How to Put Up a Backsplash – A Complete Step-by-Step Guide

Backsplashes are a great way to add visual interest and protect your walls in a kitchen or bathroom. Installing a backsplash is a relatively easy DIY project that can make a big impact. Here is a comprehensive guide on how to put up a backsplash in your home.


A backsplash is a vertical surface covered with tile, metal, glass, or other materials installed on a wall behind a sink, stove, or vanity. Backsplashes serve both decorative and functional purposes:

  • They protect the walls from water damage, grease splatters, and other messes.
  • They reflect light to brighten up the space.
  • They allow you to easily wipe away grime.
  • They add visual interest and style to your kitchen or bathroom.

Backsplashes most commonly consist of ceramic tile, but many other materials like natural stone, metal, glass, and even wood can be used. The design options are endless – pick a material, color, pattern, and texture that matches your overall decor.

Installing a backsplash is a relatively easy DIY project for most homeowners and generally takes 1-2 days to complete. With the right planning and materials, you can transform a dull wall space into an eye-catching focal point. This guide will walk you through the entire process of how to put up a backsplash step-by-step.

Things You’ll Need

  • Tile or backsplash materials
  • Tile adhesive (thinset mortar)
  • Grout
  • Trowel
  • Tile cutter or wet saw
  • Spacers
  • Grout float
  • Grout sealer
  • Caulk and caulk gun
  • Bucket or basin
  • Mixing paddle
  • Tile nippers
  • Safety gear – gloves, goggles, mask
  • Cleaning sponge and bucket

Step 1: Prepare the Surface

Proper prep work is crucial for a successful backsplash installation. Before applying any tile, you need to make sure the surface is smooth, clean, and ready:

  • Clean the wall thoroughly – Wipe down the entire backsplash area with a damp cloth to remove any dust, grease, soap residue, or other debris. Let it dry completely.
  • Fill any holes or imperfections – Use spackle or drywall joint compound to patch holes, dents, cracks, or uneven spots so the area is smooth. Let repairs dry and sand if needed.
  • Remove outlet covers – Take off any electrical outlet covers that are in the backsplash area. You’ll replace them later.
  • Prime painted walls – For glossy painted walls, lightly sand to roughen and apply a primer coat so the thinset mortar sticks better.

Starting with a blank canvas is key for proper thinset and tile adhesion. Take time to correctly prep and clean the surface.

Step 2: Plan the Layout

Carefully plotting out the backsplash design before installing will save you headaches later. Here are some tips:

  • Make a plan – Sketch out the backsplash including exact measurements, tile arrangement, pattern, border, accent tiles, trim, and outlet placement.
  • Measure precisely – Use a level and tape measure to find the exact height and length of the backsplash area. Account for uneven walls.
  • Purchase 10-15% extra tile – Buy some extra tiles to account for broken pieces, cuts, and future repairs. Leftover whole tiles can be often returned.
  • Do a dry run layout – Map out the tile pattern by placing tiles on the countertop first. Check that cuts, spacing, and grout lines align.
  • Consider outlet placement – Decide if you want outlets inside a whole tile or along the grout lines and adjust accordingly.

Having a well-thought-out design and tile plan is essential for a seamless backsplash installation. Spend time playing with different looks and layouts before actually setting the tile.

Step 3: Cut the Tile

Cutting or shaping the tiles precisely is an important step before they can be installed on the wall. Here’s how to cut tile for a backsplash:

  • Use a wet saw for straight cuts through ceramic, porcelain, or natural stone tiles. Mark the tile with a pencil where you need to cut it. Run it slowly through the wet saw to make a clean, even cut.
  • Use a manual tile cutter for basic straight cuts through softer tiles like glass or marble. Score the tile and snap it evenly along the cut line.
  • Use nippers to nip away small jagged edges or corners of cut tiles to round them.
  • Use a grinder to cut notches, holes, or intricate patterns in tiles if needed. Use proper eye and breathing protection.
  • Use a rod saw to cutOutlet openings in the middle of a tile. Drill a starter hole then insert the saw and cut the outline.

Cut, trim, or shape all tiles and lay them out before installing anything to the wall. This allows you to ensure proper fitting.

Step 4: Apply the Tile Adhesive

Applying the adhesive tile mortar evenly is one of the most important parts of the installation process:

  • Mix the thinset mortar – Pour premixed thinset powder into a bucket and mix with a paddle and water per package directions until a smooth, toothpaste-like consistency.
  • Apply it correctly – Spread the thinset evenly over a small section of the wall using the trowel’s flat edge. Then comb it horizontally with the notched edge.
  • Apply only what you can tile in 30 minutes – The thinset will start to dry and lose adhesion ability, so work in sections.
  • Use the right trowel size – Choose a trowel with notches sized for your tile so the adhesive layer is the proper thickness.
  • Get full coverage – Spread the thinset so it covers 100% of the wall, leaving no gaps or bare spots.

