How to Retile a Kitchen Backsplash

Retiling your kitchen backsplash can completely transform the look and feel of your kitchen. With so many tile options available, from subway tile to mosaic to marble, you can create a backsplash that matches your taste and style. Retiling a backsplash is also a great way to update your kitchen without a full remodel. With some planning, the right materials, and proper technique, you can install a fresh new backsplash in your kitchen.

Preparing to Retile the Backsplash

Before picking out your tiles, you’ll want to fully prepare the backsplash area for new tile installation. Proper preparation is key to achieving a long-lasting finish.

Remove the Existing Backsplash

The first step is to remove the existing backsplash completely. Take time to break away all of the old tile and scrape off any remaining thinset mortar on the wall. Use a putty knife, chisel, or oscillating multi-tool to help remove stubborn tiles or thinset. Wear safety goggles to protect your eyes from debris. Completely remove every trace of the old backsplash.

Clean the Wall Surface

Once the old tile is removed, thoroughly clean the bare wall surface. Use a cleaning solution or mineral spirits to remove any remaining dirt, oil, or soap film. A clean surface allows the thinset mortar to properly adhere to the wall. Wipe any dust or debris away with a dry cloth.

Make Any Necessary Repairs

Check the wall for any imperfections underneath the area where the backsplash will be installed. Fill any holes or cracks with spackle or joint compound, and sand smooth. The wall surface should be as smooth as possible for tile application.

Pick the Right Tile

With the prep work complete, now is the time to pick out your new tiles! Visit a tile showroom to view all the options in person. Consider the size, color, texture, and style that appeals most to your taste. Some popular choices include subway tile, marble or stone, ceramic, glass mosaic, and travertine. Think about how the new tile will coordinate with your cabinetry, countertops, and overall kitchen decor. Purchase a little extra tile to account for damaged or improperly cut tiles.

How to Install the New Backsplash Tile

Once you have gathered the necessary tile and tools, you’re ready to install the new backsplash tile. Proper technique is important for creating a finished product that will last.

Gather Materials and Tools

You will need the following:

  • Tile and grout of your choice
  • Thinset mortar
  • Notched trowel
  • Grout float
  • Mixing bucket
  • Tile spacers
  • Tile cutter (if needed)
  • Grout sealer


  • Safety goggles and gloves
  • Tape measure
  • Level
  • Utility knife
  • Carbide-tipped grout saw (if needed)

Prepare the Tile for Installation

Lay out your tiles and arrange them to determine the optimal placement for the pattern and design you want. Cut any perimeter tiles to fit against the countertop, edges, or cabinets using the tile cutter. Cut holes for outlets or fixtures using the grout saw.

Mix the Thinset Mortar

Combine the thinset mortar powder with water in a bucket according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Mix it to a smooth, paste-like consistency. Allow it to slake for 5-10 minutes before applying it to the wall.

Apply the Thinset and Tiles

Use the notched trowel to spread a layer of thinset mortar evenly across a section of the wall, about 1 square foot at a time. Press the tiles into the thinset firmly, using spacers between them for even grout lines. Check with a level often to ensure the tiles are straight. Allow the thinset to cure completely before grouting.

Apply the Grout and Finish

Once the thinset has cured, mix up your grout according to package directions. Apply it over the tiles to fill the grout lines, using the grout float. Wipe away excess grout with a damp sponge. Allow the grout to cure fully and apply a grout sealer to protect it from moisture and stains.

How to Retile a Kitchen Backsplash FAQ

Still have some questions about retiling your kitchen backsplash? Here are answers to some frequently asked questions:

How long does it take to install a new backsplash?

For an average sized backsplash of 20-30 square feet, it usually takes 2-3 days from start to finish. The thinset mortar needs a full 24 hours to cure before grouting can begin.

What’s the best grout to use for a kitchen backsplash?

Sanded grout is best for tile joints wider than 1/8 inch. It provides greater strength and resistence to cracking. Unsanded grout is best for narrow grout lines. Use a grout color that complements your tile.

Should I use glass tile for a backsplash?

Glass mosaic tile can create a beautiful, shiny backsplash. However, glass tile is prone to cracking and can be difficult for a DIYer to cut and install. Make sure you have the right tools and take extra care when working with it.

How do I cut holes in tile for outlets and switches?

Use a carbide-tipped grout saw to carefully and slowly cut any curved openings needed in the tile for fixtures or outlets. Curved cuts help prevent cracking. Alternatively, you can purchase outlet cover plates designed for tile backsplashes.

What’s the most water-resistant tile for behind a sink?

Porcelain and ceramic tile are very water-resistant options. Also look for tiles labeled as frost-proof or anti-mold, ideal for areas prone to moisture like behind a sink. Avoid natural stone which can absorb water and stain easily.


With the right prep work, materials, tools, and techniques, you can tackle a DIY backsplash project and completely transform the look of your kitchen. Pay close attention to proper thinset application and grouting for a long-lasting finish. The end result will be a stunning backsplash you can enjoy for years to come. With a little patience and dedication, you can retile your backsplash like a pro.