Where Do You Start When Tiling a Backsplash?

Planning Your Backsplash Design

The first step is deciding on the look you want for your backsplash. Here are some tips:

  • Consider the overall style of your kitchen – modern, farmhouse, traditional etc. Choose tile colors, patterns and textures that complement the cabinets, countertops and appliances.
  • Look at backsplash photos online or in design magazines to get ideas. Make a mood board of styles you like.
  • Decide if you want to do a full backsplash or just behind the stove. Full backsplashes use more tile but have a greater visual impact.
  • Choose the size, shape and orientation of the tiles – square, subway, hexagon, diamond etc. Larger tiles make for faster installation.
  • Plan out the tile layout to minimize cutting and waste. Sketch your backsplash area with measurements to help visualize.

Selecting Your Backsplash Tiles

With your design in mind, start shopping for tiles:

  • Choose material – ceramic, porcelain, glass, metal, natural stone. Consider durability, ease of cleaning, and cost.
  • Look at color options that work with your kitchen. Neutrals like white and grey are popular, but don’t be afraid of something bold!
  • Texture adds interest – glossy, matte, crackled, distressed, handpainted, murals.
  • Visit home improvement stores to view tiles in person. Order samples online to see true color.
  • Calculate how much tile you need based on measurements. Add 10% extra for waste and cuts.
  • Choose coordinating grout color. Contrasting grout highlights tiles, matching grout minimizes grid look.

Preparing the Backsplash Area

Once you have the tiles, prepare the backsplash surface:

  • Remove existing backsplash if you have one. Scrape off any adhesive residue.
  • Make sure wall surface is smooth. Fill any holes or imperfections with spackle. Sand bumps.
  • Clean thoroughly and let dry completely. This allows the tile adhesive to bond properly.
  • Mark the tile layout on the wall with a pencil if desired. This helps guide installation.
  • Apply painter’s tape around edges to protect the countertops and adjacent walls.

Installing the Tile Backsplash

Now it’s time for the fun part – installing the tiles!

Gather Your Materials

  • Tiles
  • Tile adhesive
  • Grout
  • Grout sealer
  • Trowel
  • Tile spacers
  • Tile cutter or wet saw
  • Grout float
  • Grout sponge
  • Cleanup bucket & rags

Step-by-Step Installation

  • Mix the tile adhesive according to package directions. Apply to the wall using a notched trowel.
  • Place the first tile in one corner as your guide. Use spacers around edges.
  • Apply tiles row by row, working upwards. Check alignment with level frequently.
  • Cut perimeter tiles to fit using a tile cutter or wet saw.
  • Let tile adhesive cure completely before grouting, usually 24-48 hours.
  • Mix grout and apply over tiles using a rubber float. Push into joints.
  • Wipe away excess grout with a damp sponge in circular motions. Rinse sponge frequently.
  • Allow grout to cure fully, then seal with grout sealer for protection and waterproofing.

And that’s it – stand back and admire your stylish new backsplash! Just keep in mind that tiling takes some patience and practice. Don’t be afraid to go slowly, double check your layout, and take breaks to avoid fatigue. With careful planning and preparation, you can tackle tiling your backsplash like a pro.

Frequently Asked Questions About Tiling a Backsplash

What kind of tile is best for a backsplash?

Ceramic and porcelain tiles are most commonly used. They are durable, come in many styles, and are easy to clean. Natural stone like marble or granite can scratch and stain easily in a kitchen, so those are less ideal.

How are backsplash tiles installed?

Tiles are installed using a thinset mortar adhesive applied to the wall surface. The tiles are pressed into the mortar and spaced apart using plastic spacers. Grout is then pushed into the joints between tiles.

Should I remove my old backsplash before tiling?

Yes, you should remove any existing backsplash down to the bare wall before tiling a new backsplash. This gives the tile adhesive the proper surface to bond to.

What tools do I need to tile a backsplash?

Basic tiling tools include a notched trowel, tile spacers, tile cutter, mixing buckets, a grout float, grout sponge and cleanup rags. You may also need a wet saw for intricate tile cuts.

How long does it take to tile a backsplash?

For an average sized backsplash of 10-30 square feet, it typically takes 2-3 days – one day for prep work, one day for tiling, and another for grouting and sealing once the thinset has cured.

Should I use contrasting or matching grout with my backsplash tiles?

This is an aesthetic choice. Contrasting grout highlights the shape of each tile, while matching grout minimizes the grid look. Neutral grout works with most tiles.

How do I cut the tiles to fit around outlets and edges?

Use a wet saw or manual tile cutter to precisely cut border and outlet tiles to size. Make cardboard templates first if cutting complex shapes. Take time to get cuts right.

Should I seal my backsplash after grouting?

Yes, applying a grout sealer is highly recommended to protect the grout from stains and moisture. It adds an extra layer of waterproofing. Reapply yearly.


Tiling a kitchen backsplash brings a stylish, custom look to your cooking space. With smart planning and preparation, this hands-on project can be very manageable as a DIY job. Focus on creating the backsplash design you love, gather the necessary materials, and tile at your own pace. Be patient, do your prep work properly, and you will have a beautiful new backsplash to enjoy for years to come.