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How to Tile a Kitchen Backsplash

Add the perfect finishing touch to your kitchen with these step-by-step instructions for installing a tile backsplash.

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  • Time


  • Price Range

    $250 - $500

  • Difficulty



Step 1: Prepare the Substrate

Ensure that the substrate is sound and ready for tiling by screwing, nailing or use construction adhesive to secure drywall, cement board, plywood or other type of backing. Next, tape, plaster, or “mud” the seams on the surface to be tiled for smooth transitions. This is especially important when using sheet tiles of smaller dimensions. Finally, be sure the surface is free of all dust, oils or residues to guarantee a strong adhesive bond.

Step 2: Determine Best Location to Start Tiling

Measure and scope the installation site to determine best location to start tiling. The idea is to hide cuts in corners and under cabinets and leave the full tiles in areas that draw the most attention. You can do this by either drawing level lines or snapping chalk box lines to be used as guidelines, or by relying on the level surface provided by the cabinets or countertops as a guide.

Step 3: Apply Mortar

Begin spreading the glue (mastic) or mortar with the flat side of the trowel to ensure good adhesion.

Next, flip the trowel over to the notched side and double back over the glued area to remove excess adhesive. The notches create a uniform application, which will be flattened as the tile is laid and pressed onto the wall. The size of the trowel’s notches should be determined by the thickness of the tile used. Larger tiles can use a wider notch, but very small tiles should stick with tight notches. The mastic should be applied thoroughly to the wall, but take care not to apply it too thickly, or it will squeeze out between the tiles and may not fully dry.

Step 4: Install Tiles

Begin installing the first tile/sheet by working off of the countertop surface. This will ensure a level installation because the cabinet/countertop surface will have already been leveled during installation. It also allows cut tiles to be hidden under the upper cabinets, where they will remain out of sight.

Step 5: Make Cuts

A dry cutter, wetsaw and/or tile nippers may be used to make cuts to fit around electrical boxes, cabinets or mosaic inlays. Tile saws, while expensive, can be rented at many hardware and tool rental locations for $45 to 70 per day, and they will save you a lot of time and aggrevation in the long run.

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