Step-by-Step Guide to DIY a Tile Backsplash

Tiling a kitchen backsplash can be completed in a weekend if your walls are already clean and are relatively simple. If you don’t already have something on walls like an existing backsplash or wallpaper, this project can provide a quick refresh to an otherwise boring wall. Here’s our step-by-step guide to DIY your own kitchen backsplash.

By the way, this is what our kitchen looked like before:

kitchen before tile



  • Tile of your choice
  • Thinset
  • 5 Gallon Bucket (for thinset)
  • Marker
  • Leveling System Project Pack (1/16 in. Leveling Clips and Wedges)



As you saw in our “before” picture, we had an already existing wallpaper that was really tough to remove. After fighting with trying to remove it, we finally decided what the heck and to tile over the existing substrate. Honestly if it was that hard to remove after 30 years, then it probably wasn’t coming down with the tile laid over the top.


Step 1 – Plan Layout

You can start your tile project just like all the others by planning ahead. Remove any obstacles and outlet covers. Find the centers of your walls. Decide your tile pattern. We went with the classic subway tile pattern to keep it similar with the other parts of the house.

Make sure that your cuts won’t end up with small slivers at the top of the wall by dividing the height of the wall by the height of your tiles. If the top tile ends up being around a half or more, then the look will be fine. If not, make the cuts so that the top and bottom rows are even.


Step 2 – Mix and Apply Thinset

After planning your layout, you will mix your thinset according to manufacturer instructions and prep your work area. We used a bucket and mixed the thinset using a power drill with a paddle mixer attachment to make this process smoother.

Next you’ll layout your lines using a chalkline, (or my favorite, a laser level) and get to work! Spread the thinset along the wall in the workspace and lay your tile, backbuttering each piece with a tile trowel to ensure consistent coverage. Continue your pattern.


Step 3 – Make Special Cuts

Working around window trim and outlets will be areas that require extra cuts. We achieved this by using an angle grinder equipped with a tile cutting blade. Make sure to cut tiles outdoors or in a ventilated area to prevent inhaling harmful tile dust.

Tile cutting


Mark your cuts by continuing the tile pattern until you reach these obstacles. Use a marker that you can easily see and hold the tile up to the trim or outlet to mark the areas out that will need to be cut. Backbutter once the cuts are complete and continue the pattern and working your way up the wall and around obstacles. We also used leveling clips and wedges to ensure even spacing between the tiles.

kitchen tile with wedges


Step 4 – Apply Edging

For our edging, we decided to use Schluter edge trim (you may also choose to use tiles with rounded edges to complete the look). To install the Schulter edging, simply slide the trim underneath the installed tile while the thinset is still wet. Press the tiles into the wall once again to make sure everything is set. You can cut your angles with the metal trim with a hacksaw or metal cutting blade. If you need a 45 degree angle, you can use a miter box or a carpenter square to mark the angle before cutting.


Step 5 – Apply Grout

Once the tile job is complete, allow the thinset to cure according to its instructions. Come back and grout with your color of choice once everything is set (see our How to Grout post to see how this is done).


And you’re done! Here’s our completed kitchen project:

finished kitchen tile

If you are tackling this DIY kitchen tile backsplash as a part of a larger home renovation or remodeling project, be sure to read through our list of the best renovation projects that could increase your home’s value.

By the way, if you like the wood sign featured in this reveal, it’s one of our creations from the The Painted Oak Shop. Link to the sign is here!

finished kitchen

Hammer & Handsaw

Hammer & Handsaw

Hey, we’re Joshua and Dejené. We’ve completed several home renovations and decided to share what we’ve learned in the process. Here you’ll find our favorite DIY projects, tutorials and home renovation stories.

Hammer and Handsaw features affiliate links throughout this website. If you make a purchase from one of the links, we may make a small commission at NO EXTRA COST to you. View our full privacy policy here and thank you for your support!

renovation planner intro

Plan Your Next Home Renovation Like a Pro


Our Home Renovation Planner is a complete collection of the most common useful planning and renovation management tools that you NEED for your next home project.

Vetted and written by a general contractor, this planner will become a staple for newbie DIYers, homeowners and professionals alike.


Get Freebies by Joining Our Newsletter

Enter your email to gain access to free woodworking plans, free home renovation tools, DIY tips and much more! By the way, we won’t sell your information.

* indicates required