When to Install Backsplash in Kitchen

Adding a backsplash to your kitchen can completely transform the look and feel of the space. But when is the right time to install a backsplash during a kitchen remodel or construction project? We outline everything you need to know about optimal backsplash installation timing below.

Overview of Backsplash Installation Timing

When planning a new kitchen or kitchen remodel, there are several factors to consider regarding when to install backsplash tiles:

  • Backsplashes are typically installed after countertops but before appliances and fixtures. This allows the backsplash to overlap any gaps between the counter and wall.
  • For a seamless look, the backsplash should be installed before upper cabinets and shelving.
  • Backsplashes can be installed over existing tile or drywall. New drywall will need proper prep and sealing before tile application.
  • Allow adequate lead time for potential backsplash shipping or material delays, especially for custom, natural stone, or handmade tiles.
  • Coordinate with countertop and appliance installation timelines so the backsplash is not damaged during other construction work.
  • Build in extra time for potential tile cuts or adjustments during the installation process.

Following proper backsplash installation order will help ensure the tiles properly protect the walls and complete the kitchen design as desired.

Install After Countertops

One of the most important factors when determining when to install backsplash is proper order relative to countertops. Backsplashes should be installed after the countertops.

This allows the backsplash tiles to slightly overlap the countertop, filling any gaps between the counter and the wall. The overlap helps prevent water, crumbs, grease, and other spills from accumulating between the countertop and wall.

Attempting to install backsplashes before countertops means either leaving an unappealing gap, or needing to cut the tiles for a zero-gap edge. This can be tricky and may result in cracked tiles or an uneven fit.

By installing the backsplash last, you can match up to the countertop seamlessly. The installer can mark and cut the tiles to fit perfectly against the sides of the counter.

Install Before Cabinets and Shelving

Another key factor for when to install backsplash is proper order relative to upper cabinets and shelves. The backsplash tiles should be applied to the wall before upper cabinetry is installed.

This allows the backsplash to run continuously behind the cabinets for a streamlined look. It also permits full protection of the walls from moisture and grime.

If cabinets are installed first, it results in either an unfinished look, with exposed drywall between cabinets, or the need to cut tiles to fit around each cabinet. This can be labor-intensive and may produce uneven tile edges.

By installing the backsplash initially, you maintain strong visual continuity. The tiles can span the full length of the wall behind cabinets. It also allows easier installation, with full tiles along the bottom row.

Prep Existing Drywall or Tile

If you are applying a backsplash over existing drywall or tile, proper prep is critical for success. For drywall, this includes:

  • Inspecting for any moisture damage or mold issues. Address any underlying problems before applying tile.
  • Filling any holes, cracks, or blemishes with drywall compound and sanding smooth.
  • Priming the surface so the tile mortar bonds effectively.

For existing tile, be sure to:

  • Verify tile is solidly adhered and scrape off any loose sections or grout.
  • Thoroughly clean and degrease the old tile to remove residue.
  • Sand glossy tiles to roughen up the surface so the new mortar adheres properly.

With proper prep work, the installers can apply the new backsplash over either drywall or tile to save time and money.

Allow Lead Time for Specialty Tiles

When choosing backsplash tile, account for potential lead times, especially for specialty materials like natural stone, marble, handmade, or custom tiles.

Rushing the timeline can result in delayed installation if the tiles are not ready and available. It’s recommended to plan when to install backsplash at least:

  • 4-6 weeks for specialty natural stone like quartzite or soapstone.
  • 3-4 weeks for marble, depending on thickness.
  • 4 weeks for custom ceramic tiles.
  • 2 weeks for high-end handmade tiles.

Build these lead times into your renovation plans. Confirm production schedules with your backsplash supplier before finalizing installation dates. This prevents last-minute delays that can impact the whole project timeline.

Coordinate with Countertops & Appliances

To prevent potential damage or rework, coordinate the backsplash installation timeline with countertop fabrication and appliance delivery schedules.

Be sure to install the backsplash after countertops are in place, but before sinks, faucets, range hoods or shelving go in. This sequencing prevents damaging the backsplash tiles during other installations.

Discuss timelines with your contractor early in the project and adjust as needed. Having your backsplash completed just before appliances are set protects your investment and achieves the desired finished look.

Allow for Potential Tile Adjustments

Even with careful planning and measurements, some tile adjustment is often needed during installation of when to install backsplash. Build in a few extra days to account for:

  • Cutting or notching tiles to fit around electrical boxes, pipes, windows, or other obstructions.
  • Evening out crooked walls to ensure the tiles are flush and plumb.
  • Replacing cracked or damaged tiles. Some breakage can occur during shipping or application.
  • Grout touch up and sealing after initial application.

Carefully inspect and adjust tiles as needed for the best possible finished appearance. While perfect results take patience, the time invested is well worth it for a stunning new backsplash you will enjoy for years.

Backsplash Installation Order Summary

To recap the optimal sequence for when to install backsplash:

  1. Complete wall prep and priming
  2. Install countertops
  3. Apply backsplash tiles
  4. Install cabinets, shelving, & hood vent
  5. Set sinks, faucets, appliances

By following this order, you get a seamless, protective, and beautiful backsplash that puts the ideal finishing touch on your kitchen.

