How to Install DIY Backsplash Tiling

DIY backsplash tiling is one of the easiest DIY projects you can do that adds value to your home. Our current home was a little above our price range and still had low-end finishes. We bought it knowing we’d need to make some updates over time as we could afford it. Some updates like nicer light fixtures are simple, others like replacing laminate with granite and a new backsplash pricey. Our granite alone cost $9000 leaving very little budget left for a backsplash. We were able to replace a portion of our tiles which may be possible in your home as well. Here is the entire process for any DIY backsplash you need in your home.

A tile backsplash not only looks nice aesthetically it protects the back of your cupboard from water damage, caused when cooking or washing dishes. Our older worn laminate countertop had a four-inch back that served to protect the counter and wall seams. The new granite is a solid slab without that extension and we chose to add a row of matching travertine tiles to our existing backsplash instead of filling it all in with granite or new tile This gives us a more modern look, greatly reduces the expense and will look like it was there the entire time.

To explain our reasoning I will begin by showing you the before. Our home has matching tile in the kitchen backsplash, fireplace, and all the bathrooms. It’s not the perfect tile but it’s neutral, I like its classic look, and since it’s a natural stone, very much worth saving. Here are some before pictures of the kitchen with the worn black countertops they are worn and too dark. It’s funny to admit when I first saw the house I thought they were granite. ( This house was love at first sight)

The Kitchen Back Splash and Tiles Before

Here is the matching tile throughout our current home. It’s in three bathrooms, the kitchen, and the family room fireplace. The tile is also around the shower, the jacuzzi, and the regular tub and shower surround.

The tiles in a home before installing new tiles.  You can tell its matching tile throughout several areas.

The top picture points to the backsplash section that came off when we removed the laminate.

After we replaced the laminate we spent a couple of months saving and searching for tiles. I camouflaged it with home decor while we searched.

A counter decorated for Fall but arrows pointint to the backsplash where tiles are missing from changing laminate to granite countertops.

Tiles Costs

Having tiles installed professionally has three cost elements, removing the old backsplash, repairing the damage from removing the old tile backsplash, the cost of the new tile you choose, and finally the installation of the new tile. Anytime we speak to a contractor we know we’re talking thousands, not hundreds of dollars. and installing tiles is a DIY project most of us can complete.

In other homes, we did need to replace all the tiles. It’s more expensive, but the process is identical either way. For cost-cutting, start at the Habitat for Humanity tile section and choose a tile that is also available at Home Depot or Lowes. The Habitat tiles can save you hundreds, but having them available at larger hardware stores means you can purchase all you need for a larger tile job. Again keeping that cohesive look.

How to Install DIY Backsplash Tiling

Tile installation is a good DIY project to save considerable money, but it requires the right tools. If you don’t have a wet tile saw, or a dremel saw you may be able to rent them. If you can’t rent them and you’re doing an entire kitchen backsplash tile it’s worth the price to purchase them because it makes installing tiles much easier.

Supplies Needed

  • Wall Tiles
  • Eye goggles and work gloves
  • Painter’s tape
  • Drop cloth
  • Tape measure
  • Utility Knife
  • Putty Knife
  • Grout Saw or Dremel
  • 120 grit sandpaper
  • Straight Edge or Level
  • Diamond blade tile saw
  • Tile Adhesive
  • Grout sponge
  • Grout float
  • Tile trowels, both smooth and grooved
  • Metal tile edging
  • tile spacers
  • Matching colored premixed grout

He did the tiling in the following steps; measuring and shopping, cutting and fitting, planning and adhering the tiles, and finally grouting. He finished the tile in each room before moving on to the next. It does help reduce the mess and turmoil when working in these main living areas.​

Step 1 – Measuring for Supplies

Using a tape measure, measure the area you will need to cover with the new backsplash. Once you know the overall square footage, divided by the size of your tiles, you will know how many tiles you need. Shop for your choice of tiles, and the other supplies mentioned.

