How to Replace a Kitchen Backsplash

Replacing your outdated or damaged kitchen backsplash can completely transform the look and feel of your kitchen. With the right planning and preparation, it can be an easy DIY project to take on. This comprehensive guide will walk you through everything you need to know to successfully replace your kitchen backsplash.

Assessing Your Current Backsplash

Before tearing out your old backsplash, take some time to assess its current condition. This will help you determine whether a full replacement is necessary or if you can get by with a simple refresh.

Consider the following:

  • What material is it made of? Ceramic tile, metal, glass, and other durable materials may just need a good scrubbing or re-grouting to look new again. More delicate materials like wallpaper or painted drywall may need complete replacement.
  • Is it cracked, broken, or missing tiles? A few damaged tiles can be selectively replaced, but if the damage is widespread you’re better off starting fresh with a new backsplash.
  • Is it outdated or stained? Backsplashes from the 70s or 80s may seem dated. Stains that have soaked into the grout can be difficult to remove. In these cases, you’ll get the biggest visual impact by installing an entirely new backsplash.
  • Does it have moisture damage or mold? Damage from leaks or humidity may necessitate a full replacement for both aesthetic and safety reasons.

Thoroughly cleaning your existing backsplash can also help you determine if a refresh is possible or if replacement is the best option.

Selecting a New Backsplash

Once you’ve decided to fully replace your backsplash, the fun part begins—choosing a new one! Consider the following factors when selecting a material:

  • Your budget: Backsplash materials can range from $10 per sq. ft. for basic tile to $50 per sq. ft. or more for higher-end options like natural stone or glass tile. Measure your space and set a realistic budget.
  • Ease of installation: Self-adhesive vinyl tiles or panels are the easiest for DIY installation. Ceramic, porcelain or glass tile require more tile-setting skills.
  • Cleaning needs: Polished stone, stainless steel, glass and glazed ceramic tile are very low-maintenance. Unsealed natural stone and grouted tile require periodic sealing and scrubbing.
  • Durability: Ceramic, porcelain or glass tile stand up best to heat, moisture and daily wear-and-tear. Natural stone and engineered materials like quartz have varying levels of durability.
  • Style: Consider the cabinetry, countertops, flooring and decor style you already have. Aim for a backsplash that complements your overall kitchen design.

Once you select a material, choose a color, pattern and finish that will give you the visual impact you want. Be daring with a vibrant glass mosaic or polished metallic tile, or keep it classic with white subway tile or neutral stone.

Preparing for Installation

Replacing a backsplash requires careful preparation and safety precautions. Here are some tips to get set up for a smooth installation:

  • Clear the work area: Remove everything from the counters and walls near the backsplash area. You’ll need lots of clear workspace. Cover any surfaces that can’t be cleared with plastic sheeting for protection.
  • Gather tools and materials: For tile, you’ll need tile-cutting tools, grout and a grout float, spacers, adhesive, sealant, and caulk. Have a bucket, grout sponge, towels, safety gear like gloves and goggles, and cleaning supplies on hand.
  • Turn off electricity: Shut off power to any outlets in the backsplash area to prevent getting shocked while working behind the wall.
  • Protect nearby surfaces: Cover the countertops, stove, and floor around the workspace with rosin paper or plastic sheeting taped down securely.
  • Photograph before removing: Take photos of how everything looks before dismantling your old backsplash. This will help you re-install outlets, anchors, etc in the right places.
  • Remove existing backsplash: Carefully pry off any existing wall tile, grout, or backsplash material using a putty knife or pry bar. Scrape off old adhesive and caulk.
  • Prepare the surface: Ensure the wall surface is smooth, clean, and dry. Fill any uneven spots with joint compound. Sand and wipe away dust.

With these preparations completed, you’re ready to start installing your fabulous new backsplash!

