressing into the adhesive. Adjust until level.
  • Spacers keep consistent gaps when tiles are aligned. Keep extra spacers on hand to fill in larger gaps if needed.
  • For mosaics or small tiles, butter the entire sheet with adhesive, then place spacers between each sheet.
  • Leave spacers in place 24 hours as adhesive dries. Once grouted, use a utility knife to pop them out carefully.
  • Avoid metal or latex spacers which are harder to remove. Plastic is flexible and won’t damage tile edges.

Using tile spacers to create uniform grout lines gives a clean, professional look. Take your time setting spacers and installing tiles.

How to Cut Tile for Fitting Around Edges and Obstacles

To complete your backsplash installation, inevitably you’ll need to cut tiles to fit around edges, outlets, pipes, corners, and other obstacles. Here’s how to cut tile cleanly and accurately:

Tools Needed

  • Carbide glass and tile cutter or wet saw
  • Gloves and eye protection
  • Dust mask
  • Ear protection
  • Straightedge or square
  • Pencil

Measure and Mark Tile

Use a tape measure and pencil to carefully measure and mark your cut line. If only cutting thin slivers, align the tile edge with your marked line.

Score the Tile

For straight cuts, utilize the score and snap method. Position the tile in the tile cutter. Align the cutter wheel on your mark, then apply firm, even pressure as you run the cutter across.

Snap the Tile

Hold the tile firmly on both sides of the scored line. Place the tile over a sturdy edge with the score line just over the edge. Press down to snap the tile cleanly along the cut.

Cut Curves and Holes

For L-shaped, U-shaped and hole cuts, use a wet saw. Gently run the tile back and forth across the saw blade. Let water lubricate and minimize chipping.

Smooth Rough Edges

If needed, use a whetstone or rubbing stone to smooth any rough edges. Take safety precautions and wear gloves.

With practice, you’ll be able to cut tile like a pro for flawless backsplash installation.

How to Apply Adhesive and Set the Tile

Setting the tile properly with adhesive ensures your backsplash stays firmly adhered to the wall. Follow these best practices:

Choose the Right Adhesive

For the wall, use white premixed thinset adhesive suitable for the tile material. Apply latex-modified thinset for porcelain or natural stone.

Prepare Small Batches

Mix only as much adhesive as you can use in 30 minutes. For thinset, add powder to liquid mixing to a toothpaste consistency.

Apply With a Notched Trowel

Spread a thin layer of adhesive on the wall using a notched trowel. Hold at a 45-degree angle pressing hard enough to scrape grooves.

Use the Back-Buttering Method

Also, apply a skim coat of adhesive to the back of each tile before placing. This provides maximum adhesion.

Be Systematic

Work in small sections. Set bottom rows first. Apply spacers on corners and align. Use a level often to ensure tiles are flat.

Clean Up Excess

As you go, use a damp sponge to wipe away any adhesive that squeezes from tile joints before it dries.

Applying tile adhesive takes some finesse. Maintain even coverage and alignment for a seamless finish.

How to Grout Tile Backsplash for a Professional Look

Grouting is an essential step that finishes off your backsplash and makes the tiles appear seamless. Here’s a simple process for grouting:

Let Adhesive Fully Cure

Wait at least 24 hours after installing tile to allow the adhesive to cure completely before grouting. This prevents loose or hollow tiles.

Choose Your Grout

For narrow joints, unsanded grout is best. It flows easily into small gaps. For wider joints, use sanded grout. Match grout color to your tile for contrast or for subtlety.

Prepare Grout

Mix grout powder with water or latex additive to a thick, peanut butter-like consistency. Let sit 5-10 minutes then remix before using.

Apply With a Rubber Float

Scoop grout onto the tiles and use a rubber grout float to spread it across the joints, packing it deeply inside. Hold float at 45 degrees and scrape to avoid removing grout.

Let Grout Firm Up

Allow grout 10-15 minutes to firm up slightly before starting to clean. This keeps it from getting pulled out of joints. Don’t let dry completely.

Clean Excess Grout

Use a damp grout sponge in a circular motion to gently smooth joints and clean off excess grout from tile faces. Rinse sponge frequently.

Polish and Seal

Once clean, polish grout with a soft cloth once dried. Apply grout sealer 1-2 hours later for protection and color stability.

When grouted correctly, your tiles will have crisp, clean grout lines that really make your backsplash design pop!

Tips for Maintaining and Cleaning Your New Backsplash

Caring for your backsplash properly ensures it stays looking like new for years to come. Here are handy backsplash maintenance tips:

  • Seal natural stone tiles annually to prevent staining and discoloration. Use a penetrating sealer best for your stone.
  • For ceramic, glass, or metal backsplashes, use PH neutral dish soap and water or an all-purpose cleaner. Avoid harsh chemicals.
  • Clean spills promptly to prevent setting of stains, especially with grout. Blot liquids immediately.
  • Use a soft sponge or microfiber cloth to gently scrub tiles. Rinse thoroughly with clean water.
  • Re-caulk where backsplash meets the countertop or tub when cracked or mildewed. Remove old caulk completely first.
  • Avoid abrasive scouring pads or powders which can scratch the surface. Use non-acetone cleaners only.
  • Check for loose or cracked grout over time. Regrout those areas to keep joints sealed and maintained.
  • Protect backsplash from splattering cooking oils or foods. Use a nearby splash guard.

With proper care, your backsplash will maintain its beauty and function for many years of cooking and cleaning.

FAQ About Putting Up a New Backsplash

Many homeowners have additional questions when learning how to put backsplash on for the first time. Here are answers to some of the most frequently asked questions:

What’s the Easiest Backsplash to Install?

Peel-and-stick backsplash tiles offer the quickest, easiest installation for DIYers. Requiring no grout or special tools, these adhesive backed tiles can transform a space in an afternoon.

Should I Hire a Contractor?

While ambitious DIYers can install their own backsplash, for more complex designs with natural stone or intricate patterns, hiring a professional tiler is advisable. They have the expertise to finish it flawlessly.

How is Backsplash Tiled Around Electrical Outlets?

Carefully measure and mark locations of outlets on your tiles. Use a wet saw to precisely cut notches so that tiles fit snugly around these obstacles. Remove receptacle covers temporarily for easy access.

Can I Install Backsplash Over Existing Tile?

It is possible but not ideal. The layers of adhesive and tile can create uneven areas prone to cracking. It’s best to remove old backsplash completely to start fresh with a smooth surface.

How Do I Cut Holes for Faucets or Soap Dispensers?

Use hole saw drill bits in the appropriate size to cut neat openings for plumbing fixtures directly through your backsplash tiles. Take measurements carefully before cutting to achieve a precise fit.

Can Backsplash Tile Go All the Way to the Ceiling?

Yes, you can install backsplash tile from counter to ceiling for a bold, dramatic statement. Use extra adhesive and grout sealant when tiling farther up the wall near cabinets or hood vents.

What’s the Best Grout Color for White Subway Tiles?

For classic white subway tiles, bright white grout provides the most seamless look. Off-white or light grey grout adds subtle contrast. Dark grout gives bold definition. Choose grout to match your overall design style.


Installing a backsplash offers big rewards when you want to give your kitchen or bath a fresh new look. With some planning and preparation, the process of putting up backsplash tile is very doable.

Carefully following the steps of prepping your surface, cutting any specialty tiles, applying adhesive, properly spacing with grout lines, and finishing with grouting will lead to success. Your new backsplash will not only improve function but will add style and personality to your home. Just take your time and enjoy the satisfying process of DIY tiling.