DIY Kitchen Backsplash Installation

Man and woman holding up tile to kitchen backsplash 

Installing a kitchen backsplash is an easy way to upgrade the look of your space without investing too much time and money.

While there's always the option to hire a professional to complete installation, putting in a kitchen backsplash is a relatively simple project that you can absolutely DIY. In today’s blog post, we’ll provide step-by-step instructions for DIY kitchen backsplash installation.

Step 1: Prepare for Installation

Measure the Wall

The first thing you should do when installing a kitchen backsplash (even before you purchase your tile!) is to measure the wall above the counter and determine its square footage. Be careful to take proper measurements and factor in switches and outlets. 

You can easily figure out the square footage of a single section by multiplying the height and width of the wall. But if your wall has disproportionate sections, break it down into separate areas, calculate the square footage of each area, and add them together to get the total square footage.

Purchase Your Materials

Laptop next to miniature shopping cart filled with money 

Now, you’re ready to purchase your tile! Be sure to buy at least 10% more than you need according to the square footage you’ve calculated. This will come in handy if you make any mistakes during installation, or if any tiles come damaged.

You’ll also want to buy your other installation tools and materials, such as mortar or a two-sided adhesive mat, mastic, and grout.

Prepare the Room

Take everything off of the countertop and move appliances away from the wall, unplugging them for safety. Place cardboard or a drop cloth over your countertop to protect it as you work, and tape off the underside of the cabinets and the countertop for extra protection.

Turn off the power to nearby outlets and light switches, and remove the cover plates.

Remove the existing backsplash (if you have one) by scraping between the tiles to remove the grout and using a chisel and masonry hammer to tap on the tiles until they come off of the wall. Don't forget to wear safety glasses while doing this.

Pink safety glasses

Prepare the wall by patching any holes and smoothing the surface with sandpaper. Next, use water and mild soap to thoroughly clean the walls, and give them plenty of time to dry. You may need to employ a degreaser to scrub away grease and oil stains behind the stove.

If your walls are painted, use trisodium phosphate to wipe them down, and then gently sand them. For a glossy surface, it’s necessary to sand and de-gloss the walls.

Step 2: Install the Backer Board

This step is optional, but if you want your backsplash to be as durable as possible, a backer board is the way to go. It has the added benefit of protecting the wall from moisture as well.

You’ll first need to remove your drywall and then press the backer board into the space left behind, ensuring the thickness of the board is the same as the kitchen drywall. Attach the backer board to the studs using 1¼” backer board screws, being sure to leave an ⅛” gap between each backer board panel. Seal these gaps using silicone tile caulk.

Next, apply fiberglass mesh tape to all of the seams and corners of the backer board, and apply mortar on top of the tape.

Step 3: Pre-Lay the Tile

This step allows you to figure out how you want to lay the tile and prevents you from running into problems during installation. Simply place the tile across the wall and mark the start and end points, and then move upward and outward.

Be sure to use a level or straightedge so that you can ensure the tile is even. Mark the positions of the tile with a pencil.

Assorted tools on a pink background 

Step 4: Cut the Tile to Size

You might have to cut some of the tiles to fit around outlets, switches, or any other items. Porcelain and ceramic tile are best cut using a tile cutter, while a wet tile saw is better for natural stone. If you need to make circular incisions, then a tile nipper is a good choice.

Step 5: Prepare the Mortar or Adhesive Mat

Follow the manufacturer’s instructions to properly mix the mortar. Remember that once the mortar is mixed, you have a limited timeframe in which to use it, so you’ll need to plan accordingly.

Alternatively, you can use a double-sided adhesive mat instead of mortar. To prepare it, peel half of the back off of the mat, align the unpeeled half to a straight surface, and stick the mat to the wall. Unpeel the rest of the mat and stick it to the wall as well.

To create a permanent bond, push the adhesive mat into the wall using a rubber float.

Step 6: Apply the Mortar

Using a notched trowel that corresponds with your tile, spread a thin layer of mortar onto a two-foot section of the wall, pressing it at a 45-degree angle to make sure it adheres fully. Then, add a little bit more mortar onto the notched edge of the trowel and comb even ridges into the mortar on the wall, moving in one direction. 

Disregard this step if you are using an adhesive mat in place of mortar.

Step 7: Lay the Tile

Following the lines made when you pre-laid the tile, place your tiles onto the wall one by one, rocking them gently up and down to settle the tile in place. If you’re using an adhesive mat, peel the plastic coating off before gently placing your tiles.

You may need to use your grout float to flatten the tile. Place tile spacers in between the tiles to ensure even grout channels.

Man placing tile spacers between backsplash tiles 

Wait for the mortar to dry completely. Refer to the manufacturer’s instructions to see exactly how long you’ll need to wait, but 24 hours is typical.

Step 8: Pre-Seal the Tile

For natural stone especially, it’s wise to pre-seal the tile several hours before applying grout. This helps to prevent the grout from leaving stains behind and negatively affecting the appearance of your tile backsplash.

Step 9: Apply Grout

Wipe the tiles with water, allow them to dry, and remove the tile spacers. Mix your grout if necessary (purchasing pre-mixed grout can speed up the process).

Start applying the grout using a grout float held at a 45-degree angle, working diagonally in small sections and completing one area at a time. Hold the grout float at 90 degrees to remove excess grout.

Move a damp sponge in a circular motion over the surface of the tiles and use the sponge to shape the grout joints. Be sure to rinse the sponge frequently so that you’re not wiping grout all over your new backsplash.

About three hours after applying grout, remove any haze that has developed with your damp sponge or a damp cheesecloth.

Once the grout has dried (double-check the manufacturer’s instructions to determine how long you’ll need to wait), apply grout sealer and give it time to dry.

Step 10: Finish the Backsplash

Kitchen with new backsplash 

Apply latex caulk between the countertop and backsplash, restore power to your outlets, and replace your appliances and anything else that belongs on the kitchen counter.

Find Your Backsplash Tile at!

Ready to get started with your DIY backsplash installation? Once you’ve measured the area and determined how much tile you need, head on over to, where we have a vast selection of tiles to fit every unique taste and style. Whether you prefer porcelain, ceramic, natural stone, or glass, we’ve got you covered with options in every shape, size, and color.

Take a look at our full selection here, or click here to visit our blog, where we have more DIY projects and interior design inspiration.

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