How to Put Up a Stone Backsplash

A stone backsplash can be a beautiful addition to any kitchen or bathroom. The earthy textures and unique colors of natural stone add warmth and interest to these important rooms. Putting up a stone backsplash is a manageable DIY project for many homeowners. With some planning, patience, and the right materials, you can create a stunning backsplash that will upgrade your space.

Choose Your Stone

The first step in installing a stone backsplash is selecting your material. There are many options to consider that can complement your design aesthetic and budget.


Granite is one of the most popular choices for stone backsplashes. It comes in a diverse array of colors and patterns from solid black slabs to multi-colored stone with veining in tones like gray, beige, red, and green. Granite is very durable, naturally stain and scratch resistant, and has a luxurious polished or honed look. It’s on the higher end cost-wise but makes a timeless statement.


Marble is known for its elegant veining and upscale aesthetic. It comes in various colors like white, gray, black, and green. Marble has a refined Old World look that works well in traditional spaces. Just keep in mind it stains more easily than granite and requires re-sealing.


Slate is appreciated for its natural cleft texture and earthy gray-blue hues. It has a more casual and organic vibe perfect for farmhouse, craftsman, or modern spaces. Slate is budget-friendly and very durable.


Travertine is a cream and tan colored limestone that brings warmth to a space. It’s characterized by small holes and pits that give it a rustic, Old World style. Travertine comes in tile or slab forms. It stains easily but adds a lovely neutral backdrop.


Soapstone is uniquely soft and smooth to the touch with subtle gray and charcoal coloring. It develops a patina over time that adds character. Soapstone is resistant to acids, staining, and etching. This makes it ideal for kitchen backsplashes.

Choose the Stone Format

Stone backsplashes can be purchased in tile, slab, or thin veneer formats. Assess your design plan, skill level, and budget to decide which works best.


Stone tile offers the most versatility and DIY-friendly option. Tiles come in standard sizes like 12×12 inches or subway brick dimensions from several suppliers. Mix and match different tiles for a custom look. Setting stone tile is comparable to ceramic or porcelain tile.


Stone slabs are single cut pieces generally measuring 30 inches tall and around 5 feet wide. Slabs require professional cutting and installation but give a seamless upscale appearance. Granite, marble, and soapstone most often come in slab form.

Thin Veneer

Thin stone veneers consist of slices of real stone adhered to a mesh backing that makes installation easy. This newer product gives the look of natural stone in a lightweight tile format suitable for DIY projects. Thin veneer comes in various stone types and sizes.

Estimate How Much Stone You Need

Once you’ve chosen the right stone in your preferred format, accurately measure the backsplash area to estimate needed material:

  • Measure the height and length of the backsplash area and multiply to get the total square footage. Most standard backsplashes range from 4 to 6 feet high.
  • For tile, divide the total square footage by the size of your tile to calculate how many you need. Add an extra 10% for cuts and waste.
  • For slabs, the supplier can help you determine how much is required based on the measurements.
  • For thin veneer, each piece covers around 5 square feet. Get enough to cover your area plus extras.

Take your measurements and selected stone to the stone supplier to ensure you purchase the right amount.

Gather Your Materials

Installing a stone backsplash takes time so make sure you have all needed materials before beginning:

  • Stone tiles, thin veneer, or slab
  • Mortar or thinset adhesive
  • Notched trowel
  • Grout
  • Grout float
  • Grout sealer
  • Tile spacers
  • Tile cutter (if using tile)
  • Mixing bucket
  • Mixing paddle
  • Caulk
  • Stone sealer
  • Safety gear – gloves, goggles, mask
  • Drop cloths

Also make sure you have adequate lighting and ventilation. Take your time gathering supplies so you don’t find yourself lacking anything mid-project.

Prepare the Surface

Proper prep work ensures your backsplash adheres properly for the long term:

  • Clean the backsplash area thoroughly, removing any old adhesive, grease, or soap scum.
  • Fill any holes or imperfections with spackle and let dry completely.
  • Remove outlet covers and switch plates if necessary.
  • Cover countertops, floors, and appliances with drop cloths.
  • Apply painter’s tape along the edges of the backsplash area.
  • If installing on drywall, prime the area first so the mortar sticks.

With the surface prepped and protected, you’re ready to start installing.

Install the Backsplash

Now it’s time for the fun part – setting your gorgeous new stone backsplash! Follow these steps:

Step 1: Plan Your Layout

  • Dry lay a row of tiles across the bottom to map out placement and get even spacing.
  • Minimize small cut tiles on the edges and aim for a symmetrical design.
  • Mark the center and work outward if installing a single slab.

Take a picture of the layout before moving on in case you need a reference.

Step 2: Mix the Mortar

  • Prepare the mortar adhesive according to package directions in a bucket.
  • Let it sit for 10 minutes then give it another quick stir.
  • Pour some mortar out and use a notched trowel to apply a thin layer to the backsplash area.

