Is It Hard to Do Backsplash?

Installing a backsplash in your kitchen can transform the look and feel of the space. But is it a DIY project for a novice, or best left to the pros? While tiling a backsplash is not beginner level, with some planning, patience, and the right materials, a motivated DIYer can achieve beautiful results.

What is a Backsplash?

A backsplash is a decorative, protective surface that is installed on the wall behind a countertop, most commonly behind sinks, stoves, and cooktops in kitchens. Backsplashes are typically made from tile, metal, glass, or stone.

The main purposes of a backsplash are to:

  • Protect the wall from water damage, grease, food splatter, and other messes.
  • Provide an accent area to tie the decor of the kitchen together.
  • Give an easy-to-clean, durable surface instead of having to repaint the wall repeatedly.

Backsplashes most often run 4-6 feet long in the majority of kitchen installs. They are installed above countertops and extend upwards 4-6 inches on the wall.

DIY Backsplash Considerations

Here are some key factors to weigh when deciding whether to tackle a backsplash as a DIY project:

Difficulty Level

Installing a backsplash requires some familiarity with basic tiling techniques. Attention to detail is paramount so the finished product has a uniform, professional look.

It involves cutting tiles precisely, applying mortar and tile spacers evenly, proper grouting methods, and finishing trims and edges cleanly. Beginners can certainly learn these skills with some patience and practice.

Time Required

Tiling a standard 4×6 foot backsplash can take 15-25 hours for an inexperienced DIYer. There is tile cutting, setting the tiles, letting mortar and grout dry properly between steps, clean up, etc. So completing an install in a single weekend is unrealistic.

Pros can often complete the same project in 8-12 hours.

Cost Savings

DIYing does provide significant cost savings in most cases. Professional installation generally runs $50-$100 per hour. And you still have to purchase the backsplash materials yourself.

By doing the work yourself, you can save hundreds of dollars in labor costs.


One appeal of tiling your own backsplash is choosing unique materials and creating the exact look you want. You have full control over design features like tile size, texture, color patterns, accents, and trim details.

Investment in Tools

Good tools are required to execute a clean, even backsplash job. You may need to purchase tools like a tile cutter, notched trowel, grout float, mixing bucket, spacers, etc.

Factor $100-$200 for equipment into your budget if you don’t have these on hand. These tools can generally be used for future tiling projects.

Experience Level With Tiling

Assessing your skill level and willingness to learn will determine if a backsplash is a reasonable DIY for you. Even with lots of preparation, a first-time tiler should expect to make some mistakes along the way.

But don’t let inexperience deter you from trying. Backsplashes are one of the most forgiving places to attempt your initial tile project.

How Difficult Is It For a Beginner?

For DIYers installing their first backsplash, breaking the project into organized steps is key. With proper sequencing, adequate materials, and patience to allow for drying times, even new tilers can produce winning outcomes.

Here is an overview of each phase and the associated difficulty level:

Tile Selection – Easy

Picking the size, color, finish, and style of your backsplash tiles is the fun, creative part of the project. Large big box stores, tile specialty shops, and online retailers offer endless options to match your kitchen’s aesthetics.

Surface Prep – Easy

Preparing the wall surface involves cleaning with detergent, scraping or sanding, applying painter’s tape around the perimeter, and marking a level line to guide the first row of tile. This step is straightforward but essential.

Layout and Tile Cutting – Moderate

Cutting the border and specialty tiles around electrical outlets, corners, and other fixtures takes some tile cutting skill and patience. But materials like subway tile and mosaics have easy straight cuts.

Applying Mortar and Tile – Moderate

Spreading the mortar evenly and setting the tiles in a straight, consistent pattern requires practice and dexterity. Work in small sections and use spacers diligently for a pro finish. This is the most labor-intensive phase.

Grouting Seams – Moderate

Push the grout thoroughly into joints with a float without smearing it on tile faces. Some wiping and touch up of wayward grout is expected. Allow proper drying time before polishing off haze.

Sealing and Caulking – Easy

Sealing the grout and applying caulk along the edges is quick and helps give a polished finish.

DIY Difficulty Level: 6 out of 10

In summary, a backsplash install requires moderate dexterity, technique, and attention to detail. But the small space makes it very manageable for motivated DIYers. And the array of backsplash products available makes it easier to get professional looking results as a beginner.

How to Make Installation Easier

Here are tips to make a DIY backsplash project more approachable even if you have minimal tiling experience:

  • Start small. Tackle a backsplash in a powder room or laundry room to get your feet wet before moving onto a full kitchen backsplash.
  • Pick forgiving materials. Porcelain, ceramic, and mosaic sheets are beginner-friendly options. Avoid natural stone or glass tiles for your first go.
  • Have the right tools. Investing in basic tile tools will make the install much smoother. Don’t try to improvise with makeshift tools.
  • Follow a detailed guide. Find a step-by-step backsplash tutorial for novice DIYers and follow it closely, especially for optimal mortar and grout application.
  • Be patient. Allow adequate drying time for mortar and grout between steps. Rushing can ruin the final look. This is not a race.
  • Expect imperfections. Even professionals have minor flaws in their work like uneven grout lines. Don’t sweat small mistakes on your first try.
  • Seal the deal. Use grout sealer and caulk for a polished finish. This covers many minor sins.
  • Watch videos. Seeing the steps in action makes them less intimidating. Watch several backsplash installation videos before tackling your own.
  • Consult store experts. Ask tile shop employees for advice on beginner-friendly products and tools. Don’t be afraid to ask lots of questions.

