How to Put Tile Backsplash

Installing a tile backsplash in your kitchen or bathroom can completely transform the look and feel of the space. Not only are tile backsplashes attractive, but they also serve the practical purpose of protecting the wall from water damage and stains. Putting up a tile backsplash is a manageable DIY project for many homeowners if you follow good preparation and installation techniques. Here is a comprehensive guide on how to put tile backsplash in your home.

Gather Materials and Tools Needed

Before starting, make sure you have all the necessary materials and tools:

  • Tiles – Ceramic, porcelain, glass, or natural stone. Purchase extra tiles to account for breakage.
  • Tile adhesive – Choose adhesive suitable for the tiles and surfaces. Many quality thinset adhesives can work for both.
  • Grout – Matches the color of the tiles. Grout colorant can also be used to change grout color after installation.
  • Trowel – For applying adhesive. Use a notched trowel suitable for the tile size.
  • Wet saw – For precisely cutting tiles if needed. A manual score and snap cutter is an alternative.
  • Grout float – For smoothing and cleaning excess grout.
  • Grout sealer – For sealing grout lines after installation.
  • Safety gear – Gloves, eye protection, knee pads, etc.

Other supplies like painter’s tape, sponges, buckets, and a grout sponge can also be useful.

Prepare the Surface

Proper prep work ensures tiles adhere correctly and last. The steps include:

  • Clean the surface thoroughly to remove grease, soapresidue, and dirt.
  • Remove any old caulk, spackle, loose paint or wallpaper. The surface should be down to the drywall or cement backerboard.
  • Fill any holes or gaps with a patching compound and let dry completely.
  • Prime the surface if painting a new drywall or doing a full remodel.
  • Apply acrylic latex mastic with a putty knife to uneven areas. This provides a smooth subsurface.
  • Finally wipe the entire surface with a clean, damp sponge right before starting.

Plan the Tile Layout

Having a well-thought tile layout is key to a successful installation.

  • Decide on the tile arrangement pattern. Basic options are stacked, brick, or staggered.
  • Map out the tile layout with a pencil if doing a complex pattern. This helps avoid narrowly cut tiles.
  • Determine the grout line width based on tile size. The rule is to not exceed 1/8th the width of the tile.
  • Account for fixture and outlet locations in the layout. Cut tiles to fit around these.
  • Cut a few tiles with the wet saw first to verify your measurements.

Apply the Tile Adhesive

With the surface prepped and layout planned, it’s time to start tiling:

  • Apply a thin layer of adhesive on a small section of the wall using the notched trowel.
  • Spread the adhesive evenly at a 45 degree angle pressing firmly.
  • Remove any excess adhesive with the trowel notches facing up.
  • Only cover sections of the wall that tiles can cover within 15-20 minutes. Otherwise the adhesive can dry prematurely.
  • Firmly press tiles into position following the layout, using spacers between tiles.
  • Use tile nippers to snap and shape cut tiles around edges and openings. Avoid narrow slivers of tile.
  • Let the adhesive cure for at least 24 hours before grouting. Do a test tile to confirm it is secure.

Apply Grout Between Tiles

Once adhesive has cured, it’s time to grout the tile joints:

  • Use a grout float or squeegee to spread grout over the tile surface. Push it firmly into joints.
  • Holding the float at a 90° angle, scrape off excess grout from the tile surface.
  • Wipe diagonally across tiles with a damp sponge to clean remaining grout residue. Rinse sponge frequently.
  • Let grout dry for about 3 hours, then use a soft cloth to polish and reduce grout haze.
  • Once grout has cured 24 hours, apply grout sealer with a small paintbrush following package directions.
  • Avoid getting sealer on the tile surfaces as much as possible. Wipe any excess off.

And that’s it! With good prep and careful installation, you can have a stunning and long-lasting tile backsplash. Maintain it by using a tile-safe cleaner and reapplying grout sealer yearly. Enjoy your new backsplash makeover! Let us know if you have any other questions.

Frequently Asked Questions About Putting Tile Backsplash

What kind of tile is best for backsplash?

Ceramic, porcelain, or natural stone tiles are popular choices. Glass mosaic tiles are also commonly used. Porcelain tiles are very durable and water-resistant. Natural stone brings an elegant look.

How do I cut tile around outlets and switches?

Use a rotary tool or angle grinder with a diamond tile blade to cut precise openings around outlets and switches. Turn off power beforehand. Make small relief cuts first rather than one long cut.

Should backsplash tile go all the way to the ceiling?

Usually it should only go about 4-6 inches above countertops or vanities. Installing to ceiling can cause lippage issues and uneven grout lines. An accent strip tile can be used along top edge.

What color grout is best with white subway tile?

White and light gray grouts look great with classic white subway tiles. They provide subtle contrast while allowing the tile color to stand out. Darker grout can also create an appealing vintage look.

How do you attach tile backsplash to wall?

Quality thinset mortar adhesive applied correctly to the wall and back of each tile is ideal for bonding tile. Ensure surface is prepared and use the right notched trowel for tile size.

How long does tile backsplash take to install?

A typical backsplash of 20-30 sq. ft. can usually be installed over a weekend. Allow extra time for cutting tiles around windows, outlets, etc. Letting adhesive and grout fully cure takes a few extra days.

How much does it cost to install a backsplash?

For materials only, an average price is $10-$25 per sq. ft. With professional labor, total costs typically range from $6-$15 per sq. ft. Higher-end tile, complex designs, and special cutting or installation increase overall cost.


Installing a tile backsplash can take your kitchen or bath to the next level both visually and functionally. With the right materials, tools, and techniques, it is a DIY-friendly project that you can successfully take on. Carefully plan the layout, properly prepare the surfaces, and apply the tile and grout methodically. Maintain the finished backsplash by sealing grout and using gentle cleaners. We hope these tips give you the confidence to tackle your own tile backsplash project!