How to Do a Backsplash

Three Parts:Readying Your MaterialsPrepping the KitchenApplying the Tile

Decorative kitchen backsplashes are a great and relatively easy way to make your kitchen look more attractive. The backsplash is the piece of the wall that runs between the countertops and the upper wall cabinets. The most common, and cost-effective, way to make a backsplash is with tile.

Part 1
Readying Your Materials

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    Measure the wall. You will need to determine how much tile you need for the backsplash, and so first you will need to calculate the wall space you have before purchasing the tile.
    • For a single section, multiply the width and height of the wall. This will provide you with the square footage. You will want to mark a centerline between your upper cabinets to center the tiles.
    • The square footage represents the amount of tile you will need. Calculate an additional 10 percent of tile so you can cover small gaps or replace any pieces that are damaged during installation.
    • If you have a section that doesn’t have equal proportions on the wall, you should multiply the width and height of each section and then add those totals together to get the total square footage. Again, remember to add 10 percent to the amount.[1]
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    Choose your tiles. Many people pick glazed ceramic tiles when making a backsplash, but there are a wide variety of options. You could hire a professional, but they often charge about $20 per square foot to install tile.[2][3]
    • These tiles usually cost on average about $5 to $10 per square foot, unless you choose designer tiles instead, which cost more. The cost for a do-it-yourself tile backsplash can run as little as $200.
    • You will need to decide whether to use border tiles as well as what are called decorative field tiles. Some tiles come with adhesive backs and some don’t. Slate tiles are less expensive. You can get these materials at home centers. Mosaic tile sheets are popular. You may want to seek professional help if you are using unique materials.[4][5]
    • The backsplash tiles can mirror your own artistic sensibilities. People make backsplashes out of marble tiles, metal, subway tiles, glass, pearl shell, and ceramic.[6] Tile is the most popular with natural stone second.[7] Some people use wallpaper as a backsplash.[8]
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    Gather your other materials. You will also need tile spacers, adhesive, grout, grout sealant, and tools such as a grout float and a trowel.
    • Tile spacers are necessary for laying tile. Place the tile spacers in between the tiles at each corner point.[9]
    • People generally use one of two kinds of mortar when making a backsplash: thinset, and mastic. For glass tiles, it's best to use a white, latex-additive thinset mortar.
    • Stone tiles usually require white thinset mortar. Use mastic for ceramic and some porcelain tiles. Thinset mortar can be used for most other tiles.
    • Buy a notched trowel that matches the size of your tiles. You will usually want a trowel with 1/4- or 3/8-inch notches. You will apply the mortar by using the trowel's flat side to spread it onto the wall.
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    Prep the area. Before you can add the tile, you will need to clear the area in your kitchen to get ready for the project.
    • Remove all appliances and cookware from the countertop, as well as any decorations. If the stove is in the area, you should move it away from the wall a little bit, and disconnect it. Use tape to protect the edges of the backsplash area, and shut off any power in the area before you remove cover plates that might be in the backsplash area.
    • To turn off power to the kitchen, find the residential service panel, which is usually in the basement or garage. It might be in a closet or laundry area in an apartment or outside in warmer regions of the country. It's usually a gray box. Find the switch marked as kitchen, and switch it to the off position.
    • Now, put a piece of cardboard or craft paper on the countertop to protect it from any damage during the course of the project.[10]

