What Do I Need to Install a Backsplash?

Installing a backsplash is a great way to add visual interest and protect your walls in a kitchen or bathroom. With some planning and the right materials, installing a tile or stone backsplash is a DIY project many homeowners can tackle. Here’s what you need to know to install a backsplash in your home.

Planning Your Backsplash

Before picking up any tools, take some time to plan your backsplash project:

Determine the Area to Cover

Measure the area you want to cover with your backsplash. This will allow you to purchase the right amount of tile and materials. In kitchens, backsplashes typically cover the wall area between countertops and cabinets. Standard backsplash height is 4 inches from the counter, but you can customize the height and area covered to fit your space.

Choose Your Materials

Ceramic, porcelain, or natural stone tiles are most commonly used for backsplashes. Consider the look you want and your budget when selecting materials. Porcelain and ceramic tiles are typically more affordable and offer lots of color and pattern options. Natural stone like marble, travertine, or granite provide beautiful visual interest but are more expensive.

Pick a Tile Layout Pattern

Think about the tile layout pattern. Basic grid, subway tile, or mosaic patterns are options. Make sure to account for the measurements of your tile and the area to be covered when planning the layout.

Consider Accent Tiles

Accent tiles can be used to add visual flair. Decorative tile strips, mosaic tiles, or tile medallions make great additions around the stove, sink, or other focal points.

Gather Your Materials

Once you’ve planned the design, gather the necessary materials:

  • Tiles: Purchase enough to cover the area, allowing for cuts and waste.
  • Tile adhesive: Choose tile mastic or thinset mortar suitable for wall application.
  • Grout: Grout matches the color of your tiles. A sanded grout is best for wide grout lines.
  • Backerboard: Cement, fiber cement, or fiberglass backerboard provides a water-resistant underlayment.
  • Sealant: A waterproof, mildew-resistant sealant/caulk.
  • Tools: Trowel, spacers, grout float, sponge, mixing bucket, tile cutter, safety gloves and eyewear.

Prepare the Surface

Proper surface prep is key for a long-lasting backsplash:

  • Remove existing backsplash or wall coverings completely.
  • Clean and sand the area to remove grease, soap scum, or other residues.
  • Seal surfaces thoroughly – use a sealing primer or two coats of sealer on drywall, plaster, or painted surfaces.
  • Let any sealing products dry fully before moving to next steps.

Install the Backerboard

Backerboard provides a durable, water-resistant surface for tile adhesion:

  • Measure and cut cement, fiber cement, or fiberglass backerboard panels to fit your space.
  • Apply thinset mortar evenly across the area using a notched trowel.
  • Press backerboard into the thinset and fasten with backerboard screws, spaced 8 inches apart across panels and around edges.
  • Tape seams with fiberglass mesh tape and apply more thinset over tape for durability and moisture protection.

Lay the Tile

Once your backerboard is installed, you’re ready to lay the tile:

  • Plan the tile layout, starting at the bottom. Measure and mark the center point. Use spacers to leave even grout lines.
  • Spread a section of tile adhesive on the backerboard using a trowel. Follow product instructions.
  • Press tiles into the tile adhesive firmly. Push backsplash tiles fully into the thinset to adhere.
  • Continue laying tiles row by row. Cut border and accent tiles as needed for the perfect fit.
  • Let tile adhesive fully cure per manufacturer directions before grouting.

Apply Grout and Sealant

Grout fills the spaces between tiles. Sealant protects the finished backsplash:

  • Apply grout along the grout lines, using a grout float. Hold at a 45 degree angle and scrape off excess grout.
  • Wipe the tiles clean with a damp sponge once grout has become hazy. Buff off residual grout haze once dry.
  • Apply sealant along the grout lines and tile edges. Avoid sealing the tile faces.
  • Let cure fully and enjoy your finished backsplash!

Backsplash Installation Tips

Follow these tips for the best results on your backsplash installation:

  • Gather all materials and tools needed before starting.
  • Carefully measure and lay out tile placement before adhering tiles.
  • Use a level and spacers to keep tiles even and straight.
  • Cut tiles slowly and carefully with a wet saw or tile cutter.
  • Work in small sections to keep adhesives from drying out.
  • Clean excess adhesive and grout promptly before drying.
  • Seal and protect your backsplash from moisture and grime.
  • Seek help for electrical or plumbing relocations needed behind walls.

With proper planning and preparation, installing a tile backsplash is an achievable DIY project for many homeowners. The end result can add style, function, and value to your kitchen or bath.

Frequently Asked Questions About Installing Backsplashes

What tools do I need to install a backsplash?

Basic tools needed are a tape measure, pencil, level, spacers, saw for cutting tile, mixing bucket, trowel, grout float, sponges, tile cutter, gloves, and safety glasses. A wet saw is ideal for cutting tile but a score and snap tile cutter can also work.

What is the easiest backsplash to install?

Self-adhesive peel and stick backsplash tiles make for an easy DIY-friendly backsplash option. Simply measure, cut, peel, and stick the tile pieces to the prepared area. Subway tile and mosaic sheets also simplify backsplash installation.

How do I prepare drywall for a backsplash?

On drywall, apply a coat of drywall sealer or use a sealing latex primer like Kilz. This seals the surface to prevent water damage. Fiber cement, cement board, or fiberglass backerboard are other excellent underlayments for backsplashes.

Can you put tile backsplash directly on drywall?

It is not recommended to apply tile directly on drywall alone. Moisture can cause drywall paper to peel and compromise the tile bond. A moisture-resistant backerboard or treated drywall will ensure the backsplash tiles adhere properly.

Do I need to seal my backsplash?

Yes, sealing is highly recommended. An impregnating sealant will protect porous natural stone backsplash tiles from stains and damage from moisture. Grout lines and edges should also be sealed to prevent moisture intrusion and mildew growth.

Can I install a backsplash around electrical outlets?

Yes, with care. Turn off power and relocate or extend outlets as needed to accommodate the backsplash tile layout. Cover exposed opening with a watertight outlet cover box. Consult an electrician if unsure.


Installing a backsplash tile project is an intermediate DIY task that can make a big visual impact in your home. With proper planning to purchase materials, prep the work area, and apply tiles carefully, you can achieve a professional looking backsplash on a budget. Patience and attention to detail will help you gain skills and confidence to take on tiling projects. Remember to seal and protect the finished backsplash. Enjoy your updated space!