How to Put on a Kitchen Backsplash


Installing a backsplash in your kitchen can completely transform the look and feel of the space. A stylish backsplash serves both form and function – protecting your walls from splashes and spills while adding visual interest. Putting in a backsplash may seem daunting, but it’s an achievable DIY project if you’re willing to put in some elbow grease. With proper planning, patience, and the right materials, you can upgrade your kitchen with a backsplash that suits your taste and budget. This comprehensive guide will walk you through all the steps for how to put on a kitchen backsplash successfully.

Choose Your Backsplash Materials

The first step is deciding on the right backsplash materials for your kitchen. There are numerous options to consider that vary in aesthetic, durability, and cost.


Tile is a classic and popular choice due to the wide variety of styles, shapes, colors, and textures available. Ceramic and porcelain tile tend to be the most budget-friendly options. Stone tile brings natural beauty but is heavier and more expensive. Glass tile can provide brilliant pops of color and a modern vibe. The installation process is straight-forward for smaller, uniform tile shapes. Larger tiles and intricate patterns will require more cutting and effort.


Metal backsplashes like stainless steel, copper, or tin can create a sleek, contemporary look. Stainless steel is durable, easy to clean, and resists stains. Copper and tin will patina over time for more rustic charm. Metal backsplashes often come in sheets or shingles for simple installation.

Stone Slab

For a seamless, upscale appearance, a cut-to-fit natural stone slab makes a lovely backsplash. Granite, marble, and soapstone are popular choices that convey elegance. However, natural stone is pricey and will need to be professionally cut and installed unless you have the proper tools.

Glass Sheet

Glass sheet backsplashes produce a glossy, seamless surface that maintains transparency or can be frosted or tinted. Tempered glass is very durable and easy to clean. Installation involves carefully cutting the sheets to size and using special adhesives. This is also one of the more expensive backsplash options.


Wood finishes like reclaimed barnwood, shiplap, or tongues & groove boards infuse rustic, cozy ambiance into a kitchen. Wood backsplashes should be protected with water-resistant sealants. Extra care is needed when cleaning to avoid warping or water damage.


Affordable laminate backsplashes mimic the look of other materials like tile, metal, or stone. Vinyl laminates with adhesive backing provide quick and easy installation. Be aware that laminates are not as durable and moisture-resistant as the real thing.


For a budget-friendly DIY backsplash, a fresh coat of paint can do the trick. Use a high-quality, semi-gloss latex paint formulated to withstand heat, splashes, and moisture. Be prepared for more frequent touch-ups compared to other options.

Consider factors like your kitchen’s existing style, humidity levels, appliance heat, and how heavily the space is used when selecting backsplash materials.

Gather Your Materials and Tools

Once you’ve decided on the perfect backsplash type for your kitchen, gather all the necessary materials and tools before getting started. Having everything on hand will make the installation process smoother.

For tile backsplashes, you will need:

  • Tile and amount needed according to your plans
  • Mortar or mastic adhesive
  • Grout
  • Grout sealer
  • Trowel for spreading adhesive
  • Grout float for applying grout
  • Sponge for smoothing and cleaning grout
  • Tile cutter or wet saw for shaping tile
  • Tile spacers
  • Grout cleaning spray

For sheet style backsplashes like metal, glass, or laminate, you will need:

  • Backsplash sheets sized to your kitchen space
  • Adhesive or double-sided tape
  • Sheet metal shears or glass cutter for sizing sheets
  • Silicone caulk and caulking gun
  • Razor knife and ruler
  • Plastic spacers or shims
  • Screws or panel adhesive for attaching to wall

Make sure you have all necessary safety gear like gloves, eye protection, and knee pads. Gather any additional tools for your tile or sheets like a drill for pre-drilling holes. Having everything organized ahead of time will make installation much more efficient.

Prepare Your Kitchen

To ensure your new backsplash looks and performs flawlessly, proper preparation of the kitchen is crucial.