Step-by-Step Installation Guide

Follow these key steps to properly install your new backsplash tile:

1. Plan the layout

  • Measure the total area to be tiled. Make sure you purchase enough tile to cover the space, plus extras to account for broken or cut tiles.
  • Sketch a layout plan showing the tile arrangement and any pattern or border design. This will help you visualize the finished look.
  • For tile with veining or variation, do a dry layout first to distribute the tile evenly. Mix tiles from several boxes.

2. Prepare and apply adhesive

  • Choose the right adhesive for the tile material and wall surface. Latex-modified thinset mortar works for most tile.
  • Spread a thin layer of adhesive on the wall using a notched trowel held at a 45-degree angle. Apply only enough that can be tiled in 30 minutes.

3. Set the tile

  • Starting at the center and working outward, press tiles firmly into the adhesive. Use spacers between tiles for consistent grout lines.
  • Work in small sections so the adhesive doesn’t dry out. Check occasionally that tiles are level.
  • Cut border and specialty tiles with a wet tile saw as needed. Use nippers on small irregular cuts.
  • Let tile set for at least 24 hours without disturbing per adhesive manufacturer instructions.

4. Grout application

  • Mix grout per package directions. Apply grout by working it into the tile joints then diagonal scraping to remove excess.
  • Let grout dry slightly then use a damp sponge to smooth and clean tile surface. Buff with a soft cloth once dry.
  • Allow grout to fully cure for 72 hours before exposure to moisture. Avoid using kitchen/bathroom during this time if possible.

5. Finish and seal

  • Run a bead of clear silicone caulk between the countertop and new backsplash. Wipe away excess for a clean finish.
  • Inspect for any missed grout spots or gaps. Re-grout if needed.
  • Seal grout and natural stone tile with a penetrating sealer for added protection.

Follow the manufacturer’s cure times, then you can relax and enjoy your sparkling new backsplash! Proper prep and patience during installation will help ensure it lasts for many years.


Here are answers to some frequently asked questions about replacing a kitchen backsplash:

How much does it cost to replace a kitchen backsplash?

The cost can range anywhere from $400 to $1200 or more, depending on the size of your kitchen and the materials used. Simple ceramic tile can start around $5-10 per square foot. More premium materials like natural stone can range from $50-100 per square foot installed.

Can I install a new backsplash over the existing one?

It’s generally not recommended to install tile or backsplash panels directly over an existing backsplash. The old surface must be removed completely down to the wall layer first to ensure proper adhesion of the new backsplash.

What tools do I need to replace a backsplash?

Basic tools include a tape measure, pencil, utility knife, pry bar, putty knives, spacers, grout float, mixing bucket, notched trowel, grout sponge, caulk gun, and safety gear like gloves and eye protection. For cutting tile, you’ll need a wet saw or tile cutter tool.

How long does it take to replace a backsplash?

The total time will vary based on demolition of the old backsplash, size of your kitchen, and tile-setting experience. But you should plan for the entire process to take 2-3 days from start to finish. Removing the old backsplash and prepping takes a full day. Installing the tile takes another full day. Grout drying time takes about 2-3 days.

Can I install a backsplash directly on drywall, or does it need cement board?

Cement board provides a more durable surface than drywall alone. For ceramic or porcelain tile, you can usually install directly on drywall as long as it’s in good condition. But cement board is recommended for heavy tile or stone backsplashes, or if there is risk of moisture exposure that could damage drywall.

How long should I wait to use my kitchen after replacing the backsplash?

It’s best to avoid using the kitchen for 2-3 days after installing the tile to allow the grout and adhesive to fully cure. Limit moisture exposure and don’t place heavy items on countertops during this time. If you must use the kitchen, lay down rosin paper or a protective covering to keep the new backsplash clean and undamaged.


Upgrading your kitchen backsplash can make a huge difference in the look and enjoyment of your space. With proper planning and preparation, it can be a very DIY-friendly project. Carefully remove the old backsplash, select a tile material that fits your budget and style, and take time to install it correctly. In just a weekend, you’ll gain a stunning new focal point in your kitchen that can hold up for many years to come. Be patient during the installation process, and soon you’ll have a backsplash you can’t stop admiring!