Step 3: Set the First Row

  • Press the first row of tiles or veneer into place using spacers to maintain even grout lines.
  • Check they are level and leave space at the bottom edge.
  • Once set, gently lift a tile to inspect mortar transfer – there should be full contact.
  • Allow the mortar to dry completely per manufacturer instructions before moving on.

Step 4: Apply Mortar and Set Remaining Tiles

  • Spread mortar on a small section of the surface area. Apply mortar to the back of each piece as well.
  • Continue setting tiles row by row. Remove spacers, press tiles into the mortar, replace spacers.
  • Periodically check level and alignment as you go. Clean excess mortar.
  • Let tiles fully set before grouting or walking on them. Patience pays off.

Step 5: Cut Edge Pieces as Needed

  • Measure and mark tiles for perimeter cuts and around outlets.
  • Use a wet saw for stone tile or score and snap thinner veneer.
  • Set cut pieces with mortar and spacers. Let dry completely.

Take your time on cuts for tight seams and smooth edges.

Step 6: Grout the Joints

  • Mix grout per package instructions. Apply to joints with a grout float.
  • Push diagonally to fill all spaces and remove excess. Allow it to firm up slightly.
  • Wipe clean with a damp sponge in circular motions. Rinse sponge frequently.
  • Remove spacers once grout has dried.

Be diligent cleaning grout before it dries for best results.

Step 7: Seal the Stone

  • Once grout has cured, apply a penetrating stone sealer.
  • Wipe on with a clean cloth, let sit for 15 minutes, then buff off excess.
  • Use a grout sealer on the grout lines for added protection.

Sealing is crucial to prevent staining and deterioration of natural stone.

Step 8: Finish the Edges

  • Run a bead of silicone caulk along the bottom edge and perimeter.
  • Use a wet finger to smooth the caulk line. Remove painter’s tape.
  • Replace switch plates, outlets, fixtures.

Caulk around edges keeps moisture out and gives a polished look.

Maintaining Your Stone Backsplash

A few simple maintenance steps will keep your stone backsplash looking like new:

  • Seal the stone 1-2 times per year to prevent staining. Reapply grout sealer as needed.
  • For routine cleaning, use a pH neutral stone cleaner and soft cloth. Never use harsh products.
  • Spot clean oil, grease etc immediately to prevent absorption.
  • Check for loose or cracked grout and re-grout as necessary.
  • Take care not to drop heavy objects or scrape the surface.

Your stone backsplash is built to last for decades to come with proper care. Any stain issues or re-grouting that may be needed are easy fixes.

With the right prep work, materials, and installation process, you can install a stone backsplash successfully. Natural stone immediately elevates kitchens and bathrooms with its innate elegance. Take your time, follow safe practices, and get ready to enjoy your new backsplash for years of beauty and durability.

FAQ About Installing Stone Backsplashes

Many questions come up when taking on a stone backsplash installation. Here are helpful answers to some frequently asked questions:

Is installing a stone backsplash a DIY-friendly project?

Installing a stone backsplash is absolutely manageable as a DIY project, especially when using a tile format. The process is comparable to installing ceramic or porcelain tile. Just make sure you have the right tools and take precautions when handling heavy material.

What’s the best way to cut stone backsplash tile or thin veneer?

The cleanest cuts are achieved with a quality wet saw which most home improvement stores rent. You can also use a manual tile cutter or score and snap thicker stone. A circular saw with a diamond blade works too but creates more dust.

How long does mortar take to dry before grouting?

It’s critical to let mortar fully cure before grouting – exact times vary by product but 24-48 hours is typical. Grouting before the mortar has dried will cause problems like cracked tiles. Be patient for best results.

Should sanded or unsanded grout be used with stone backsplash tile?

Unsanded grout is recommended for stone with narrow grout joints under 1/8 inch. Sanded grout can scratch the surface of polished stone. Match your grout type to the grout lines of your tile.

What’s the purpose of sealing a natural stone backsplash?

Sealing is crucial to prevent staining or water damage on porous materials like natural stone. It acts like an invisible barrier to repel moisture and liquids. Reapply yearly or as directed by the sealer product instructions.

How do you clean and care for a stone backsplash?

Use a gentle stone cleaner and soft cloth for regular cleaning. Never use abrasive scouring pads or harsh chemicals which can damage the finish. Promptly wipe up spills to avoid staining. Check grout periodically and re-seal as needed.

What’s the best way to remove dried mortar or grout from a stone backsplash?

Use a mix of water and white vinegar or a commercial tile cleaning product. Let it soak in for 5-10 minutes then scrub gently with a non-abrasive brush. Rinse thoroughly. Avoid metal scouring pads or scrapers that might scratch.

Can stone backsplash tile be painted if I want to change the look?

Technically yes – a tile painting kit adheres well to stone. But paint prevents stone from breathing naturally and will need frequent touch ups. For best results, embrace the inherent beauty of your stone or replace with new tile.

Let us know if you have any other stone backsplash questions! Proper planning, patience, and care will ensure it maintains its elegance.

