What You Need to Tile Backsplash

Installing tile for your kitchen or bathroom backsplash can add style, protect walls from splatters and spills, and increase the value of your home. With some planning and preparation, tiling your backsplash is an achievable DIY project. Here is an overview of what you need to tile backsplash and how to get started.


The most important decision is selecting your tile. Ceramic, porcelain, glass, and natural stone tiles are popular options. Consider the size, texture, color, and pattern that will work best for your design vision and space. Purchase 10-15% extra to account for breakage and cuts.

How Much Tile Do You Need?

To determine how much tile you need, measure the square footage of your backsplash area by multiplying the length times height. Add 10-15% for cuts and waste. Check tile requirements as some have minimum purchase amounts.

Tile Types

Ceramic – Classic option available in tons of colors and styles. Durability varies.

Porcelain – Similar look as ceramic but denser and more durable. Great for moisture-prone areas.

Glass – Adds shine and sleek contemporary look. Can be prone to chipping so check hardness level.

Natural Stone – Elegant natural option but requires sealing. Watch for consistency in veining/patterns.

Mosaic – Small tiles mounted together for intricate patterns. Great for accents but takes more time.

Tile Backer Board

Tile backer board provides a water-resistant, stable surface for the tile adhesive. Cement, fiber-cement boards, and glass mat gypsum boards are common options. Measure area and cut boards to size. Screw into studs every 6-8 inches. Seal seams with mesh tape and thinset.

Trowel and Tile Adhesive

  • Choose appropriate trowel for tile size – larger tiles need bigger grooves.
  • Thinset mortar is commonly used. Makes sure it matches tile material.
  • Mix adhesive according to instructions. Let slake for 5-10 minutes before applying with trowel held at 45 degree angle.

Grout and Grout Float

  • Grout fills in joints between tiles. Sanded grout is best for joints larger than 1/8th inch.
  • Grout float helps apply grout into crevices smoothly. Soft rubber edge works grout into spaces evenly.
  • Wait 24-48 hours after setting tile before grouting so adhesive fully cures.


Plastic spacers keep tile spaced equally apart during installation. Remove once tile adhesive has cured. Size spacers based on grout joint size desired.

1/16th inch joints = 1/16 inch spacer
1/8th inch joints = 1/8 inch spacer


Sealing grout and natural stone tiles will protect them from stains and moisture. Use appropriate sealant for tile material following manufacturer instructions.


  • Tile cutter – score and snap tiles
  • Wet saw – precise cuts (great for uneven edges)
  • Notched trowel – spreads adhesive
  • Grout float – applies grout into joints
  • Rubber grout float – smooths grout
  • Sponges – wipe up excess
  • Mixing bucket – mixes adhesive
  • Mixing drill – mixes adhesive thoroughly
  • Hammer and nails – secure cement backer board
  • Caulk gun – fills corner joints
  • Safety gear – gloves, glasses, mask

How to Tile a Backsplash

  1. Prepare surface – clean and repair any damage. Install backer board if needed.
  2. Plan layout – map where cuts are needed. Arrange tiles for desired pattern.
  3. Spread thinset adhesive using notched trowel at 45 degree angle.
  4. Press tiles into adhesive firmly in sections, using spacers to align.
  5. Let adhesive cure 24-48 hours.
  6. Mix grout and apply using float, pressing into joints. Wipe excess.
  7. Let grout dry then polish haze off with soft cloth.
  8. Use caulk for corner and edge joints.
  9. Seal grout and natural stone tiles.
  10. Enjoy your finished backsplash!

Tiling Backsplash FAQs

How do I cut tiles for outlets and edges?

Use a wet saw for detailed cuts around outlets, edges, and other obstacles. Make precise measurements and cut tiles to fit. Finish raw edges with sandpaper or tile stone.

What mistakes should I avoid when tiling?

  • Not letting thinset adhesive slake before applying tiles
  • Not pressing tiles firmly into adhesive
  • Applying grout before adhesive fully cures
  • Using sanded grout for narrow joints under 1/8th inch
  • Neglecting to seal natural stone and grout

How long does it take for thinset mortar to cure?

Thinset adhesive usually takes 24-48 hours to fully cure before grouting. This allows it to reach its maximum strength when setting the tiles. Cooler temperatures may require longer curing time.

Should I use sanded or unsanded grout?

Sanded grout is best for joints wider than 1/8th inch. It prevents cracking by filling larger spaces. Unsanded grout works for narrow joints under 1/8th inch. Check manufacturer specifications.

How do I clean and seal my tiled backsplash?

  • Sweep or vacuum to remove loose debris.
  • Mix grout cleaner with warm water and apply with sponge or rag.
  • Rinse thoroughly and let dry.
  • Apply grout sealer according to product instructions.
  • Buff off sealant haze with soft cloth.


Installing a tile backsplash brings an elegant touch with dramatic visual impact. With careful planning, high-quality materials, and proper technique, you can achieve beautiful results and increase functionality of your space. Focus on preparing the surface, choosing appropriate tile and tools, taking time with adhesive and grout application, and properly sealing and caring for your new backsplash. With patience and persistence, you can DIY a stunning focal point for your kitchen or bath.