How to Install a Kitchen Tile Backsplash

  • 4-8 hours
  • Beginner
  • 150-500
What You'll Need
Mesh tape
Rubber float
Scoring cutter
Filler compound

The backsplash is a functional and decorative element of your kitchen. It prevents water or food from damaging the wall behind the sink, and it can be a focal piece of design, contrasting with or complementing the rest of your kitchen. Installing your own kitchen tile backsplash is a good project for a DIYer. It's not hard to do, and it can save you a lot of money.

Step 1 - Measure and Plan

Start by measuring the area where you intend to install the backsplash and purchase the tile needed. Most people tend to prefer subway tiles, which vary in area. You can choose 1x1 square tiles with a mesh at the back. Make sure that you are buying glazed tiles because tiles that are not glazed will become dull with grease stains. Add an extra 10 percent to the supply of tiles your purchase in case some are broken by mistake.

Step 2 - Clear the Area

Clear the surface area of all appliances and other items. Make sure you remember to deactivate the electrical power to all switches and outlets within the kitchen and remember also to take away the stove, the range hood and the cover plates.

Step 3 - Install the Backerboard

Install your backerboard with screws and leave a space of approximately 1/8-inch at the sides. Finish the installation by covering it with mesh tape and filler compound. If you have gaps in the wall and the tiles will run over these gaps, install a temporary ledger board along the bottom edge of the tiles to help the tiles stay in place during the installation process.

Step 4 - Prepare the Tiles

Lay down the tiles over the kitchen countertop and make sure that you follow the pattern so that the tiles match with one another. Use a pencil and a level to mark the focal point over the layout with a plumb line. You will use this line as a guideline to install your tiles.

Step 5 - Install the Tiles

Starting from the center of the bottom row to install the tiles. You can apply tile mastic or thinset mortar. Use a grooved trowel to apply the mortar or mastic and only to a small part of the kitchen wall every time. Place the first tile and leave a gap of about 1/8-inch along the lower edge for caulking. Continue installing the other tiles in the same manner, starting from the center-line in every row.

Step 6 - Cut the Tiles

If you need to cut the tiles to fit in place, use a scoring cutter. You can rent one for about $15 a day, or you can purchase for about $50. Mark a line over the tile where you want to cut. Put the tile through the cutter and cut it to your desired size.

Step 7 - Apply the Grout

Let the mastic dry overnight and then finish the installation by applying the grout. Use a rubber float to apply the grout and press it into the spaces between your tiles. Turn the float at an angle of 45 degrees to remove any excess grout. Let the grout dry thoroughly for about 1 hour and finally use a sponge to rinse the tiles with clean water.