What Do I Need to Put Up Backsplash? The Complete Guide

Installing a beautiful backsplash in your kitchen or bathroom can completely transform the look and feel of the space. However, undertaking a backsplash project requires some planning and preparation. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll walk you through everything you need to know to successfully put up a backsplash.

Backsplash Materials: Choosing the Right Option

The first step is selecting the right backsplash materials for your needs. Here are some of the most popular options to consider:

Ceramic and Porcelain Tile

Ceramic and porcelain tiles are classic backsplash materials that come in a vast array of colors, textures, shapes, and sizes. They are durable, easy to clean, and resistant to moisture. Porcelain tile is less porous than ceramic and may be more stain-resistant.

Key benefits:

  • Durable and long-lasting
  • Easy to clean
  • Moisture-resistant
  • Many style options


  • Grout lines may collect dirt
  • Heavy tiles require strong adhesion

Natural Stone Tile

Backsplashes made from natural stone like marble, travertine, granite, and slate can create a high-end, luxurious look. Stone has beautiful natural variation and texture. It’s very durable but more prone to staining than ceramic or porcelain.


  • Elegant, upscale aesthetic
  • Each piece unique
  • Withstands heat
  • Durable and long-lasting


  • More expensive
  • Requires resealing
  • Can stain easily
  • Heavy, may require additional support

Glass Tile

Glass tile backsplashes add brilliant color, shine, and visual depth to your space. The reflective surface makes rooms feel more open. Glass tile comes in endless colors and styles.


  • Sleek, modern look
  • Reflective surface
  • Wide range of colors and styles
  • Easy to clean


  • More prone to cracking and chipping
  • Professional installation recommended
  • Grout staining possible over time

Metal Tile

Metal tiles like tin, copper, and stainless steel make a dramatic contemporary statement. The industrial vibe pairs well with minimalist, modern aesthetics. Metal tiles are very durable but prone to scratching.


  • Bold, modern look
  • Very durable
  • Easy to clean
  • Environmentally friendly options like recycled metals


  • Expensive
  • Can dent or scratch
  • Challenging DIY installation
  • Can conduct heat

Mosaic Tile

Mosaic tiles use small pieces arranged in decorative patterns. Options like penny tile, subway tile, and hexagon tile create visual interest and texture. Mosaics come in all types of materials like ceramic, porcelain, glass, and stone.


  • Eye-catching styles and textures
  • Works with many design aesthetics
  • Durable and moisture-resistant
  • Easy to clean when grouted


  • Time-consuming installation
  • Grout may stain over time
  • Small tiles can crack and come loose

Selecting the Right Backsplash Area

In most kitchens, the backsplash area covers the wall space between the countertops and upper cabinets. However, you can also do full-height backsplashes or run tile from counter to ceiling. For bathroom vanity backsplashes, select the wall area behind sinks and faucets.

Consider the size of your space when deciding how much area to cover with backsplash tile. Small spaces may feel busier with full-height tile. Mosaic patterns and dense metro tiles can also overwhelm a tiny area. Measure carefully to calculate the square footage so you can purchase enough tile.

Gathering Your Backsplash Supplies

Once you’ve selected your backsplash tile and area, it’s time to gather supplies. Having all materials ready before starting work prevents headaches later. Here’s what you’ll need:


Measure your backsplash area and purchase 10-15% extra tile than the measurements indicate. This accounts for broken and cut tiles during installation. Check tile and lot numbers to ensure your tiles come from the same batch.

Tile Adhesive

Choose polymer-modified thinset mortar adhesive suited for your tile type. Budget extra for thicker/heavier tile. Make sure the adhesive coordinates with the tile size and application area.


Purchase grout that matches the tile color. Unsanded grout works for narrow grout lines under 1/8 inch. Wider joints need sanded grout. Include grout sealant to protect porous grout areas.


Cement, fiber cement, or fiberglass backerboard provides a water-resistant underlayment for tile over drywall. Use galvanized backerboard screws to install.


Trowels apply and spread adhesive. Select notch size and depth to match tile type. Bigger tiles need deeper notches and more adhesive.

Tile Spacers

Spacers keep tile evenly spaced as you lay it. Push against adjacent tiles to maintain even grout line width.

Grout Float

A grout float helps press grout into tile joints. Opt for a soft rubber design to avoid scratching tiles.

Grout Sponge

Use a grout sponge wider than your tile joints to wipe away excess grout. Rinse frequently for best results.

Tile Cutters

Manual cutters have snap-off blades for straight cuts. Wetsaws cut curves and notches. Nippers nibble out small pieces.


100% silicone caulk seals gaps between tile and fixtures, counters, cabinets, and walls. Match the color to your grout.

