How to Install Tile Backsplash in Bathroom | Step-by-Step Guide

Last Updated on July 10, 2023 by Kimberly Crawford

A tile backsplash isn’t just a practical feature in a bathroom—it’s also a design element that can significantly enhance the aesthetic of this often overlooked space. Not only does a backsplash protect your walls from water damage and staining, but it also provides an opportunity to introduce color, texture, and style into your bathroom.

Installing a tile backsplash may seem like a daunting task, but with the right tools, materials, and guidance, it’s a project that can be accomplished by any homeowner. This process involves preparing your workspace, planning the layout, applying adhesive, setting the tiles, grouting, and finally sealing and finishing.

By following the steps outlined in this guide, you’ll be able to transform your bathroom into a more stylish and functional space. Whether you’re looking to update your current bathroom or are starting from scratch, installing a tile backsplash is a worthwhile project that can add value to your home. Let’s get started!

Necessary Tools and Materials

Before starting your tile backsplash project, it’s crucial to gather all the necessary tools and materials. Having everything at your disposal will make the process smoother and more efficient. Here’s what you’ll need:


  1. Tile Cutter: This is essential for cutting tiles to fit your space perfectly.
  2. Notched Trowel: You’ll use this to apply adhesive to your wall.
  3. Rubber Grout Float: This tool helps to spread grout evenly across your tiles.
  4. Bucket and Sponge: For mixing grout and cleaning up excess.
  5. Level: To ensure your tiles are straight and even.
  6. Spacers: These will help keep your tiles evenly spaced.
  7. Safety Glasses and Gloves: Safety should always be a priority when working on home improvement projects.


  1. Tiles: There are many types of tiles suitable for a bathroom backsplash, including ceramic, porcelain, glass, or natural stone. Consider your bathroom’s overall design and your personal style when choosing tiles.
  2. Adhesive: Choose a high-quality adhesive designed for tile installation.
  3. Grout: Select a grout color that complements your tiles. It can either match for a seamless look or contrast for more visual interest.
  4. Sealant: A sealant will protect your grout and tiles from moisture and wear.

Remember, the type and quantity of materials you’ll need will depend on the size and design of your backsplash. Always measure your space accurately before purchasing your supplies.

install tile backsplash in bathroom

1. Preparing the Workspace

Before you begin installing your tile backsplash, it’s important to properly prepare your workspace. This involves cleaning the wall and taking necessary safety measures.

Cleaning and Preparing the Wall

  1. Remove any existing tiles or wallpaper: If there are old tiles or wallpaper on your bathroom wall, remove them carefully to avoid damaging the wall surface.
  2. Clean the wall: Use a mild soap and warm water to clean the wall thoroughly. Make sure to remove any dust, grease, or residues that may prevent the adhesive from sticking properly.
  3. Repair any damage: If there are holes, cracks, or other types of damage on the wall, repair them using a filler. After the filler dries, sand the area until it’s smooth.
  4. Ensure the wall is flat and even: Use a level to check the wall. If there are any uneven spots, you might need to sand or fill them to create a perfectly flat surface.

Safety Considerations and Precautions

  • Wear safety gear: Always wear safety glasses and gloves when handling and cutting tiles to protect your eyes and hands.
  • Ensure good ventilation: If you’re working with materials that emit strong fumes, like some adhesives or sealants, make sure your workspace is well-ventilated.
  • Keep your workspace tidy: Regularly clean up your workspace to prevent accidents. Keep your tools organized and out of the way when not in use.
  • Follow product instructions: Always read and follow the manufacturer’s instructions when using tools, adhesives, grout, and sealant.

2. Planning and Layout

Taking the time to plan your tile backsplash layout will help you achieve a professional-looking result. Here’s how to go about it:

Measuring the Space

  • Start by measuring the length and height of the area where you want to install the backsplash. This will help you determine how many tiles you need.
  • Don’t forget to account for spaces between tiles when calculating the quantity. Using spacers can help ensure consistent gaps.

Creating a Layout and Design

  • Sketch out a design for your backsplash. Consider whether you want a simple, uniform look or a more complex pattern.
  • Lay out your tiles on a flat surface according to your design. This “dry run” allows you to visualize the final look and make any necessary adjustments before installation.

Determining the Starting Point

  • The starting point for your backsplash should be the most visible section of the wall. This ensures that any cut tiles end up in less noticeable areas, like corners or edges.
  • Most people find it easiest to start at the bottom center and work their way up and out. This approach helps keep the tiles level and aligned.

3. Applying the Adhesive

The next step in installing your tile backsplash is applying the adhesive. This is what will secure your tiles to the wall, so it’s important to do it correctly.

Choosing the Right Adhesive

  • The type of adhesive you need depends on your tiles. Most ceramic and porcelain tiles require a thin-set mortar, while glass and stone tiles often need a specific adhesive.
  • Read the manufacturer’s instructions for both your tiles and adhesive. Make sure the adhesive is compatible with your tiles and suitable for bathroom use.

Applying the Adhesive to the Wall

  • Start at your predetermined starting point. Apply a small amount of adhesive to the wall using the flat side of your notched trowel.
  • Once the adhesive is on the wall, use the notched side of the trowel to create ridges. This helps ensure an even distribution of adhesive.
  • Only apply as much adhesive as you can cover with tiles before it starts to dry. For most adhesives, this means working in small sections.

Tips for Ensuring a Strong Bond

  • Make sure the wall is clean and dry before applying adhesive. Dust, dirt, and moisture can prevent a strong bond.
  • Apply the adhesive evenly. Too much can cause the tiles to shift, while too little might not hold the tiles securely.
  • Press the tiles firmly into the adhesive. This ensures they have good contact and will stay in place.

