How to Put Up a Ceramic Tile Backsplash

Installing a ceramic tile backsplash can completely transform the look of your kitchen or bathroom. Not only does a backsplash provide an eye-catching focal point, it also protects your walls from moisture, stains and splashes. Putting up ceramic tile on your backsplash is a manageable project for many DIYers. With proper planning, patience and the right tools, you can achieve a stylish, durable backsplash that suits your taste and budget.

Getting Started with Your Ceramic Tile Backsplash Project

Before picking up any tools, take the time to make some key preparations. Careful planning at this stage will save you time and frustration down the road.

Determine the Design

One of the most exciting parts of a backsplash project is choosing the tile design. Visit home improvement stores to view the myriad of styles, colors, patterns and materials available. Bring home samples to see how they coordinate with your cabinetry, counters, appliances and decor.

Keep in mind factors like:

  • Color/pattern – Select something that complements your overall kitchen or bath style. A vibrant or ornate tile can bring life to a neutral space, while simple tiles suit busier rooms.
  • Material – Ceramic and porcelain are most common, but also consider glass, stone or metal tiles.
  • Cost – More intricate or natural stone tiles often costs more. Set a realistic budget.
  • Purpose – Consider your everyday use of the space. For heavy-use kitchens, durable glossy ceramic may be best.
  • Space size – Large, continuous backsplash tiles can make small spaces appear bigger.
  • Grouting – Contrasting grout lines add definition. Minimally spaced tiles create a seamless look.

Visit showrooms and design centers to view whole vignettes showcasing tile options. This will give you a better sense of patterns, textures and sizes.

Calculate the Area and Materials Needed

Once your design is determined, calculate how much tile you will need. Measure the height and width of the backsplash area in inches. Multiply the two measurements to determine the square footage. Refer to the tile packaging to see how much coverage you get per box. Plan to buy 10-15% extra to account for unusable damaged tiles and allow for future repairs.

Other materials needed include:

  • Tile adhesive (thinset)
  • Grout
  • Spacers
  • Sealant
  • Trowel
  • Tile cutter
  • Wet saw (for intricate cuts)

Make a list of all necessary tools and materials and pick them up well in advance. Confirm you have the right sizes, colors and amounts.

Prepare the Work Area

Protecting your counters, floors and other surfaces will save cleanup time later.

  • Clear the counters and move appliances away from the backsplash area.
  • Cover nearby surfaces with rosin paper, plastic sheeting or drop cloths.
  • Have a shop vacuum ready to keep the dust under control.
  • Cover any open doorways with plastic to contain messes.

You may want to do the initial demolition of the old backsplash first so you have an empty canvas to work on.

Removing the Existing Backsplash

If there is already a backsplash in place, you will need to remove it prior to installing the new tile. Take time to properly prepare the surface.

Utilities and Safety

  • Turn off electricity and gas to appliances in the backsplash area. Shut off the water supply as well.
  • Wear safety goggles, gloves and a breathing mask – old tile often contains asbestos.
  • Have a first aid kit available in case of cuts from sharp edges.

Demo and Surface Prep

  • Use a putty knife, hammer and pry bar to remove the old backsplash tiles and adhesive.
  • Discard the debris as you work. The goal is to get down to the bare wall surface.
  • Inspect the exposed area and use a putty knife to scrape off any remaining globs of adhesive or grout.
  • Fill any gouges in the wall with spackle and allow to fully dry.
  • Sand any bumps for a smooth finish. Wipe away all dust with a damp cloth.
  • Prime the surface with a latex primer to aid adhesion of new tile. Allow the primer to dry completely.

The wall surface should now be prepped and ready for your beautiful new backsplash!

How to Install the Ceramic Tile

Once you have a clean, smooth surface, you can move on to the fun part – installing the tile! Follow these tips for properly laying the ceramic tile:

Step 1: Plan the Layout

  • Measure the area and find the vertical and horizontal halfway points. Mark light guidelines in pencil.
  • Dry lay a row of tile along the bottom edge.
  • Adjust so tiles at each end are cut evenly between halfway markers.
  • Use spacers between tiles to account for even grout lines.
  • Adjust your lines if needed to achieve a balanced layout.

Step 2: Mix the Adhesive

  • Follow instructions on the thinset packaging to achieve the right consistency.
  • Use a paddle mixer and large bucket or mortar pan.
  • Only mix what you can use in 30-45 minutes before it sets. Discard any unused thinset.
  • Consistency should be thick and pasty but still spreadable. Add water or powder to adjust.

