What Do I Need to Tile a Backsplash?

Tiling your backsplash can be a fun DIY project that adds personality and flair to your kitchen. With some planning and the right materials, you can create a backsplash you’ll love. Here’s what you need to know to successfully tile a backsplash.


A backsplash serves both decorative and functional purposes in a kitchen. Made of tile or other materials, a backsplash protects the walls from splashes, spills and splatters while cooking. It also brings visual interest to the kitchen, letting you add color, texture and patterns.

Tiling a backsplash yourself can save on labor costs compared to hiring a professional. With a little time and effort, you can customize it exactly how you want. Make sure you have the necessary supplies and follow important steps like prepping the surface and applying tile spacers for a quality finished project.

What You Need to Tile a Backsplash

Tiles – Ceramic, porcelain, glass, and stone tile are commonly used. Choose the size, color, finish, and style. Many homeowners opt for subway tile or mosaics.

Tile adhesive – Thinset mortar adheres the tiles to the wall. It comes premixed or in powder form.

Grout – Grout fills the joints between tiles. It’s commonly cement-based but also comes in epoxy.

Trowel – Use a notched trowel to spread the tile adhesive. Choose a size that matches your tile.

Spacers – Plastic spacers keep tile spaced evenly apart.

Tile cutter – A snap tile cutter or wet saw precisely cuts tile.

Grout float – A grout float helps apply grout into tile joints.

Sponge – For wiping away excess grout.

Sealant – Seals the grout and Natural stones

Safety gear – Gloves, goggles, mask, and kneepads make tiling more comfortable.

Miscellaneous supplies – Bucket, rags, tape measure, level, painter’s tape, caulk, grout sealer.

How to Prepare the Surface

Proper surface prep prevents tiles from loosening over time. Follow these tips:

  • Clean the surface thoroughly to remove grease, dirt and debris.
  • Fix any damage spots in the wall with spackle or caulk.
  • Paint the wall if needed so your backdrop is fresh and clean.
  • Apply painter’s tape around the edges to protect the surrounding walls.
  • Mark the layout with a level to ensure your tile lines are straight.

The wall surface must be smooth and dust-free for the tile to adhere properly. If necessary, attach cement backerboard for more stability before applying tile.

Applying the Tile Adhesive

Mix the thinset mortar according to package directions, then use a notched trowel to evenly spread it on the wall. Apply only as much as you can tile over within the adhesive’s open time.

Use the flat side of the trowel to knock down any high spots for a smooth, uniform layer. Be sure the tile makes full contact with the thinset to prevent cracking and loosening. Don’t spread adhesive in areas where spacers will go.

Installing the Tile

Following your layout, place the tiles in the adhesive and press firmly. Use spacers between tiles to maintain even grout lines. Pay attention to alignment and keep the tiles square.

To fit partial tiles along the edges, use a wet saw or tile cutter to score and snap to size. Grind the edges for a finished look with a rubbing stone. Thoroughly clean any thinset or dust from the tile surface with a damp sponge.

Applying Grout and Finishing Touches

Let the thinset cure fully before grouting, usually around 24 hours. Spread grout over the tiles with the grout float, forcing it into the joints. Clean excess grout with a damp sponge in diagonal motions. Seal the grout once fully cured.

Finally, caulk along the edges, let dry fully, then remove painter’s tape. Clean the tiles one more time with a light vinegar solution. The finished backsplash can now bring stylish protection and personality to your kitchen!

FAQs about Tiling a Backsplash

What type of tile is best for a backsplash?

Ceramic and porcelain tile are most common because they’re water-resistant, durable, and affordable. Natural stone like marble adds elegance but requires sealing. Glass tile makes a beautiful backsplash too.

How are subway tiles installed?

Subway tiles are installed in the same manner as other tiles. Prepare the surface, apply thinset in small sections, place tiles, use spacers, then grout. Their rectangular shape lends well to basic grid patterns.

Should you seal tile before or after grouting?

It’s best to apply grout sealer after grouting. Sealing before grouting seals the tile surface so the grout has difficulty adhering. Apply sealer once the grout has cured, typically 24 to 72 hours.

How long does it take to tile a backsplash?

For an average sized backsplash of 10-25 square feet, expect the tiling to take 2 to 3 days working a few hours per day. Exact timeframe depends on your skill level, prep work involved, and tile size. Patience makes for good results.

What color grout is best for a white subway tile backsplash?

White and light gray are popular grout colors with white subway tiles. They provide subtle contrast while maintaining a clean, minimalist look. Dark grout highlights the grid pattern more. Personal preference determines what looks best to you.

Should backsplash go all the way to ceiling?

Not necessarily. Many backsplashes end around 18 inches above the countertop. Going all the way to the ceiling can suit more elaborate tile layouts. The height you choose impacts cost, visual appeal, and how much wall protection you get.


Installing a tile backsplash boosts both the appearance and function of your kitchen. With the right tools and materials, attention to planning, surface preparation, and following the step-by-step process, you can achieve beautiful results and improve your cooking space. A tile backsplash is a worthwhile upgrade you can be proud of.