4. Setting the Tiles

Once you’ve applied the adhesive, it’s time to set your tiles. This step requires patience and precision to ensure a professional-looking result.

Starting from the Bottom and Working Your Way Up

  • Begin at your predetermined starting point, which is typically the bottom center of the wall.
  • Set your first tile in place, pressing it firmly into the adhesive.
  • Continue setting tiles one by one, working your way up and out from the starting point.

Using Spacers for Even Placement

  • After setting each tile, place spacers on all four sides to maintain consistent gaps between tiles. These gaps will be filled with grout later.
  • Be sure to remove the spacers before the adhesive dries completely.

Cutting Tiles to Fit as Necessary

  • You’ll likely need to cut some tiles to fit around outlets, switches, or the edge of your wall.
  • Measure the space carefully, and mark the cutting line on the tile with a pencil.
  • Use a tile cutter or a wet saw to cut the tile along the marked line.
  • Always wear safety glasses when cutting tiles to protect your eyes from shards.

5. Grouting the Tiles

After setting the tiles and allowing the adhesive to dry, the next step is to grout your tile backsplash. Grout fills the gaps between your tiles, creating a seamless look and adding durability.

Mixing and Applying the Grout

  • Mix your grout according to the manufacturer’s instructions. It should have the consistency of peanut butter.
  • Using a rubber grout float, apply the grout at a 45-degree angle to the tiles, pressing it into the gaps. Make sure all spaces between the tiles are filled with grout.
  • Work in small sections to prevent the grout from drying before you can clean up the excess.

Cleaning Excess Grout from the Tiles

  • After letting the grout set for about 10-15 minutes (or as directed by the manufacturer), use a damp sponge to wipe away the excess grout from the surface of the tiles. Be careful not to remove grout from the gaps.
  • Rinse your sponge frequently and change the water as needed to keep it clean.

Letting the Grout Dry

  • Once all the tiles have been grouted and cleaned, let the grout dry completely. This usually takes at least 24 hours.
  • Avoid touching or disturbing the tiles during this time.

Grouting requires a bit of elbow grease, but it’s worth it. This process gives your backsplash a finished look and adds an extra layer of protection against moisture and dirt. With the grouting done, you’re almost at the finish line!

6. Sealing and Finishing Touches

The final steps in installing your tile backsplash are sealing the grout and tiles and cleaning up. With these done, you’ll be able to fully enjoy your new bathroom feature.

Applying a Sealant to Protect the Grout and Tiles

  • After the grout has dried completely, apply a sealant according to the manufacturer’s instructions. The sealant will protect the grout and tiles from moisture and staining, ensuring your backsplash lasts for years.
  • Be sure to cover all grouted areas and edges of the tiles. Use a small brush or sponge applicator for precision.
  • Let the sealant dry as directed by the manufacturer before touching the backsplash.

Cleaning and Polishing the Finished Backsplash

  • Once the sealant is dry, clean the backsplash one more time to remove any residual grout haze or dust. Use a soft cloth and mild soap, avoiding abrasive cleaners that could scratch the tiles.
  • Polish the tiles with a dry cloth for extra shine.


Installing a tile backsplash in your bathroom is a project that requires careful planning, preparation, and execution. But the end result is a beautiful, durable addition to your home that not only enhances its aesthetic appeal but also increases its value.

Here’s a recap of the steps involved:

  1. Preparing the workspace: This includes cleaning the wall and taking necessary safety precautions.
  2. Planning and layout: Measure the space, create a design, and determine your starting point.
  3. Applying the adhesive: Choose the correct adhesive for your tiles and apply it to the wall.
  4. Setting the tiles: Start from the bottom and work your way up, using spacers for even placement and cutting tiles as necessary.
  5. Grouting the tiles: Mix and apply the grout, then clean off the excess and let it dry.
  6. Sealing and finishing touches: Apply a sealant to protect the grout and tiles, then clean and polish the finished backsplash.

While this may seem like a lot of work, the satisfaction of completing a DIY project and the potential value added to your home make it well worth the effort. So roll up your sleeves, gather your tools, and get ready to transform your bathroom with a new tile backsplash!

FAQs About Installing Tile Backsplash in Bathroom

How long does it take to install a tile backsplash in a bathroom?

The time it takes can vary greatly depending on the size and complexity of the project, as well as your level of experience. However, most small to medium-sized backsplashes can be completed in a weekend.

Can I install a tile backsplash over painted walls?

Yes, you can install a tile backsplash over painted walls as long as the paint is not peeling and the wall is in good condition. It’s best to lightly sand the painted surface first to help the adhesive bond better.

What type of tiles are best for a bathroom backsplash?

Ceramic, porcelain, glass, and natural stone tiles are all suitable for a bathroom backsplash. The best choice depends on your personal style and the look you want to achieve.

Do I need to seal the grout on my tile backsplash?

Yes, it’s recommended to seal the grout after it has dried. This helps protect it from moisture and staining, extending the life of your backsplash.

What tools do I need to install a tile backsplash?

Some basic tools you’ll need include a level, a tape measure, a notched trowel, a tile cutter or wet saw, a rubber grout float, and a sponge.

How do I cut tiles to fit around outlets or switches?

You can use a tile cutter or a wet saw to cut tiles. Always measure the space carefully and mark the cutting line on the tile before cutting.

What if I make a mistake while installing the tiles?

If you notice a mistake soon after setting a tile, you can usually pull it off, clean up the adhesive, and try again. If the adhesive has dried, however, removing the tile can be more difficult and might result in breaking the tile.