Proper application of the thinset mortar provides the bed for the tiles to stick to. Don’t rush this important step!

Step 5: Set the Tiles

Once the thinset mortar is spread correctly, you can begin fixing the tiles to the wall:

  • Work from the bottom up – Lay the bottom row of tiles first as your base line. Work upward row by row for easiest installation.
  • Use spacers between tiles – Place plastic tile spacers between each tile so the spacing and grout lines stay straight and even.
  • Push tiles into the thinset – Press tiles firmly into the adhesive mortar to embed them, twisting slightly. Use a rubber grout float to apply pressure.
  • Check alignment periodically – As you go, inspect tiles to ensure they are aligning properly and evenly. Adjust as needed.
  • Cut final tiles to fit – Measure and cut your ending tiles along the perimeter to fit precisely before setting them into the thinset.
  • Let adhesive cure – Allow tiles to set in the thinset per package directions before grouting, usually about 24 hours. Remove spacers.

Proper thinset mortar coverage and tile setting technique will result in a strong bond and quality installation.

Step 6: Apply the Grout

Grout fills in the spaces between tiles with a waterproof material to finish the job:

  • Mix the grout – Prepare grout per package instructions, mixing powder and liquid to a thick, peanut butter-like consistency. Give it time to slake.
  • Apply grout – Holding the float at a 45° angle, firmly push grout diagonally across the tiles to fill the joints. Remove excess.
  • Clean tiles – Once grout begins to firm up, use a damp sponge to wipe diagonal paths across the tiles cleaning off residue. Rinse sponge frequently.
  • Apply sealer – Once grout has dried for 72 hours, apply grout sealer over all grouted areas following product directions.
  • Caulk edges – Run a caulk bead along the top, bottom, and side perimeters to seal edges between tile and wall.

Letting the grout cure fully makes it waterproof. Don’t skip sealing it as the final step!

Step 7: Finish It Up

You’re almost done! To complete your new backsplash:

  • Wipe down the entire surface with a clean, damp cloth to remove any haze or residue.
  • Reinstall any electrical outlet covers, plates, soap dispensers, etc. that you removed before tiling.
  • Seal any raw tile edges that are exposed with a clear silicone.
  • Stand back and admire your work! Enjoy your newly tiled backsplash.

With the right prep, materials, and techniques, you can install your own backsplash and totally transform a kitchen or bath. Just take it step-by-step. Now get ready to reap the benefits a stylish new backsplash provides!

Frequently Asked Questions About Installing a Backsplash

Still have some questions about how to put up a backsplash? Here are answers to some commonly asked questions:

What tools do I need to install a backsplash?

You’ll need basic tiling tools like a tape measure, level, tile cutter, trowels, grout float, sponges, buckets, and mixing paddle. Safety gear like gloves and eye protection are also a must.

What’s the best tile for a backsplash?

Ceramic and porcelain tiles are most common because they are water-resistant, durable, and economical. Subway tiles are a classic choice. Stone, glass, or metal backsplashes provide other options.

How do I cut holes in tile for outlets?

Use a rotary tool or rod saw to cut an outline for outlet holes in tiles. Make holes slightly bigger than the outlet plate. Use caulk around the outlet to seal any gaps.

Should I use different grout colors?

Matching the grout color to your tile color makes the backsplash look more seamless. Contrasting grout can be used to make the tile pattern stand out more. White grout is a popular choice.

How do I remove an existing backsplash?

Carefully pry off tiles with a putty knife or chisel. Use a hammer drill or scraper blade to remove remaining thinset mortar on the wall down to the bare surface.

Can I install a backsplash directly over drywall?

Yes, but the drywall should be moisture-resistant (greenboard) and properly primed first so the thinset mortar adheres correctly.

How long does a backsplash installation take?

Plan on the project taking 1-3 days depending on the size of the space. Removing the old backsplash, prepping the wall surface, cutting tiles precisely, and letting grout cure takes time.

Should I seal my backsplash?

Sealing is a must, especially for grout between tiles. Sealers prevent stains and damage from moisture and grease. Reapply yearly. Use caulk to seal edges and corners.


Installing a kitchen or bathroom backsplash is an achievable DIY project for most homeowners with some tiling experience. Follow the steps carefully for proper preparation, precise tile cutting, setting tiles correctly, neat grouting, and thorough sealing. The end result will take your space from drab to fab!

With a stylish new backsplash as a focal point, you’ll gain an eye-catching upgrade plus a practical, protected surface behind sinks, stoves, and vanities that is easy to keep clean. Just be sure to plan thoroughly, use quality materials, and take your time following the techniques described above.

We hope this guide gives you a start-to-finish overview of how to put up a backsplash successfully. The results will be well worth the effort and will add value and beauty to any home. So pick out a tile style you love and get ready to install a head-turning backsplash!