Installing a tile backsplash in your kitchen or bathroom can add visual interest and make the space feel more put together. With some planning and the right materials, putting tile on the wall is a DIY project many homeowners can tackle. Follow this step-by-step guide to learn how to put tile backsplash on wall successfully.
Choose Your Tile
The first step is selecting the tile itself. There are countless options when it comes to backsplash tile these days, including:
- Ceramic or porcelain tile
- Glass tile
- Natural stone tile
- Metal or tin tile
- Mosaic tile sheets
Consider the overall aesthetic you want for the space. Ceramic and porcelain tiles come in all sorts of colors, shapes, and sizes. Glass tile can give a modern vibe, while natural stone evokes rustic or traditional style.
Think about the tile size too. Smaller tiles like mosaics and 3×6 subway tile can have a busy, vintage appearance. Larger tiles create a more sleek, contemporary look. Determine if you want the tile to stand out or blend in. Vibrant colors and patterns draw the eye, while neutral tiles recede.
Also factor in ease of cleaning when picking backsplash tile. Highly textured or grouted tile is harder to keep clean than smooth, polished porcelain or glass.
Once you’ve narrowed down tile options, purchase 15-25% more than you’ll need to account for cuts, cracks, and mistakes.
Prepare the Workspace
Before you can put tile on the wall, you need to set up a proper workstation. Sweep and clean the wall surface. Cover any surfaces below the backsplash area with drop cloths.
Gather the necessary materials:
- Tile and extra tiles
- Tile adhesive (thinset mortar)
- Grout float
- Mixing bucket
- Grout sealer
- Tile cutter or wet saw
- Safety glasses and gloves
Have clean water and rags or sponges on hand too. Make sure the area is well-ventilated and free of any fumes or chemicals that could damage the tile or thinset.
Plan the Layout
With your materials ready, now you can map out the backsplash tile layout. Mark the boundaries for the backsplash area with painters tape or a straight edge.
Determine the focal point—often the stove or sink. Use this to guide the tile placement, centering accent tiles or lining up grout lines.
Figure out the tile pattern. Stick to basic designs like brick laid, horizontal rows, or a simple grid for beginners. Cut small pieces of tile with poster putty to audition different patterns before installing.
Plan which edge tiles need cutting to fit the dimensions. Avoid pieces smaller than half a tile where possible. Mark tiles that need cutting. Always double check measurements before cutting.
Prep and Cut the Tiles
With the layout set, prep the tiles for installation. Wipe off any dirt or dust from packaging. Separate tiles into piles based on placement area.
Use a wet saw or manual tile cutter to cut any edge tiles to size based on your measurements. The saw ensures precise cuts. A score and snap cutter works for straight cuts on most ceramic, porcelain, or glass. Wear safety goggles for all tile cutting.
Cut tiles from the face side to avoid chipping the decorative surface. Cut slowly and steadily. Save any large cut off pieces—they may come in handy later.
Install the Backsplash Tile
Now the fun part—putting the tile on the wall! Follow these steps:
1. Prepare and Apply Thinset Mortar
Mix the thinset mortar to a thick, pasty consistency according to package directions. Use a rectangular notched trowel to spread a skim layer of mortar onto the wall, holding at a 45 degree angle.
Only cover enough area you can tile in the mortar’s open time (usually 10-20 minutes). Waiting too long causes the thinset to dry out and not adhere properly.
2. Press and Adhere Tiles
Firmly press tiles into the mortar, using spacers between them for even grout lines. Don’t slide tiles through the thinset—press in place gently. Twist slightly to ensure full adhesive contact.
Work in small sections. Before the thinset dries, inspect the back of a tile—it should be at least 80% covered in adhesive. Remove and re-adhere any tiles with poor adhesion.
Continue setting tiles, periodically checking they are level with spacers evenly aligned. Clean away excess mortar along the edges. Allow the thinset to cure fully (24-48 hours).
3. Apply Grout Between Tiles
Mix the grout just before use. Apply grout along the tile edges using a rubber grout float or squeegee. Push it deeply into the joints, holding at 45 degree angle.
Wipe any excess grout off the tile surface with a damp sponge in diagonal motions. Rinse the sponge often. Allow grout to dry slightly and “haze” on the tile face. Polish with a soft cloth for a smooth finish.
Once dry, seal grout according to product directions to protect from moisture and staining.
Step back and enjoy your finished backsplash! Properly installed tile can last for decades. Follow proper care based on tile material to keep it looking like new.
Backsplash Tile Mistakes to Avoid
While tiling a backsplash is totally doable for DIYers, beginners should be aware of some common installation mistakes:
- Not fully spreading thinset on the back of each tile. Full mortar coverage prevents holes for moisture issues later.
