What Do You Need for Backsplash? A Complete Guide

Choosing a new backsplash for your kitchen or bathroom remodel? A beautiful backsplash can totally transform the look and feel of a room. But with so many backsplash options on the market, how do you decide what to pick? This comprehensive guide covers everything you need to know about selecting, preparing for, and installing a stylish, functional backsplash in your home.

Backsplash Materials: Tile, Stone, Metal, Glass and More

The material you select for your backsplash will have a big impact on the overall design aesthetic. Here are some of the most popular backsplash materials to consider:

Ceramic and Porcelain Tile

Glazed ceramic and porcelain tiles are affordable, easy to clean, and come in a huge range of colors, shapes, and textures. Subway tile, mosaic tile, and decorative tile are all great ceramic backsplash options. Porcelain is less prone to chipping and water damage than ceramic.

Natural Stone Tile

Backsplashes made of granite, marble, travertine, slate, and other natural stones make a sophisticated statement. Each stone has a unique veining and coloring. Stone provides a seamless, upscale look, but requires more maintenance than ceramic or porcelain.

Glass Tile

Shiny and delicate, glass tile creates a glittering, luxurious backdrop. The tile comes in every color, and often has an iridescent quality. Glass tile can be prone to cracking and needs to be installed carefully.

Metal Tile

Metal backsplashes like stainless steel, copper, and tin add beautiful shine and texture. This edgy, modern material is very durable, naturally water-resistant, and easy to clean. Metal tile can dent if subjected to blunt force.

Brick, Wood, and Concrete

For alternative backsplashes, consider reclaimed brick or wood, concrete, large-format subway tiles, and other natural, earthy materials. These options provide a raw, rustic vibe. Upkeep is important to prevent staining or damage.

Backsplash Styles: Subway Tile, Mosaic, Marble, and More

Once you’ve selected a material, it’s time to decide on a style. Here are some top backsplash design trends to get inspired by:

Classic White Subway Tile

The quintessential backsplash tile, white 3”x6” glossy ceramic subway tile has been popular for decades thanks to its clean, elegant look. Lay the tile in a brick pattern for timeless style.

Modern Large-Format Subway Tile

Oversized, rectangular subway tiles (6”x12” or larger) create a sleek, dramatic statement. Large tiles make the space appear bigger and are quicker to install.

Moroccan Fish Scale Tile

Intricate mosaic tiles laid in diagonal rows resemble glistening fish scales. Iridescent glass or ceramic tile provides maximum sparkle.

Marble Hexagon Tile

Small marble hexagon tiles interlock to form a honeycomb pattern. The natural stone makes this style look ultra-luxurious.

Mixed Metal Tile

Combining metal finishes like copper, brass, and nickel makes for an eclectic, light-reflecting mosaic tile backsplash.

Brick Veneer

Reclaimed old bricks or faux brick veneers applied to a backsplash surface provide an urban, industrial vibe. The rough texture and natural color variations create interest.

How to Prepare for Backsplash Installation

Once you’ve selected the perfect backsplash tile and style, it’s time to get your space ready for installation. Proper preparation prevents problems down the road:

  • Clean the surface thoroughly – Remove any existing backsplash. Eliminate grime, oils or soap scum on the wall area. Start with a blank canvas.
  • Make any needed repairs – Fill holes, smooth uneven textures, repair grout, caulk around edges. This prevents cracks or damage to the new tile.
  • Mark the focal point – Determine the backsplash installation starting point. Many begin at the stove or sink.
  • Gather supplies – Tile adhesive, grout, spacers, sealant, gloves, sponges, buckets, tile cutter, etc. Having materials on hand makes installation smoother.
  • Read manufacturer instructions – Follow guidelines for prep work, recommended tools, and how to use tile products properly. Don’t cut corners.

Proper planning prevents headaches! Taking the time to correctly set up your backsplash area will result in a stunning finished product.

Step-By-Step Backsplash Installation Guide

Once prep work is complete, it’s go time. Follow these steps for a seamless DIY backsplash installation:

Step 1: Apply Adhesive

Use a notched trowel to spread a thin, even layer of tile mastic adhesive on the wall area. Apply only enough adhesive for one section at a time to prevent drying.

Step 2: Mount Backsplash Tiles

Firmly press tiles into the adhesive one by one. Use spacers between tiles for consistent grout lines. Work methodically in rows or a zig-zag pattern.

Step 3: Allow Adhesive to Cure

Let adhesive fully cure for 24-48 hours before continuing to prevent tiles shifting or sliding. Curing times vary; check manufacturer guidelines.

Step 4: Grout the Backsplash

Work the grout between the tile joints using a rubber grout float. Apply diagonally to fill any gaps and create a consistent finish.

Step 5: Clean Excess Grout

Wipe away any grout on the tile surface before it dries using a damp sponge in a circular motion. Rinse sponge frequently for best results.

Step 6: Seal the Backsplash

Once grout has dried fully (1-2 days), apply sealant to the tiles and grout lines. This prevents staining and damage from moisture.

And that’s it! With the right prep and materials, you can install an eye-catching, high-quality backsplash yourself. Refer to manufacturer instructions for detailed tile placement tips and troubleshooting. Take your time and don’t be afraid to get creative with shapes, textures, and color.

Backsplash Design Ideas and Inspiration

Need a spark of backsplash inspiration? Here are some gorgeous kitchen and bathroom backsplash design ideas:

  • A natural stone mosaic backsplash behind a modern freestanding tub
  • Bold emerald green glass subway tiles paired with brass fixtures
  • Rustic wood-look porcelain plank tile spanning a cozy farmhouse kitchen
  • Sleek metallic penny tiles illuminating a contemporary kitchen space
  • Moroccan fish scale tile in shades of blue adorning a bathroom sink area
  • Brick veneer backsplash surrounding a stainless steel professional stove
  • White marble hexagon tile providing an elegant, spa-like ambiance

Frequently Asked Questions about Backsplash Installation

Some common questions that come up when installing a new backsplash:

Should I hire a pro or DIY my backsplash?

For simple ceramic tile, an experienced DIYer can usually handle the job. Intricate patterns or natural stone may require hiring a tile pro. Evaluate your skill level.

How do I cut tile for edges and around outlets?

Use a wet saw or tile cutter for most cuts. For detailed cuts around outlets, etc, use a rotary tool or handheld tile nipper. Take safety precautions.

Can I install backsplash over existing tile or wallpaper?

It’s best practice to remove existing materials completely and start fresh with the wall surface. This prevents adhesion issues down the road.

How do I clean and care for my backsplash?

Ceramic and porcelain tile are very low-maintenance. Just use mild soap and water to clean. Reseal natural stone and grout every 1-2 years.

How much does a backsplash installation cost?

Backsplash installation costs range from $10-$50 per square foot. Simple DIY ceramic tile averages $10-$15 per square foot. More intricate stone, glass or metal tile can be $50+ per square foot installed.


The perfect backsplash brings any kitchen or bathroom to life visually. With an array of beautiful materials and styles to choose from, you can find a backsplash that matches your unique aesthetic and functional needs. Prepping properly goes a long way towards a smooth installation. Take your time planning, preparing the space, and laying the tile. The end result will enhance your room with decorative flair for years to come.