Is It Hard to Install Backsplash?

Installing a backsplash in your kitchen can really transform the look and feel of the space. But is it a difficult DIY project to take on? The answer depends on a few key factors.

What is a Backsplash?

A backsplash is a decorative, protective surface that is installed on the wall behind a countertop, stove, or sink. Backsplashes are typically made of tile, metal, glass, or stone. The main purposes of a backsplash are to:

  • Protect the walls from water damage, grease splatters, and stains
  • Add visual interest and style to the kitchen
  • Tie together the countertops and cabinets for a cohesive look

Backsplashes most commonly extend 4-6 inches vertically from the countertop to the bottom of the upper cabinets. They run horizontally along the length of the countertops and cooking surfaces.

Is Installing a Backsplash Difficult for a DIYer?

Installing a backsplash is considered an intermediate to advanced DIY project. It requires some tiling experience and comfort with tools. Here are some factors to consider:

Type of Backsplash Material

  • Tile: Installing a tile backsplash is the most complex option. It requires cutting tiles, applying mortar, precisely spacing and aligning tiles, and grouting. There are many types of tiles to choose from including ceramic, porcelain, glass, and stone.
  • Metal: Metal backsplashes like stainless steel, copper, or tin are easier to install. Many come in interlocking sheets that glue or screw directly to the wall. You need to measure correctly and cut sheets to size.
  • Glass: Glass tile or sheet backsplashes require careful handling and cutting. But they generally adhere directly to the wall with thinset mortar. Grouting is minimal.
  • Stone: Natural stone veneer panels make for an easier install than tile. But stone is heavy and working with the mortar can get messy. Shaping corners takes finesse.

Layout and Design

  • The more intricate the tile pattern and overall layout, the more challenging the install. Stick with basic grid designs as a DIYer.
  • Backsplashes with complicated edges and built-in niches will be trickier than a simple rectangle shape.
  • Incorporating an accent strip, decorative border, or mosaic tile accent adds complexity.

Size of the Area

  • A larger backsplash area means more tile cutting, precision, time, and grouting. Start small if you’re a novice.
  • Be sure to gather all measurements and order enough tile and supplies to cover the entire area with extras allowed.

Type of Wall Surface

  • Tiling onto drywall requires extra preparation and care to prevent sagging. Cement board is the preferred backing.
  • If tiling directly over existing tile, the surface must be degreased and sanded for proper adhesion.

Experience with Tools

  • You’ll need basic tiling tools like a notched trowel, tile spacers, grout float, and mixers. And possibly specialty tools for cutting.
  • A rotary tool or wet saw is required for precise tile cutting. This takes practice to master.
  • Comfort with a tape measure, level, marksman, and other essential home improvement tools is a must.

DIY Backsplash Installation Process

If you’re up for the challenge, these are the basic steps to install a tile backsplash as a DIYer:

1. Prepare the Wall

  • Remove existing backsplash if there is one and thoroughly clean the wall.
  • Fill any holes or imperfections with spackle and sand smooth.
  • Apply mortar to uneven areas. Ensure the wall is as smooth and flat as possible.

2. Mark the Layout

  • Measure and mark horizontal and vertical reference lines for center points and tile spacing.
  • Dry lay tiles on the countertop to test pattern and fit before installing. Adjust layout as needed.

3. Cut Tiles

  • Measure and mark tiles to be cut according to your layout.
  • Carefully score and snap tiles for straight cuts or use a wet saw for precision cuts.
  • Smooth cut edges with sandpaper so tiles lie flush against each other.

4. Apply Mortar and Set Tiles

  • Spread thinset mortar evenly across the wall area using a notched trowel.
  • Firmly press tiles into the mortar beginning at the center point and working outwards.
  • Use spacers between tiles for consistent grout lines.

5. Finish With Grout

  • Let mortar fully cure according to manufacturer instructions, usually 24-48 hours.
  • Mix grout and apply it over the tile surface using a grout float.
  • Wipe away excess grout with a damp sponge in smooth, diagonal motions.
  • Allow grout to cure, then polish and seal as needed.

Tips for a Successful Backsplash Install

The key to smoothly installing a backsplash is taking time for careful preparation and cleanly applied mortar. Patience is also important as you cut and place tiles. These tips will boost your DIY success:

  • Invest in high-quality tile and adhesive mortar suited for backsplash use.
  • Study tile package instructions thoroughly and follow as directed.
  • Acclimate tiles to room temperature for 24-48 hours before installing.
  • Apply painter’s tape around edges to protect countertops and cabinets.
  • Work in small sections, completing one area before moving on.
  • Ensure tiles are level and leave consistent grout lines using spacers.
  • Clean tiles and trowel edges frequently to remove dried mortar.
  • Don’t rush through grouting. Apply it methodically for best results.
  • Avoid walking on freshly tiled areas until mortar and grout has fully cured.
  • Seal grout lines after curing to prevent staining and increase water resistance.