  • Remove your existing backsplash if you have one. Scrape off any old tile mortar or adhesive and sand the area smooth.
  • Clean the entire wall surface thoroughly to remove any grease, dirt, or debris. Degrease the area above the stove extra well.
  • Inspect the walls for any damage or imperfections and repair them. Fill any indents or holes with drywall compound and sand smooth.
  • If your walls need water protection, apply a waterproof sealant like RedGard to the entire backsplash area and let dry completely.
  • Make sure the walls are as smooth and even as possible. Uneven walls will be obvious after the new backsplash is installed.
  • Paint the backsplash area with primer if needed to improve adhesion. Allow primer to dry fully before applying adhesive.

Advance planning for a clean, smooth, and well-prepped installation surface will ensure your backsplash stays securely adhered for many years.

Plan Your Backsplash Layout

Carefully planning the layout before attaching your backsplash will save a lot of time and headaches down the road.

  • Measure the overall height and length of the backsplash area and sketch out a plan for tile placement.
  • Most standard backsplash height is 4 inches above the countertop, but you can customize this to your preference.
  • Decide if you will install the backsplash straight or diagonally across the surface. This affects the tile cutting approach.
  • Determine the tile arrangement pattern, spacing, and grout lines that will work best.
  • Identify any tricky areas like corners, outlets, or switches that will require careful tile-cutting.
  • For sheet backsplashes, measure and sketch precisely where cuts need to be made.
  • Plan how seams between sheets will be positioned to be as unnoticeable as possible.
  • Account for the thickness of your tile, sheets, or panels when mapping placement to achieve your desired height.

Having a well-thought-out layout and tile plan can prevent unexpected setbacks during the installation process. It helps keep the pattern uniform and the job moving efficiently.

Set Your Tile Layout

Once your materials are prepped and your layout is planned, it’s time to get installing. Setting the first few rows of tile establishes the alignment for the rest of the backsplash.

  • Mark a level horizontal line at the bottom edge of the backsplash area to guide the first row. Use a level and measuring tape to ensure an even line.
  • Spread the adhesive evenly across the area using a notched trowel. Apply only enough that can be tiled within 10-15 minutes before drying.
  • Press the first tile into place aligned with your guide line. Use spacers around the edges for consistent grout line spacing.
  • Lay the second tile adjacent to the first, adjusting the placement until evenly aligned. Continue setting tiles across the first row.
  • Use a carpenter’s square or level vertically from top to bottom to check for evenness and alignment as you go.
  • Allow the adhesive to fully cure per manufacturer directions before applying grout or using the surface.
  • Carefully follow your planned layout, using spacers to maintain even alignment and spacing. Cut edge tiles to fit around corners or edges.

Working methodically row-by-row from the bottom up will keep your tile pattern uniform. Take time to periodically check alignment and levelness across the entire backsplash.

Cut and Shape Your Tiles

One of the trickiest parts of tiling is shaping tiles neatly around corners, outlets, plumbing, and other obstructions. Patience and the right tools are key for smooth results.

  • Use a wet saw to accurately cut tiles for edges and around penetrations like receptacles or pipes. A tile cutter can also be used for straight cuts.
  • To fit tile around rounded edges, make a cardboard template as a guide for the curve. Trace and cut around it to match the shape.
  • For detailed cuts around outlets or plumbing, carefully trace the area onto the tile then use a rotary tool or nippers to shape the opening.
  • Be mindful of the visibility and placement of cut edges so they are less noticeable. Border tiles typically require the most shaping.
  • Ensure any cut electrical boxes remain easily accessible after surrounding them with tile. Test access periodically.
  • Take your time making precise cuts and shaping tiles. Rushing increases the chances of cracks, chips, and uneven edges.

Cutting tile edges neatly and getting a tight fit around obstacles requires patience. But the end result will be a professional looking, finished appearance.

Apply Your Grout

Once all full tiles are firmly in place, it’s time to grout. Grout fills the spaces between tiles, seals the surface, and enhances durability.

