Is It Hard to Tile a Backsplash?

Tiling your own backsplash can seem daunting, but with the right planning and materials it is very doable as a DIY project. Here we’ll walk through everything you need to know to tile your backsplash with confidence.

Getting Started

Tiling a backsplash requires some key supplies and tools, including:

  • Tiles – ceramic, glass, and stone are common options. Make sure to get extras in case any tiles break.
  • Adhesive – thinset mortar adhesive for tile.
  • Grout – available in different colors to match your tiles.
  • Trowel – for spreading thinset. Use a notched trowel to ensure proper coverage.
  • Tile spacers – small crosses to leave even grout lines between tiles.
  • Wet saw – for accurately cutting tile. A handheld cutter can also work for simple cuts.
  • Grout float – for smoothing and cleaning excess grout.

Before tiling, remove any existing backsplash and prepare the surface. Fill any holes or uneven areas in the drywall and prime before starting tile. Planning your tile layout is also crucial so you don’t end up with uneven cuts at the edges. Measure the space and dry lay tiles to visualize placement.

Step-by-Step Installation

Tiling goes smooth when you follow the right techniques. Here is a step-by-step guide:

1. Prepare the Surface

Make sure the surface is clean and primed before applying thinset. Vacuum and wipe away debris, then apply primer to aid adhesion.

2. Apply Thinset

Use a notched trowel held at a 45° angle to spread a thin layer of thinset mortar adhesive. Cover just enough area to work in sections.

3. Set the Tiles

Place the first tile in the corner, using spacers around the edges. Set additional tiles in the thinset, working in a grid and ensuring even spacing.

4. Check Leveling

As you go, use a level to ensure the tile surfaces are even. Make any adjustments as needed.

5. Cut Any Edge Tiles

Mark and cut tiles to fit around outlets, edges, and corners. Use a wet saw for accurate cuts without cracking tile.

6. Let Thinset Cure

Allow thinset to fully cure overnight before grouting. This helps prevent tiles shifting or grout cracking.

7. Mix and Apply Grout

Prepare grout mix per package instructions. Use a rubber grout float to spread grout over the tiles, pressing into joints.

8. Clean Excess Grout

Wipe any excess grout off the tile surface with a damp sponge and buff with a cloth before it dries.

9. Seal the Grout

Once fully cured, apply a penetrating sealer to the grout lines to prevent staining and damage.

And that’s it! Follow these key steps carefully and you can achieve a backsplash to be proud of. Don’t be afraid to tile your own backsplash.

Tips for Achieving a Professional Look

Here are some top tips to help your DIY backsplash look polished and pro-installed:

  • Carefully plan tile layout to minimize small cut tiles at corners and edges.
  • Use tile spacers for evenly spaced joints.
  • Keep your grout lines straight for a clean look.
  • Take time cleaning off excess grout before it dries.
  • Use a tile sealer to protect the finish of natural stone tiles.
  • Consider finishing touches like trim pieces around edges or decorative tile accents.
  • Caulk where the backsplash meets the countertop or wall for a seamless look.

Planning thoroughly and moving slowly lead to the best end results. Don’t rush through the steps and your tiling work will look fantastic.

Common Beginner Mistakes to Avoid

It’s easy for novice tilers to make some mistakes on their first backsplash project. Being aware of these common pitfalls will help you avoid them:

  • Not prepping the surface – take time to clean, fill imperfections, and prime the area before tiling. This prevents adhesion issues down the road.
  • Improper thinset application – make sure to fully cover the surface using a notched trowel at a 45° angle. Spread only what can be tiled before the thinset skins over.
  • Uneven tile spacing – use plastic tile spacers to maintain even grout line width around all tiles.
  • Forgetting to seal natural stone – seal porous tiles before grouting and again after to prevent staining.
  • Not letting thinset cure before grouting – resist the urge to rush! Letting it cure prevents loosening of tiles.
  • Sloppy grouting technique – use a grout float to spread grout smoothly across the joints. Hold it at a consistent angle.
  • Neglecting to seal the grout – unsealed grout attracts dirt and stains. Apply a penetrating grout sealer once fully cured.

Maintaining Your Backsplash

Put effort into protecting your backsplash to keep it looking like new:

  • Use a gentle cleaner designed for tile and grout. Avoid harsh cleaners which can degrade grout over time.
  • Re-seal the grout every 1-2 years with a penetrating sealer to prevent staining and damage from moisture.
  • Immediately clean up spills to prevent staining of grout lines.
  • Do not use abrasive scrub pads or brushes which can dull the surface of the tiles.

With proper care, your newly tiled backsplash will maintain its beauty and last for many years before needing to be redone. Taking time to regularly clean and re-seal it is key.

When to Call in a Pro

While tiling a basic backsplash is doable for a dedicated DIYer, more complex projects are best left to the professionals:

  • Large expanses of tile beyond just a contained backsplash area.
  • Intricate mosaic tile designs or artistic patterns.
  • Specialty tiles like natural stone or large format tiles, which require greater expertise to install.
  • Tiling a shower or wet area, which comes with additional waterproofing considerations.
  • If the wall requires adjustments or framing work beyond your skill level.

Don’t bite off more than you can chew for your first tiling project! Start with a simple kitchen backsplash and build your abilities from there. Calling in a tile pro to handle trickier installs is money well spent.


What size tile is best for a backsplash?

Smaller tiles like 2×2 inches or 4×4 inches are commonly used and allow you to make clean cuts around outlets and corners. Larger format tiles can work but may require more cutting.

How are backsplash tiles attached?

Tiles are adhered to the wall surface using a mortar-based thinset adhesive applied with a notched trowel. The thinset hardens to a tight bond.

Can I use different tiles together?

Absolutely! Mixing complementary tile materials, colors, shapes, and designs is a great way to make your backsplash unique. Plan tile placement carefully.

Should I use light or dark grout?

Either can look great, just choose what complements your tile. Dark grout stands out boldly while light grout blends in discreetly.

How long does a tiled backsplash last?

With proper installation and care, a tiled backsplash can last 20-30 years or longer before needing replacement, making it a durable choice.


Installing a tile backsplash boosts the style and functionality of any kitchen. With smart planning and careful attention to detail, DIY backsplash tiling is an achievable project for novice tilers. Focus on proper prep, spacing, leveling, grouting, and sealing techniques to get professional-looking results. Avoid common mistakes like rushed thinset curing or sloppy grouting. A well-executed backsplash can become a focal point you enjoy for decades to come. With this guide’s help, you can tile like a pro!