Adding a backsplash is an easy and affordable way to update the look of your kitchen. A backsplash protects the wall behind a stove, sink or countertop from water damage and stains. It also serves as a decorative focal point in the kitchen. With many backsplash tile options to choose from like glass, ceramic, metal or stone, you can create a stylish and customized look. Putting in a new backsplash is a DIY project that can be completed in a weekend. Follow this step-by-step guide to learn how to put in a kitchen backsplash.
Selecting Backsplash Tile
The first step is choosing a backsplash tile that fits your kitchen’s decor and style. Consider the following when selecting tile:
Popular backsplash tile materials include:
- Ceramic or porcelain tile – budget-friendly option available in a variety of colors, patterns and finishes. Durable and easy to clean.
- Glass tile – provides a shiny, sleek contemporary look. Translucent glass tiles create depth. Prone to cracking.
- Natural stone tile – elegant option like marble, travertine, slate and granite. More expensive. Requires sealing.
- Metal tile – eye-catching accent like copper, stainless steel or aluminum. Modern aesthetic. Can be expensive.
Select a backsplash tile color and pattern that complements your cabinets, countertops, appliances and overall kitchen decor. Opt for a neutral palette or make the backsplash a bold accent wall with brighter hues.
Matte, shiny or textured? Tile finishes like polished, honed or tumbled marble determine the visual depth and accentuate the natural veining and patterns.
Common tile shapes include subway tile, hexagon and quartzite. Large tile formats create fewer grout lines for a seamless look. Mosaic tiles make a serious style statement.
Ceramic or porcelain tiles tend to be the most budget-friendly option starting around $5 per square foot. Stone and glass tile can run $50 per square foot or higher.
Calculating How Much Tile is Needed
Once you have selected the tile, determine how much is needed to cover the backsplash area. Measure the backsplash area in square feet:
- Measure the length and height of the backsplash area.
- Multiply the length times the height to get the square footage.
- Add an extra 10% to account for tile cuts and pattern matching.
Additionally, purchase extra tiles incase any break during installation.
Gather Materials and Tools
Installation will require the following materials and tools:
Tile and grout
- Backsplash tiles
- Tile spacers
- Grout (sanded grout for joints wider than 1/8″)
- Grout sealer
- Cement backer board
- Thinset mortar
- Tape measure
- Utility knife
- Tile cutter
- Mixing bucket
- Notched trowel
- Grout float
- Work gloves
- Safety goggles
- Dust mask
- Knee pads
Prepare the Work Surface
Take time to properly prepare the backsplash area for tile installation.
- Remove existing backsplash tile if there is already one installed.
- Scrub the wall area thoroughly to remove dirt, oil and grime.
- Seal surface imperfections like small holes or cracks with caulk.
- Paint wall with primer to improve adhesion.
Then install cement backer board as the subsurface following manufacturer’s instructions. Thinset mortar adheres the cement board to the wall securely. The cement board provides a stable, water-resistant surface for tile application.
Finally, mark the center point and level lines on the backsplash area. This will help align and space the tile.
Spread Thinset Mortar
Mix the thinset mortar according to package directions. Use a notched trowel to spread the mortar evenly across the backsplash area. Spread only enough mortar that can be covered with tile within 15-20 minutes before it dries.
Apply the mortar in straight, horizontal rows using the notched edge of the trowel to create ridges. Spread an even layer that covers the entire back surface of the tiles. Thinset thickness should be 1/4 to 3/8 inches.
Cut and Place the Backsplash Tiles
Install the backsplash tile in rows beginning at the center point and working outward. Use tile spacers between each tile for consistent grout joint size.
Measure and mark the tiles to be cut around outlets, corners or edges using a utility knife and tile cutter. For intricate tile cuts, use a wet saw. Set cut tiles in position with wall edges and outlets.
Press tiles firmly into the mortar with a slight twisting motion. Use a level to ensure tiles are evenly aligned. Allow thinset to dry for at least 24 hours before grouting.
Prepare and Apply the Grout
Grout fills the seams between tiles with a waterproof finishing touch. Sanded grout is best for joints wider than 1/8 inches. Apply grout 2-3 days after tile installation once mortar has fully cured.
- Mix grout per product instructions and let slake for 10 minutes.
- Use a grout float to spread grout over the tile joints, pressing firmly to fill the crevices.
- Let grout rest for 10-15 minutes before wiping away excess with a damp sponge.
- Buff surface with a soft cloth once dry. For maximum stain protection, apply grout sealer.
Achieving the Best Results
With careful planning, proper materials and tools, and ample time for drying and curing, you can achieve professional-looking results installing a kitchen backsplash yourself. Focus on preparing the surface, using quality tile and materials, keeping tile spaced evenly, and through grouting for a finished look.
Tips for Installation Success
- Always double check measurements and tile cuts for accuracy.
- Let thinset mortar and grout fully cure as directed before moving to next steps.
- Follow all manufacturer’s instructions for mixing of mortar, grout and applying sealers.
- Keep joints consistent in width (1/16″ to 1/8” is ideal).
- Only mix enough thinset mortar than can be used in 15-20 minutes.
- Ensure backsplash area is clean and dry before applying tile or grout.
- Use strips of painters tape to keep grout off surfaces like countertops or appliances.
- Work in small sections for easier grouting and wipe down before grout dries.
- Don’t walk on newly tiled area for at least 24 hours.
Common Questions about Installing a Backsplash
Have additional questions as you plan your backsplash installation project? See common questions and answers below:
Should I hire a pro or install backsplash tile myself?
For an experienced DIY-er, installing a backsplash is totally doable as a weekend project. Preparing the surface, laying tile, and grouting take time and patience but can be managed by an ambitious novice. Hiring a professional tiling contractor guarantees expertise and perfect results but costs more.
What’s the best tile for kitchen backsplashes?
The most popular backsplash tile options include ceramic, porcelain, natural stone, glass and metal. Choose the backsplash tile based on your kitchen’s decor, your budget and the look you want to achieve. Ceramic tile provides an affordable and versatile option.
How do I cut backsplash tile?
Use a wet saw with a diamond blade to accurately cut ceramic, porcelain or stone tile. For intricate cuts around electrical boxes or plumbing fixtures, use a jigsaw with carbide tip blade. Always wear safety goggles and gloves when cutting tile.
How long does backsplash tile installation take?
The timeline can range from 1-3 days depending on the scope of work. Allow the following time for each application:
- Surface preparation: 1-2 hours
- Tile layout: 2-3 hours
- Mortar curing: 24 hours
- Tile application: 1-2 days
- Grout application and curing: 1 day
Be sure to let mortar and grout fully cure between steps.
Should backsplash tile match countertops?
The backsplash does not have to match countertops but coordination is key. Look for colors and textures that complement each other. If countertops and cabinets are dark, choose a lighter tile. With neutral cabinets, pick a colorful tile.
Enhance Your Kitchen with a Stylish Backsplash
Installing a backsplash behind a kitchen countertop or sink provides both form and function. With proper planning, tools and materials, it is a DIY project capable for motivated homeowners. Just take it slow to complete each tiling step correctly. A coordinating backsplash pulls your kitchen decor together while also protecting the walls from everyday messes and damage for years to come.