  • Allow tile mortar/adhesive to fully cure before grouting, usually 24-48 hrs. Check the tile edges to confirm none are loose.
  • Apply a grout sealer to the tiles prior to grouting for extra protection and easier cleanup. Allow sealer to dry completely first.
  • Prepare grout per package directions. Apply across tiles using a rubber grout float, pressing firmly into joints to fill any gaps.
  • Hold float at a 45° angle to smooth grout evenly with joints. Grout diagonally across tiles to prevent dragging grout out.
  • Once grouted, wait 10-15 minutes until it sets slightly before cleaning residue from tile surfaces with a damp sponge.
  • Use a minimal amount of water when sponging to prevent washing out grout between tiles. Wipe diagonally.
  • Allow grout to dry fully, usually 24 hours. Then apply a second coat of grout sealer for maximum stain protection.

Take care to completely fill grout lines and remove residue. Properly grouting the tiles will help create a cohesive finished look.

Finish the Edges

The edges of your backsplash typically require some type of trim or edging for a polished look.

  • For tile, use bullnose trim tiles on the sides and top edges for a rounded finish. Cut and install them in the same manner as regular tiles.
  • Metal, glass, or laminate sheets can be edged with thin strips of the same material adhered to create clean, smooth edges.
  • You can also finish edges with caulk for a subtle, seamless look. Use a silicone caulk that matches your grout color. Smooth the bead with a fingertip.
  • Take care not to leave ragged edges that could snag clothing or harbor grime. Finish them for both visual appeal and safety.

Completing the edges fully finishes off your new backsplash installation for a seamless built-in look.

Seal and Protect Your Backsplash

The final step is applying sealants and protectants to shield your investment and keep your backsplash looking its best.

  • Use a tile and grout sealer annually to protect from stains and damage. Reapply as needed based on usage and wear.
  • For natural stone tile, use a stone sealer formulated for that specific material. This preserves the color and prevents etching.
  • Use caulk around the perimeter edges and between the countertop-backsplash gap. Choose a flexible, waterproof caulk that matches your grout color.
  • Take extra care to thoroughly seal around sinks, stoves, dishwashers, and other moisture sources.
  • Use heat resistant caulk, if needed, for sealing gaps near stoves to prevent drying and cracking.
  • Check for any loose tiles or grout cracks periodically and re-adhere or patch them promptly to avoid water damage.

Proper sealing and caulking keeps moisture out and maintains the beauty of your new backsplash for many years to come. With the right prep work and protection, you can enjoy a stylish, hassle-free backsplash that adds function and design to your kitchen.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I install a backsplash myself or do I need to hire a professional?

Installing a tile or laminate sheet backsplash is totally achievable as a DIY project for most homeowners. Gather the right tools, take your time, and follow installation guides carefully. Complex patterns or natural stone may benefit from hiring a pro.

What are the best backsplash options for a tight budget?

Laminate sheets, painted drywall, or basic ceramic tile provide attractive, budget-friendly backsplash options under $10 per square foot. Focus on proper prep and careful installation rather than expensive materials.

How do I cut outlets and receptacles cleanly in a new backsplash?

Use an oscillating rotary tool with a tile blade to carefully score the outline of the box on the tile face. Tap the tile piece out then use nippers to trim the opening evenly. Take your time for clean results.

Can I apply a backsplash directly over existing drywall or plaster walls?

Yes, in most cases you can apply tile or laminate sheets directly onto existing walls, provided they are smooth, clean, and well-primed. This saves the demolition work of removing old backsplash.

What’s the best way to get clean grout lines between narrow tile joints?

Use a grout bag like a pastry piping bag to squeeze grout into tight joints. Sponge across tiles at a 45° angle to prevent pulling out grout. Take precautions to not wash it out of narrow lines.


Installing a backsplash is a rewarding upgrade that can make a dramatic improvement in your kitchen’s appearance and function. With the right planning, materials, tools, and techniques, you can achieve beautiful results and better protect your walls. Pay close attention to preparation, careful tile-cutting, proper grouting, and sealing for a long-lasting, high-quality finished product. The effort is well worth it when you can enjoy your stylish, new backsplash every time you cook or entertain.