Planning Your Project Timeline

When laying out the timeline for your kitchen remodel or construction project, be sure to account for the following:

Order Countertop First

  • Discuss material and fabrication schedule with contractor
  • Order countertop 4-8 weeks prior to installation
  • Confirm delivery timeline before scheduling backsplash

Prep Walls Early

  • Inspect and repair drywall/tile 2+ weeks before backsplash
  • Complete priming and moisture testing right after drywall/tile prep

Source Backsplash Tiles

  • Choose backsplash materials and order 8-12 weeks before install
  • Confirm lead times for shipping and production
  • Overestimate if possible to allow leeway

Install Backsplash Mid-Project

  • Have backsplash materials onsite 1-2 weeks before tile installation
  • Sequence backsplash after countertops but before cabinets/fixtures
  • Allow 3-5 days for potential tile adjustments by installer

Finish With Appliances/Fixtures

  • Have all appliances and fixtures onsite before starting backsplash
  • Install cabinets, hood vent after backsplash
  • Complete sink, faucet and appliance install last

Other Tips

  • Build in 1-2 week buffers before and after backsplash installation in case of delays
  • Be ready to adjust timeline if any items run behind schedule
  • Confirm all material lead times and delivery dates with your contractor

Following proper backsplash installation order ensures your kitchen remodel goes as smoothly as possible. With some advance planning, you can achieve the finished look you want on time and on budget.

Preparing Walls for New Backsplash Tiles

Preparing your kitchen walls correctly is one of the most important steps for a successful backsplash installation. Here are key tips for proper wall prep when planning when to install backsplash:


  • Remove any existing backsplash tiles, adhesive, or grout residues.
  • Eliminate all grease, dirt and soap scum buildup from wall area.
  • Clean with a mix of mild detergent and water, then rinse.
  • Let walls dry fully before continuing prep work.

Surface Repairs

  • Inspect walls for any cracks, holes, or problem areas.
  • Fill any voids with drywall compound and let fully cure before sanding smooth.
  • Address any underlying moisture issues or mold growth before applying new tile.


  • Prime walls using a quality tile primer designed for kitchens.
  • Apply an even coat and let primer fully cure according to manufacturer directions.
  • Priming helps new mortar and tiles bond tightly to the wall surface.

Moisture Testing

  • Test wall moisture levels using a meter in several spots.
  • Results should be below 4% moisture content before installation.
  • High moisture can undermine adhesion and cause future tile failure.

Final Prep

  • Complete any final sanding or touch ups before installation.
  • Remove any remaining dust or debris and re-clean walls.
  • Protect countertops, floors and other surfaces from potential damage.

With proper prep, your kitchen walls will be ready for backsplash tile application when it comes time to schedule that phase of your project.

How Long to Wait Before Grouting New Backsplash Tiles

Before you can complete the installation by adding grout, it’s crucial to wait the right amount of time after setting the tiles. Here’s what to know about curing time before grouting a new backsplash:

  • Follow the manufacturer’s directions for mortar cure times, usually 24-48 hours.
  • Make sure mortar has fully hardened before grouting – confirm by touching firmly.
  • Use spacers between tiles to keep consistent spacing for grout lines.
  • Inspect all tiles after initial cure and adjust or replace as needed.
  • Allow extra drying time in cool or humid conditions which slow curing.
  • Keep traffic away during curing to avoid disturbing tiles before mortar fully hardens.
  • Wait longer with porous tiles like natural stone that absorb moisture from the thinset mortar.

Rushing into grouting before the mortar has properly hardened can lead to cracks between tiles or grout crumbling away later on. Be patient and allow the recommended time before completing the backsplash.

Tips for Grouting New Backsplash Tiles

Once your newly tiled backsplash is cured and ready for grouting, here are tips to achieve the perfect finished appearance:

  • Use a grout float to spread grout smoothly and evenly into tile joints. Hold at a 45° angle and apply firm pressure.
  • Work in small sections so grout doesn’t dry too quickly before wiping away excess.
  • Wipe diagonally across tiles using minimal water for smooth joints. Be careful not to pull grout out of joints.
  • Do a final cleaning of any grout haze or residue to reveal the full tile beauty afterwards.
  • Apply grout sealer to protect porous grout from stains and discoloration over time.
  • Caulk perimeter joints between countertop and backsplash for a watertight seam.
  • Let grout fully cure for 72 hours before using the sink or exposing to moisture.

With proper grouting techniques, your new backsplash will have clean, uniform grout lines that enhance the tile design. Take time with each step for results that look professionally installed.

Common Backsplash Installation Problems and Solutions

Even experienced tile installers can occasionally run into issues on the job. Here are some common backsplash problems and how to address them:

Uneven tile:

  • Use tile leveling spacers during installation to keep tiles flush.
  • Check that wall surface is plumb – shim or use mortar as needed.
  • Grind down high spots on uneven tiles for better alignment.

