How to Start Herringbone Backsplash

Installing a herringbone backsplash can add visual interest and dimension to your kitchen or bathroom. With some planning and proper materials, you can create this dynamic pattern on your own. Here is a step-by-step guide on how to start a herringbone backsplash project.

Choose Your Materials

The most common materials used for herringbone backsplashes are:

  • Tile – Ceramic, porcelain, or natural stone tiles work well. Make sure tiles are uniform in size and thickness.
  • Wood – Wood planks or parquet pieces create a warm, natural look. Opt for moisture-resistant wood like teak or bamboo.
  • Glass – Clear, colored, or patterned glass tiles create a sleek, modern aesthetic. Use tempered glass for safety.
  • Metal – Metal backsplashes like zinc, copper, or stainless steel make a bold statement. Make sure metal is coated so it’s water-resistant.

Consider the size of the herringbone pattern you want and choose uniform materials accordingly. Smaller tiles or planks enable a more intricate design.

Plan Your Layout

A herringbone pattern is arranged in a staggered zig-zag design so planning is crucial before installing. Here are some tips:

  • Map out the dimensions of your backsplash area and determine the size of the herringbone tiles/planks needed to fit the space properly.
  • Sketch your pattern layout and tile cuts that will be needed. Herringbone patterns usually start full-sized along the edges with cut pieces filling the middle.
  • Decide if you want the points facing up or down. This will determine if you need to cut the short or long side of tiles.
  • Plan for grout lines in your design. Dry laying materials first can help visualize spacing.
  • Account for outlets, switches, or obstacles that will disrupt the pattern. Adjust layouts as needed.

Prepare and Level the Surface

Proper prep is vital for a successful herringbone installation:

  • Clean the backsplash area thoroughly and remove any old backsplash materials or wall coverings.
  • Make sure the surface is smooth, dry, and structurally sound. Repair any damages.
  • For tile, apply any membrane or waterproofing as needed. Cement backerboard is often used as a base.
  • Use a level to ensure the surface is perfectly plumb and flat. Any uneven areas must be patched.
  • Apply tile adhesive mortar evenly across the surface. Check for coverage and consistency.

Take time to get the surface right so tiles or planks can be installed smoothly and properly.

Dry Lay the Pattern

Do a test run of laying the herringbone pattern before permanently setting materials:

  • Start in a rear corner along the edges and work outwards. Maintain sharp points on the first row.
  • Dry lay each piece, adjusting as you go to ensure proper fitting.
  • Use tile spacers to account for consistent grout line spacing.
  • Look for any lippage between tiles and areas where the pattern is misaligned or off. Adjust as needed.
  • Do not adhere tiles yet. Dry laying enables you to perfect the layout before permanent installation.

Dry laying ensures your attractive herringbone design is seamless when installing the materials.

Mix Adhesives and Grout

Before setting tiles or planks, prepare your adhering materials:

  • For tile backsplashes, mix a quality thinset mortar adhesive according to instructions. Maintain an even, toothpaste-like consistency.
  • Choose an appropriate grout for joints based on your material and color scheme. Sanded grout works for wider joints.
  • Mix grout with water per manufacturer directions until smooth and lump-free. Allow to slake for 10 minutes.
  • Have spacers, grout float, and sponge ready to use for grouting once materials are set.

Proper adhesive and grout mixing provides maximum adhesion and prevents cracking or loose tiles.

Set Your Materials

Once prepped, you can permanently install the herringbone pattern:

  • Working in small sections, apply adhesive to the set area using a notched trowel held at a 45-degree angle.
  • Press tiles or planks into the adhesive firmly, using a rubber grout float or hammer to set them.
  • Ensure all edges have full adhesive coverage and pieces are aligned correctly.
  • Use tile spacers between each section to maintain even grout line width.
  • Allow adhesive to cure fully per manufacturer directions before grouting.

Meticulously setting each piece establishes a cohesive, well-adhered herringbone design.

Grout and Seal

Final steps complete your backsplash installation:

  • Using a grout float, spread grout over the joints, holding at a 45-degree angle and pressing firmly.
  • Wipe away excess grout with a damp sponge in diagonal motions. Rinse sponge frequently.
  • When grout haze develops, buff surface with a soft cloth to polish. Follow drying times.
  • Caulk perimeter joints between backsplash and countertops/walls with silicone.
  • Seal grout and materials with a grout sealer for extra moisture protection and shine.

Proper grouting and sealing locks tiles in place while adding eye-catching dimension to the herringbone pattern.

With careful planning and step-by-step execution, you can achieve an eye-catching herringbone backsplash design. Take your time at each stage for professional-looking results. The staggered zig-zag layout and dimensional details will make a gorgeous focal point in your space.

Frequently Asked Questions About Starting a Herringbone Backsplash

What size tiles work best for herringbone patterns?

Smaller 1-4 inch tiles are ideal for creating intricate herringbone designs. Large tiles can be used but will result in a simpler pattern with fewer direction changes.

Can you do a herringbone backsplash with wood?

Yes, wood materials like planks, parquet, or penny rounds can be arranged in a herringbone design. Make sure wood is properly sealed for moisture protection in kitchens or bathrooms.

What thinset mortar is best for herringbone tile?

A polymer-modified thinset mortar works best. It provides a stronger bond and more flexibility for the diagonal tile installation. White thinset is recommended for glass or stone.

How do you cut tile for herringbone patterns?

Use a wet saw to cut tiles accurately on the diagonal or perpendicular as needed for the layout. Cuts are usually made on the short side of rectangular tiles. Always use proper eye and dust protection.

Can you do herringbone with large tile?

Yes, but large-format tiles limit the zig-zag effect. Smaller grout lines also become trickier with big tiles. Use a level and proper underlayment to prevent lippage with large tiles.


A herringbone backsplash brings visual excitement and texture to any space when properly planned and executed. With the right materials, thoughtful layout, proper prep, and meticulous installation, you can achieve stunning results. Take your time to do the pattern right and you’ll have a professional-looking accent wall that elevates your whole room.