Hiring a Professional Tile Installer

As you can see, installing a backsplash requires careful attention to detail and some tiling know-how. While it is a DIY-friendly project, first-time tilers should expect to make some mistakes. Hiring a professional tiling contractor is advisable if:

  • You don’t feel comfortable using a wet saw or cutting tools.
  • Your design includes intricate patterns, decorative borders, or niche accents.
  • The area is exceptionally large or challenging like a stove backsplash.
  • You want to ensure it’s done perfectly in minimal time.

The cost to hire a tile installation pro ranges from $40 to $80 per hour. They have the skills to handle complex designs, efficient tools to save time, and practices that result in a flawless finish.

Many tilers also offer tile selection consulting services to match your style. While hiring out adds to the project budget, it may give you greater peace of mind and free up your time.

Frequently Asked Questions About Installing Backsplashes

Does the wall need any preparation before tiling a backsplash?

Yes, the wall should be sanded, cleaned, spackled, and possibly have mortar or cement board applied to ensure a smooth, flat surface for the tile to adhere properly. Existing glossy surfaces are sanded and primed first.

What tools do I need to install a tile backsplash?

Basic tiling tools include a tape measure, level, tile cutter, mixing buckets, notched trowel, grout float, sponges, tile spacers, safety gear, and cleaning supplies. A wet saw is also extremely helpful for precise cuts.

How long does a backsplash tile install take?

The timeline can range from 2 days to a week depending on the size of the area, tile material, complexity of the design, mortar cure times, and your skill level. Professional tilers can often complete an install in 1-2 days.

Should my backsplash tile match my countertop?

It doesn’t have to match exactly, but the backsplash tile should coordinate with the countertops and overall kitchen décor. A contrasting tile can add interest, while a matching tone ties it together nicely.

Can I install a backsplash over existing tile or damaged drywall?

It is possible but may require extra preparation and modified mortar. Ensure the surface is absolutely clean and roughened to allow adhesion. Talk to a tile pro about your unique situation.

Should I seal my backsplash after grouting?

Sealing is highly recommended to prevent staining, increase water resistance, and make grout cleanup easier. Use a penetrating sealer designed for your tile material. Reapply yearly.

The Rewarding Return on Backsplash Investment

Installing a backsplash demands some elbow grease. There are many meticulous steps requiring specific skills and tools. Given the complexities of installing tile well, many homeowners opt to hire a professional.

But completing a quality backsplash yourself can be extremely rewarding. With careful planning, patience, and commitment to the process, you can transform your kitchen with beautiful results. The finished backsplash will provide a source of pride and upgrade your cooking space for years to come.

Should You Install a Backsplash Before or After New Countertops?

When renovating your kitchen, you have choices to make about project sequencing. Is it better to install the backsplash before or after new countertops? This decision impacts your workflow and the final aesthetic.

Here are the pros and cons of installing backsplashes both before and after new countertops:

Installing Backsplash Before New Countertops


  • Allows you to center backsplash tiles or patterns based on the current countertop position. This ensures proper alignment without having to account for variances with a new countertop.
  • Prevents potential damage to the backsplash during countertop installation and material transport. Heavy stone slabs can crack fragile tile if installed afterwards.
  • May provide cost savings. Combining backsplash tiling with existing countertop allows a continuous workflow versus remobilizing a tiler later.


  • Creates a visible seam between backsplash and new countertops. Gaps require extra caulking and may not look seamless.
  • Backsplash height may not align perfectly with new counter. Old and new countertops often have varying thicknesses.
  • Installs the backsplash before you can appreciate how the full kitchen design comes together. New countertop colors and patterns may compete with or overwhelm the backsplash.

Installing Backsplash After New Countertops


  • Achieves a flawless, seamless backsplash installation. Tiles can be cut to butt cleanly against the edge of the new countertop with no gaps.
  • Allows you to match backsplash materials, colors, and designs with your new countertops and cabinets. Everything can complement each other.
  • Looks more uniform and intentional. The backsplash height and position will be tailored to the new counter specifications.


  • Requires careful tile layout planning to account for new countertop overhangs, depth, and any non-straight edges.
  • Risks damaging the new countertop during the backsplash installation process. Countertops must be covered well for protection.
  • May be more expensive if you have to remobilize a tiler to come back after countertops are installed.

Key Tips for Seamless Backsplash Integration

Whichever install sequence you choose, these tips help marry the backsplash beautifully with the countertops:

  • Select backsplash tile colors and patterns to match or complement new countertop materials. Having samples of both is helpful.
  • Measure the counter overhang depth so the backsplash can be installed to the exact height required.
  • Overestimate measurements and order extra tile to account for potential breakage, complex cuts, or changes.
  • Use caulk that matches the grout color for clean, subtle seams if necessary.
  • Cover all countertops with protective drop cloths during backsplash installation to avoid damage.
  • Hire an experienced professional tiler who can achieve clean edges against countertops.

With proper planning and execution, you can achieve a flush, seamless integration between backsplash and countertops for a custom look.