Gaps between tiles:

  • Ensure proper spacing with tile spacers during setting.
  • Use correct trowel size to fully fill joint with thinset mortar.
  • Avoid pushing tiles too tightly together before mortar has set.

Tiles loose or falling off:

  • Always follow curing directions to allow thinset mortar to fully harden before grouting.
  • Ensure wall surface is properly cleaned and primed to bond with mortar.
  • Look for any underlying wall moisture issues leading to adhesion problems.

Cracked or chipped tiles:

  • Carefully inspect tiles for damage before installation and set aside any cracked ones.
  • Handle tiles gently and evenly during setting to prevent breakage.
  • Keep extra tiles on hand for easy replacement of any that become damaged.

Grout cracking or falling out:

  • Don’t grout until mortar has fully cured, usually 24 hours.
  • Check that grout matches joint size for proper adhesion and strength.
  • Seal grout to protect against moisture damage and crumbling over time.

Knowing solutions to potential problems ahead of time makes them much easier to resolve. Your installer can quickly correct any minor issues that come up for a beautiful completed backsplash.

Maintaining Your Backsplash Long-Term

To keep your kitchen backsplash looking like new for years to come, be sure to follow these maintenance tips:

  • Seal grout lines on porous tiles annually to protect from stains. Use a penetrating grout sealer that won’t alter the color.
  • Use a gentle cleaner like dish soap and water to keep backsplash tiles clean, rinsing thoroughly. Avoid harsh chemicals.
  • Inspect for loose or missing grout and re-grout these areas to match existing. Watch for cracks that could lead to moisture damage.
  • Check for dull spots or etches on stone backsplashes and polish with a stone-safe cleaner. Re-seal etched areas.
  • Wipe up spills quickly to avoid stains, especially with grout and porous natural stone tiles. Apply a poultice to draw out deep stains.
  • Avoid hanging wet towels over backsplash area to prevent moisture damage long-term.
  • Re-caulk perimeter if gaps appear over time between backsplash and countertop or cabinets.
  • Consider yearly touch-ups by a professional tile cleaner to keep grout and natural stone tiles looking their best.

With occasional sealing and cleaning, your quality backsplash installation should maintain its like-new appearance for decades before ever needing replacement.

Cost to Install a Backsplash

What’s the typical cost for installing a backsplash in the average kitchen? Here’s a breakdown of what impacts your backsplash installation cost:

  • Tile material: Ceramic, porcelain or glass tile starts around $5-10 per square foot. Stone raises cost to $50+ per square foot.
  • Tile size: Small mosaics take more time and labor, increasing overall expense. Standard 4 x 4 inch tile is most affordable.
  • Labor: For a simple self-install, DIY materials may cost $200-300. Hiring a professional tile installer often runs $40 per hour or more.
  • Wall prep: New drywall, moisture barriers, or leveling compounds can add $500 or more if wall corrections are needed.
  • Grout and supplies: Bulk thinset mortar, grout, backerboard, etc averages $150-300 depending on kitchen size.
  • Design complexity: Standard rectangular backsplashes are cheapest at $10-25 per square foot installed. Multiple materials or special shapes add cost.

Total average cost: With mid-range tile and professional installation, expect to pay $800-2500 for a full backsplash installation depending on kitchen size and tile choices. Higher-end stone or tile upgrades can raise costs to $5000-8000 and beyond.

Backsplash Installation: DIY vs Professional

Can you save money by installing backsplash tile yourself instead of hiring a pro? Consider the following:

Benefits of DIY Backsplash Installation:

  • Lower upfront cost for materials only instead of labor
  • Flexibility to install at your own pace
  • Freedom to choose preferred tiles and designs

Challenges of DIY Backsplash Install:

  • Learning curve if new to tiling – practice essential to avoid costly mistakes
  • Physical demands of bending, kneeling and working overhead
  • Achieving clean professional results takes patience and skill
  • No warranty or quality assurance compared to hiring tile company

Benefits of Pro Backsplash Installation:

  • Expertise for proper wall prep and installation best practices
  • Efficient installation with right tools and experience
  • High quality results – straight tile lines/grout lines, solid bonds
  • Warranty and guarantee for workmanship defects

Cost Considerations:

  • DIY materials may cost $200-500 vs pro labor at $40/hr and up
  • Factor cost of redoing any DIY mistakes that may occur
  • Pros have access to wholesale tile prices and volume discounts

Overall, for most homeowners hiring a qualified tile pro is worth the investment to ensure your new backsplash lasts for years to come. But DIY can work well for simpler small-scale projects.

Backsplash Tile Patterns

Choosing the right tile pattern for your backsplash makes a big impact on the overall look. Here are some top backsplash tile pattern ideas:


With a stacked pattern, rectangular tile is applied in a straight vertical layout. This gives a clean, minimalist look. It works well with uniform tile sizes and grout colors.


The classic herringbone pattern has tiles set in an interlocking zig-zag design. It adds visual interest and suits both contemporary and traditional kitchen styles.


A basketweave pattern uses rectangular tiles of varied sizes to create a woven, textural effect. Combining different tile shapes and colors boosts the design appeal.

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