The more you research and prepare, the easier your first backsplash will be. Be patient with yourself while learning a new skill.

Recommended Materials for Beginner DIYers

Certain types of backsplash tiles have characteristics that make installation easier for novices. Here are ideal materials to consider on your maiden voyage:

Porcelain Tile

Porcelain is highly recommended for first-time tilers. It has these ideal features:

  • Durable and stain resistant
  • Low porosity so minimum need to seal
  • Available in wide range of sizes, colors, and styles
  • Relatively low cost
  • Easy straight cuts
  • Lightweight for easy maneuvering

Popular options like 4×4 or 3×6 inch porcelain tiles minimize tedious small cuts. Choose a polished or unglazed finish which hides imperfect grout lines better.

Ceramic Tile

Like porcelain, ceramic tiles offer lots of advantages for beginners:

  • Budget-friendly for small spaces
  • Lightweight for easy handling
  • Durable and moisture resistant surface
  • Many size options from 1×1 mosaics to 4×12 subway styles
  • Smooth surface hides grout line flaws

Stick to solid colors or simple patterns for best results. Avoid hand-painted ceramic tiles on your first try.

Glass Mosaic Sheets

Mosaic sheets where tiny glass or stone tiles are mounted to a mesh backing provide instant accurance even for new tilers.

Benefits include:

  • Super easy installation
  • Mesh backing eliminates need for spacers
  • Available in many colors, shapes, styles
  • Grout seams less visible
  • Can create intricate patterns with little effort

The mounted sheets simply peel and stick in place. Just cut sheets as needed with basic tools.

Peel and Stick Vinyl Tiles

Self-adhesive vinyl tiles offer the ultimate easy installation option. Simply measure, cut, peel, and press in place.

Pros include:

  • Peel and stick application fast and flawless
  • No need for mortar, spacers, or grout
  • Wide range of patterns available
  • Inexpensive
  • Easy to remove and change later

Great temporary solution for rentals or if updating periodically.

Key Steps for DIY Installation

While tiling guides provide crucial details, here is a general overview of the key phases of a backsplash install:

1. Remove Existing Backsplash

Take down old backsplash if present. Scrape off any mortar globs or wallpaper adhesive.

Fill any holes or uneven spots on drywall. Sand bumps smooth.

2. Deep Clean the Wall

Clean the entire installation area thoroughly with degreaser to remove residue, film, dust etc.

Rinse soap scum and let dry fully.

3. Plan Your Layout

Map out your tile layout. For most backsplashes, starting center and working outward looks best.

Cut edge tiles as needed for correct fit.

4. Mark Your Gridlines

Mark a level horizontal line where tiles will start. Mark vertical lines spaced at tile width intervals for straight setting.

Use painter’s tape to guide layout.

5. Prep the Area

Cover counters, flooring, and any adjacent walls with rosin paper to protect from mess.

Have all tools, tiles, spacers, mortar, grout float, clean buckets, etc. prepared and easily accessible.

6. Apply the Mortar

Mix mortar to a firm sticky consistency according to package directions.

Spread mortar using the notched edge of trowel to the depth of your tile thickness.

7. Set the Tiles

Starting center and working outward, press tiles firmly into mortar. Use spacers between tiles for consistent spacing.

Check levelness with a line strung across installation area as you go.

8. Allow Mortar to Dry

Let mortar cure fully—usually 24 hours. This helps adhere tiles firmly.

Don’t grout until mortar has dried properly.

9. Mix the Grout

Prepare grout per package instructions. Use latex additive for extra strength and water-resistance.

The consistency should be thick but still able to be pressed into joints.

10. Apply the Grout

Use a rubber grout float to spread grout thoroughly into the joints between tiles.

Remove excess carefully with minimal smearing or haze on tile faces.

11. Clean Up Grout Haze

Once grout has cured per package directions, polish tile faces with a soft cloth to remove haze and film.

Use minimal water so joints stay fully packed with grout.

12. Seal & Finish

Apply grout sealer per label instructions to protect from stains and moisture.

Caulk all seams with silicone caulk for a polished look.

DIY vs. Hiring a Professional

Still unsure whether to tackle the backsplash yourself or hire a pro? Here’s an overview of the tradeoffs:

DIY Pros

  • Less expensive. Save on labor costs.
  • Personalized design and tile choices.
  • Learn a new skill. Gain tiling experience.
  • Sense of pride and ownership doing it yourself.