- Failing to use spacers. Evenly spaced tiles ensure the grout lines look uniform and professional.
- Applying grout before the thinset fully cures. Grout can pull away not fully dried mortar, damaging adhesion.
- Neglecting to seal the grout. Sealing is crucial to prevent staining and discoloration, especially for light grout.
- Improper tile cuts. Ragged edges or slivers smaller than half a tile upset the pattern. Measure and cut carefully.
With attention to detail at each step, even first-timers can get a picture-perfect backsplash tile installation.
Tools Needed for Tiling a Backsplash
While tiling requires patience and time, you don’t need too many specialty tools. Here are the basic equipment needed:
- Tile cutter or wet saw: Cuts tile neatly and precisely to fit any space; a tile shop can make cuts for you if needed.
- Thinset mortar: Provides adhesive base to install tile on the wall.
- Trowel: Spreads thinset evenly on wall and back of tile. Look for a notched edge design.
- Grout: Fills in seams between tiles once adhered to wall.
- Grout float: Helps press grout into tile gaps and smooth joints.
- Spacers: Keeps tile spacing even and grout line thickness uniform.
- Sponges/rags: Wipes away excess thinset or grout from tile faces.
- Tape measure: Needed for measuring and spacing tiles accurately.
- Level: Confirm tiles are perfectly vertical, not slanted.
Having the right handy tools goes a long way for backsplash success you’ll enjoy for years.
How to Put Tile Backsplash on Wall: Step-by-Step
Here is a summary of the step-by-step process for installing tile backsplash:
- Select tile material (ceramic, glass, etc) and purchase extra tiles.
- Clean and prepare the wall surface where backsplash will be installed.
- Map out tile layout with focal point, pattern, and cut tile locations.
- Cut any edge tiles using a wet saw or manual tile cutter.
- Mix thinset mortar to manufacturer’s specifications for application.
- Apply thinset in sections, firmly pressing tiles into adhesive.
- Allow thinset to fully cure (24-48 hours) before grouting.
- Mix and apply grout, wiping away excess once partially cured.
- Seal grout once fully dry according to product directions.
- Enjoy your stunning, easy-clean backsplash!
Following these steps carefully results in a backsplash you’ll love showing off. Don’t be afraid to call in a tile pro if you need help!
Backsplash Tile Patterns
Choosing the right tile pattern can make or break your backsplash design. Follow these tips to select a look you’ll love:
- Perfect for beginners
- Works with any tile size or color
- Gives clean, uniform appearance
- Boring with large tile; better with mosaics
- Interesting offset look
- Stretches space visually
- Matches many home styles
- Can use multiple tile sizes
- Clean, understated look
- Pairs well with long rectangle tile
- Gives illusion of width
- Boring with uniform tiles; vary materials
- Timeless and elegant
- Works in traditional or modern kitchens
- Needs precisely cut tile
- Tricky for first-timers; better to hire pro
- Vintage, artsy vibe
- Small tile is beginner-friendly
- Sheets simplify install
- Grouting can be tedious
- Requires precision for clean lines
There are endless possibilities for backsplash tile designs. Selecting a tile style and pattern you connect with results in a personalized, functional work of art to enjoy.
Can You Put Tile Backsplash Directly on Drywall?
It is possible to install a backsplash tile directly onto existing drywall. However, this is generally not recommended, for a few reasons:
- Lack of support: Drywall alone does not provide enough shear strength for the weight of tile. It risks the tile cracking or pulling away over time.
- Moisture exposure: Tile backsplashes see a lot of humidity and steam from cooking or bathing. Drywall absorbs moisture, leading to warping.
- No waterproofing: Exposed drywall wicks water through to wall cavities, creating ideal conditions for mold growth.
- Irregular surface: Drywall joints and imperfections will show through the finished tilework.
Instead, use one of these backerboard options over drywall before tiling:
- Cement board: Impervious to moisture and very durable surface for tile. Screw in place securely.
- Fiber-cement board: Similar benefits as cement board but lighter weight. Use polymer-modified mortar.
- Glass mat backerboard: Made of fiberglass embedded in concrete. Waterproof and mold resistant.
- Water-resistant drywall: Special drywall designed for moisture-prone areas like showers or steam rooms.
Prepping the wall properly provides maximum durability, water protection, and the best looking end result with backsplash tile installed correctly. Don’t skip this critical step!
How Long Does Backsplash Tile Installation Take?
The time needed to install a tile backsplash depends on a few key factors:
- Tile size: Small mosaics and intricate patterns take much longer than large, simple tiles.
