How to Put on a Backsplash in Your Kitchen

Installing a backsplash in your kitchen can add visual interest and protect your walls from splatters and spills. With some planning and the right materials, putting up a backsplash is a DIY project many homeowners can tackle. This guide will walk you through the entire process of installing a backsplash in your kitchen.

Choose the Right Backsplash Material

When selecting a material for your backsplash, consider your budget,kitchen aesthetics, and how much maintenance you’re willing to do. Some popular backsplash materials include:

  • Tile: Ceramic, porcelain, or natural stone tile offers endless options for colors, textures, and patterns. Tile is durable and easy to clean. However, it requires more skill to install.
  • Metal: Metal backsplashes like stainless steel, copper, or tin add a modern, industrial vibe. Metals are sleek, low-maintenance, and heat resistant. However, they can dent and show scratches.
  • Glass: Glass tile or sheet backsplashes have a shiny, elegant look. Glass is heat and water resistant but can chip or crack. Installing glass backsplashes often requires professional expertise.
  • Stone slabs: Granite, marble, or other natural stone slabs make a high-end statement. Stone is durable but heavy. Hiring a pro is recommended for installation.
  • Wood: Wood adds warmth and texture. But it requires sealing and can warp or discolor over time. Keep wood away from heat sources like stoves.

Gather Your Materials

Once you’ve selected your backsplash material, make a list of everything you’ll need for the project. This typically includes:

  • Backsplash tiles/sheets and any decorative tiles for accents
  • Mortar or adhesive to attach the backsplash
  • Grout to fill in seams between tiles
  • Tools like a tile cutter, grout float, spacers, and buckets
  • Sealant if needed (especially for natural stone)

Make sure you have adequate materials for the entire backsplash area before starting. Running out halfway through is a headache!

Prepare the Work Area

Installing a backsplash makes a bit of a mess. Protect your counters, floors, and appliances by covering them with rosin paper or plastic sheeting before getting started.

Clear out the backsplash area as much as possible – removing anything hanging on walls and any small appliances on your counters. It’s also a good idea to remove existing outlets, switch plate covers, and towel bars so you can install the backsplash behind them.

Make sure there’s adequate ventilation, lighting, and space to work. Backsplash installation requires some patience and precision. The more comfortable your workspace, the better!

Remove the Old Backsplash

If your kitchen currently has a backsplash that you’re replacing, take it down carefully to avoid damaging your wall.

Use a putty knife or oscillating tool to pry off any existing tile adhesive without gouging the drywall. Take your time removing any nails, screws, or tile spacers from the old backsplash as well.

Once the old backsplash is fully removed, inspect the wall underneath. Fill any holes or cracks with spackle and sand smooth when dry. The wall surface should be as even as possible for proper backsplash installation.

Measure and Mark the Backsplash Area

Grab a measuring tape and pencil to mark your backsplash installation area. Measure the overall height and length of the space. Make sure to account for any outlets, windows, or cabinets when taking measurements.

Mark a level line at the bottom edge where you want the backsplash tiles to start. Many backsplashes start 4-6 inches above countertops. You can use a level tool to ensure your line is straight.

Also mark vertical lines at the edges and ends of your planned backsplash. These guide lines will help you maintain even tiles and straight grout lines during installation.

Apply the Mortar and Set Your Tiles

With your measurements marked, it’s time to start setting tiles! Mix your mortar or adhesive according to package directions, then spread it on the wall using a notched trowel.

Press your backsplash tiles into the mortar one by one. Use plastic spacers between tiles to achieve even grout lines. Work in sections across and down the backsplash space.

Remove any excess mortar squeezed out around tiles with a putty knife. Once all full tiles are placed, go back and cut any edge pieces as needed using a wet saw or tile cutter.

Allow the mortar to fully cure per manufacturer directions before grouting. This often takes 24 hours. Be patient – rushing this step can lead to tiles popping off later!

Apply Grout Between the Tiles

Grout fills the spaces between tiles with a waterproof material to finish off your backsplash. There are two main types of grout:

  • Sanded grout is best for gaps 1/8 inch or wider. It contains sand for added strength.
  • Unsanded grout is used for narrow grout lines less than 1/8 inch. It creates a smoother finish.

Choose the appropriate grout for the joint size of your tiles. Mix the grout per package instructions to a thick, peanut butter-like consistency.

Use a rubber grout float to spread it across the tiles, pressing into joints. Hold the float at a 45° angle and wipe diagonally across tiles to remove excess.

Finally, go back and polish the grout haze off tile faces with a damp sponge. Allow the grout to fully cure for 72 hours before sealing or regular use.

Seal and Finish Your New Backsplash

Once fully dry, apply a penetrating sealant to your backsplash if needed. Natural stone tiles should always be sealed to prevent staining and increase water resistance.

Finish reassembling the workspace – reinstall any fixtures removed before installation and remove any protective coverings. Excess mortar or grout residue can be cleaned off surfaces with white vinegar or glass cleaner.

Step back and admire your work! With proper prep and patience, you can install a backsplash that brings a whole new look to your kitchen.

Frequently Asked Questions About Installing Kitchen Backsplashes

What kind of backsplash is easiest to install?

Sheet materials like metal, glass, or acrylic are the easiest backsplash options for DIY installation. They often use adhesive rather than mortar and require less precision cutting compared to individual tiles.

How do I cut holes in my backsplash for outlets or fixtures?

Use a rotary tool or oscillating multi-tool to carefully cut any openings needed in your backsplash material. Make sure outlets are turned off for safety.

My backsplash isn’t sticking to the wall well. What should I do?

Ensure the wall surface is clean before applying mortar. Old paint or residue can prevent adhesion. Using a notched trowel ensures you apply a thick enough layer of mortar for a strong bond.

Why does my new backsplash have cracks in the grout?

Allowing the mortar to fully cure before grouting and giving the grout ample drying time reduces chances of cracking. Hot, dry conditions can also cause grout cracks. Sealant protects grout from moisture damage.

Can I install a backsplash over existing tile or drywall?

Yes, you can install a backsplash over most existing walls. Scrape off old mortar, roughen glossy surfaces, and use a mortar designed for adhesion to the specific material already in place.


Adding a backsplash is one of the simplest ways to upgrade your kitchen’s style. With smart preparation and careful application of tiles, grout, and sealant, you can achieve a professional-looking backsplash installation. Focus on proper measurements, materials, and curing times for success. Get creative with materials like colorful glass tile or natural stone. Your new backsplash can bring the perfect touch of personal flair and function to your cooking space.