How to Install a Subway Tile Kitchen Backsplash

Let the Grout Dry

Subway tiles, named for their first appearance in New York City subway stations in the early 20th century, have become a staple in kitchen design due to their timeless, classic look. A subway tile backsplash can elevate the style of any kitchen, offering a clean, bright, and durable surface that stands up well to daily use.

Despite its high-end appearance, a subway tile backsplash is surprisingly affordable and easy to install. This article will guide you through the steps to install your own subway tile backsplash, transforming your kitchen with a fresh, new look.

Install a Subway Tile Kitchen Backsplash

Install a Subway Tile Kitchen Backsplash
Photo: Pexels/Max Rahubovskiy

Step 1: Gather Your Materials

Before you begin, it’s essential to gather all necessary materials and tools. For a subway tile backsplash, you’ll need:

  • Subway tiles
  • Tile adhesive or thin-set mortar
  • Notched trowel
  • Tile spacers
  • Level
  • Tile cutter or wet saw
  • Grout
  • Grout float
  • Sponge and bucket
  • Caulk and caulk gun

Step 2: Prepare Your Workspace

Start by clearing off your countertops and covering them with a drop cloth to protect them from dust and debris. Remove any outlet or switch covers from your wall. Using a level, draw a straight line where the bottom of your tiles will sit.

Step 3: Apply the Adhesive

Using your notched trowel, spread a thin layer of tile adhesive or thin-set mortar on the wall, starting at your line and working upwards. Only apply enough adhesive for about 1-2 rows of tiles at a time to prevent it from drying out before you can set your tiles.

Step 4: Install the Tiles

Install the Tiles

Photo: Instagram/Our Persimmon Middlesbrough

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Press your first tile into place, twisting it slightly to set it into the adhesive. Use tile spacers to keep a consistent gap between each tile for your grout. Continue adding tiles, cutting them as needed with a tile cutter or wet saw to fit around outlets or at the end of rows.

Step 5: Let the Adhesive Dry

Allow the adhesive to dry fully as recommended by the manufacturer before proceeding. Removing the spacers too early could shift the tiles and disrupt the adhesive’s bond.

Step 6: Apply the Grout

Once the adhesive has dried, remove your tile spacers. Use a grout float to apply your grout, pressing it into the gaps between the tiles. Remove any excess grout with a damp sponge, rinsing it frequently in a bucket of water.

Step 7: Let the Grout Dry

Let the Grout Dry
Photo: Twitter/John Lagerquist

Allow the grout to dry completely as per the manufacturer’s instructions. Once dried, wipe the tiles clean with a damp sponge to remove any remaining grout haze.

Step 8: Apply Caulk

Apply a bead of caulk along the edges of your backsplash where it meets the countertop or cabinets. This will create a seamless transition and prevent water from seeping behind the tiles.


Installing a subway tile backsplash is a simple yet transformative DIY project that can breathe new life into your kitchen. With a little time, patience, and the right tools, you can install a beautiful, durable backsplash that adds character and style to your space.

So why not try your hand at this rewarding project and elevate your kitchen decor with a classic subway tile backsplash? With the steps provided in this article, you are fully equipped to embark on this DIY adventure.

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