How to Start a Backsplash

Adding a backsplash to your kitchen can completely transform the look and feel of the space. A stylish backsplash acts as an eye-catching focal point while also protecting your walls from water damage and stains. With so many backsplash ideas to choose from, it can be tricky to know where to start. This comprehensive guide will walk you through the entire process of planning, selecting, preparing for and installing a kitchen backsplash.

Choosing Your Backsplash Design and Materials

When starting a new backsplash project, one of the most exciting steps is selecting the design and materials. Backsplashes come in an endless array of styles, colors, patterns and textures to match your personal taste and complement your existing kitchen decor. Here are some of the most popular backsplash options to consider:


Tile is a classic backsplash choice that offers tons of variety. Ceramic, porcelain or natural stone tiles come in different sizes, shapes, colors and finishes. Subway tiles, mosaic tiles, large format tiles, hexagonal tiles or handmade artisan tiles are all options. Tiles can be arranged in fun patterns or clean classic lines.


Backsplashes made from natural stone like marble, travertine, granite or slate have a timeless, elegant look. Stone has unique natural veining and toning that adds depth. The stone can be installed in large slabs, irregular bricks or mosaic patterns.


Glass tile is available frosted, opaque or transparent and adds a modern, sleek look. The tiles can be plain, etched with designs or have colorful backing to create an illusion. Glass mosaic sheets offer a quick and simple backsplash option.


For an industrial vibe, metal backsplashes made from stainless steel, copper, brass or aluminum are bold and eye-catching. Metal tiles or sheets can have interesting textures and come in a range of metallic sheens.


Backsplashes made from rich wood planks or parquet add natural warmth. Different stains and finishes like distressed, whitewashed or refinished allow for customization. Wood beadboard is a cottage-style option.

Once you’ve narrowed down your preferred backsplash materials and aesthetic, sketch out some basic design ideas. Visit showrooms or order samples to see the textures and colors up close. Then you can choose the perfect backsplash for your kitchen.

Preparing Your Backsplash Area

After settling on a backsplash design, take time to properly prepare the installation area. Carefully removing the old backsplash and prepping the wall surface will help ensure your new backsplash looks flawless.

Here are the key steps for pre-installation:

  • Remove existing backsplash – Carefully pry off any existing tile or backsplash using a putty knife or pry bar, being cautious not to damage the drywall behind it. Scrape off any remaining debris or adhesive.
  • Clean the surface – Wipe down the entire backsplash area with a damp cloth to remove dust, grease and soap scum so the new tiles adhere properly.
  • Inspect and repair drywall – Look for any holes, cracks or uneven sections in the drywall and repair them with drywall compound. The surface should be as smooth as possible.
  • Prime the surface – After repairs, apply a coat of primer over the bare drywall to improve adhesion. Use a primer specifically made for tile and masonry.
  • Measure and mark – Measure the backsplash area and mark reference lines on the wall to plan the tile layout. Mark the center lines, height and width.

With the wall prepped and layout marked, you’ll have a smooth, clean surface ready for your beautiful new backsplash installation.

Gather Your Backsplash Installation Supplies

Installing a kitchen backsplash is a relatively easy DIY project with the right tools and materials. Here’s a list of the basic supplies you’ll need:

For Tile Backsplashes

  • Tile and any decorative accent tiles
  • Thinset mortar adhesive
  • Grout
  • Trowel for spreading thinset
  • Grout float for applying grout
  • Spacers for proper tile gaps
  • Tile cutter for trimming tiles
  • Wet saw for intricate tile cuts
  • Grout sealer
  • Caulk and sealant

For Other Materials

  • Backsplash panels, metal sheets or wood planks
  • Adhesive for backsplash panels
  • Screws or anchors for metal or wood
  • Silicone caulk
  • Construction adhesive for areas like around a window

Other essential tools include a tape measure, pencil, level, utility knife, carpenter’s square and suction cup handles for carrying sheet panels or glass tiles. Having all your backsplash installation materials and tools gathered ahead of time will make the project go smoothly.