Step 3: Spread the Thinset

  • Use the notched edge of your trowel to spread a scratch coat of thinset onto the wall.
  • Apply only a small area at one time – just enough to place a few tiles.
  • Hold the trowel at a 45° angle to create grooves for adhesion.
  • Use the flat side of the trowel to knock down any high ridges.

Step 4: Place the Tiles

  • Place the bottom corner tile first in accordance with your layout lines. Use spacers around the edges.
  • Press the tile firmly into place, using a slight twisting motion. Knock the surface with a rubber mallet.
  • Check that it is level and aligned with guide lines. Adjust if necessary before the thinset dries.
  • Continue setting tiles one by one, working up and out from the bottom corner.
  • Periodically inspect the backside to ensure proper adhesive transfer and contact.

Step 5: Cut the Tiles

  • Use the tile cutter for straight cuts along the edges. Score and snap.
  • For L-shaped, U-shaped and notch cuts, use a wet saw.
  • Set tile pieces gently into position. They can break and crack easily.
  • Fit perimeter tiles snugly against the spacers for consistent grout lines.

Step 6: Finish Grouting the Tile

  • Allow the tile adhesive to cure fully – usually 24 hours.
  • Mix the grout with water per package instructions. Apply with a rubber float.
  • Push into joints using a diagonal motion. Remove excess grout with the edge of the float.
  • Wipe surface clean with a damp sponge in a circular motion. Rinse the sponge frequently.
  • Allow grout to cure 24 hours, then apply grout sealer.
  • Remove spacers once grout has hardened.

Take pride in your beautiful new backsplash installation! Enjoy for years to come.

FAQs About Installing a Ceramic Tile Backsplash

Still have some lingering questions? Here are answers to some frequently asked questions about installing a ceramic tile backsplash:

Should I hire a pro or DIY my backsplash project?

Installing a backsplash is totally doable for a dedicated DIYer, especially one with basic tiling experience. But for a large project or intricate design, consider hiring a professional tile setter for a flawless finished look.

What tools and materials do I need?

You’ll need a tile cutter, wet saw, trowels, buckets, tape measure, spacers, mixing paddle, grout float, sponges, hammer, safety gear… plus thinset, grout, primer and sealant. Have tile on hand last.

How do I pick the right tile?

Consider the style, purpose and size of your space. Look at color, texture, pattern options to complement your cabinets, counters and decor. Set a budget. Bring home samples.

How do I remove an old backsplash?

Turn off utilities. Wear protective gear while demoing tiles with a pry bar and putty knife. Discard debris responsibly. Scrape off any remaining adhesive. Fill gouges; sand and prime.

What should I use to prep the wall surface?

Scrape off any residual grout or adhesive, spackle gouges, sand bumps, wipe away dust, and apply latex primer to ensure proper adhesion of new tile.

Can I apply tile directly over existing backsplash?

It’s not advisable. Old adhesive, grout and tile can prevent proper bonding. Best to remove completely down to bare wall surface.

What do I do if my wall surface is uneven?

For minor dips and bumps, use thinset to build it back up to flat. If the wall itself is crooked, consider installing backerboard first to create a straight, flush surface.

How do I space out my tile layout?

Start tiles in the center and work outward. Use spacers for consistent grout lines. Cut edge tiles evenly. Step back periodically to ensure the layout looks balanced.

How soon can I grout after applying tile?

It’s crucial to allow the tile adhesive to cure fully – usually 24 hours. Check packaging. If grouted too soon, tiles may shift and slide out of position.

Tips for Maintaining Your Ceramic Tile Backsplash

Ceramic tile is durable and stain-resistant. With proper care, your new backsplash will maintain its beauty and function for decades. Here are some tips:

  • Seal grout lines annually to protect from moisture and staining.
  • Use a pH-balanced soap and water for routine cleaning. Avoid harsh chemicals.
  • Rinse soap away thoroughly to prevent streaky mineral deposit buildup over time.
  • Blot spills quickly to prevent staining of the grout lines.
  • Re-caulk perimeter joints every few years as needed. Check for cracks.
  • Be gentle with steel wool or scrub sponges as they can scratch the surface glaze.

With just simple, regular care, your ceramic tile backsplash will stay looking fabulous for years of beauty and service in your home!


Installing a ceramic tile backsplash can take your kitchen or bathroom from basic to beautiful! With good planning, proper materials and tools, plus each step completed carefully, you can achieve stunning results. Just take it slowly and don’t be afraid to ask experts for advice. soon you will have a custom backsplash you can’t stop admiring.