How to Start Herringbone Pattern Backsplash

Installing a herringbone pattern backsplash can add visual interest and dimension to your kitchen or bathroom. With some planning and the right materials, creating this look is an achievable DIY project. Here is a step-by-step guide on how to start a herringbone pattern backsplash in your home.

Choose the Right Tile

The tile you select will set the tone for your whole backsplash. Consider the size, texture, and color that will work best.

  • Smaller tiles like mosaics create a more intricate herringbone pattern. Larger tiles create a bolder look.
  • Tile thickness impacts the overall design. Thinner tiles allow tighter grout lines for a more dramatic pattern.
  • The tile material affects the style too. Natural stone like marble or travertine has an organic, rustic feel. Porcelain and ceramic tiles give a more modern look.
  • For color, stick with a simple tile that won’t compete with your cabinetry or countertops. White, gray, or neutral tones work well.

Calculate How Much Tile You Need

Measure the total square footage of the area you are tiling. Multiply the length times the height. For herringbone, increase your tile estimate by 10-15% to account for pattern cuts. Having extras allows for mistakes and prevents having to run out for more tiles mid-project.

Gather the Right Supplies

Besides tile, you will need:

  • Thinset mortar adhesive
  • Notched trowel for spreading adhesive
  • Grout and grout float for filling tile joints
  • Tile spacers to help align tiles
  • Tile cutter for trimming tiles
  • Wet saw for intricate cuts
  • Grout sealer to protect finished product

Prepare the Surface

The backsplash area must be smooth, clean, and dry for the tile to adhere properly. Remove any old backsplash and inspect the wall for damage. Repair any uneven spots in the drywall. Clean the surface to remove grease, soap film, or any debris.

Plan the Layout

A herringbone pattern shifts rows to create a zigzag effect. Cut small pieces of tile to map out the design and placement. This allows you to visualize the pattern and test different options before installing. Mark the center point and make all measurements from there.

Install the Tile

Once your design is set, it’s time to start tiling:

  1. Apply thinset mortar adhesive using a notched trowel. Spread even layers over small sections at a time.
  2. Place the first tile in the center point you marked. Use spacers against the edges.
  3. Build out rows from the first tile, alternating tile directions for the herringbone pattern.
  4. Tap tiles in place with a rubber mallet to adhere them firmly in the thinset.
  5. Check lines stay straight using levels and tape measures. Adjust out-of-line tiles before the thinset dries.
  6. Allow thinset to cure fully before grouting, usually 24 hours.

Apply Grout and Seal

Grout fills the joints between tiles. Follow package directions carefully. Apply over small sections, wiping away excess grout with a damp sponge. Allow grout to dry completely, then seal it to protect from moisture. Apply a penetrating sealer using a paintbrush.

Tips for Achieving a Professional Look

  • Use tile leveling systems for a flawless finished surface.
  • Use angled tile edging trim for a built-in finish around edges.
  • Consider hiring a professional installer if you are uncertain about achieving clean lines.
  • Take care when cutting specialty tiles like marble, which can crack easily.

With careful planning and attention to detail, you can install a beautiful herringbone backsplash that brings elegance and visual interest to your home. The intricate zigzag pattern makes a statement in any space.

Frequently Asked Questions About Starting a Herringbone Pattern Backsplash

What is the best tile size for a herringbone pattern?

For a classic herringbone look, a tile size between 1-3 inches works best. Mosaics 1 inch square or hexagons around 2 inches are common options. Larger tiles like 4-inch squares can work but will create a bolder, less intricate pattern.

What thinset mortar is best for herringbone tile?

A polymer-modified thinset mortar is best for a durable bond. The polymer adds flexibility and strength for the irregular cuts and directional changes of herringbone tiling. White thinset hides under white grout. Gray works for darker grout colors.

Should tile spacers be used with herringbone patterns?

Yes, tile spacers are highly recommended. The pattern relies on precision spacing and alignment to look right. Tile spacers ensure even grout line width. Place spacers as you install each tile. Remove them before grouting.

How do you cut the angle for herringbone tiles?

Use a wet saw fitted with a diamond blade to cut precise 45-degree mitered edges. Cut slowly and steadily for clean edges. Or use a hand-held angle grinder with a diamond blade for smaller accent tiles.

Can herringbone only be installed on walls?

No. While herringbone is less common on floors, it can be installed. Use thicker, harder tiles rated for floor use. Level any subfloor imperfections first and use a polymer-modified thinset for strength. Carefully follow instructions for any floor heating systems too.

What color grout is best with herringbone?

For most herringbone installations, neutral colored grout like white, ivory, or light gray works well. Keep grout lines minimal, at 1/16″ to 1/8″ width. Darker grout provides contrast but can overpower intricate tile patterns.


Installing a herringbone pattern backsplash brings visual appeal and added style to your kitchen or bathroom. With thoughtful planning and preparation, this striking tile pattern can be a DIY project. Choose your tiles wisely, allow time for careful layout, and use quality installation materials. The finished zigzag design will elevate your space with elegance, interest, and dimension. Approach the project with patience and care, and you can achieve beautiful professional results.