How to Update Backsplash


Updating your backsplash is one of the easiest ways to give your kitchen a fresh new look without a full remodel. Whether you want to switch out dated tile or have grown tired of the existing backsplash, installing a new one can be a simple DIY project or an easy job for a contractor.

The backsplash serves both form and function in the kitchen. As a decorative focal point, it allows you to add color, texture, and personality. But it also performs the utilitarian task of protecting the wall from splatters, spills, and stains. So upgrading it pays off both visually and practically.

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll walk through everything you need to know to successfully update your backsplash. We’ll cover:

How to Choose a New Backsplash

  • Popular backsplash materials
  • Factors to consider when selecting a backsplash
  • Current trends to inspire your backsplash upgrade

Preparing for Installation

  • Tools and materials needed
  • Demolishing and removing the existing backsplash
  • Prepping the surface for new tile/materials

Installing the New Backsplash

  • Step-by-step instructions for DIY installation
  • Tips for achieving a professional look
  • Sealing and grouting the new backsplash

Alternatives to DIY Installation

  • Hiring a contractor
  • Cost factors and finding reputable professionals

Equipped with the information in this guide, you can tackle a backsplash update with confidence. So read on to learn how to refresh your kitchen with a gorgeous new backsplash.

How to Choose a New Backsplash

The first step in updating your backsplash is selecting a new material. From classic white subway tile to colorful mosaics, there are endless options to suit any style. As you shop for a new backsplash, keep the following factors in mind:


  • Tile (ceramic, porcelain, glass, stone)
  • Stainless steel
  • Tin
  • Mirrors
  • Wood
  • Laminates
  • Paint

Tile is the most common backsplash material due to its durability, easy maintenance, and water-resistance. Ceramic and porcelain tile offer lots of variety while being budget-friendly. Glass tile makes a dramatic style statement. Natural stone like marble, granite, or travertine brings elegance, though requires sealing.

Metal backsplashes are having a moment, especially stainless steel and tin. They convey an industrial vibe and provide a reflective, eye-catching surface. Mirror backsplashes open up the space with the illusion of depth.

Wood adds warmth and texture. Laminates let you achieve looks like wood or stone affordably. And don’t overlook paint—it lets you incorporate vibrant color easily.


The new backsplash presents an opportunity to create a specific aesthetic. Consider the overall style you want to achieve:

  • Modern: sleek materials like glass or metal tile in bold colors or geometric shapes
  • Rustic: rough wood planks or natural stone for an earthy vibe
  • Cottage: painted backsplash in a pastel hue with vintage accents
  • Traditional: marble or ceramic subway tile for timeless appeal
  • Eclectic: mix and match materials like handmade tile or mosaic sheets

Think about how the new backsplash can enhance the kitchen’s existing style or take it in a completely new direction according to your current tastes.


Besides looking great, the backsplash also serves utilitarian needs. Assess your kitchen’s particular functions:

  • Traffic flow and high use areas
  • Protection required for cooking, prep, cleaning, other wet tasks
  • Durability and stain resistance needed

For example, behind sinks or stoves require water-resistant materials like tile or stainless steel. Where pots and pans may frequently bang the surface, durable porcelain or stone are good choices.

Colors and Patterns

The new backsplash presents a chance to integrate exciting colors and patterns. Some ideas:

  • Tiles in complementary hues to wall paint or cabinetry
  • Vibrant mosaics for a cheerful pop
  • Subway tile ledger boards for clean lines
  • Contrasting grout color that accentuates tile shape and layout


Backsplash projects run a wide gamut in pricing. Setting a budget helps narrow choices. For example:

  • Paint or peel-and-stick tile: $50 – $150
  • Ceramic tile install: $500 – $2000
  • Natural stone or intricate mosaic tile: $2000 – $5000

Measure your space to estimate tiling square footage. Factor in labor costs if hiring a contractor. This gives a rough idea of overall expense to inform your backsplash selection.

Current Trends

While you want your backsplash to suit your personal taste, it’s nice being on trend. Some current backsplash trends include:

  • Oversized tile
  • Mixed metallics
  • Moroccan fish scale tile
  • Geometric patterns
  • Illustrated tile with artwork, scenery, or photography
  • Bold, daring colors like emerald green and sapphire blue
  • Black stainless steel

Visit Showrooms

It’s smart to browse backsplash materials at local tile showrooms and home improvement stores. Being able to see products in person makes it easier to visualize options in your space. Plus, showrooms often have great design consultations included to help guide your decision.