Part 2
Prepping the Kitchen

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    Prep the wall. The wall needs to be smooth and clean before you apply the tiles to the backsplash area.
    • Take some time to inspect the wall where you will be applying the tiles to spot any damages that exist. You should patch holes in the wall with spackling compound or joint compound and then sand the surface if you spot damaged areas.
    • Take mild detergent and water, and clean the walls. You could use dish detergent. Remember that some adhesives won’t adhere to grease.[11] You can also clean walls with trisodium phosphate and water. Look for this cleaner in home project stores.
    • If you spot any oil or grease stains, clean those too. You can do so with a degreaser or a primer if a soft cloth with detergent doesn’t do the job.
    • Let the surface dry before you continue with installation.
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    Pre-lay the tile. Figure out where the tile is going to go before you actually apply it to the kitchen wall. Sometimes, it works best to center your tile around a focal point like a faucet.
    • Mark the start and the end point for the tile so you know how much you are going to need and where you plan to put it. Lay out the tile on the floor or on a large table to make sure the layout works, then measure it to be sure it fits the dimensions on the wall. Use tile spacers to account for grout.
    • Put tile spacers in the corners of the tiles as you lay them to create even grout lines. Some smaller tiles have small protrusions called lugs that fit into the tiles next to them to create space for the grout. Grout is a mortar or paste used to fill the spaces between the tiles, giving it a finished look.
    • Start with the spot on the wall that you can most easily see. Then, move outward and upward from that point. Use a level or straight edge to make sure the tile isn’t crooked.
    • You might need to cut tiles if they won’t fit. A tile cutter will work for ceramic or porcelain tiles. Natural stone may require a wet saw. Be very careful when using any cutting instruments.
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    Prepare the mortar. Purchase powdered thin-set mortar for natural stone mosaic tile. You will want to get this ready next. If you have ceramic or porcelain tiles, you may purchase mastic adhesive instead.
    • The mortar package will instruct you on how much water to put in the bucket, in addition to the mortar powder. Mix it. Mastic adhesive is often already mixed by the manufacturer.
    • Let the mortar stand for about 5 to 10 more minutes, and then mix it again. Usually, you will only have a few hours to use the mortar after mixing it. Again, check the directions on the package.
    • There are some mortars that you use right away after mixing. Again check the package for instructions as it can vary by brand!
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    Apply adhesive. Many people suggest mastic adhesive glue for ceramic or porcelain tiles, and mortar for natural stone or other tile backsplashes.[12]
    • Start spreading the mortar or mastic on the wall where you will place the tiles. You will want to begin with a 2-foot section. Spread the mortar in a thin layer by using a trowel. Press it at a 45 degree angle. This method will make the mortar fully adhere to the wall.
    • Now, use a notched edge of the trowel to add more mortar on it, and comb even ridges in one direction. Working in small sections helps prevent the mortar from drying as you apply the tile. Use the trowel to apply mastic in similar fashion.[13]
    • You will want to use the right trowel size. If you are using natural stone tile, you will want a notch trowel that is ¼ by ¼ inch in size. You may choose thinset/adhesive for glass tile instead or tile with adhesive on the backs.

Part 3
Applying the Tile

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    Apply the tile. Place the tile along the wall. Follow the lines that you made before you put the mortar on the wall.
    • Rock the tile up and down slightly to help it move into place along the mortar. You may need to use a grout float to flatten the tile. You can purchase this simple tool in many home centers.
    • You are going to have to cut extra tile pieces if there is space left between the top tile row and kitchen cabinets. You don’t want the tiles to sit directly on the countertop. Leave a small gap that you will caulk later. Use plastic tile spacers to create even grout lines by placing them in the corners of the tiles..
    • If you are left with a gap that is less than an inch, you might want to use moulding to hide it rather than trying to cut tile to fit.
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    Dry and clean the tile. You will want to make sure the mortar or mastic and the tile are completely dry before doing anything further to the wall.
    • It can take as long as 24 hours for backsplash tile to dry, depending on the type of mortar or mastic you use and the temperature inside your home.
    • You could use pre-sealer on natural stone. This will help the stone avoid staining.
    • Once dry, wipe the tiles clean with water. Use a soft cloth to do so. You want to clean the tiles in this manner before you move onto applying the grout.
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    Apply grout and caulk around the tiles. It’s time to complete the backsplash by applying grout to the tiles. Many people use poly-blend sanded grout for kitchen backsplashes.
    • You can use caulk or silicone sealant to fill any expansion gaps between the tiles and counter or cabinets. Use a grout float to fill the joints. Push the grout at a 45-degree angle with the grout float. Scrape away extra grout when the joints are filled. Hold the gloat a a nearly 90-degree angle to scrape it off.
    • Shape and firm up the grout by dragging in instrument across every joint. Use the edge of the grout float, a toothbrush handle end, or even a finger. Use a damp sponge to wipe away excess grout.
    • Fill a bucket with the amount of water recommended on the grout packaging. Add the grout powder and mix together. Use unsanded grout if the gaps are less than 1/8 of an inch.
    • Let the mixture stand for 5-10 minutes and then mix again. Apply the grout with a grout float tool at a 45-degree angle, working diagonally and wiping off any excess grout. Work in sections. The grout goes in between the tile.
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    Seal the tile. This is the final step in creating a tile backsplash. You will want to seal the tile so that it doesn’t easily stain.
    • Wait until the grout dries completely. This can take over a day and sometimes as much as three days.
    • Apply grout sealant. After the grout has dried, put sealant on the lines and joints. Some sealant comes in a spray-on bottle, and other sealant is applied with a sponge or brush.
    • Start at an end tile, and spread a uniform coating of sealant over all of the grout, including in the corners. Wipe away any excess sealant with a rag. Let the sealant dry for about an hour, and apply a second coat. Let that dry.
    • Put your appliances and cookware back on the counter. Turn the power in the kitchen back on.


  • You can use window cleaner to maintain your backsplash by wiping it down now and then.
  • Ask for help in home stores. Professionals there will be willing to show you the proper tools.
  • Always read the directions on grout and mortar packaging.


  • Be very careful when using any cutting instruments.
  • It might be worth hiring a professional if you are using unusual materials.

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