Should You Install the Backsplash Before or After Painting?

If you’re renovating your kitchen, determining whether to install the backsplash before or after painting the walls is an important decision. The sequence you choose impacts the installation process, final look, and budget.

Here’s an overview of the pros and cons of doing backsplashes before or after painting:

Installing Backsplash Before Painting Walls


  • Allows you tointegratetile edges tightly along the painted wall for a seamless look.
  • Prevents paint splatters and smears on the backsplash surface during the painting process.
  • Lets you match the grout color to the wall paint for a cohesive palette.


  • Can result in a visible gap between the tiles and wall requiring caulk.
  • Paint touch-ups may be required if the backsplash doesn’t cover fully up to the ceiling.
  • Backsplash installation mess can impact freshly painted walls.

Installing Backsplash After Painting Walls


  • Achieves a cleaner wall painting process without having to mask or cover tiles.
  • Allows the backsplash to stand out boldly from the wall color.
  • May be easier to match existing grout with suitable wall paint.


  • Can leave gaps between tile edges and painted walls requiring caulk.
  • Risks splattering paint on the tiles during application which must be cleaned.
  • May require cutting tiles precisely to butt up to new painted wall edges.

Tips for Integrating Backsplash and Paint

To ensure your backsplash and wall paint flow together seamlessly:

  • Caulk gaps with a paintable silicone sealant and touch up with wall paint.
  • Apply painter’s tape a 1/8” above backsplash to paint a straight edge if gaps exist.
  • Cut tile edges with a wet saw for straight lines if installing after painting.
  • Select wall paint to match or complement backsplash grout color.
  • Cover tiles well and mask edges if painting walls after backsplash is in.
  • Use high quality primer and paint paired with tile-appropriate grout.

Careful installation and coordination of your backsplash tile and wall paint ensures your kitchen flows beautifully no matter which sequence you choose.

DIY Installation of Tile, Metal, Glass, or Stone Backsplashes

Beyond deciding between tile and other increasingly popular backsplash materials, executing a quality do-it-yourself installation is crucial. Here is an overview of how to install tile, metal, glass, or stone backsplashes in your kitchen properly:

DIY Tile Backsplash


  • Clean surface thoroughly and sand to increase adhesion. Fill any holes or imperfections in the wall.
  • Measure space and create layout, ensuring sufficient tile and supplies. Mix thinset mortar.


  • Apply thinset mortar to wall area using notched trowel. Cement board can be used as backing.
  • Press tiles into mortar, using spacers for consistent grout lines. Finish one section before moving on.
  • Cut border and specialty tiles as needed with tile cutter or wet saw. Smooth cut edges.
  • Let mortar cure fully (24-48 hours). Mix and apply grout between tiles. Polish once dry.
  • Seal grout lines for water resistance and easier cleaning. Use caulk at corners or edges if needed.

DIY Metal Backsplash


  • Degrease and sand wall area. Fill any dents or scratches to smooth surface.
  • Gather measurements and order metal sheets, adhesive, and screws if using. Cut with tin snips as needed.


  • Apply adhesive mortar to back of metal sheet using trowel. Press onto wall and secure with screws into studs.
  • Cut sheets to fit outlets, corners, and edges. For multiple sheets, overlap seams or provide revealed border.
  • Use acrylic caulk between metal and countertops/walls. Immediately remove excess caulk before drying.
  • Consider applying protective clear coat for easier cleaning and prevention of oxidation over time.

DIY Glass Backsplash


  • Clean and dry wall area thoroughly. Glass will not adhere to dirty or damp surfaces.
  • Order glass sheet tile, and plan layout. Use painter’s tape to map positions on wall.


  • Spread thinset mortar on wall area using notched trowel. Push glass sheet firmly into mortar.
  • Use level and spacers to keep tiles even. Cut glass to fit outlets or corners with glass cutter.
  • Allow thinset to cure fully per manufacturer instructions before grouting or removing painter’s tape.
  • Mix nonsanded grout to apply between glass tiles. Polish carefully when dry.

DIY Stone Backsplash


  • Select stone backsplash slabs or panels based on the look you want. Gather all measurements.
  • Clean, dry, and roughen wall area so stone has a surface to grip.


  • Dry fit stone panels first before applying mortar. Use shims if wall is uneven.
  • Spread thinset mortar on wall area using trowel. Mortar should be thicker for heavy stone.
  • Set stone panels into mortar. Use spacers, shims, and level for optimal alignment.
  • Let mortar cure 2-3 days. Use caulk or grout between stone seams and corners if needed.
  • Seal stone to protect from stains and water damage. Especially important for porous natural stone.

With proper planning, materials, tools, and patience, you can tackle backsplash projects in tile, metal, glass or stone. Follow all product instructions and take care for quality results.

Can You Install a Backsplash Over Existing Tile?

If you want to refresh your backsplash but don’t want the headache and mess of ripping it out, installing right over the existing tile is an option. However, there are important steps to take for success: