How to Put Backsplash Tile in Your Kitchen

Installing a backsplash in your kitchen can completely transform the look and feel of the space. Not only does a backsplash provide an extra layer of protection for your walls against splashes and spills, it also serves as a beautiful focal point full of style, color, and texture. Putting up tile on your backsplash may seem daunting, but with the right materials, tools, and techniques, you can achieve professional-looking results. This step-by-step guide will walk you through everything you need to know to successfully put backsplash tile in your kitchen.

Getting Started with Your Backsplash Tile Project

Before you start tiling, there are some important things to consider and decisions to make that will ensure your project goes smoothly from start to finish.

Selecting Your Backsplash Tile

The possibilities are virtually endless when it comes to backsplash tile these days. You can choose from ceramic, porcelain, glass, stone, metal, and more. Consider the overall look and feel you want for your kitchen when selecting tile material, size, colors, and texture. Also think about your budget. Ceramic and porcelain tile tend to be most budget-friendly, while stone and glass tile can be pricier.

Some popular options include:

  • Ceramic tile: budget-friendly, available in tons of colors/patterns
  • Porcelain tile: durable, water-resistant, easy to clean
  • Glass tile: elegant shimmer, easy to wipe clean
  • Stone tile: natural beauty, heat-resistant, textured
  • Metal tile: modern look, durable, easy installation

Make sure to get a little extra tile than what your measurements show. This will account for broken tiles, uneven cuts, and future repairs.

Selecting the Right Tools and Materials

Installing backsplash tile requires some specific tools and materials. Be sure to have all of these on hand before you start your project:

  • Tile saw or tile cutter – for precise tile-cutting
  • Tile spacers – keep consistent grout lines
  • Grout float – spread and smooth the grout
  • Rubber grout float – avoid scratching tiles when grouting
  • Grout sealer
  • Tile adhesive
  • Notched trowel
  • Mixing bucket – mix tile adhesive
  • Grout
  • Grout sponge
  • Rags
  • Tape measure
  • Level
  • Safety glasses and gloves

Preparing Your Backsplash Area

Once you’ve selected your tile and gathered supplies, it’s time to prepare the backsplash area for tiling.

  • Remove anything on the walls in the backsplash area – this includes existing tile, wallpaper, artwork etc. Scrape off any leftover paint or residue.
  • Fill any holes or uneven spots in the drywall with drywall compound. Let dry completely.
  • Make sure the walls are smooth, dry, and clean. Wipe away any dust or debris.
  • Mark the outlet locations on the wall and cut out holes where needed so your tile will fit around them. Turn off power to outlets.
  • Use painter’s tape and plastic sheeting to mask off surrounding surfaces like countertops.
  • Plan your tile layout. Dry lay a few tiles and spacers to determine the optimal layout and pattern.

Now your backsplash area is prepped and ready for tile!

How to Install Backsplash Tile on Walls

Once you’ve completed all the prep work, it’s go time for installing the tile. Follow these steps closely for flawless finished results:

Step 1: Apply Tile Adhesive

  • Prepare the thinset adhesive according to package directions. Let it slake for 10 minutes.
  • Use a notched trowel at a 45° angle to spread a thin layer of tile adhesive on the wall, just enough to cover one section at a time.

Step 2: Set the Backsplash Tiles

  • Place the first tile against the wall in the corner. Use spacers around the edges and press into the adhesive.
  • Continue setting tiles one by one. Check periodically to ensure they are level.
  • Push tiles firmly into the thinset. Use spacers to maintain even grout line width.
  • Cut any edge tiles as needed with tile cutter.
  • Clean excess thinset from tile surface with a damp cloth as you go.

Step 3: Let Tile Adhesive Cure

  • Allow tile adhesive to cure for at least 24 hours before grouting tiles. This allows it to fully dry.
  • Remove the tile spacers once adhesive has cured.

Step 4: Prepare and Apply Grout

  • Thoroughly mix grout powder with water according to package instructions.
  • Use a rubber grout float to spread grout over the tiles, forcing it into the grout lines.
  • Wipe away excess grout with a damp sponge in diagonal motions. Rinse sponge frequently.
  • Polish the tiles with a clean, dry cloth once the haze is gone.

