How to Start Herringbone Tile Backsplash

Installing a herringbone tile backsplash can add visual interest and elegance to your kitchen. While it requires some precision, starting a herringbone pattern is an attainable DIY project if you’re up for the challenge. Here is a step-by-step guide to help you get started on your herringbone tile backsplash project.

Selecting Your Tile

The first step for any new backsplash is choosing your tile. For herringbone patterns, rectangular subway tiles between 3×6 inches or 4×12 inches are most common. However, hexagonal tiles, larger rectangular tiles, and mosaics can also work.

Consider the following when selecting tile:

  • Color – Choose a tile that complements your cabinetry and countertops. Neutrals like white, gray, and beige are popular and versatile. Bold colors like navy blue make a statement.
  • Finish – Matte, glossy, textured? The finish impacts the overall look and feel. Matte is soft and subtle while glossy is more reflective.
  • Material – Ceramic and porcelain are the most common. Natural stone adds rustic flair. Glass tile provides shine. Pick material suited to your budget and kitchen aesthetic.
  • Size & Shape – As mentioned, opt for rectangular or hexagonal tiles 3-12 inches in size. Consistent sizing is key for the pattern.

Once you’ve selected your herringbone tile, order 10-15% extra to account for unusable damaged or cut tiles and pattern inconsistencies.

Designing Your Layout

With your tile chosen, next comes layout. Herringbone brings interest through its zigzag pattern. Proper planning ensures your tiles align correctly.

Measuring the Space

Measure the backsplash area from end-to-end and top-to-bottom. This gives you the overall dimensions to work within. Identify any outlets, switches, or obstructions to design around.

Mapping Your Pattern

Now decide on the orientation and where to start and stop your herringbone pattern. Some considerations:

  • Orientation – Vertical or horizontal? Vertical is more common. Horizontal works better for wide spaces.
  • Starting point – Many start center above the stove and work outwards. You can also start in a corner.
  • Perimeter – Determine how herringbone will interface with perimeter tiles/walls. Usually small cuts or border tiles frame the pattern.

Make a detailed drawing mapping out your planned pattern. This is your guide for installing. Include measurements, tile positions, planned cuts, and borders. Adjust to fit your specific space.

Preparing Your Backsplash Area

With your tile purchased and layout designed, now prepare the backsplash space. Taking time to properly prep ensures your tile adheres and lasts.

Cleaning and Repairing the Wall

Start by fully cleaning the installation area. Remove any existing backsplash. Eliminate grime, grease, and dust so the tile properly adheres.

Check the drywall or cement board for any damage. Fill holes or cracks with spackling or caulk. The surface should be as smooth as possible.

Adding Backerboard

If your space is solely drywall, it’s best to install cement backerboard. This provides appropriate support and prevents moisture damage.

Cut boards to fit your space. Screw them into studs spaced 6-8 inches apart. Use cement board screws. Seam together with cement board tape.

The added surface creates the ideal area for your herringbone tile.

Planning Tile Layout

Now mark directly on your backerboard the planned tile layout. Measure and make level horizontal and vertical reference lines in pencil.

Mark the center point, borders, and starter row location per your drawing. Indicate any planned tile cuts. Everything transferred to the wall serves as your install guide.

Installing Your Herringbone Backsplash

You have your tile, the space is prepped, and your design is mapped out. Here are the key steps to tackle the herringbone install.

Setting Your Tiles

Mix your thinset mortar following package directions. Apply to the wall in sections using a notched trowel held at a 45 degree angle.

Start with your center tile in the middle of your focal area. When positioned, press firmly to adhere and ensure level. Consider using temporary spacers around the edges.

Work one row at a time outwards. Follow your reference lines and pattern layout. Cut border and edge tiles as needed for proper fit.

Grouting Your Tiles

Once the tile is firmly set, it’s time to grout. This fills the seams and completes your herringbone pattern.

Apply grout by holding the float at a 45 degree angle pressing into the joints. Let sit briefly and then wipe away excess. For maximum stick, grease cutting dish soap in the wiping water helps.

