Where to Start a Tile Backsplash

Posted by Maurcia H. on 7th Jun 2023

Saturday, March 4, 2017


Transform this important living area with the simple addition of a tile backsplash. Adding decorative tiles to the lost space found between the countertops and upper cabinets can give your kitchen a whole new look. From ultra-modern glass tile sheets and traditional subway tiles, to a more sophisticated stone design, a tile backsplash can give your kitchen depth and style, not to mention a dramatic flair. While fairly simple to install, the biggest question most homeowners have when taking on this DIY home improvement project is: Where should I start my tile backsplash? There are several different methods to use when determining your starting point. Here are a few to consider:

  • The Center: some people prefer to begin their tile work in the center of the wall. This enables you to work your way outward in rows, to keep the lines symmetrical and even. This method works well when installing both a basic subway tile as well as larger tile sheets. 
  • From a Focal Point: When working with intricate patterns, beginning at a focal point tends to draw the eye in. Find the focal point of the room (like the stove, window or the sink), and begin laying your tile directly above. 

One note: never begin your tile backsplash from an end. This will make the entire project look uneven and leave all of your smaller cuts for one area, which can appear sloppy. By starting in the center of a wall or a focal point, you will be able to better manage tile placement for a cleaner and more professional look.

Getting Started

Once you know the area you will begin it is necessary to pencil in a level line to show you where to lay those first tiles. Begin by checking your countertop to see if it is level. If it isn’t, stand a single tile up at the lowest point. Then, mark a line on the top of the tile as your reference point. Be sure that every tile price installed along this initial marking lines up along the top of the tile otherwise they will all look crooked. Depending on how uneven the area is, you may have to make more cuts to fit the tiles in this first row, but that’s okay. The extra work will be worth your time and trouble because it will make the rest of your tile backsplash installation much easier.

Are Spacers Necessary? 

When installing wall tiles, spacers help to keep the space between the tiles even so that your grout will appear the same. Uneven grout can ruin your important home project by making your entire tile work look sloppy. While even spacing is important for the overall look of the backsplash, you may wonder if you must have a thin grout line where the tile meets the countertop and cabinets. This will depend on a few important factors:

  • The type of tiles being used. Some wall tiles come with built-in lugs (spacers). If this is the case, there is no way to avoid that grout line along cabinets and the counter. If you are using glass tiles sheets or subway tiles, you probably will not need spacing here and can install them flush to the countertop and cabinets. 
  • The temperature of the kitchen. The main reason a space is left between counters and cabinets is to allow the tiles to expand and contract with different season. If you keep your home (and kitchen) at relatively the same temperature year round, this is not really necessary since expansion will be minimal. Note: if you plan to install your new backsplash on an outer wall, create a grout line along these two areas. Outer walls tend to experience dramatic temperature fluctuations and not allowing this space can cause cracking and displacement later on. 
  • The manufacturer’s directions. If the directions included with your tile specifically require spacers, then use them. Failure to do so could result in your warranty being canceled. Leaving space where your tiles meets your lower cabinets and countertops can simply be a personal preference. Some people don’t mind the look, while others hate it. If you prefer one look to another, be sure to check with your manufacturer and installer to ensure that the tile backsplash you pick can be installed with or without a grout line at the seams of you counters and cabinets. Then get to work. Your new kitchen awaits.


Maurcia H. is a seasoned writer with 20-plus years of publishing experience which includes 10 traditional print books, three book collaborations, and more than 100 ghostwritten books. Specializing in both how-to pieces as well as industry oriented articles, Maurcia has written press releases, blog posts and articles for a variety of construction companies.

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