Installing a Stone Backsplash – Step-by-Step

Installing your own stone backsplash can seem daunting but breaks down into very manageable steps. Follow this step-by-step process for success:

Step 1 – Select Stone Type and Format

Consider the color, texture, and style you want along with your budget. Choose tile, thin veneer, or slab stone. Order extra for cuts and mistakes.

Step 2 – Measure Precisely

Carefully measure every inch of your backsplash area including outlets and edges. This ensures you get the right amount of stone.

Step 3 – Gather Supplies

Obtain all the tools, materials, and prep items needed for installation before starting. Safety gear is a must.

Step 4 – Prep the Surface

Clean thoroughly, fill imperfections, remove outlet covers, and protect surrounding areas with drop cloths.

Step 5 – Dry Lay First Row

Arrange the first row of tile across the bottom as a guide for placement and spacing.

Step 6 – Mix Mortar

Prepare mortar adhesive per instructions in a bucket. Let sit 10 minutes then give it another stir.

Step 7 – Apply Mortar

Use a notched trowel to spread an even layer of mortar on a small section of the backsplash area.

Step 8 – Set First Row

Press the first row of tiles into place with spacers, verifying they are level. Let mortar fully cure.

Step 9 – Mortar & Set Remaining Tiles

Apply mortar to the next section and set additional rows of tile. Remove spacers and clean excess as you go.

Step 10 – Cut Tiles as Needed

Measure and mark perimeter tiles for trimming with a wet saw. Set cut pieces with spacers.

Step 11 – Grout the Joints

Mix grout and apply to tile joints with a float. Wipe clean with a damp sponge.

Step 12 – Seal the Stone

Once grouted and dried, seal the backsplash with a penetrating stone sealer. Apply grout sealer too.

Step 13 – Finish Edges

Caulk along the bottom edge and perimeter for a polished look. Replace fixtures and outlet covers.

Step 14 – Clean-up

Rinse all equipment and tools thoroughly. Remove drop cloths and vacuum up any debris.

And enjoy your stunning new backsplash! Let us know if you have any other installation questions.

Common Mistakes to Avoid with Stone Backsplashes

Be proactive to avoid these common pitfalls when installing a stone backsplash:

Not Prepping the Surface

Skipping important prep steps like cleaning and priming can prevent proper mortar adhesion and lead to eventual failure.

Choosing the Wrong Stone

Select a stone suited to your needs – softer stones like marble stain easier in kitchens, for example. Consider durability.

Using Mastic Instead of Mortar/Thinset

Mastic dries weaker than mortar designed for the weight and vibration resistance needed in backsplashes.

Applying Grout Before Mortar is Dry

Letting the mortar fully cure first provides a stable base to handle grout installation and prevent cracking.

Using Sanded Grout with Polished Stone

The sand in sanded grout will scratch and cloud polished stone finishes. Use unsanded grout instead.

Not Sealing the Stone

Sealing is mandatory to prevent staining on porous materials like natural stone. Remember to re-seal yearly.

Improper Grout Line Spacing

Consistent grout line spacing looks most professional. Use tile spacers and check alignment periodically.

Not Cleaning Grout Before it Dries

Promptly wiping up grout with a damp sponge minimizes haze and residue that are harder to remove once dry.

Using Harsh Cleaners

Abrasive cleansers and scrubbing can damage stone surfaces. Use gentle pH neutral stone cleaners instead.

Avoid rookie mistakes with careful project planning. Let us know if you have any other backsplash questions!

How to Grout a Stone Backsplash

Perhaps the most intimidating part of a DIY stone backsplash installation is grouting those joints. Follow these top tips for grouting success:

1. Allow Mortar to Fully Cure

Don’t rush into grouting. Let the mortar dry for at least 48 hours so tiles are firmly set. Grout on unset mortar can loosen tiles.

2. Choose the Right Grout

For polished stone with narrow joints under 1/8 inch, use unsanded grout. The sand in sanded grout would scratch polished finishes.

3. Prepare a Small Batch of Grout

Mix just enough grout according to package directions for the amount of area you can cover in 30 minutes. Grout dries quickly.

4. Apply Grout with a Grout Float

Using a grout float or squeegee, spread grout diagonally across the joints pressing firmly to fill all spaces.

5. Work in Small Sections

Focus on fully grouting 3-4 square feet at a time before moving on. Don’t spread yourself too thin.

6. Wipe Away Excess Grout

Wipe diagonally across tiles with a damp sponge to remove excess grout before it dries. Rinse sponge frequently.

7. Clean Until Almost Dry

Keep wiping and rinsing until the grout haze is gone and joint lines are uniform. Catch grout before it dries for easiest cleanup.

8. Avoid Heavy Pressure

Lightly wiping in circles is safest for the tile. Scrubbing hard with a rough sponge can scratch the stone surface.

9. Check Your Work

Scan for any remaining haze once grout is almost dry. Re-wipe any areas needing attention before it fully dries.

10. Allow Full Curing

Let grout dry completely according to manufacturer directions before sealing or using the backsplash. Proper curing prevents cracks.

Take your time with grouting and the results will look flawless. Let us know if