What to Use to Attach Backsplash

Installing a beautiful backsplash in your kitchen or bathroom can really make the space pop. But choosing the right adhesive to attach the backsplash is critical – you want something that will hold strongly over time. Here’s an in-depth look at the best options for attaching backsplash tile or panels.

What Type of Backsplash Are You Installing?

The type of backsplash material you select will impact the best adhesive choice. Common backsplash options include:

Tile Backsplashes

Tile comes in a huge range of styles, shapes, colors and materials like ceramic, porcelain, glass, stone and more. What to use to attach backsplash tile depends on the tile itself.

  • Ceramic or porcelain – Adhesive options include thinset mortar, mastic or construction adhesive. Thinset provides the strongest bond.
  • Natural stone – Use a white thinset mortar adhesive for a secure hold.
  • Glass – Use a specialized glass tile mortar adhesive.
  • Metal – Construction adhesive designed for metal provides a solid grip.

Backsplash Panels

Panel backsplashes made of materials like metal, glass, marble, stone or engineered composites attach differently than tile. Consider:

  • Metal backsplash panels – Use a construction adhesive specifically made for metal.
  • Stone or marble panels – A thinset mortar offers strong holding power.
  • Glass panels – Special glass tile adhesives work best.
  • Engineered composites – Check manufacturer instructions, but often silicone adhesives are recommended.

No matter what backsplash material you choose, always check the manufacturer’s instructions for their recommended adhesive options.

Comparing Backsplash Adhesive Types

There are a few main types of adhesives used for attaching backsplash tile or panels. Consider the pros and cons of each:

Thinset Mortar

This cement-based adhesive is mixed with water to a smooth, spreadable consistency. What to use to attach backsplash tile like ceramic, porcelain or natural stone, thinset provides an extremely strong, durable bond.


  • Very strong, rigid hold.
  • Won’t sag or drip.
  • Resists water and mold.
  • Can be used on floors and walls.


  • More difficult to apply and clean up.
  • Needs a completely clean, grease-free surface.

Mastic Adhesive

This premixed, paste-like adhesive is simple to apply. It’s best for basic backsplashes.


  • Very easy to spread and work with.
  • Bonds well without needing perfectly clean surfaces.
  • Water-resistant when dry.


  • Not as strong a bond as thinset for heavy tiles.
  • Can sag or drip if applying to vertical surfaces.
  • More prone to mold growth.

Construction Adhesive

This extra-strong adhesive in caulk gun tubes works for certain backsplash materials.


  • Bonds extremely well to metals, stone, composites.
  • Flexible – won’t crack if materials expand.
  • Waterproof seal.


  • Messier clean up.
  • May not adhere well to porous materials.

Silicone Caulk

While not an actual adhesive, silicone is used to fill in backsplash seams and provide water protection.


  • Flexible seal between tiles.
  • Waterproof.
  • Resists mold and mildew.


  • Not suitable as a tile adhesive.
  • Can yellow over time.

Choosing the Best Backsplash Adhesive

Here are some tips on selecting the right adhesive for your backsplash project:

  • For heavy natural stone, ceramic or porcelain backsplash tile, what to use to attach backsplash is thinset mortar adhesive. It provides the strongest bond.
  • For glass, metal or other non-porous backsplash tile or panels, use a specialized construction adhesive designed for that material.
  • Pre-mixed mastic adhesives offer an easy solution for basic ceramic tile backsplashes.
  • Always check manufacturer instructions for recommended adhesives.
  • Consider epoxy or silicone for a waterproof seal between tiles or panels.
  • Buy a little more adhesive than you think you need to avoid running out mid-project.

With the right adhesive matched to your backsplash type, you can install an eye-catching backsplash design confident it will remain securely attached for years of beauty and easy cleaning.

Preparing Surfaces for Backsplash Installation

To achieve the best bond, start by properly preparing the backsplash area:

  • Thoroughly clean the surface. Remove any old adhesive, grease, dirt and grime.
  • Sand painted surfaces to roughen them up so the adhesive adheres better.
  • Make repairs to any damaged wall areas. Fill holes and seams with spackle.
  • Prime very porous drywall or plaster walls so adhesive doesn’t soak in too quickly.
  • Let prepared areas dry completely before starting to attach the backsplash.

Attaching Tile Backsplashes

Follow these steps for a successful tile backsplash installation:

  1. Plan your tile layout and make any cuts before adhesive is applied.
  2. Mix thinset mortar if using powdered thinset adhesive. Mastic and construction adhesives can be used right from the container.
  3. Apply adhesive using a notched trowel held at a 45 degree angle to the wall surface.
  4. Press tiles firmly into the adhesive, using spacers for consistent grout lines.
  5. Let adhesive cure fully – usually 24 hours.
  6. Mix grout and apply between the tiles, wiping away excess. Allow to dry before sealing.
  7. Caulk where the backsplash meets countertops or other surfaces.
  8. Clean and seal tiles with a penetrating sealer for added protection.

Taking the time to properly prep surfaces and apply adhesive means you can enjoy a beautiful, long-lasting backsplash installation.

Tips for Attaching Backsplash Panels

Backsplash panels require a slightly different adhesive approach:

  • Apply adhesive to the back of the panel, not the wall, for easier installation.
  • Follow manufacturer’s instructions on adhesive curing time before applying grout or caulk.
  • Use a mini roller to press panels against the wall and remove air bubbles in the adhesive.
  • Support large panels with painter’s tape until adhesive fully cures.
  • Don’t over-tighten screws when attaching metal backsplash sheets to avoid buckling.
  • Make sure panels align evenly. Use shims if underlying walls are uneven.

Frequently Asked Questions about Backsplash Installation

What to Use to Attach Backsplash Tile in a Kitchen?

For kitchen backsplash tile, thinset mortar adhesive provides the most secure hold. Make sure the kitchen walls are clean and grease-free first.

What Kind of Adhesive for Glass Tile Backsplash?

Glass tiles require a specialized glass tile adhesive, as many other types can cause staining or damage. Check manufacturer recommendations.

Can You Use Construction Adhesive for Backsplash?

Construction adhesive bonds extremely well to metals, stone and other solid backsplash materials. Use adhesive specified for the backsplash type.

What Adhesive is Best for Stone Backsplash Panels?

A white thinset adhesive is ideal for a natural stone panel backsplash. It bonds well and won’t show through light marble or travertine.

How Soon Can I Grout After Installing Backsplash Tile?

Most thinset mortar adhesives take 24 hours to fully cure before grouting. Always check adhesive instructions. Rushing grouting can weaken the bond.

Achieve a Flawless Backsplash Look

Choosing the right adhesive plays a key role in achieving a backsplash installation that looks amazing and performs well over time. Take stock of the backsplash materials you’ll be attaching and their manufacturer recommendations on adhesives. Prepare your application area thoroughly so adhesive bonds tightly. With the proper product and technique, you can enjoy a backsplash with strong visual appeal.