After the grout dries fully, use a soft cloth to polish and seal the surface.

Finishing Touches

The final step is tidying up your completed herringbone installation.

  • Remove any spacers used during install.
  • Caulk perimeter seams where tile meets wall or countertop.
  • Seal grout and tile surface with grout sealer for protection.
  • Clean any excess thinset or grout from tile surface.

Stand back and enjoy your stunning, professionally finished herringbone backsplash!

Tips for Installing Herringbone Tile

Herringbone brings beautiful detail yet requires thoughtful precision. Keep these tips in mind for a successful project:

  • Carefully measure and plot pattern prior to installation.
  • Use tile spacers to maintain even grout line spacing.
  • Work methodically row-by-row for proper alignment.
  • Make gradual cuts vs. many abrupt small cuts for clean lines.
  • Blend tile from several boxes to minimize color variation.
  • Leave 1/8 inch gap between tile and countertop/walls.
  • Work carefully around electrical outlets to accommodate openings.
  • Seal and protect tile after install with grout sealer.
  • Thoughtfully clean and maintain your backsplash over time.

Proper prep and patience brings tile joy for years to come. What patterns will your herringbone tile inspire?

Herringbone Tile Patterns and Design Options

One of the appeals of herringbone tile is the many possible variations for the zigzag design. Consider these pattern options for your space:

Classic Herringbone

This is the standard zigzag with tiles placing in opposite directions. Rows typically run vertically and tiles are cut in half for staggered seams. The symmetrical points create interest and movement.

Extended Herringbone

Like classic herringbone turned on its side.Rows run horizontally with long rectangles installed in opposing directions. Offers a more elongated look.


Chevron is herringbone simplified. Instead of a zigzag, tiles are set in a basic arrow shape pointing in one direction. Fewer direction changes create a cleaner, graphic look.

Straight Set Herringbone

Tiles are set in the zigzag herringbone pattern but not staggered or cut. Instead, tiles meet in a vertical line. Offers a less busy variation of the zigzag.


Basketweave combines herringbone rows of opposing tiles with rows set vertically in the same direction. The pattern intersects like woven fabric.


In pinwheel, small square tiles are set in a circular herringbone pattern that creates a spinning effect. Detailed and dimensional for focal areas.

Octagons and Hexagons

Captures the zigzag motif in a geometric shape. Herringbone octagon and hexagon mosaics have become popular choices.

Mix and match designs for your own custom herringbone tile installation.

Using Accent Tiles and Borders

Another way to customize your herringbone backsplash is with complementary accent tiles and borders.

Accent tiles in a contrasting color, finish, or shape enliven the zigzag pattern. For example, add glossy black tiles sporadically throughout matte white herringbone. Or place a few marbled herringbone rows with classic white.

Borders and bands provide definition. A strip of polished subway tile tops and bottoms the herringbone field. Metal or mosaic tile trims the perimeter. Consider materials like aged brass or multi-colored glass.

When planning, decide if accents and borders will:

  • Match or contrast the herringbone
  • Highlight specific areas like behind stove
  • Frame the entire installation

Aim for a cohesive overall design that mixes textures and colors in pleasing ways. The accent details can really make your herringbone tile pop.

The Cost of a Herringbone Tile Backsplash

What does it cost to install a herringbone backsplash in your kitchen? Here is an overview of typical expenses:

  • Tile – $5-$50 per square foot. Impacts cost significantly based on material and type used.
  • Thinset & grout – Approximately $75 total.
  • Backerboard – Around $10 per sheet.
  • Tools – Tile cutter, notched trowel, buckets, grout float. May need to purchase or rent.
  • Additional materials – Tile spacers, caulk, grout sealer. ~$50 total.
  • Professional installation – Ranges from $10-$25 per square foot if you hire a tile installer.

Most DIY herringbone backsplash projects cost $300-$2000 depending on the factors above. Professionally installed with high-end tile and accents, it’s easy to spend $5000 or more.