Preparing the Surface

Proper prep work ensures your backsplash installation lasts. Here are the key steps:

Clean Thoroughly

Remove all grease, soap residue, and grime from the installation area using degreasing cleaners formulated for kitchens and baths. Rinse completely.

Evaluate and Repair Walls

Walls must be flat and plumb for tile installation. Fill any holes or cracks with spackle. Sand bumps smooth. Remove old caulk or adhesive.

Install Backerboard

Cut cement, fiber cement, or fiberglass backerboard to size. Offset seams from wall studs. Attach with backerboard screws spaced 6-8 inches apart.

Waterproofing (Bathrooms)

Waterproof backerboard or treat seams and corners with waterproofing membrane. This prevents moisture damage behind tiles.

Prime if Necessary

Some tiles like large format porcelain may require priming with a tile bonding agent before setting. Check adhesive requirements.

Setting Your Tile

Now the fun part begins! Follow these tips for flawless tile-setting:

Plan Layout

Dry lay tiles on the floor first to map out your pattern and space cuts. Measure and mark focal points on the wall.

Mix Thinset Mortar

Mix powdered thinset to a toothpaste-like consistency in small batches. Let sit 5-10 minutes then re-mix before using.

Apply Adhesive

Spread adhesive using trowel notches sized for your tile. Apply 1-2 square feet adhesive area at a time to prevent drying.

Set Tiles

Press tiles firmly into adhesive with light twisting motion. Push spacers against each tile edge. Check tiles regularly for 100% adhesive coverage.

Cut Detailed Pieces

Measure and cut edge and filler tiles to fit. Use manual or wet saws for specialty cuts like L-shapes and outlets.

Let Adhesive Cure

Allow thinset mortar to cure for 24-48 hours before grouting. Avoid walking on tiles and wipe away excess adhesive during this time.

Grouting Your Backsplash

Grout fills the seams between tiles with color and waterproofs the installation. Follow these tips:

Mix Grout

Mix powdered grout with water to thick peanut butter consistency. Let stand 5-10 minutes then remix before using.

Spread Grout

Apply grout across the tile surface using a rubber grout float. Press firmly into joints until completely filled.

Clean Excess Grout

Wipe diagonally across tiles with a damp grout sponge to remove residue. Rinse sponge frequently.

Seal Grout

After grout dries fully, apply grout sealant to protect from stains. Re-seal yearly.

Caulk Joints

Run a thin bead of silicone caulk along the joints between the tile and counter, cabinets, or walls. Smooth with a damp finger.

Caring for Your Backsplash

Your new backsplash needs some periodic maintenance to stay beautiful. Follow these care tips:

  • Use gentle cleaners designed for tile and grout. Avoid harsh chemicals.
  • Re-seal grout yearly to protect from stains.
  • Immediately clean spills, splatters, and grease to prevent stubborn staining.
  • Replace cracked, loose, or damaged tiles as needed to maintain water resistance.
  • Recaulk joints every 1-2 years as caulk naturally shrinks and deteriorates over time.

Common Backsplash Installation Questions

What’s the best grout color?

Choose grout close to your tile color for a seamless look. For contrast, go with white, gray, or black grout paired with colored tile.

How do I cut irregular openings?

Use a rotary tool or oscillating multi-tool to precision cut notches, curves, and holes in tile to fit around outlets, pipes, and fixtures.

Should backsplash go to the ceiling?

Full-height backsplashes can visually expand smaller kitchens. But heavy top tiles may require additional brackets or support.

Do I need special tools for subway tile?

Staggering brick-pattern subway tileinstallation is easier with tile spacers. Use a tile leveling system for perfectly flat results.

Can backsplash get wet?

Yes! Backsplashes are designed to withstand splashes and spills. Water-resistant materials like porcelain, glass, and natural stone are very durable options.

Enhancing Your Space with Backsplash

Adding backsplash tile is a weekend project that can completely transform the look of your kitchen or bath. With some planning and preparation, you can install a stylish, easy-care backsplash and enjoy the upgrades for years to come. This guide covers all the essential information you need to successfully tackle a backsplash project. Follow these tips and tricks for stunning results!

So in summary, here’s what you need to put up backsplash:

  • Backsplash tile materials like ceramic, glass, or metal tile
  • Thinset mortar adhesive suitable for your tile type
  • Grout and grout sealant
  • Backerboard
  • Tile spacers
  • Tile cutting tools
  • Caulk/silicone sealant
  • Trowels for spreading adhesive
  • Grout float and sponges
  • Tile nippers, manual cutter, or wet saw for cutting
  • Safety gear like gloves, goggles, knee pads
  • Buckets, sponges, rags

Select your materials, thoroughly prepare the surface, carefully lay the tile, neatly grout the joints, and properly care for your new backsplash. With the right supplies and some dedication, you can achieve beautiful do-it-yourself backsplash results!