Preparing for Installation

Once you’ve selected the perfect new backsplash, it’s time to prep for installation. Proper planning and surface preparation ensures your new backsplash adheres and installs smoothly.

Gather Materials

First, purchase all the necessary materials and tools:

  • Backsplash tiles/sheets
  • Mortar and grout
  • Trowels, spacers, levels, cutter
  • Drop cloths, buckets, sponges, safety gear

Read all product item descriptions and installation instructions. Acquire any additional adhesive, backer board, sealant, or specialty tools needed.

Remove Existing Backsplash

Next, tear out and dispose of the old backsplash. The removal process depends on installation method:


  • Heat tiles with hairdryer/heat gun to soften old adhesive
  • Insert putty knife between tile/wall and carefully pry off
  • Remove remaining sticky residue with scraper/chemical stripper


  • Use razor to cut caulk beads between laminate sheets and wall
  • Gently pry up laminate counters with putty knife
  • Scrape off adhesive residue


  • Use chemical stripper according to product directions
  • Apply stripper, let sit, then scrape away paint
  • Sand walls to rough up surface for paint adhesion

Properly dispose of the old tile pieces, broken bits, laminate sheets, stripper chemicals, etc. Wear safety glasses, mask, and gloves to protect yourself.

Prep the Surface

With the old backsplash removed, prepare the surface for new installation:

  • Clean walls thoroughly with soapy water to remove residue
  • Fill any holes or irregularities with spackle; let dry completely
  • Sand walls lightly to help new tile/materials adhere
  • Wipe away dust with a clean, damp sponge or cloth
  • Apply primer if painting a fresh backsplash
  • Install cement board if needed to reinforce surface

The goal is creating an even, spotless surface for the new backsplash to stick to. Taking time to prep properly prevents adhesion issues down the road.

Plan the Layout

With prepped walls, map out the backsplash layout. Mark where tile sheets meet and borders align. Measure and level lines to ensure straight grout lines and an organized pattern.

Plan outlets, fixtures, corners, and edges to achieve full tiles without thin slivers. Have materials cut at store if needed. Dry lay tiles first to confirm fit and design.

Installing the New Backsplash

You’ve chosen the perfect backsplash and prepped the space – now it’s time for the fun part of actually installing it! With the right materials and proper technique, you can achieve stunning results.

Step-by-Step DIY Installation

Follow these step-by-step instructions to DIY install your new backsplash like a pro:

1. Prepare Adhesive

Mix mortar adhesive according to product directions in a bucket. Let sit 5-10 minutes then stir again before using to “set” mixture. The mortar should have a putty-like consistency. Add water sparingly if too thick.

2. Apply Adhesive

Use the notched end of trowel to spread mortar evenly across the prepped wall area, holding at a 45 degree angle. Apply 1/4” thick layer of adhesive mortar where tile will be set.

3. Set Tiles

Beginning at the bottom, press tiles firmly into mortar, using spacers to align. Push in a twisting motion to set tile and squeeze out excess mortar. Periodically check level and plumb lines to ensure straight installation.

4. Cut Edge Tiles

Measure and mark tiles to fit edges and corners. Mark cutting line with sharp utility knife and ruler. Use a wet tile saw to cut tile neatly and cleanly. Grind edge smooth with grinding stone.

5. Clean Up Mortar

Before mortar dries, use trowel edge or damp sponge to scrape and wipe away any excess that squeezed out between tiles.Cleaning up as you go minimizes effort later.

6. Allow Mortar to Cure

Let mortar cure 24-48 hours for proper adhesion before continuing with grouting unfinished tiles. Curing time allows mortar to dry completely and build bonding strength.

7. Mix and Apply Grout

Prepare grout mix according to package directions. Apply to tile joints using a rubber grout float or squeegee, pressing firmly at an angle to pack joints completely.

8. Clean Excess Grout

Wipe any remaining grout residue off the tile surface using a damp sponge in circular motions. Rinse sponge frequently to remove buildup. Let tiles dry completely.

9. Seal and Finish

Apply grout sealant evenly across tiles and joints according to product specifications. Buff off any remaining haze or residue with soft cloth. Install trim pieces, caulk edges, and enjoy your new backsplash!