- Backsplash size: A small focal area over the stove is quicker than tiling a full wall behind counters and sinks.
- Layout complexity: Intricate designs, multiple materials, and mitered edges add time.
- Experience level: Beginners work slower and more carefully than tile pros.
As a general guideline for DIYers:
- Small project (30-50 sq ft): 1 full weekend or 2-3 evenings
- Medium project (50-100 sq ft): 1 long weekend – about 8-16 hours total
- Large project (100+ sq ft): 4 days – 16 hours minimum
A professional tile installer can typically complete projects twice as fast as a homeowner. Build extra time into your timeline for adhesive curing, grout drying, and potential mistakes or re-dos. Rushing the steps risks a poor end result, so allow plenty of time to get it right.
Cleaning and Caring for Tile Backsplash
Installing the tile backsplash is only step one—keeping it looking like new takes the right maintenance technique for your tile material:
Ceramic and Porcelain Tile
- Clean with mild detergent and warm water using soft sponge or cloth
- Avoid abrasive cleansers which can scratch surface
- Re-seal grout annually
- Immediately clean up grease/oil spills to prevent staining
Natural Stone Tile
- Clean with pH-neutral stone cleaner and soft cloth
- Seal regularly to resist staining
- Avoid vinegar, bleach, ammonia cleaners which can etch surface
- Blot spills quickly to minimize damage
- Use non-abrasive cleaners and soft sponge
- Avoid harsh chemicals and scrubbing pads
- Squeegee after showering to reduce hard water spots
- Immediately wipe up oils and soaps to prevent buildup
Regular cleaning and re-sealing as needed keeps the tile backsplash shimmering like new for years to come.
Backsplash Tile Ideas
Looking for inspiration for your kitchen or bathroom backsplash tile? Here are some eye-catching ideas and accent tile possibilities:
Mix and Match Colors
A single tile color can look flat. Create interest by blending complimentary shades. Try light and dark variants of the same hue or contrasting colors.
Add Borders or Banding
Define the backsplash space with framing borders in a different color or material. Contrasting bands also break up solid tile.
Intersperse Special Pieces
Dotting the backsplash with mosaic inserts, stone medallions, or unique ceramic tiles provides visual surprise.
Extend to Range Hood
Carry the tile from counter to ceiling behind the stove. Use this vertical space to anchor a bold color or geometric tile pattern.
Define Specific Areas
Use tile to highlight distinct zones like behind the range or above the sink. Vary materials between each space while maintaining color flow.
Accent with Metallics
Shiny metallics add a glam, reflective element. Use sparingly as an accent row or frame border to keep the look chic, not flashy.
With thoughtful tile selections, you can design a completely custom backsplash that shows off your personal style.
FAQs About Putting Tile Backsplash on Wall
Here are answers to some frequently asked questions about installing tile backsplash:
How do I prepare drywall for tile backsplash?
Install cement board, fiber cement board, or mold-resistant drywall over the existing drywall. This provides a waterproof, stable base for tile adhesion.
What thinset is best for backsplash tile?
Use a polymer-modified thinset mortar which is formulated to have maximum strength and adhesion for wall tile. White thinset works for most tiles.
Can you put tile backsplash in kitchen without removing existing backsplash?
Yes, in most cases. The old backsplash just needs to be smooth, clean, and well adhered to support new tile. Scrape off peeling materials or paints first.
How do I cut holes in my backsplash for outlets?
Mark the outlet locations on tiles and use a rotary tool, hole saw drill bit, or jigsaw to cut accurate openings. Do this before adhering tile for easiest access.
Should backsplash go all the way to ceiling?
Usually best practice is to install backsplash from counter to ceiling behind stoves, sinks, and other moisture-prone areas. But height is an aesthetic choice.
How long does backsplash tile adhesive take to dry?
Thinset mortar needs 24-48 hours to fully cure before grouting or sealing. Drying time depends on temperature, humidity, and air circulation.
Carefully following each step results in a stunning, professional-looking backsplash tile installation. With proper prep and materials, you can do it yourself and save on labor costs.
Installing a tile backsplash boosts the visual appeal of any kitchen or bath while also protecting the walls from moisture damage and stains. With strategic planning, the right materials, and careful technique, even inexperienced DIYers can achieve success tiling their backsplash. Focus on preparing the work area, choosing tiles, accurately cutting and laying them, and neatly grouting. Allow plenty of time for drying and curing each step of the way. The result will be an eye-catching, durable backsplash you’ll enjoy for years. With a beautiful new backsplash that reflects your personal taste, get ready to spend more quality time cooking, entertaining, and relaxing in your home.