Installing the New Backsplash

Once you have the wall prepped and supplies ready, it’s time for the fun part – installing your gorgeous new backsplash! Follow these tips for proper installation:

  • Spread the thinset adhesive evenly over the wall area, using the trowel’s notched edge to create ridges for the tile to adhere to. Spread only a small section at a time to prevent drying.
  • Press the tiles into the thinset one by one. Use spacers between tiles for consistent grout lines. Cut border and accent tiles as needed with tile cutters.
  • Check tiles are level and aligned. Adjust and reapply any tiles that are uneven.
  • Allow thinset to fully cure for 24-48 hours before grouting according to manufacturer’s directions.
  • Apply grout between the tiles, using a rubber grout float. Spread it across the surface diagonally while pushing into joints.
  • Wipe away excess grout with a damp sponge. Rinse sponge frequently to smooth and level grout lines. Allow grout to dry.
  • Seal grout lines to make them water and stain resistant according to product instructions.
  • Use silicone caulk around perimeter edges and where the backsplash meets the countertops for a finished look.

With proper thinset application, precise tile cutting, careful grouting and thorough sealing, you can achieve a backsplash with a seamless, built-in look.

Backsplash Maintenance Tips

Once your new backsplash is professionally installed, maintaining it properly will keep it looking like new for years to come. Here are some backsplash cleaning and care tips:

  • For everyday cleaning, use a mild soap and warm water applied with a soft sponge or microfiber cloth. Avoid harsh cleaners or abrasive pads.
  • Rinse off any acidic foods or liquids like juices, vinegar or oils to prevent etching of natural stone.
  • Re-seal grout lines annually with a penetrating grout sealer to prevent staining and discoloration.
  • Don’t use waxes or coatings on the tile surfaces which can cause buildup. Use cleaner made specifically for natural stone if needed.
  • Immediately wipe up any sealant or caulk that gets on the tile surface before it dries. Use a plastic scraper or putty knife to gently remove.
  • Make any needed repairs promptly. Re-adhere loose tiles or replace cracked, chipped or broken tiles to maintain the backsplash.

With proper care, your kitchen backsplash will maintain its beauty while also withstanding heavy daily use. Follow these backsplash tips and you’ll enjoy the style and protection it adds to your kitchen for years on end.

FAQs About Starting a Backsplash Project

What is the average cost to install a backsplash?

The average cost to install a backsplash ranges from $800 to $1,200 depending on the size of the project and materials used. Simple DIY tile backsplash can cost as little as $100 – $200. More intricate tile layouts or natural stone can cost $2,000 to $4,000 or more.

What height should a backsplash be?

Standard backsplash height is 4 inches from the countertop surface. Full height backsplashes that extend from counter to cabinets are also popular. Standard backsplashes protect the wall from basic splashing while full height versions create a more dramatic look.

How long does it take to install a backsplash?

It typically takes 2-3 days to install an average sized tile backsplash. Day 1 for surface prep and tile layout. Day 2 for installation and grouting. Day 3 for grout to fully cure before sealing. Smaller projects can sometimes be completed in a day or two.

Can I install a backsplash over existing tile?

It is not recommended to install a backsplash directly over existing tile. The layers of old and new tile would eventually separate. Existing tile should be removed, the wall underneath properly prepped, and the new backsplash then installed properly.

Should I seal my backsplash?

Yes, it is highly recommended to apply a sealer to grout lines after installation to protect from moisture and staining. Sealers add waterproof protection. Reapply yearly or as directed. Some stones like granite require sealing as well.


Installing a backsplash is one of the best ways to update the look of a kitchen. With limitless design options available, you can find the perfect backsplash to match your unique style and space. Carefully planning the materials, layout, prep work and installation steps will ensure your new backsplash transforms your kitchen for years to come. Follow the tips outlined above and you’ll have a stunning, quality backsplash enhancing your cooking space in no time.