Step 2 – Set Up Your Work Area

Removing tile can be very messy, with old tile debris and lots of dust. I strongly suggest spending some time preparing your work area. Remove all your ornaments from the counter. Protect any cabinets countertops you don’t want to get grout on using tape and newspaper. Remove any electrical outlet covers and light switch covers. You should also turn off the electrical breaker for the area you are working in.

Step 3 – Removing Old Backsplash

Fortunately, on this project, we were able to skip this step as we were replacing tiles where the laminate had been. In previous homes, we did have to remove the ceramic tile backsplash, here is the process.

To remove the old tile backsplash begin by removing the grout and caulking, the tile stays in place. Use a utility knife to remove the caulk from the edge of your existing kitchen tiles. Silicone caulking tends to peel off quite easily, make an initial cut into the caulking and pull it off. If this doesn’t work you pry it off with a putty knife a bit at a time.

Removing grout is done by scraping and scoring the grout to remove it. Using a Dremel with a grout bit makes this quicker, you can use a grout knife, but it’s hours quicker to use the Dremel. Once the grout and silicon are removed, you can start on the actual tiles.

Wear goggles and gloves, there are fragments of tile that can easily cut you. To remove tiles carefully take a putty knife and wedge it behind the individual tiles, and carefully pry them off. Do this carefully to avoid damaging the backer board. You can also use a hammer to break the tiles but again be careful to wear gloves and goggles to avoid getting cut. You will find some of the tiles pry off easily, whereas another tile may have some attitude and need patience to pry all the bits off. You will inevitably do some damage to the wall behind the tiles, don’t worry too much, you can repair it later with drywall joint compound.

Here is another home of ours where we replaced the countertops but couldn’t find matching tiles. We ended up using subway tiles, but it does show what the backboards can look like when removed.

A kitchen backsplash being replaced, where you can see the backboard with the tiles moved.  Its a partially completed DIY tiling backsplash project/

Eureka the tiles are off but now there is sandy residue from the previous adhesive, little bits of gyprock paper, and some wall damage. The best way to fix this is to sand it with 120-grit sandpaper until smooth and use joint compound to fill in any holes. Remember that this whole removal procedure will be recovered with the new tile so slight imperfections are fine.

Step 4 – Adding Edging to Open Ends

If you have an open edge, start by fitting the metal rail edging into the ends. Trim any tile edging pieces so they fit perfectly at the end of your tiles. If you don’t have open ends you can skip this section. Apply the rail edging using tile adhesive and let dry.

Two examples of metal rail edging you need to place on a diy backsplash if there is no wall to finish against.

Step 5 – Checking for Level and Tile Placement

Use a level to check if the countertop is level, if not draw a level line for your first row of tiles and add a straight edge up against the line. This is needed to hold your tiles level until it all dries.

Before attaching your tiles, plan your tile layout. Do you want your tiles staggered, or aligned perfectly? How can you place your tiles to avoid excessive cutting and trimming? If you have a short row, do you want it at the top or the bottom? Once you have this pattern mapped out you can start placing tiles beginning with the bottom row.

For our DIY tile project, when fitting in the kitchen tiles Hubs fit the tiles so they matched the existing tile. All the tiles were cut short to fit in the space allowed between the bottom tile and the new granite.

Hubs has a very old wet tile saw, but it did the job. Make sure to wear gloves, earplugs, and eyewear. Fill the tile saw with clean water according to the direction son your tile cutter, make sure the bottom of the blade is 3/4 inch into the depth of the water. You need enough water to cool the blade while avoiding water splashes.

To cut the tiles he ran the tile through the saw, following the pencil mark he had made earlier Make sure to make straight cuts on your tiles.

Cutting a tile on a wet tile saw.

Step 6 – Adding Tile Adhesive and Cutting Tiles

Hubs started placing the tiles from the center and working his way outwards. Continue placing your tiles using space to keep the tiles evenly spaced. It’s best to start with the full tile, then measure and mark each tile that needs to be cut. Cut the tile with a wet saw and then add it to your layout. Remember to repeatedly check for level. This is especially important on the first row. If the first row isn’t level your entire tile job will end up wonky and because of all the grout lines it unfortunately shows.