Research pricing on your specific tile selections and create a detailed budget before starting your project. While not cheap, a herringbone backsplash is a worthy investment that boosts home value.

Is Herringbone Tile Difficult to Install?

Herringbone tile brings undeniable visual appeal yet requires careful planning and precision to install. Some key considerations:

It’s meticulous – With its zigzag pattern, properly aligning herringbone tile takes time and attention to detail. Pre-cutting staggered tiles also adds steps.

Room for error – Unlike basic tiles, one misaligned herringbone row throws everything off. Carefully follow layout lines and measure twice.

Learning curve – For first-timers, herringbone forces you to learn techniques like making accurate diagonal tile cuts. Watch tutorials before attempting.

Professional tools – Renting specialty tools like a tile saw and notched trowel greatly helps achieve clean results.

Experience required – For flawless execution on large or intricate herringbone projects, professionals have the expertise.

While certainly more complex than installing basic subway tile, herringbone backsplashes are doable for motivated DIYers who do their homework. Gather patience and go slowly. The dazzling outcome is worth the effort.

Should I Hire a Professional?

As we’ve covered, installing herringbone tile backsplash yourself is challenging but attainable. So when does it make sense to hire a professional tile installer? Here are some key considerations:

  • For large, expansive herringbone projects. The room for error increases with more surface area.
  • If you’re uncomfortable accurately making the many angled tile cuts required.
  • For complex designs like herringbone borders, multiple patterns, or niche integration.
  • If your project requires behind-the-scenes work like plumbing or electrical.
  • To ensure a flawless finished product and avoid headaches. Pros have the skills.
  • If you simply don’t have the time for a meticulous DIY project.

Many homeowners hire professional tilers for peace of mind on herringbone projects. Confirm they have expertise specifically with diagonal tile layouts.

For small, straightforward herringbone installations, save money by tackling yourself. Get hands-on education and enjoy the sense of accomplishment.

Maintaining Your Herringbone Backsplash

Once your herringbone tile backsplash is professionally installed or your DIY project is complete, proper care keeps it looking like new.

  • Seal grout and tile surface with grout sealer regularly per product instructions. This protects from stains and moisture damage.
  • Clean any spills or splatters immediately to prevent staining of grout. Use damp soft cloth with mild detergent.
  • For routine cleaning, use gentle tile and grout cleaner. Avoid harsh chemicals or scrubbing.
  • Re-caulk perimeter as needed where tile meets countertop or walls. Check for gaps or cracks annually.
  • Inspect grout lines and tile for damage or excess wear. Re-grout or replace individual tiles as required.
  • Consider re-sealing entire surface every 2-3 years based on usage and wear.

With proper sealing and gentle regular cleaning, your herringbone backsplash bringstile style for years of enjoyment.

Frequently Asked Questions

What thinset mortar should I use?

For walls, white polymer-modified thinset mortar works well. It offerssuperior adhesion and some flexibility. Consult manufacturer’s guidelines.

Can I install herringbone over existing tile?

Yes, herringbone tile can be installed over existing backsplash tile if the surface is properly prepped and supportive backerboard is added.

What maintenance does herringbone tile require?

Seal and regularly clean grout lines. Avoid harsh chemicals. Re-seal entire surface every few years for protection and sheen.

Is herringbone only for backsplashes?

While commonly used in kitchens, herringbone works well on any wall surface. Consider for bathroom backsplashes, fireplace surrounds, shower floors.

What tile shape works best?

Rectangles or squares 3-6 inches are ideal. Consistent size and rectangular shape make cutting and aligning easiest. Avoid tiny mosaic pieces.


Installing a herringbone backsplash brings captivating visual style through skilled precision and planning. Carefully measure your space, purchase complementary tile, and map the personalized pattern. Prepare the installation area fully,methodically set the tiles row-by-row, and complete the details. While labor intensive, the stunning result provides joy and value. With proper care, your herringbone backsplash serves as a custom focal point for years to come.