DIY Cons

  • Physical demands of lifting, mixing, bending.
  • Potential mistakes as part of the learning curve.
  • Projects take significantly longer for DIYers.
  • Must have tools and space to work.

Professional Pros

  • Installed much faster than DIY pace.
  • Experienced handling tricky cut tile pieces.
  • Expert mortar and grout application for pro finish.
  • No clean up or tools required.

Professional Cons

  • Installation costs often over $1000+
  • Scheduling delays if pros are busy.
  • Less control over tile design choices.
  • Strange workers in your home.

Assess your budget, skill level, and how soon you want your new backsplash installed. Either route provides benefits. For many DIYers, the cost savings and sense of personal achievement make the extra work worthwhile.

Helpful DIY Backsplash Tips

To ensure a stunning finished product for your first backsplash, employ these DIY techniques:

  • Establish your tile layout before setting any. Dry lay tiles if needed.
  • Use tile spacers religiously for even grout lines.
  • Cut tiles with an actual tile cutter, not improvised tools. Rent one if needed.
  • Work in small sections. Mortar can dry too fast in large areas.
  • Let mortar cure fully before grouting. Check package for times.
  • Mix grout well and apply evenly with consistent pressure.
  • Minimize excess grout clean up on tiles to reduce haze.
  • Allow full grout cure time before sealing.
  • Apply caulk neatly along all seams and edges.
  • Work slow and steady. Patience pays off for beginners.
  • Invest in quality tile sizes that minimize small cuts.

Helpful DIY Backsplash Resources

Take advantage of the amazing amount of instructional materials available online for guidance through your backsplash installation:

  • Product manufacturer guides – Detailed instructions for mortar, grout, sealers
  • YouTube tutorials – Step-by-step backsplash installation videos
  • Home improvement websites – Tile cutting and tiling 101 guides
  • Retailer websites – Technique overviews from tile shops
  • DIY message boards – Tips and feedback from experienced tilers
  • Facebook groups – Backsplash idea sharing and advice
  • Pinterest – Images of gorgeous backsplash designs for inspiration
  • Hometalk – DIY community with tutorials and project advice

Don’t be afraid to ask questions at your local tile store. Staff are usually happy to provide guidance to DIY newcomers.

Mistakes to Avoid As a Novice

Despite meticulous planning and preparation, some mistakes will happen on your debut backsplash project. Being aware of common pitfalls can help minimize blunders:

  • Attempting too advanced a design right off the bat. Start simple.
  • Not allowing enough drying time between steps. Rushing leads to problems.
  • Failing to clean tiles of excess grout before it dries. Watch tutorials.
  • Using improper trowel size for the tile. This affects mortar thickness.
  • Eyeballing tile layout instead of establishing lines. Crooked tiles show.
  • Mixing mortar or grout incorrectly. Follow package ratios.
  • Forgetting spacers and ending up with uneven grout lines.
  • Skipping protective prep of surrounding surfaces. Messy clean up.
  • Trying complex specialty tile cuts without proper tools.
  • Using leftover grout. Always mix fresh per project.

Don’t sweat small mess ups on your first try. Even pros make mistakes. Focus on enjoying the process and learning for next time.

Maintaining Your DIY Backsplash

Once your hard work is complete, keep your backsplash looking fresh by:

  • Sealing grout annually to protect from stains
  • Using a gentle cleaner designed for tile
  • Immediately wiping spills, splatters, grease
  • Avoiding abrasive cleaners or pads
  • Applying caulk around seams if cracks appear
  • Re-grouting joints every 3-5 years as needed

Taking good care of your tile will ensure it withstands daily use while maintaining its beauty. Be sure to admire your handiwork often!

Key Takeaways: Is a Backsplash Hard for DIY?

  • With proper planning, tools, materials, and patience, installing a backsplash is an achievable weekend project even for a novice DIYer.
  • Breaking the process down into organized steps makes it less intimidating. Allow ample drying time between each phase.
  • Focus on quality prep work like a clean, level surface and straight layout lines for a professional look.
  • Invest in the right tile cutter, mortar, grout, and other essential tools. Don’t cut corners with makeshift equipment.
  • Porcelain, ceramic, glass mosaic sheets, and peel-and-stick vinyl tiles are beginner-friendly options.
  • Common mistakes like hazy tiles and crooked lines are fixable. Seek help from experts if major issues occur.
  • The end results, cost savings, and tiling skills learned make the effort rewarding for most first-timers.

So don’t be deterred from trying an entry-level backsplash. With study and determination, it is within reach for any motivated DIYer’s abilities. Enjoy the journey and your stunning new focal point.

Frequently Asked Questions About DIY Backsplashes

Is it hard to install a backsplash for the first time?

Installing a backsplash is moderately difficult for a first-timer. With proper planning, tools, materials, and patience, it is a very achievable weekend DIY project. Breaking it down into steps and expecting a learning curve makes it less daunting.

What is the easiest backsplash to install?

Peel-and-stick vinyl tiles are the easiest for DIY beginners. Requiring no mortar or grout makes them fast and foolproof. Self-adhesive glass mosa