Step 5: Seal the Grout

  • Allow grout to cure fully for 24-48 hours.
  • Apply grout sealer to finished grout lines using a small paintbrush. This prevents staining.
  • Wipe away excess sealer with a clean cloth. Polish tiles one final time.

And that’s it – your gorgeous new backsplash is complete! Enjoy admiring your beautiful tiled focal point.

Tips for Installing Backsplash Tiles Successfully

Follow these handy tips and tricks to ensure your DIY backsplash tile project goes as smoothly as possible:

  • Carefully measure the backsplash area and your tiles to determine how many you need. Plan for 10-15% extra.
  • Draw your tile layout on the wall in pencil before laying any adhesive. This helps get perfect spacing.
  • Use a level often to be sure tiles align properly.
  • Mix small amounts of thinset mortar at a time so it doesn’t dry out.
  • Use tile spacers consistently for even grout line width.
  • Clean haze or adhesive off tiles immediately to avoid drying.
  • Let tile adhesive fully cure before grouting or walking on tiles.
  • Wipe grout lines diagonally across tiles to prevent smearing.
  • Seal your grout once cured to prevent staining and discoloration.
  • Don’t walk on tiles or get them wet for at least 48 hours after installation.

Paying close attention to prep work, using proper materials, and following the step-by-step install process will result in gorgeously tiled walls you’ll love showing off!

Mistakes to Avoid When Putting Up Backsplash Tile

While tiling a backsplash yourself can save money compared to hiring a professional, it also raises the possibility of rookie mistakes that could ruin your finished results. Avoid these common pitfalls:

Failing to Properly Prep Walls

Backsplash walls must be smooth, clean, and dry before any tile goes up. Don’t skip prep work like fixing holes or fully removing existing materials.

Using the Wrong Adhesive

Be sure to use adhesive formulated for wall tile rather than floor tile. Floor tile adhesive is thicker and difficult to spread on walls.

Not Letting Adhesive Cure

Adhesive needs proper curing time to adhere tiles successfully. Don’t grout too soon or tiles may slip. Follow manufacturer’s instructions.

Applying Grout Too Early

Let adhesive cure fully behind the tile before grouting. If not, tiles may shift as you apply grout, creating uneven lines or gaps.

Sloppy Grout Application

Carefully force grout into all joints and gaps. If grout just glazes over the surface, you’ll get weak grout lines prone to cracking.

Failing to Seal Grout

Unsealed grout absorbs stains easily. Using a sealant protects the finish and keeps your grout looking new. Don’t skip this step!

FAQs About Putting Up Backsplash Tile

You probably still have some questions about successfully installing backsplash tile like a pro. Here are answers to some frequently asked questions:

What’s the Best Grout Color for Kitchen Backsplash Tile?

For most kitchen backsplashes, white or light grey grout is best. Avoid any dark grout colors that could stain easily or show dirt. Match the grout color to your tile color.

How is Backsplash Tile Different from Wall Tile?

Backsplash tile and wall tile are essentially the same. The only difference is backsplash tile goes in a small contained area behind the kitchen counters.

What Backsplash Tile is Easiest to Install?

Ceramic, porcelain, and glass backsplash tiles tend to be the easiest to cut and install. Avoid natural stone tiles for DIY projects, as they require special tools.

How Do I Cut Holes in Backsplash Tile for Outlets?

Use a rotary tool or small chisel to score the glaze, then tap to break tile. Make holes slightly bigger than the outlet size for easier fit.

Can I Put Up Backsplash Tile Over Existing Tile?

It’s generally not recommended. Existing tile should be removed to allow new tile to properly adhere to the wall surface underneath.


A stunning backsplash brings eye-catching style to your kitchen. By following the techniques outlined here for how to put up backsplash tile on your walls, you’ll gain invaluable hands-on experience as well as a gorgeous new focal point you’ll love spending time in. With the right preparation and materials, thoughtful tile design, proper thinset application, and careful grouting, your DIY backsplash project will look professionally installed. Just take your time, follow each step closely, and avoid common mistakes like failing to properly prep walls or not sealing grout. Your beautiful finished tile backsplash will elevate your whole kitchen’s decor in no time!