Achieving a Professional Look

Follow these pro tips and tricks to get sleek, beautiful results:

  • Maintain even 1/8” grout lines between tiles for consistent spacing
  • Keep backsplash level and plumb with precise tile cuts
  • Wipe away all adhesive and grout residue before drying
  • Avoid getting grout on the tile surface when applying
  • Use tile spacers, keeping them in place until mortar has set
  • Allow proper setting and curing times for mortar and grout
  • Seal natural stone tiles to prevent staining and discoloration
  • Finish edges with bullnose tiles or textured caulking

Sealing and Grouting the New Backsplash

Sealing and grouting are important finishing steps for any new backsplash install. Here’s a more in-depth look:

Sealing Natural Stone

For natural materials like marble, travertine, or granite, be sure to apply sealant evenly across all tiles prior to grouting. This waterproofs the porous stone, preventing stains from setting into the surface. Re-apply annually.


Grouting fills the joints between tiles, which H2 for an article that must outcompete others in Google search results for the keyword how to update backsplash.

Grout comes as powder mixed with water before applying. It creates a water-resistant filler that allows for slight tile movement. Grout is available in multiple colors, so choose one that complements your tile.

Apply grout diagonally across tiles, pressing into joints with a float or rubber trowel. Let the grout sit briefly before wiping clean any residue on the tile face. Once cured, a grout sealer applied protects joints from moisture and mildew growth.

Alternatives to DIY Installation

While a DIY backsplash project can definitely save on labor costs, installing tile requires some skill and experience. For those who aren’t up to the task themselves, hiring a professional may be the best option.

Hiring a Contractor

General contractors, kitchen remodelers, and tile installation pros can all tackle backsplash projects. Find experienced, reputable professionals through:

  • Online searches with reviews
  • Referrals from friends/family
  • Quotes from multiple providers
  • Checking qualifications and licenses

Anticipate paying more for intricate patterned, mosaic, or natural stone backsplashes which require special skills. Be sure expectations and project details are clearly communicated.

Installation Cost Factors

The cost to install a new backsplash often ranges from $40 to $70 per square foot. Exact pricing depends on considerations like:

  • Tile size, type, and finish
  • Layout complexity
  • Specialty cutting required
  • Grout color
  • Contractor hourly rate
  • Local labor costs
  • Additional materials needed

Request an itemized quote accounting for your kitchen’s specific backsplash requirements. Many contractors offer price-match guarantees as well.

Finding Reputable Professionals

Ensure any contractors hired are qualified, insured, and able to deliver quality results. Check that:

  • They are licensed for the type of work required
  • Liability insurance and bonding are current
  • Workers compensation is provided
  • References from past clients are available
  • Reviews are consistently positive
  • Better Business Bureau profile is in good standing

With the right contractor, you can feel confident entrusting your backsplash project for beautiful results you’ll love.


Here are answers to some frequently asked questions about updating backsplashes:

Is it cheaper to replace the whole backsplash or just some tiles?

Replacing the entire backsplash is generally cheaper than swapping out select damaged or outdated tiles. Partial tile replacement requires tedious cutting around existing tiles to remove and insert new ones, driving up labor time and costs.

What’s the easiest backsplash to install as a DIY beginner?

Peel-and-stick backsplash tile or decals provide the easiest DIY installation. Like wallpaper, the adhesive backing sticks right to prepared surfaces and can be trimmed to fit with scissors. Painted or laminate sheet backsplashes are also simpler DIY projects.

How do you work around a backsplash outlet?

Carefully cutting tile around outlets takes precision. An easier option is shutting off power and temporarily removing outlet covers to tile fully behind. Then replace outlets over tile and add matching outlet covers.

Can I install a new backsplash over the existing one?

It depends on the surface. In some cases, tile or laminates in good condition can be built upon with a new layer. But adhesive mortar won’t bond properly over glossy or painted backsplashes, requiring removal first.

How thick should backsplash tile be?

Standard backsplash tile ranges from 3/16” to 3/4” thick. Mosaic sheets are about 1/4” thick. Thicker tile is recommended for fewer grout lines and greater durability. Large format tiles should be at least 3/8” thick to prevent warping or cracks.

Should backsplashes match countertops?

Not necessarily. Contrasting tones and textures between the backsplash and countertops can look striking. But complementary colors and comparable shine levels also create a cohesive look. The choice comes down to personal preference.


Updating a backsplash brings exciting possibilities to refresh your kitchen’s beauty and function. By determining the right style, materials, and colors for your space, you can create a custom look that showcases your personality. With proper planning and preparation, the installation process can be manageable for DIYers or by hiring a tile pro.

The end result is a backsplash that flawlessly blends visual appeal and practicality. With an eye-catching new backsplash that wipes clean easily, protects your walls, and gives your kitchen just the facelift needed, you’ll gain a space to enjoy for years.