How to Put Up Ceramic Backsplash

Installing a ceramic tile backsplash can add style, color, and easy-to-clean durability to your kitchen. With some planning and prep work, you can achieve a high-quality backsplash installation. Here is a step-by-step guide on how to put up a ceramic backsplash in your kitchen.

Materials Needed

  • Ceramic tiles
  • Tile adhesive (thinset mortar)
  • Grout
  • Trowel
  • Grout float
  • Sponge
  • Tile spacers
  • Tile cutter or wet saw
  • Safety gear – gloves, goggles, mask
  • Bucket for mixing adhesive
  • Rubber mallet
  • Tile nippers
  • Utility knife
  • Tape measure
  • Level
  • Pencil

Prepare the Wall Surface

Proper prep work is crucial for a long-lasting backsplash installation.

  • Remove existing backsplash if there is one. Scrape off any old tile adhesive.
  • Fill any holes or imperfections in the wall with spackle. Allow to dry completely.
  • The wall surface must be smooth and clean. Wipe down the area with a damp cloth.
  • Apply painter’s tape along the edges and around outlets to protect surfaces.

Planning the Layout

  • Measure the backsplash area and draw out a layout for the tile placement.
  • Mark a horizontal line at the bottom edge where you want the tiles to start. This is your reference line.
  • Use tile spacers to account for grout lines when measuring.
  • For most backsplash designs, you will start full tiles at the bottom and cut tiles to fit at the top.

Apply the Tile Adhesive

  • Prepare the thinset mortar according to package directions.
  • Use a notched trowel to spread adhesive evenly over the backsplash area, holding at a 45 degree angle.
  • Apply only enough that can be tiled within 15-20 minutes while the adhesive is still tacky.

Setting and Grouting the Tiles

  • Starting at your reference line, press tiles firmly into the adhesive.
  • Use spacers between tiles to create uniform grout lines.
  • Cut edge tiles as needed with a tile cutter or wet saw.
  • Let the adhesive dry completely, usually 24 hours.
  • Mix the grout according to package instructions. Apply over the tiles, forcing it into the grout lines.
  • Let it set up slightly and then scrub off excess grout with a sponge.
  • Remove spacers once grout has dried.
  • Apply grout sealant for extra moisture protection.

Tips for a Professional Look

  • Use sanded grout for grout lines wider than 1/8th inch.
  • Plan an accent strip or border to finish edges.
  • Wrap tiles around corners or install edge bullnose tiles.
  • Clean excess grout immediately before it dries using minimal water.
  • Use grout caulk where the backsplash meets the countertop.

Common Backsplash Tile Patterns

There are endless options when arranging backsplash tiles. Some popular layout patterns include:

Stacked pattern: Simple rows of full tiles stacked vertically. Easy to achieve.

Brick pattern: Rows are offset half a tile width like brickwork. Adds visual interest.

Herringbone: Tiles form a V pattern resembling fish bones. Needs precision cutting.

Subway tile: Classic 3×6 inch rectangular glossy tiles in a brick pattern.

Mosaic: Small uniform tiles arranged to form an overall design.

FAQs About Installing a Ceramic Backsplash

How do I cut ceramic tiles?

You can cut ceramic tiles using a manual tile cutter or wet saw. Score the tile and snap it for straight cuts. Use a wet saw with a diamond blade for curved cuts. Always wear safety goggles.

What size tile is best for a backsplash?

Smaller tiles 3×6 inches or 4×4 inches are commonly used. Larger tiles can also work if you don’t want grout lines. Mosaics use tiny 1×1 inch tiles.

How do I create an outlet cutout?

Measure and mark the outlet area. Use a utility knife to score the glaze. Tap lightly with a hammer to break tile along lines. Use nippers to extract fragments. File sharp edges.

Can I install tile over existing backsplash?

It depends on what it’s made of. Tile can usually go over ceramic tile, but may not adhere well over plastic, metal, or laminates. Remove old backsplash completely when possible.

How long does backsplash tile installation take?

It takes 2-3 days – day 1 to prep and install tiles, day 2 to let adhesive dry, and day 3 to grout and seal. Working time depends on the size of your backsplash.

What kind of thinset do I use for backsplash tile?

Use white polymer-modified thinset for walls. It is formulated to be more flexible and have greater adhesion strength. Unsanded thinset is preferred for small mosaic tiles.


Installing a ceramic tile backsplash can give your kitchen a fresh new look with beautiful and practical results. Follow proper planning, prep work, precise tile-setting, and grouting techniques for best results. Take time to arrange your tile layout and patterns. With some patience and the right materials and tools, you can achieve a backsplash like a pro!