Tile adhesive (mastic) is a cement-based product used to support and adhere to the tiles. It’s got a sandy-type texture and is typically paired with grout.

Using a trowel apply a thin layer of tile adhesive on the wall. The tile adhesive should be about 1/16 to 1/8th of an inch thick (like peanut butter on toast). Next, apply the adhesive to the back of your tile. First, use a flat trowel and then remove the bulk of the adhesive with a trowel that has notches on the edge. Place your tile in place on the wall.

How to add tile adhesive to the back of a tile.  The first image shows the first step, the second image shows what it looks like after using a V- groove trowel to remove excess adhesive.

Place the adhesive on both surfaces will give you even adhesion likely to have even adhesion (prevents cracking).

Collage of 3 steps needed to add tile to a kitchen backsplash.  Apply adhesive to wall, then add next tile and tile spacers, let dry overnight, remove spacers ready for grout.

Fit the first tile then add the spacers and the second tile. Let your adhesive dry for 12 to 24 hours (check your grout package for times). Once the adhesive is dry and before you apply the grout remove the tile spacers.

Step 7 – Applying the Grout

Applying the grout is the next step. Grout gives the tiles a finished look by filling in the gaps between the tiles, locking tiles tightly, and adding some waterproofing. We purchased unsanded white grout for this project as our spaces are narrow and the tile is thin. We mixed the grout a little bit at a time so that it didn’t dry out. The mixture recipe varies by product so it’s best to stick to the manufacturer’s instructions.

How to apply grout to tiles for a backsplash.  The first image shows the grout being mixed with water the second one shows the grout being applied over the time in a smooth surface.

To apply the grout start at one end, put a large blob of grout on your tiles, and work towards the outside. In the above picture you can see on the left where there are holes in the actual tile stone, so for this type of natural stone Hubs worked the grout into all the spaces, both within and between the tiles. Smoothing and removing the excess grout goes easy if your grout float is damp. Grab a bucket of water to repeatedly dampen your grout float.

Smoothing the grout in a tile backsplash using a tile float trowel or sponge.

Once the grout is smooth, you have nice straight lines and you like how it looks on the front and the top of your tiles, use a clean wet sponge and wipe it all off once more.

One important thing, make sure to check the grout for clean lines. Step back and make sure the grout is not showing over the face of the tile. Take a damp tile and run it along all your grout lines to make sure they are clean and crisp. This simple extra step will greatly improve the final look of your tiling project.

Let the grout dry again according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Leave the grout to dry for 24 hours is a good starting point.

Step 8 – Finishing the Top of the Back Splash

There are several ways to do this, we chose the easiest method. Good old-fashioned tube silicone in white.

Squeeze a thin line of silicone along the top of your tiles, just like you do for baseboard. Then run your finger along it.

Our bathrooms are still in transition, we have new lights, new granite, and a brand-new backsplash. I have to add the pretty final touches, but I love the tiles and granite.

Finishing the top of a DIY backsplash tiling project with silicone caulking.

Our bathrooms are still in transition, we have new lights, new granite, and a brand new backsplash.    I have to add the pretty final touches, but I love the tiles and granite.

DIY Kitchen Tile Backsplash

Here is the matching DIY backsplash in the kitchen. We also added the oak trim to the top.

A section of oak cupboard that has a new DIY backsplash tiling project.

DIY Backsplash Tiling in the Bathrooms

Hubs put in matching backsplashes in our bathrooms as well. They did not have any before because of the laminate.

A bathroom decorated in farmhouse style with a new DIY backsplash tiling.
DIY backsplash tiling in a bathroom.
pretty DIY home pin it logo with a house icon.
A set of kitchen cupboards with a new DIY tile backsplash.  The overlay text says step by step tutorial on how to DIY your Own Backsplash

Other Tiling Projects with Tutorials

DIY tile tutorial using white tiles to protect a window alcove from pet damage

How to Tile a Window Alcove to Protect from Pet Damage

This large window alcove is bright with a large picture window. Our big dog loves looking out this window and Laying Tiles in the Window Alcove was the perfect solution.


  1. I just finally went out and bought the material reading this blog. Backsplash was done by dinner the next day

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